The Hilltop algorithm is one of the oldest still used by Google, and it's more relevant than ever. In the original white paper submitted by Google, the authors describe "...a novel ranking scheme for broad queries that places the most authoritative pages on the query topic at the top of the ranking."
To offer an understanding of authority, the Hilltop algorithm uses "a special index of expert documents" as starting points for authority signals. These "expert documents" are simply Web pages that Google has deemed an authoritative Hilltop. When a Hilltop links to a website outside of this special club, that website earns trust and authority. This increased brand authority earns higher search engine rankings.
The key word to note here is "authority," which has appeared frequently in recent discussions around upcoming changes to Google's search algorithm. A recent video by Matt Cutts, head of Google's Webspam team, forecasts some upcoming changes in Google search guidelines. In this video, he makes references to the idea of Hilltops:
"We're doing a better job of detecting when someone is sort of an authority in a specific space. It could be medical, it could be travel and trying to make sure those rank a little more highly if you're some sort of authority, or a site that according to the algorithms we think might be a little bit more appropriate for users."
Considering the past and current positions taken by Google, it's more important than ever for brands to earn links from topically relevant Hilltops to earn more visibility in search results. This will also scale link building efforts, since authoritative resources are naturally syndicated by a large number of news aggregators, social profiles and other Internet users. We call this "climbing the Hilltop."
When brands climb Hilltops on a regular basis, they'll naturally become a Hilltop themselves. This is the point that really scales organic search traffic, since organic search visibility will increase across the board once the brand earns the Hilltop status. Earning links from Hilltops across the web increases the trust and authority of your website, which boosts brand visibility in search.
Focus on authority when climbing industry Hilltops. No matter how many outbound links you build, nothing will perform as effectively or consistently as reliable, authoritative information that users can trust.