Best-selling business author and radio host Dave Ramsey packs conferences and rooms whenever he or his team presents. Why? Because he’s become a trusted voice in America when it comes to managing finances.
Does your audience respond in the same way?
Is it luck or is there a science behind being a trusted authority in an industry?
The Milgram experiment in the 1960s verified that people have a natural tendency to obey those in authority.
The challenge for most businesses, however, is to get their audience’s attention and keep them engaged long enough to lead to a sale. That journey starts with creating authority content, a phrase that refers to content that builds your audience and business. In this article, we describe what authority content is, what it looks like, and how you can create it.
What is authority content?
In simple terms, authority content is delivering valuable, expert content instead of claiming to have expertise. In an era of fake news and misinformation, authority content is an important factor in growing your business. Why? Because word of mouth is still a valid component in building a business. According to a 2015 Nielsen study, 90% of consumers rely on recommendations from their friends before purchasing from a website. True authority builds confidence, which carries beyond the internet.
Founder of Copyblogger, Brian Clark defines authority content as follows:
It really boils down to the demonstration of expertise through delivery of valuable content as opposed to claiming expertise or saying, “We’re number one.”
It’s the difference between marketing messages and content that actually creates the experience of authority. This is an important distinction that can be summed up with the short phrase: “Show, don’t tell.”
To increase traffic to your blog or website from other locations, especially authoritative sites, you need to consider creating authority content.
Why authority content works
1. It speaks to people interested in a narrow topic
Creating content for a specific segment or niche is an opportunity to generate a finely tuned message for those interested in the topic. Research shows that doing this increases unique openings of email or links by 11%. Click-throughs could also increase by as much 100%.
2. It provides social proof
When authority content includes reviews and or input from other experts, it acts as a form of social proof. Research shows that nearly 70% of online consumers check product reviews before buying. Other research shows product reviews are trusted nearly 12 times more than product descriptions and sales copy.
3. It provides credibility by leveraging influencers
According to a study by Twitter and Annalect, as many as 49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchasing decisions.
4. It helps gain your audience’s attention
Authority content that uses visual aids and optimized headlines and formatting help get your audience’s attention. This is because most people are visual learners and can digest visuals faster than text. Also, research shows people read headlines more than an actual copy.
So how do you create authority content without a lot of experience, time, and resources?
There are many ways to obtain this expertise without spending 10,000 hours gaining experience. Below are 15 ways to give your content the instant authority it deserves.
1. Write on a narrow topic
Student and youth travel company STA Travel applied both authority content and audience segmentation by using a quiz about travel options.
This allowed STA to narrow and personalize consumer options, resulting in 40,000 responses and 10,000 potential clients.
To write on a narrow topic:
- Determine your main audience. For example, Nerd Fitness focuses its content on professionals looking to lose weight but who are uninterested in traditional gym routines. These are nerds who love gaming and movies like Star Wars.
- Learn all you can about your audience — geographic information, call outcomes, product interest, demographic data, call activity, competitors, psychographic information, etc.
- Based on what you know about your audience, you can probably further segment them to list topics that appeal to their interests and needs.
- Ensure your content speaks to your audience and builds a sense of community.
2. Analyze your competitors
Your competition can teach you to be better at what you do. According to author and MIT lecturer, Peter Senge:
The only sustainable, competitive advantage is an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition.
For example, Buffer the social media post scheduling app, is constantly publishing content, experimenting, and sharing the results with its audience. The company’s transparency with regards to its structure, finances, and pay has also served to differentiate it from its competitors.
To analyze your competition to help build authority content and your expert status, look at the following areas to see what your competitors can teach you about productivity and then use that knowledge to make your company better and differentiate it from the competition:
- Online marketing
- Offline marketing
- Visibility of their website and other online content platforms
- Brand management
- Product development
- Social media
- User experience
- Customer service
- Research was undertaken. Set up Google Alerts to notify you of changes happening with your competitors, which you can use to piece together a picture.
- Company culture
3. Use visual media
Visual authoritative content is a key component in today’s world of marketing and customer retention, as static and/or video images stick in the mind of the consumer. Why? Because when people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if that information is paired with a relevant image, people retained 65% of the information.
According to an industry report by Social Media Examiner’s industry report, 74% of social media marketers use visual assets in their social media marketing, ahead of blogs (68%) and videos (60%).
The Dying to Be Barbie infographic is a good example of visual content that speaks to an audience. The infographic was published on Rehabs.com, an information site for people affected by substance abuse and behavioral addictions.
The chilling infographic serves to visually convey the message of the article about eating disorders with teens seeking a Barbie body.
The infographic was featured in more than 200 publications, including the Huffington Post, Adweek, and Fast Company, and shared more than 55,000 times.
To incorporate visual content, invest in the following types of visual media:
- Custom images
To select and produce this media:
- Determine the best visual means to distribute your authority content: video, meme, or infographic?
- Whichever you choose, add the information in bite-size portions. Videos should be no more than a minute and infographics should be no more than two pages.
- When creating infographics, use a site like Canva, which offers free templates for quickly adding information for distribution.
- Edit all visual content. If you feel uncomfortable with this, consider hiring someone from a site like Upwork to review and clean up your videos and images.
4. Quote other experts and thought leaders
Quotes from other experts, especially thought leaders, reveals your influences and bolsters your own arguments.
Consider American Express’s OPEN Forum. It draws an audience using quality content focused on insights and inspiration for business growth. This content also helps attract new and potential credit cardholders. An early item it published was a piece on the 25 best business quotes from thought leaders. Designed as an authority piece, it includes heavy-hitting advice from top CEOs around the globe. We did something similar in an earlier post: How to get promoted by influencers when you are a nobody (new brand). Roundup posts (see below) use a similar tactic.
To find and use quotes or input from experts and thought leaders in your industry:
- Identify potential experts and influencers in your niche or related niches.
- Split your list of influencers based on levels of influence.
- Establish a relationship with them and make yourself visible to them.
- Establish your value by helping them out in some way, for example, by providing advice, a service, offering advice on how they can move their business forward in a way they hadn’t thought of before, etc.
- Communicate your need for a quote or input. Be clear in your “ask.”
- Measure results.
- Follow up.
5. Use data to increase credibility
Regardless of what form it’s in, research that corresponds with your authoritative content increases your readers’ interest and adds validity to the knowledge you already have. As astronaut Neil Armstrong said, “Research is creating new knowledge,” something that is true for both you and the reader.
The site Web Hosting Secret Revealed (WHSR) looked into hundreds of hosting plans to produce this web hosting pricing guide.
The site Dueling Data received thousands of hits and over a hundred comments in research about which of the Beatles wrote the most songs in any given year. The information was meticulously researched and presented in a colorful, easy-to-read graphic.
To use data in your content:
- As with quotes, make sure to do your homework and ensure the data you provide is accurate. Misinformation can lead to a loss of authority.
- Don’t overwhelm your audience with data and statistics. Report on the results and numbers that pertain to the information you’re offering.
- Use numbers in your headlines to help increase click-through rates.
- Longer and more in-depth content typically attracts more backlinks and more social shares.
- Infographics, in particular, are an easy source of stats in any niche. In fact, you can use them as snapshots in your posts and link back to the original source
- Put text-based statistics in the second sentence of your content, regardless if it’s a blog post or an About page. This draws the reader’s attention to further review more of your authoritative content.
- The use of images continues to increase, so consider combining your data into a colorful infographic. Numerous sites provide infographic examples for inspiration.
6. Write in a conversational, authoritative tone
Research shows that blog posts written in a conversational tone produce more oxytocin (a powerful hormone that plays a significant role in empathy, generosity, and bonding) in the reader’s brain. This oxytocin causes the brain to feel empathy and trust for the other person and helps build more positive engagement.
Neil Patel found that people spent more than twice as much time reading his posts when he used a conversational tone. The award-winning Grammar Girl blog at QuickandDirtyTips.com mixes authoritative and important knowledge for writers using a conversational tone that isn’t overly snarky.
To develop a conversational yet authoritative voice in your content:
- Interview relevant subject matter experts.
- Write simply and clearly to be understood.
- Avoid using jargon and unfamiliar terms without defining them
- Use the active voice.
- Use words like you and I.
- Ask questions.
- Keep paragraphs short.
- Use visuals.
- Let your personality shine through.
- Put your own spin on the subject or advice.
- Be aware of what is going on in the market so you can use real-world examples and add your unique perspective to events.
- Review your analytics to see how your content is performing.
7. Engage with top influencers in your niche
When Bigelow Tea involved influencers to help the company promote the many ways to use its product, they received 32,000 new blog references and increased sales by nearly 20 percent.
In a similar fashion, we reached out to several experts in the field of influencer marketing and asked how a brand that was virtually unheard of could make headway. This resulted in a post that was well received and shared.
To engage with influencers in your niche:
- Give influencers creative control.
- Engage influencers who love what you have to offer.
- Give first. In other words, seek to help them first.
- Seek to build a mutually beneficial relationship.
- Look for dedicated audience engagement.
- Utilize influencers as reporters for your brand.
- Sponsor influencer-run contests and giveaways.
- Build connections.
- Respect influencers’ judgment.
- Don’t limit your search for influencers to celebrities.
- Have actionable goals for influencer campaigns.
8. Read books in your niche
Knowledge is power. You need to read books within your niche to become more knowledgeable in your area of specialization and give you a basis for connecting with influencers. As early entrepreneur Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
Reading also helps you make your authority relevant for both new and old readers or listeners. Author Donald Miller, for example, interviews authors regularly on his podcast, which has several thousand listeners.
Relationship coach Steve Horsmon, the owner of GoodGuys2GreatMen, continually reads books and articles by other coaches to better understand what he does and to avoid delivering misinformation. Any new authoritative information he finds relevant he passes along to his clients, his blog readers, and his Facebook forum participants, providing avenues for comment and conversation.
To use books to create authority:
- Make a list of experts and industry professionals.
- Look at their blogs, Amazon, and other sites to see if they have published books on topics related to your niche or industry.
- Read those books.
- Take notes on what you learn and what the author is thinking.
- Get in touch with the author to ask questions via email or to book an interview.
- Borrow and reference their quotes to give credibility to your work.
9. Host a virtual summit
Being the host of a virtual summit takes you two steps beyond a blog or podcast because you immediately brand yourself as the go-to individual through association with the experts you invite.
Navid Moazzez was a guest on numerous entrepreneur podcasts and had his own podcast as well, but his sales and email list were still small. After finishing his first virtual summit, he generated $20,000 in sales, increased his email list by 3,000, and partnered with some of the authoritative leaders who had participated.
To create a virtual summit that will build your authority and give you instant expert status:
- Know what problem you want your virtual summit to solve.
- Clarify your target audience.
- Create a compelling tagline that addresses your audience’s problem.
- Name your virtual summit.
- Plan the content you want to cover.
- Outline the flow of the summit.
- Build a professionally designed landing page.
- Create your dream list of speakers.
- Consider the logistical requirements for the summit.
- Decide on the technology you’ll need to use.
- Reach out to the speakers.
- Set up your virtual summit sales funnel.
- Record your interviews.
- Set up your virtual summit live interview landing pages.
- Set up membership access pages.
- Promote the summit.
10. Create roundup posts to crowdsource quality content
Similar to a virtual summit, roundup posts provide an opportunity to increase readership and potential clients by associating with authority experts who provide bite-size portions of important information in your niche.
Take for example blogger Zac Johnson’s post on “How to start a blog,” which has 82 experts sharing their perspective. The post quickly gained close to a thousand shares.
Relationship expert Maj Wisman gathered 75 other experts to get their professional thoughts on how to revive the sexual desire for a partner. The post offered a variety of opinions and gained a large number of shares by readers and influencers.
To create a roundup post that will be well received by your audience and boost your expert status:
- Ask a question that your audience wants to be answered.
- Get the right experts, including some of your audience, will instantly recognize.
- Use a promotion that goes beyond asking your experts to share.
11. Invite guest contributions and seek guest post opportunities
Danny Iny spent much of 2016 as an expert guest blogger on marketing. When Copyblogger invited him to be a guest writer, he received 233 comments and a kickstart to his business.
Blogger, author, and speaker Jeff Bullas has a popular blog. However, 90% or more of the content is from guest bloggers.
Seeking guest post contributions can seem daunting but it doesn’t have to be. To find guest contributors:
- Use search operators on search engines to find opportunities:
- Search – keyword + “write for us”
- Try searching with a combination of – keyword + “become a contributor”
- Look for the combination of – keyword + “contribute”
- Try searching for – keyword + “guest blogging”
- Use tools like Buzzsumo or BuzzStream to find guest post writers and guest post opportunities.
- Use Ahrefs to research backlinks from sites.
- Ask communities you belong to for good writers or people interested in guest posting.
- Create a landing page for guest post opportunities.
- Vet potential guest post writers to ensure quality.
12. Be a crash test dummy
Car manufacturers often test their cars’ safety capabilities by using a crash test dummy in simulated crash scenarios to determine if the car performs as expected.
You can apply a similar concept to get the attention of influencers and your desired audience. Bryan Harris of Videofruit, for example, shares the results of his experiments via a video and a post. These are based on courses and what he’d learned from experts. As a result, his audience has steadily grown.
So, be a crash test dummy and share your experiments. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
- Find an expert whose course would help your business.
- Take the course.
- Implement the learning.
- Measure the impact and change.
- Blog about your experience.
- Let the expert and others who would be interested in the topic know.
- Provide your feedback to the expert, if areas can be improved.
13. Join sites journalists use to get expert quotes
There are thousands of experts in your niche who you may not be aware of, so joining a site like ProfNet or Help a Reporter (HARO) gives journalists and bloggers an opportunity to search for quotes and other information for their work.
Submitting a request on HARO, for example, can garner dozens of responses and, in turn, lead to connections with new authoritative leaders. Neil Napier, the founder of JobRack, used HARO instead of traditional PR to help get the word out. In the first week alone, Neil’s site was featured on two sites with domain authority (DA) of 70-plus.
To get started with these sites:
- Sign up for an account.
- Find the best press requests based on keywords, but remain flexible.
- Always address the reporter by name (if given).
- Let the reporter know who you are (i.e., a brief, one-line bio or credentials).
- Provide a short summary of your thoughts on the subject (4 to 8 lines, preferably in bullet points).
- Give 3 to 4 communications channels (email, Skype, WhatsApp, etc.) to make it easy for the journalist to contact you with any further questions
14. Have virtual office hours
Designer and blogger Marianne Manthey let her audience know that she holds virtual office hours via Twitter chats to discuss issues.
To conduct virtual office hours:
- Think about your audience and the most convenient time for them.
- Think about the kinds of people you want to be available to.
- Take stock of your surroundings when conducting virtual office hours. Remove anything that physically or psychologically interferes with devoting time and attention to your audience.
- Have access to a good computer, camera, and microphone to communicate with your audience over apps like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.
- Decide on the flow of your virtual office hours—it could be to teach, review work, etc.
- Decide how you want to interact with your audience: listening, advising, encouraging collaboration, providing feedback, and mentoring.
15. Give your ideas away for free
Copyblogger provides its readers with a wealth of free information, applications, tips, and books. This plethora of material encourages many visitors to sign up for the site’s Authority package.
Entrepreneur Garin Etcheberry says he gave away 10 ideas for 30 days and got 7 skype conversations and 10 potential collaborations as a result.
To give ideas away, provide information. For example:
- How to improve a landing page.
- How to improve a course or product.
- Content ideas for future blog posts.
- Marketing ideas for a course.
- How to repurpose a blog post.
There’s no secret on how to create authoritative content for your site. It’s a combination of continued research, conversational language, and building relationships with other like-minded experts in your niche. It does take time.
These tips can help shorten the process. Start by implementing one or two of the ideas at a time into your marketing. Think about what your journey in positioning your brand as an expert has been like and what your biggest struggle has been.