In this blog, I will share an actionable strategy to help boost keyword rankings for highly competitive keywords. This doesn’t guarantee #1 position in Google, however if planned well, it can get you into the Top 10 of SERP. I have personally used this strategy to for my clients to rank for highly competitive keywords.
What is Topical Authority?
In simple terms, it is the expertise you display towards a certain topic. A search engine such as Google considers you to be an expert when – you have written several posts about the topic, the quality of the content and if it is really adding value as well as who is writing the content.
Topical Authority is a part of Google’s ranking signal which is called E-A-T which is Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness. The “E” for expertise stands for Topical Authority, in my opinion.
We often read it as E-A-T (with a hyphen) however what it should be read as is E>A>T. Expertise is the first step towards ranking your content which leads to authoritativeness, which in turn leads to trustworthiness.
Think about it, would you ever share something on social media if you’re unsure whether the information is relevant and correct? But, if the content being shared was found on the first page of Google (Rank #1) would you hesitate to share that information?
Actionable Strategy to build Topical Authority
There can be several reasons why you would like to build topical authority but in this blog we will look at it purely from a ranking benefit to drive traffic to our website. I won’t be using numbers and data to back up my points in this article, my aim is to get you to start thinking in a certain manner and not showcase some research with number.
Because, the truth is, every business is unique and what works for someone in your industry won’t necessarily work for you as well. Keeping that in mind, lets begin –
Keyword Research for Topical Authority
A keyword research and planning for topical authority is very different from keyword planning to drive traffic to your website. When you optimize for Topical Authority the goal is to establish yourself as an expert in that topic whereas the latter is to quickly drive traffic to your website.
You will hear a lot of people discouraging you to go for high volume keywords with high ranking difficulty. It makes sense because to rank on Google Top 10 for a highly competitive keyword, you need to establish yourself as an authority backed up with backlinks from reputed websites.
However, if you can afford the time and patience to build topical authority, you can easily compete for the high volume keyword with high ranking difficulty. Remember, Google doesn’t keep your website out of top 10 because you don’t have the backlinks, it’s because Google is unsure if you’re an expert on the subject.
It’s important to start thinking from this perspective as Google has NEVER said high number of backlinks equals to high rankings!
The technique I am about to share is guaranteed to show positive results. Whether you get to Rank #1 or not is not in my control but, I assure you, you will see positive results!
- Choose the high volume keyword with high ranking difficulty in your niche.
- Search for minimum 12 related keywords with low-mid volume and low-mid ranking difficulty.
The entire strategy will take about 6 months to produce pleasant results.
Step 1 – Create and optimize content for high competition keyword.
Create and optimize your content for the high volume keyword with high competition. The 12 related keywords must be a part of this content as it will help us to rank this article higher on SERP. You can use the 12 related keywords as subheadings and write briefly about them or use them somewhere in the content.
You don’t necessarily have to use these exact 12 keywords in your primary article. Just make sure when we write detailed articles for the 12 related keywords, we have an opportunity to link back to the primary article in a manner where it can add value for the reader.
Ensure that you have mentioned an author in your article or post. We will discuss why it is necessary a little later in this post.
Step 2 – Create and optimize content for low-mid competition keyword
In this step our goal is to create and optimize the content for each of the 12 related keywords. It’s not necessary to leave an opportunity to link to other 11 related keywords. You can if you want to! However, it is absolutely necessary to link back to the primary (high volume – high competition) keyword!
This is because we want to make sure that the link juice is passed on from the primary article to the related 12 articles and vice-a-verse. Hence, if the primary article receives a backlink, the link juice is equally passed on to the 12 related articles. When a related article receives a backlink, the link juice is only shared with the primary article or the other 2-3 articles if you have linked each other.
Ensure we have mentioned the same author here as well.
Step 3 – Use schema markups
Rather than calling it a step 3 it’s more like an ongoing practice whenever you create, optimize and publish the article, you must ensure schema is added to them. The schema must include the name of the author and social links for that person.
This is necessary because by establishing the expertise of the author we will gain rankings on SERP for the articles written by them.
Before you can trust a brand, you need to trust the people behind the brand!
Step 4 – Social Signals
The author must share the articles (content) on his social media handles. A simple 2 liner along with the URL won’t work! Each social media platform behaves differently. You need to understand what will work for each particular social media handle.
For example, you can’t expect to drive traffic by copy pasting your URL on twitter and posting it. Remember, the user is on a particular social media platform because they want to be there. They are not going to simply click a link because the found it while scrolling.
What works on twitter is informational threads! Break down the contents of your article into 6-7 tweets (thread) and convey the information. Just make sure you have used the relevant hashtags and pasted your URL on the last tweet within the thread. This way you can build relations (followers) which can later turn into visitors as they start seeing you as an authority (credibility).
Step 5 – Answer Questions related to your topic
Blogs and articles aren’t interactive! Sure you can guess the next questions that may arise in the readers mind and write about it within your articles (also known as semantic SEO) but there are hundreds of questions that will remain unanswered.
There are several online platforms where people go and ask questions such as industry specific forums, Yahoo answers, Quora etc. Find these platforms and help them with the answers that they are looking for. Don’t unnecessarily keep spamming your links on such platforms.
Sure, leaving links is a good practice in order to drive traffic but in almost every post? That’s spam and Google knows it!
Step 6 – Generate Backlinks
Now there are several ways to get backlinks but I’m going to talk about just 3 methods which are more likely to succeed. They are – resource link building, broken link building and press release.
Lets assume you are in the HR space and the article you have written is “12 most effective strategies for employee retention”, let’s also assume this one of the 12 related articles that you’ve written and your primary article is on employee retention which is a high volume high competition keyword.
It’s obvious that people won’t just link to your primary article because you wrote it. It doesn’t even matter how valuable it is since we haven’t established topical authority yet. Now the strategy is to pitch for the 12 related articles and get backlinks.
NOTE – I had asked you to leave a linking opportunity on the primary article for the 12 related ones. This is how it all comes to play.
Resource Link Building
This method of link building is simple. You need to search for your primary topic which in this case is employee retention and add inurl:resources to the search. We are making use of Google operator to find opportunities to get backlinks.
This is what you type on search “keyword” inurl:resources
Just change the keyword to your keyword and copy paste this on search.
You will start seeing results where the keyword is accompanied with the word resources in the titles. These are websites that have collated a list of resources on employee retention. The links within these articles will generally lead to websites that have produced content similar to yours.
All you need to do is find the email of the website owner who has collated this list and politely ask them if they can add your article in their list of resources.
It’s really that simple! However, the response rate is low as well as most of the times, they are going to ask you for money in exchange for the link. Google has clearly stated that this goes against their guidelines but you are free to take a call on this. It’s your website after all, you decide if you would like to move forward or not.
I personally wouldn’t recommend it. If they take your money and remove the link after a few weeks or months, then what can you actually do?
Broken Link Building
In this method you are offering something in value for a backlink. Google perceives 404 errors negatively as it has a negative impact on the visitor. How would you feel if you land on an interesting article which leads you to something even more interesting and the link is broken. You receive a 404 error message.
It’s easier to manage these errors when you have a relatively small website with less than 100 pages, however, if your business has more than 100 pages and you constantly keep adding more content, it gets rather difficult to keep track.
If the previously mentioned resource page has linked to 20 other websites and if 1 or 2 of the websites no longer exist (or that particular webpage doesn’t exist) then we have a broken link or rather a golden opportunity! You can contact the website owner highlighting the broken links and offer your own article as a replacement!
In this scenario they are generally thankful and willing to add your content in their article. The response rate isn’t that great but as compared to resource link building it is much higher.
You aren’t just asking for a link but also helping them by highlighting a broken link and offering an immediate fix by offering your article as a replacement.
This is the start of your relationship with the other website owner and presents a great opportunity for future backlinks as well.
Have you ever heard about a website called HARO? (Help A Reporter Out)
HARO is an online platform where journalists seek expert advice on several topics. They could be seeking out for though leaders, case studies or maybe an interview on how your company was affected with a particular industry wide issue or something else.
All you need to do is respond to these queries and if the journalist selects your answer, you have a backlink!
Also note, it’s just not any backlink but, most often these backlinks are coming from highly reputable news organizations. I’m talking about Forbes, NYT, CBS, CNN, Fox etc. Getting just a mention from them will result is massive ranking improvement for your website.
Another one that I haven’t mentioned but is most popular is guest posting. The only problem is that 70% of these will ask for $$ hence I haven’t spoken in depth about them.
The Impact on Topical Authority
Here is how the magic happens!
- All related articles are linked to your primary article a.k.a the link juice received on any related article is automatically passed on to the primary article.
- All the articles are linked to an author. If the author is mentioned or quoted in a news article, people may search for the person on Google which may lead them to all the articles under their belt or their social media handles which again consists links to articles on their website.
- Clicking on an article discovered on a resource page, forum or Quora will present an opportunity to lead them to the primary article (since all related ones are interlinked). The primary article can lead the visitor to the other 11 related articles. This helps in reducing bounce rate and improving the average session duration. (Both perceived as a positive signal by Google)
- Other industry experts may want to collaborate with you because of your Press mention. Even if it isn’t a collaboration it could result in a follower or connection. High authoritative individuals (industry experts) may want to connect with you or follow you on social media. This may cause their existing followers to also follow you a.k.a more visibility.
- More visibility for you is more visibility for your brand. As I mentioned – Before you can trust a brand, you need to trust the people behind the brand!
Everything is connected on the internet
It is important to remember everything online is connected! If you simply search for your name, you’ll be surprised as to how much data has Google collated on you. Your website, your social media, your comments, tweets, posts, job portals, miscellaneous websites you are registered on, almost everything will be attributed under your name.
I was surprised when I saw my name appear on a few local news websites. These were tweets that they had randomly mentioned.
It was actually a meme, there was an electricity outage in the morning and twitter was flooded with memes, so I thought I’ll put one too. To my surprise a local news channel had picked it up and linked back to my twitter handle.
The point is you never know when you can get a mention or a link. By attributing an author in every article you can ensure that if and whatever authority is passed to the author is also passed to the article(s) as they are linked with the help of a schema mark up.
Full Disclosure – This isn’t my “feeling” that I have written here on this post but an actual case with one of my client whose identity I cannot disclose (signed an NDA). But I’ll tell you how it happened.
My Client’s story
This is a B2B client of mine and I only handle SEO for them. They have their landing pages (conversion pages) which were not ranking on page 1. I was hired to make this possible without changing the content.
These are transactional pages and I wasn’t allowed to make changes to the information on these pages. Now, I have these pages that they want to rank but I cannot
- Change the tone from transactional to informational.
- Cannot add more content to help with keyword optimization.
- These pages are optimized with high volume high competition keywords.
This posed an issue and the client was reluctant on making any changes to these pages. I was stumped! How am I going to help improve the rankings if I am not allowed to make any changes.
I racked my brain long and hard and came up with a solution. I scanned the content on that page and found opportunities to create content and link back to that page. Basically, I had to reverse engineer content planning.
Luckily, I found 5-7 opportunities where I could create fresh content and semantically link them with the transactional page.
I then presented the keywords and the internal linking strategy to them and got to work. After publishing the 5th article a situation arised in a related industry. The company themselves got connected with a news agency to share their expert opinion on the matter.
This situation that I am speaking about was trending everywhere at that time.
Here is the situation with the newly created blogs before the news mention.
Out of the 5 articles only 2 were doing well and started generating about 5-7 clicks each per day. I knew these are the 2 articles that I should focus on so I got into link building and won a few links for each of these articles (one article had 3 links and the other had 7 at the time).
Here comes the news mention at 8pm (my local time).
Google Search Console recorded over 250 organic clicks within an hour after the mention, all for the branded keyword (company name).
A few days later, I discovered new backlinks on search console. This was surprising as I definitely would remember these websites, had I approached them. To my surprise they were linking to the new articles that I was creating in order to boost the ranking for the transactional page.
If you’re an SEO then you know, there is no way to find out how they came across your content unless you ask them but the sheer number of links that the website received and the fact that we had massive traffic hitting our website during and after the mention, it was clear why people were linking to our content.
This mention was a TV appearance where the founder of the organization participated in a debate.
Just because people saw someone come on TV talking about a particular subject, it instilled a sense of confidence in them and they were more willing to link back to our articles.
Fun Fact – The founder didn’t even talk about the topic of the articles that I was creating, far-far from it!
The transactional page jumped from the bottom of the 2nd page to page 1 (in top 5)
The related articles each saw a massive increase in rankings as well, both landed in top 3 of Google.
But the best part was when I published the 6th article.
Generally, it would take a few days to get indexed and evaluated by Google. Then I would start my journey from 7th or the 8th page and move towards page 1, however, Google must have seen the company as an authority in that topic and I landed straight on the 2nd page on the next day of hitting publish!
Seems that once you have displayed authority over a topic and have been recognized by Google, you don’t really have to start from the back of the line but somewhere close to the top.
It’s not like the article is now ranking #1 but it did receive a very generous placement on SERP.
Since then, I only work towards establishing topical authority. I don’t want to do the low competition keyword research and keep creating various articles on different topics. Rather, I use the method I have shared above and never looked back.
The End Result is the same
Whether you decide to use my method or the famous one where you keep targeting only low competition keywords our destination remains the same. My approach requires less content creation to establish an authority whereas the other method requires a lot more content creation.
At the end we both will be topical experts but the only difference is that I will reach there a little sooner.
You will have a lot more traffic as compared to me at the start however, there will be a time when my high volume high competition keyword will start ranking on page 1 and provide almost equivalent traffic. The only difference is that I have written 10-15 articles to prove my expertise where as you’ve written probably 30 or 40 of them.
No method is wrong, the goal remains the same. Its the road that we chose that determines our journey.
I guess it’s about time to end this post as the philosopher within me is waking up 🙂
You can use – MERKLE to generate schema markups.
I hope this helps!