By now you know you need to focus on authority, your own, as well as relationships with other authorities. But what are the best strategies for developing authority?
From an SEO perspective, building authority only works if you have some sort of web presence for people to capitalize on. For the purposes of this column, it's assumed that you have a blog, a social media presence, or both. Actually, you want to have both, because blogging and social media can reinforce each other in powerful ways:
Search engines try to measure personal (or organizational) authority the way people do. Your ability to obtain real links, fans, likes, +1s, or shares will be driven by that perception. In other words, don't go buying likes, +1s, links, shares, or whatever.
In this column, the words "authority" and "influencer" will be used somewhat interchangeably. People or organizations that are seen as authoritative generally have a significant amount of influence on others.
The first set of considerations relate to how you're perceived. These are an important part of the process.
You can't be thought of as an authority if you aren't trusted. Of course, it is possible to be trusted by one group of people, and not others. For example, Ann Coulter is trusted by right wing Republicans, but not by Democrats.
If you establish a strong position on something, think long and hard before changing it. While there are times when you should change such a position, if you frequently flip flop on the positions you take, then you'll have problems. People need to know, in general, what to expect from you.
Show Expertise and Value
If you have no value to bring to the conversation, then the authority will not follow, regardless of whatever else you do. In fact, you need to be providing value on an ongoing basis, not just once.
Be Natural and Authentic
Being natural and authentic makes being consistent easier to do. Having to remember what position you took on something when it isn't your true opinion is asking for trouble. People can sniff out when you aren't being true to yourself.
Solve Problems for Others
It's great to show expertise, but if no one is actually helped, who cares? Look beyond demonstrating your skills.
Go out of your way to help people with a need. Show that you solve real problems. It's great PR.
Help Promote Others
As you gain more exposure, make sure to give back. Promote the works of others. Link to them, tweet them, introduce them to people, and share their content.
Promoting the content of recognized authorities is a double win. It's very likely to provide value to your audience (they are perceived an authorities for a reason), and it helps you build a relationship with them.
Socializing is a great tool. Hanging out with people and being likable counts for a lot! This is a great way to build trust, and get introductions that are helpful to you. Besides which it's fun!
Focus on how you can help build up your authority in your industry. The key is to be seen. The following ideas may seem pretty basic, but they work.
Go to Industry Conferences
This is a great way to meet people. There's no better way to build a relationship than face to face. Go watch current industry authorities speak at conferences like SES.
Sit in the front row and go up and introduce yourself when the session is over. Make sure you have something interesting to say that will capture their attention.
Speak at Industry Conferences
Pitch yourself as a speaker at industry conferences. If you have no prior speaking track record, pitch a case study or new real world data. Conference organizers love real world examples and data.
If you can't do either of those, come up with something truly unique and fresh. A pitch arguing that you will cover an old topic better than an established speaker isn't likely to work.
Write for Industry Journals
The strategy here is similar to pitching yourself as a speaker. Bring something really new and different to the table, that is quantitative in nature. Hard facts and figures are more likely to get you in the door.
One alternative strategy that will work too, is to get a current authority to recommend you. Expect to start with a single article, not a column. Once you get one really good article under your belt, you're on your way.
Meet People Face to Face
This is an expansion of the "attend conferences" concept. There are other places where you can meet people, and influencers as well. For example, local meetups or even social gatherings.
Use your network to help you get invites. Whatever you do, don't crash anyone's private social events unless invited!
Get an Introduction
Get introduced to an influencer by someone in your network. If you don't have a current connection via your network, work on expanding it! Personal introductions from a person trusted by the influencer are gold.
Make sure you bring something of interest to the conversation when you end up meeting an influencer, be it by email, phone, or face to face. Face to face is first choice because it's more personal, with a second choice of phone, then email, but accept whatever is more comfortable for them.
Yes, this is real work, and you have to allow time for it to unfold. But, in today's hyper competitive world of search, this investment is essential.
Today's publishers face a serious challenge: differentiate or die. You're competing with way too many people, regardless of your market. Developing authority is a way to stand out – to people and search engines alike.