If you’ve been around the block a few times like I have, you probably remember the old days when SEO was all about keyword density and doorway pages. At that time, search engine technology was so basic that the algorithms sometimes had trouble telling the difference between a page of keyword-stuffed gibberish and a beautifully written article by an author with a Ph.D. in rocket science. Even Google would fall for some of the tricks.
Search engines have become much better at giving us the information we want while penalizing bad actors. They’re also much better at recognizing authority and expertise, which is why being an expert on a particular topic is now far more valuable than knowing a few weak spots in the algorithm when it comes to rankings.
In fact, the more authority and expertise you have, the more Google will reward you. You just have to demonstrate it online.
While you don’t need a Ph.D. to get rankings, the days when you could rely on a content strategy that was based around clickbaity articles and snappy social media posts are gone. People, as well as Google, want to know who you are, where you come from, what drives you and what you can do for the reader.
The future of search is about reputation. It’s about what is being said, but also who is saying it. Building that authority means putting yourself out there and engaging openly with the media, your audience and the trusted institutions in your niche.
Here’s what you should focus on if you want to improve your authority.
Be transparent and authentic
It might still be possible to make millions off an anonymous affiliate website in a shady corner of the internet, but for businesses who want long-term success, authenticity and transparency are the best policies.
Start by creating an About page that tells your story. How did you get started? Did you have humble beginnings? People will be able to relate to you more if you share your “story of struggle” with them. A timeline format can be particularly effective.
Also, get to the core of who you are and what you stand for. What are your values? Who are your key staff and why do they choose to work for your company? Make it easy for people to contact someone if they need help and be transparent about the offer. The more open you are, the better.
Prove your expertise
If there’s any proof that you know what you’re talking about, it’s time to get it up on your site. Create an Awardspage and list all the accolades you’ve received from industry groups. If you’ve collaborated with notable institutions or people, get that up there, too. Ditto to any media appearances. If you don’t have any awards or accolades, then it’s time to win some.
Put yourself out there
Every company and its founders have something important to share. Find outlets that are sympathetic, and publish an article about your challenges and goals. Start a podcast or book yourself as a guest on other podcasts. Aim high. There’s no reason you can’t get published in the most respected publications in your industry. The more people see your name in outlets they trust, the more authority you will gain.
Create detailed, long-form content
Creating a content strategy once meant writing an article on every possible topic in your niche. These days, people (and search engines) are looking for more meat, not just another listicle. Instead of spreading your content team thin, home in on your key areas of expertise and produce detailed, well-thought-out articles and videos that deliver real value. The better your content, the more likely it will attract links and shares, which in turn grow your authority in the eyes of Google—in particular, the links.
Invest in your customers and your reputation
Clunky or unsatisfying experiences on your site don’t just affect sales, they affect your reputation. Treat your customers like kings and queens because the reviews they leave on sites like Yelp, Amazon, Facebook and Google impact the trustworthiness of your brand. Be proactive about dealing with unhappy customers or negative reviews. Engage them online and try your best to resolve the issue. If you can, share your expert advice for free with your customers.
Building authority is a long-term project. There’s no shortcut, but that doesn’t mean you can’t aim high. If you have something remarkable to share, why not take it all the way to the top? Rejection sucks, but it’s worth the heartache if you get a hit. And over the long term, you will certainly reap the benefits, both in kudos and in rankings.