TAMPA, FLORIDA – It is likely you have a favorite blogger or website whether you dabble in Internet marketing, have a unique hobby or interest, or are a writer in search of information on honing your skills.
There seems to be at least one go-to website for every type of niche and interest these days. For all the websites that have become the online authorities in their respective fields, there surely are just as many bloggers and website owners looking to get into that same position.
How do you make it happen? Simply put, you must build an audience. Addressing how to build that audience is a bit more complicated. I recently turned to a couple of industry experts for some insight.
Demian Farnworth, chief copywriter at Copyblogger.com, says the Copyblogger model calls for you to build your audience even before you sell your product. If you think about it, it makes sense. The whole goal of building an audience, of being considered an authority, is because you want to sell someone something. If you want to sell something, you must have an audience.
A popular way of building an audience is sharing “beneficial, quality content,” says Adam Sherk, VP of SEO and social media for Define Media Group, formerly part of The New York Times Company. Notice that he specifically refers to “quality” content. That element gets overlooked far too often by bloggers.
We commonly think of this content in terms of the written word. Writing blog posts, articles and press releases still is the most common content generating method, but don’t overlook podcasts, videos, infographics and other modes of information sharing. I wrote about these methods last year in posts titled, “5 Ways to Market Content You’re Probably Not Using – But Should Be” (Part 1) and (Part 2).
“To write good content, you have to be insanely curious, but you also have to be a specialist,” Farnworth says.
He uses Matt Frazier, the No Meat Athlete, as an example. Frazier preaches a vegan diet. It’s a great gimmick because he takes two disparate worlds and combines them.
“No one would take him seriously if he wasn’t a runner, or he wasn’t a vegan,” Farnworth says. “Frazier’s core content must be on those subjects.”
As a result of Frazier focusing on his core knowledge areas, he has become known as an authority on the subjects of running and veganism.
Another authority-building tactic is to interview other, more well-known authorities in the field.
“It’s going to go farther if you interview people in your industry with good names,” Farnworth says. “Something from Seth Godin has farther reach on the Web than something I publish.”
Andrew Warner of Mixergy.com is an excellent example of how interviewing leaders for blog posts resulted in excellent authority for his site. He created the website to help ambitious people who love business learn from a mix of experienced mentors.
“I do that through interviews where founders tell their stories, and courses where they teach a solution to issues that can cripple founders,” Warner says on his site.
Farnworth describes what Warner has done as interviewing successful people and building an “insider’s club” around that content.
“If he’s an authority of anything, he’s an authority indirectly of networking, of being an interviewer,” Farnworth says. “He’s kind of an aggregator, as opposed to the person who creates his own content.”
Let’s say you’re blogging and you’re reaching out to the big dogs in your industry for interviews to use in your posts. It is easy to get caught up in the online world and forget your physical surroundings. Sherk says this is a big mistake, particularly for small-business owners who rely on foot traffic for business. Let’s think really small for a minute. If you’re a dentist, an orthodontist, a plumber or an air conditioning repairman in Orlando, no one in Seattle is going to become your customer. You need to focus on creating a community in your local area.
“If I have a blog and produce content regularly and it’s helpful, that’s a start,” Sherk says. “Humanizing that and involving the community at large is what’s needed.”
What if you’re a plumber? It’s true that it can be a greater challenge, but if you get the right kind of people doing the right kind of things, it still becomes meaningful and begins to fall into place over time, Sherk says. It’s about building momentum.
You should focus on your blog, but also events, promotions and the face-to-face activity that is especially important with small businesses.
“Humanizing in that way can be really helpful,” Sherk says. “Maybe the scale is small at first, but that’s how you get things going. You need to think in terms of years as opposed to months.”
You can have lots of other wins along the way, he adds, such as a blog post that does great in terms of generating traffic and conversation, or a contest or other promotion that draws in a whole new audience. One-off things come and go along the way.
My Final Thoughts
In speaking with these two experts for this post, one notion kept coming to mind.
Authority boils down to authenticity. You’ve got to have the goods if your site is going to become an authority site. It has to be more about relationship building than bank account building if you want to become an authority. Those who’ve done it successfully appear to have let relationships lead the way, and the financial benefits have fallen into place as a result.
Focus on entertaining, helpful, high quality content. Worry more about sharing that information with those it would benefit than about implementing the best link building strategies, being consumed with white-hat SEO tactics and landing in that first position on Google for your keywords. If you focus on quality content first, I’m convinced you’ll eventually hit that tipping point where your site will go somewhere and become self-sustaining.
What are some tactics you’re using to launch your site into the authority realm? Sound off in the comments below.