Another Friday, another case study update!
This week, we’re digging into topical authority, topical maps, and editorial calendars.
We’re finally past the “boring” parts of developing an authority website. We now have hard data to work with as well as dollar signs in our eyes as we anticipate the potential of this niche.
Let’s take a look at what we accomplished.
What is Topical Authority?
Before we can discuss topical maps, it’s important to first understand why we need one.
Topical authority is how search engines evaluate a website's authoritativeness on a given topic.
In today’s SEO environment, it’s essential to achieve a certain level of topical authority in your niche. Once Google identifies your authoritativeness, your website will likely will experience significant gains in keyword rankings and, subsequently, organic traffic.
A high level of topical authority is achieved by producing high-value, comprehensive content, typically over a series of articles, on a particular topic.
Using an example from TopicalMap.com, let’s say that your niche topic is “Spiral Stairs.”
You’ll need to produce several articles on topics closely related to the main topic to have a fighting chance of eventually ranking for the main, short-tail keyword for the topic.
In this case, related topics may include:
- What is a spiral staircase?
- Spiral staircase into basement
- Spiral staircase calculator
- Spiral staircase ideas
A good analogy to help understand this concept is to think of related topics as chapters in a book. An authoritative book on Spiral Stairs would have more than just an overview of the topic. It would include several chapters on all of the sub-topics closely related to the main topic, resulting in a comprehensive resource on the main topic.
Once you have developed enough content that covers the main and related topics, your perceived topical authority should increase.
Matt Diggity’s interview with Koray Tugberk provides a comprehensive discussion on topical authority.
Here are two articles related to this concept:
Topical Map Creation Process
A topical map is a master content plan that includes every topic and keyword in a given niche that would need to be covered to develop topical authority.
An effective topical map is created by:
- Aggregating keyword and topic data from multiple sources
- Clustering the master keyword list with a tool like KeywordInsights
- Developing optimized titles for each keyword cluster
- Organizing article topics into topical clusters
When you’re done, you’ll have a blueprint to follow that covers every topic in the niche. It is an invaluable resource for niche site builders.
While the topical map creation process is relatively straightforward, it is most certainly an art form.
I wanted to avoid analysis paralysis (which is a given with my personality). I knew I would spend an ungodly amount of time trying to perfect our new topical map if I built it on my own.
So, instead, we linked up with Yoyao from TopicalMap.com and leveraged his expertise.
It was the right move.
We purchased the “Authority” package for a total cost of $1,797.
While that may seem a bit pricey at first glance, it was worth every last penny. Doing this on my own would have been far more expensive considering the tools I would have purchased and the time I would have put into the process.
The process took just over two weeks from start to finish.
Here’s what we received with our package:
- Topical map spreadsheet
- Mind map visualization of the topical map
- Custom guide on how to use our topical map along with notes on site structure, internal linking, and anchor text
The spreadsheet is the primary asset. It included all of the keywords, clusters, topics, and other data we would need.
The topical map for our niche consisted of:
- 809 article topics
- 9 main topic categories with several topic clusters within each
- Keyword search volume and cost-per-click
- Optimized titles for every topic
- SERP difficulty scores
- Search intent
- Content type
Each category was organized nicely based on a logical hierarchy that allows us to keep our click depth no more than four levels deep. This is a cool feature. It provides all the context I need to develop our sitemap and interlinking architecture.
A helpful glossary was provided that included definitions for the different types of search intent and content types suggested in the map.
I felt like a kid in a candy store. Digging through this data helped me brainstorm a ton of ideas that will help us reach our goal of becoming the most valuable brand in our niche.
Having these insights before a single word of content is produced is truly priceless.
Now, in full transparency, I did still need to do some additional data crunching once I received our package from Yoyao.
The service provides a blueprint to reach topical authority. But, that doesn’t mean it includes the correct parent topic (target keyword) for each article.
In some cases, the correct parent topic wasn’t provided because it wasn’t topically relevant to the niche. So, we needed to make a few judgment calls to determine whether or not to use the provided target keyword or a non-relevant parent topic keyword that appears to be more logical.
There were also a few instances where a few keywords were very obviously in the wrong clusters. This is likely due to how Yoyao’s clustering tool organized the master keyword list into clusters. So, again, a few judgment calls needed to be made.
I’m just being nitpicky there. I think it would be a tall order to expect any service to provide that level of granularity.
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Keyword Research vs Topical Maps
You may have noticed that I haven’t discussed traditional keyword research much at all.
This is because topical maps include keyword research. The map, essentially, is keyword research on steroids.
But, of course, my obsessive Type-A personality persuaded me to do a little traditional keyword research. I wanted to be able to cross-reference what I came up with against Yoyao’s research to confirm everything was correct.
I know I have a habit of “reinventing the wheel,” and wanted to avoid unnecessary work.
So, I logged into The Authority Site System course and followed their keyword research framework. Those guys have that process down to a science. I knew I could trust it.
When all was said and done, I was able to compare my keyword list against the topical map to ensure that all of the big topics and keywords that our competitors rank for were included in the map.
This earned TopicalMap.com additional brownie points. The map included every keyword I had found, and then some.
I will probably continue to do multiple types of keyword research on future projects. The process helped me to educate myself on the important topics within the niche as well as the pain points that are plaguing the demographic.
Topical Authority vs Goals vs Resources
Now that I have a blueprint to reach topical authority, the next knot to untie was deciding how to implement it in the most effective way possible.
This required us to weigh the demands of the topical map against our goals for the case study and the resources we have available to produce the authority site.
It would be great if we could produce and publish all 809 articles in one shot and spend the rest of the year building links. But, that’s just not realistic.
We have a $12,000 budget for content creation in 2023. By my estimations that should yield us between 90 and 150 articles for the year.
Additionally, we have defined revenue goals. We want to hit $100 per month in revenue by June and $1,000 per month by December.
We needed to figure out which articles needed to be produced first for us to hit our goals within budget. This required a detailed analysis of search volume and SERP difficulty for every article topic on the list.
After going through this process, we identified roughly 109 articles to produce this year that are easy enough for a new site to rank, but juicy enough to allow us to reach our revenue goals.
Editorial Calendar Creation
I’m one of those people that does everything in their head, so documenting and managing an editorial calendar isn’t the most intuitive process for me.
So, I kept it simple.
I added a new column to our topical map for “production month” and mapped each of our 109 target articles to the month it needs to be published.
Another column was added to indicate the value of each article to the demographic. Each article on our list was designated as “high value,” “average value,” or “low value.”
A third column was added to indicate the level of expertise needed to produce a great article. While we will be using WordAgents writers for at least 90% of all content production, we’ll likely pull in a niche expert to create a few articles that require it.
Also, there are several super low-volume, low-expertise, low-value topics on the list. Those will likely be written by Tommy, David, or myself since they’re only there to help develop topical authority.
The “production month” column will help keep us on track so we hit our goals on time. The other two columns will help us maximize our budget to ensure we’re paying the right price for each article based on its value to the end user (visitors).
Until Next Time…
It’s just about time for us to start digging into content production.
We’ll need to develop content templates, identify ideal WordAgents writers, hire an expert or two, and build content briefs. So, you can expect to see those topics show up in the next few updates.
If this is the first entry in the case study you’re seeing, take some time to check out our previous updates!
- Authority Site Case Study Overview
- Authority Site Case Study: Niche Brainstorming, Analysis, and Selection
- Authority Site Case Study: Branding and Site Infrastructure