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So You Wanna be an Online Authority? Here’s How to Get Started [Part 1]

Tough love. It’s usually not my style around here. But previously when we were talking about the authority-boosting Google algorithm change, I got a bit snarky on the subject of “boring” industries.

“Ah, your industry is ‘boring’? Right.  Sounds like an excuse to me.”

It was my attempt to aggravate you niche industry players into action and belief – belief that you can drive more attention to your business as an authority in your field.

Because you can!  This is your guide to getting started.

And if Google has anything to say about where your website lands on the search page for your targeted keywords, you must.

OK, that’s me being dramatic. But the message from Matt Cutts (jump to 4:39) is clear:

Google Search is working on better detection of websites that are authoritative in specific spaces, and ranking those sites higher in search results.  There are rewards for sharing your expertise.

And besides the search engine benefits, an authoritative presence online will help you gain the trust of your visitors and readers, and set you apart from the competition. As Copyblogger web writing authority Sonia Simone says:

“Given the noisy, cluttered state of the web right now, it’s the authoritative site that earns the business.”

It’s time to earn the business, people. For 2013, web authority rules. In this two-part blog series, we’re going to share six steps for getting started as an authority online:

Here are your first three:

1. Determine how you will help your audience

Whether you work in an extremely competitive industry or one that makes people raise their eyebrows and say, “What’s that?” when you tell them what you do, there’s a customer with a question that needs answering.

Your job as an authority online is to know that question, and answer it. “Authorities help others. They serve their audience first,” says Simone.  So how will you serve yours?

Search industry keywords in LinkedIn Groups, Yahoo! Answers, Quora, and Twitter Search to get a sense of what your prospects and customers want to know.  Then hone in to a specific category within your expertise, and declare it yours.

EXAMPLE: You own an in-ground pool installation company. You know your stuff.  You discover through Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn that many prospective pool purchasers are wary about fiberglass pools.  You have answers that could help people make a decision. You decide to position your company as an authoritative source for consumer information about eco-friendly in-ground pool materials such as fiberglass.

Determining a targeted realm of expertise within your industry helps set you apart from the other authorities, and defines your role and value for your audience.  The goal here is to become the “go-to” source for a specific type of information.

2. Assess your resources

The easiest way to show search engines and web users that you are an authority is by creating content – blog posts, infographics, videos, ebooks, whitepapers – and sharing it online.  Which formats will you use?

Consistency with content creation is key; before you get started on making the stuff, decide what you can keep up with for the long-term. Ask:

  • How many pieces of content can I afford to produce per week?
  • Who/ what team will create the content?
  • Who/what team will manage and moderate publication?
  • What content do we have on-hand right now?

You might want to hire a web writer to craft your expert information for your audience, or handle the responsibility yourself. You might have an intern who can do some research for whitepapers and ebooks.  You might have loads of studies, brochures, guides, and documents on-hand that you can reuse in new formats.  This will all come to surface as you assess your resources.

3. Build an authoritative blog

The blog is the authority flagship. It’s where your target audience finds you, sometimes before knowing that they need your products or services.  Your expert content lives there, and search engines deliver it to information-hungry users.

For example, users often arrive at authoritative blogs through question-based keyword searches like “How to remove wax from fabric?” or “What can I replace eggs with in a cake recipe?”   Those blog posts provide answers that the search engine has determined suitable for its users.

So while you’re publishing blog posts with irrigation tips for desert regions in the Okanagan, you’re also tipping off search engines by showing that you have lots of information about this specific topic.

But it has to be authoritative information; as Kissmetrics contributor Zach Bulygo says, “In all your content, you need to show your knowledge of a subject. This can be done through your writing, your academic credentials, and your experience.”

Bulygo suggests you back up your claims with third-party sources, such as references to studies, links to reputable articles, and quotes from other authorities.  This also helps boost credibility in your industry.

And because blog content is so flexible, you can quickly and easily share with your audiences across platforms, which is crucial to building a presence as an authority online. We’re talking LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

We’ll talk more about Google+ next time. That’s a big one.

But first, get your hands on that blog! Talk to us about setting up a WordPress blog. WordPress is easy to use and integrates seamlessly with your current website. For more information about WordPress for small business, check out these blog posts:

Plan of action, check. Resources identified, check. Blog prepped for expert content, check.

See Also

So You Wanna be an Online Authority? Here’s How to Get Started [Part 2]

Bulygo, Zach. “How Being an Authority Can Boost Your Online Sales.” 10 May 2013.
Simone, Sonia. “The 5 Cornerstone Values That Build an Authoritative Online Presence.”

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