The Evolution of News SEO: Understanding Topic Authority


Googlebot and Crawley exploring the web

In recent years, Google has been continuously refining its algorithms to deliver the most relevant search results to its users. One of these innovations is Google's 'topic authority' system, a ranking mechanism designed to surface the most pertinent and expert content within Google Search and News.

Despite recent buzz around the topic, it's important to clarify that the 'topic authority' system is not a newly launched tool. Rather, Google has been utilizing it for several years. The recent spotlight on this system is part of Google's efforts to provide more transparency about how their ranking algorithms work.

How Does Topic Authority Work?

The 'topic authority' system employs several signals to gauge the degree of expertise a publication has in specific areas. These signals are designed to ensure that the content provided to the user is not just relevant, but also comes from a trusted and authoritative source. Here are some key elements that the system takes into account:


The system understands which sources are particularly pertinent to specific topics or locations. For instance, a person seeking news on high school football in Nashville would likely find content from a local publication like The Tennessean appearing at the top of their search results.

Influence and Original Reporting

Google's system assesses how original reporting from a publisher is cited by other publishers. This helps to determine the influence and authority of a publication on a particular topic. If a news story was first broken by a publisher and then cited by others, this suggests that the publisher has a significant influence on the topic at hand.

Source Reputation

The 'topic authority' system also evaluates a source’s history of high-quality reporting and the recommendations it receives from expert sources, such as professional societies. Factors like a publication’s history of original reporting or their journalistic awards are taken as strong evidence of a positive reputation.

The Impact of Topic Authority

The 'topic authority' system has proven instrumental in serving local news queries, allowing users to access more relevant local and regional content. Whether it's news about a natural disaster or a local sports event, the system ensures that users get reliable and familiar voices from their communities, even when national outlets cover the same events.

This focus on topic authority also prioritizes original reporting from news teams that are intimately familiar with the location and topic. As a result, local publishers and publishers with specific expertise are more likely to appear in search results for news events they cover in their area or field.

Publishers aiming for success with topic authority should continue to do what they do best: providing comprehensive coverage about the areas and topics they know well. This aligns naturally with what the 'topic authority' system measures, and with Google's general guidance about creating helpful, people-first content.

As Google continues to refine and update its ranking systems, we can anticipate further improvements in the relevance and quality of search results. As of May 23, 2023, the details of the 'topic authority' system are expected to be added to Google's ranking systems page in the near future.

To learn more about Google's 'topic authority' system, you can refer to the original article on Google's Search Central Blog here.