How to Create a Topical Map for SEO

Nadica Naceva
Last Updated:

Content is king. The adage has set the tone for search engine optimization (SEO) and digital marketing since it became a common saying. 

However, with more and more content being created every day, it's becoming increasingly difficult to stand out and gain visibility online. That's why businesses need to establish topical authority for search engines to trust them as the go-to sources for a topic or subject. 

A topical map can help you achieve this by organizing your content and showcasing your expertise in a specific niche. Think of it as a restaurant menu except for the topics on your website. 

Like a menu, the topics aren't merely just thrown together randomly. Instead, each topic goes under a specific category, creating a logical and organized structure that search engines can understand. Topics are strategically placed and connected to others to provide a cohesive experience for your audience.

Let's learn how to create a topical map for SEO. 


What Is Topical Authority?

Topical authority is a website's credibility and expertise on a particular subject or niche. It's determined by search engines based on the relevance, depth, and quality of content on a specific topic. 

For example, let's say you need to search for a health-related topic. We'll take "hypertension" as an example. 

Websites like Healthline, Johns Hopkins Medicine, WebMD, CDC, and Mayo Clinic will rank higher than a blog post from an unknown source because these websites have established topical authority in the health niche. 

Topical authorities in health niche 
Topical authorities in health niche 

Similarly, our website, Influencer Marketing Hub, is considered an expert in influencer marketing. We have topical authority in this field. 

Influencer Marketing Hub as a topical authority 
Influencer Marketing Hub as a topical authority 

How Does Topical Authority Work 

Google looks at certain signals to determine topic authority. Here they are: 

  • Notability: How notable and recognized is a website in a particular niche? 

  • Source Reputation: Google says, "Our system also looks at a source's history of high-quality reporting or recommendations from expert sources, such as professional societies." A well-reputed source is likely to have higher topical authority. 

Difference Between Topical Authority and Domain Authority 

Domain authority measures the overall strength of a website's backlink profile and its ability to rank for different keywords. On the other hand, topical authority measures how well a website ranks for specific topics or clusters of related content. 

For example, a website may have a high domain authority overall, but when it comes to individual topics or content clusters, their topical authority may vary. 

Let's use the example of health-related websites. WebMD has a high domain authority. But when you search for heart-related ailments, it doesn't show as high as competitors like MayoClinic or the World Health Organization (WHO). 


Why Topical Authority Matters for SEO 

The bottom line is that a high topical authority increases your website's chances of appearing high in search engine results pages (SERPs). 

Here are some other reasons it matters for SEO. 

Fosters Trust 

It's not just the search engine whose trust you are trying to secure. You also want users to trust your website as an authority in a particular niche. 

Here's an example: Yoast has topical authority in the SEO space. 

Yoast as topical authority in SEO 
Yoast as topical authority in SEO 

So, when you search for SEO-related topics, you can expect Yoast to be on the top. The consistent appearing of sites like Yoast and Moz on the first page of results for SEO-related searches builds trust in these brands for their expertise in this topic. 


Boosts Marketing Efforts 

Topical authority also enhances your marketing efforts. As a result, you have to spend less on ad campaigns. 

Suppose you're the topical authority for a subject. It's likely that you will outrank larger businesses, such as Amazon, in the SERPs. 

Why? Because Google sees you as the most credible source for that topic. 

For instance, we searched for ''adult coloring books'' and found BookDepot above Amazon. It's a good example of how topical authority can help you contest with more established competitors. 

Topical authority for adult coloring books
Topical authority for adult coloring books

Supports Link Building 

Topical authority also leads to natural link-building. When your content consistently appears high for a search result, other websites treat you as an authority on the topic. 

So, they link to your content as a reference. For example, if we were to write an article on technical SEO, we would link to Yoast's definition because of their topical authority. 

Here's an example: when we search for the keyword, ''rise of AI in marketing,'' Forbes articles take two of the top spots. That means Forbes has authority in this topic. 

Forbes as topical authority in AI
Forbes as topical authority in AI

As we scroll down, we find an article from Growth-onomics. They use Forbes as a source to back their claim about the sector where AI will have the most financial impact. 

Forbes used as a source in an article 
Forbes used as a source in an article 

Why Forbes? Because it: 

  • Is trustworthy 

  • Has topical authority 

  • Is a go-to source for advancements in tech and AI


What Is a Topical Map?

Now that you understand what topical authority is, let's dive deeper into what a topical map is. A topical map is a visual representation of the structure and organization of your website's content. 

It shows the relationship between topics and categories, providing a clear overview of your website's content and how it connects. 

Why Make a Topical Map

A website with structure is easier to navigate. So, you can expect visitors to stay longer and find what they need. That's exactly what helps you rank. 

Let's take Healthline's website as an example. 

On the home page, you see some recent articles and videos. Plus, the home page has options for you to search by certain categories or diseases. 

Healthline has created Category Hubs for specific topics such Fitness, Black Health, CBD, etc. If you want to learn more about a topic, you click on ''Go to Topic.'' 

Healthline category hubs 
Healthline category hubs 

We clicked on CBD, and the website directed us to a page dedicated to CBD-related topics. Here, Healthline has made further sub-categories in the CBD topic, such as CBD 101 and CBD oils. 

Healthline CBD 101 category 
Healthline CBD 101 category 

Underneath each sub-category were relevant articles for that subject. 

Similarly, we could also search by health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, etc. 

Healthline categories by health conditions 
Healthline categories by health conditions 

Since Healthline also reviews products, there was an option to search by product reviews. The point of this structure is to make it easy for readers to find what they are looking for. 

Healthline categories of product reviews
Healthline categories of product reviews

How to Create a Topical Map?

Google recommends, ''Publishers looking for success with topic authority should do exactly what their publications would normally do: provide great coverage about the areas and topics they know well.'' 

The basic crux of any topical map for SEO is to create people-first content but in an organized way. 

Here's how to do it. 

Step 1: Research Topics and Sub-Topics 

Keep in mind that you're doing this for SEO and to build authority. So, you have to account for search engines and people. 

The people part will be covered by your well-written content and user-friendly website design. 

For the search engines, find topics and sub-topics that are both popular and related to your niche. 

The first step will be to find how Google already structures its Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph is where Google confirms that topics exist and gives you enough information about them. 

You'll find all this information in the Google SERPs. Look for the following features: 

  • Knowledge panels 

  • People also ask 

  • Related searches 

Knowledge Panels 

The Knowledge Panel is Google's display of relevant information related to the topic. It appears in a box on the right-hand side or top of the SERPs and includes a brief definition, images, videos, and links to related topics. 

For example, we searched for ''Nelson Mandela.'' The Knowledge Panel had his pictures along with his birth and death dates and a link to his biography. That’s information for your ‘’Nelson Mandela 101’’ post. 

Nelson Mandela knowledge panel 
Nelson Mandela knowledge panel 

Headers 

We need to learn how Google structures information about the entity on its platform. So, we look at the headers. 

There are six headers, namely: 

  • Overview 

  • History 

  • Movies 

  • Education 

  • Books

  • TV Shows 

Headers for the search Nelson Mandela 
Headers for the search Nelson Mandela 

To find subtopics for your content, you can further click on these headers. We clicked Movies and a list of all the movies about Nelson Mandela appeared. 

Movies about Nelson Mandela 
Movies about Nelson Mandela 

Similarly, when we clicked Books, we found a list of books written by or about Nelson Mandela. 

Books by or about Nelson Mandela 
Books by or about Nelson Mandela 

Now, let's say you have a blog dedicated to Nelson Mandela. You can use Books and Movies as topics, with the sub-topics being specific books and movies related to him. 

Now, let's do the same with a more general topic, like ''on-page SEO.'' 

Topics like this don't usually have a Knowledge Panel, but they do have related topics and headers. 

For example, in our search, we found the following headers. 

Headers for the search on-page SEO
Headers for the search on-page SEO

Each of these headers can be a main topic in your blog. You can then click on each header to find sub-topics and further expand your content. 

We clicked Checklist and saw that Google has further divided its headers into sub-headers. These were Template, PDF, Excel, Free, and Semrush. 

Subheaders for on-page SEO checklist header 
Subheaders for on-page SEO checklist header 

Ignoring Semrush, the rest of the sub-headers can form the subtopics in your Checklist main topic. 

Similarly, the Checklist header shows us a list of to-do items for on-page SEO. You already know what that means — more topics for your blog. 

Topics related to on-page SEO