10 Steps to Begin Building Online Authority

by Erik Freeman on June 2, 2014

In the early days of the web, there just wasn’t a lot of competition. For example, a real estate site could do some keyword research, find the most readily searched terms and crank out page after page optimized around that single keyword phrase. Homes in California, Homes in Nevada, Homes in Arizona, etc. The content on these pages would be near duplicates of the others, with just the key modifiers swapped out. And they ranked. If you searched for a home in California, the real estate site’s California page would show up first. Click it and there it was in all its flat, impersonal glory.

“Buy now.” “Click here for more information.” “Fill out this form and someone will get back to you.”

But Google has been innovating at a breakneck speed, tweaking and refining their algorithm to provide users with the best possible results. At the same time, increased competition means a constant fight for visibility. How can you get yourself or your brand in front of consumers? In many cases, the answer is right in front of you. It comes down to authority building.

1. Define your authority.

You, your brand, your unique value proposition and industry expertise are all what make up your starting point for this exercise in authority building. Examine your niche, look around at your competition and honestly ask yourself: Would you consider yourself an authority in this space? If you don’t, no one else will either.

2. Examine what your competition is doing.

Work to understand the landscape. You want to understand what’s being said out there, and not only who’s saying it, but also how it’s being said. What words are they using? If there are multiple terms being used to describe a concept, take note. Remember that you’re writing not just for your determined personas but for the search engines as well. And keep in mind that the actual folks you’re finding out there are most likely the current influencers — and they’re really important. It’s not only what they’re saying that matters, but also what they could be saying about you.

3. Make a list of all topics that are readily covered.

What are these influencers talking about? This is a critical step. If you know what’s being said, you can start to determine what’s getting traction. You’ll see what topics get the most comments, likes, shares, re-tweets, etc. These topics are going to be the most competitive, but there’s still so much opportunity. Can you say it better? Have they thoroughly covered the topic? Look to see how the pages are laid out and if they are as good as they could be. Is there an angle that no one has taken?

4. Make a list of all topics that aren’t covered.

Popular topics definitely go into the road map, but how about the low-hanging fruit? Many bloggers are repurposing content, and that leaves room for all of the uncovered subject matter. Make a list of all of those topics. Think also about expanding your concept of relevancy as it applies to your area of expertise. Go wide. Red Bull isn’t creating content solely around their product. They’re engaged in a massive campaign around extreme sports, and it’s working. Figure out what ties in and use it.

5. Find out what questions people are asking.

If you can figure out what questions people are asking, you can create the content that answers those questions. Remember that Google is trying to surface the best possible answer for a user’s query. Be that answer! There are many ways to find these questions. Quora is a tremendous resource, as it’s a Q&A platform. Remember Yahoo! Answers? You can also use Google itself by employing advanced search operators. Try popping this into a Google search and see what comes up for “Content Marketing.” http://goo.gl/SA5cdk . Thanks to DEJAN SEO for the heavy lifting on this.

6. Determine what are the most relevant formats for the content in your niche.

Are your competitors creating a ton of video content while you’re still relying on a weekly 300-word blog post? Remember that you want to be the answer to the consumers’ queries, and knowing how those answers are consumed can help you put the right strategy in place. Look for guides, white papers and case studies. But that’s not all: What sorts of images seem to resonate? What’s been put together in the form of infographics? The takeaways here can go two ways. If you’re creating content in a format that works for your users, you just need to do it in a more thorough, authoritative and visually stunning way. If there are formats that have not been utilized, get busy testing.

7. Find out who is consuming that information and get social.

Demonstrating real value — and convincing others to affirm the same — is how you establish true online authority. You definitely want the attention of the influencers out there, but you also want to get in front of the people who are most likely to want your product. Conducting a thorough landscape analysis is beyond the scope of this already lengthy post, but with a bit of thought, a few tools and a whole lot of elbow grease, you can identify your potential audience. Search Twitter with keyword-relevant hashtags. Who’s talking? Find posts around your area of expertise and note those who are commenting. Are there forums that cover topics in your space? You can mine this type of information on all of the social networks. There are also great tools out there that can help. Check out MajesticSEO and find out who’s linking to all the content that you should have written. Once you find your peeps, get involved. You know how to make friends and influence people, right?

8. Put together an editorial calendar based on your findings.

You know what you’re good at. You know who’s out there producing content in your vertical. You know what questions people are asking, and you know what formats tend to resonate with them. You even know who might end up being interested in you and where they hang out. If you’re really on top of your game, you’ve even been getting involved in conversations and adding value wherever you can. People are starting to notice, and it’s time to lay it down. Prepare a list of concepts and titles that address all the unfulfilled desires you’ve mined from your painstaking work. This will form the basis of your editorial calendar. Now it’s time to get producing.

9. Write content that demonstrates your expertise, and craft it in a way that will satisfy intent-based queries around your topic.

Educate and inspire. You may have decided to create a how-to video, or perhaps an in-depth article. Would a beginners guide be helpful? Always bear in mind the needs that exist, as well as the style, tone and voice of your users. Think about the layout and what will really pop. You’re creating a beautiful, useful and authoritative piece of art, designed to help people in unique and unexpected ways. If done well, it will stand the test of time because of it.

10. Share your content with the people who are looking for it.

Finally, despite all of your hard work, if no one sees your content, it’s all for naught. And no one is an authority unless someone else thinks so too. Online authority is a two-way street. Get that content in front of the people who matter. Tweet it. Share it. Suggest it . . . and get your friends and influencers to do the same.

This is the path to true online authority. Your customers are waiting. So is Google.