August 29, 2023
Last week, we took a look at the basis for authorship and authority. We delved deep into the foundation of Google’s interest in authority, tracing its evolution from the original PageRank concept to today. We discussed how Google began recognizing authors as “entities” and the testing of the rel=”author” markup.
Understanding the concept of authority is just the beginning. But the real challenge?
Translating that expertise into tangible, authoritative content.
This week, we’ll explore the intricacies of turning expertise into compelling content. We’ll discuss the importance of stakeholder buy-in, the delicate balance between expertise and copywriting skills, and the challenges of scaling such efforts.
We’ll take a look at the types of content that can truly amplify your authority – from interviews and data stories to co-written and ghostwritten articles.
And because we believe in a structured approach, we’ll also guide you through workflows that can help cultivate authoritative content, ensuring every piece you produce resonates with authenticity and expertise.
Turning true expertise into content can be an extremely difficult task. It’s rare that you’ll find an expert who’s also a skilled and motivated copywriter. You’ll need to get buy-in and balance the quality versus expertise as the content scales.
Stakeholder buy-in is probably the hardest task content marketing professionals face. Sometimes it can feel like herding kittens. Without the support of stakeholders, even the most well-researched and expertly crafted content can fall flat.
Getting buy-in and organizing the stakeholders is the key component in harnessing internal and external expertise and turning it into a successful content marketing strategy.
The easiest ways to get buy-in are:
✅ Build KPIs and goals that satisfy the decision-makers. Reporting that keeps them confident.
✅ Listen to your experts. What are they passionate about? Don’t just blindly assign content topics they might find tedious.
✅ Have a well-formed management plan that ensures everyone’s involvement will be kept to a minimum.
✅ Point out where your competition is already actively sharing their expertise.
Expertise is invaluable, but presenting it in a digestible manner requires a different skill set. Sometimes experts will have copywriting skills, but they simply do not enjoy writing. Balancing the need for expertise with the quality and timeliness of the finished product is a critical skill when scaling an authority-based content program.
If your organization is chock full of experts, but none of them have the time or desire to write, your options are ghostwriting or co-authoring. In these cases, you should involve the expert in sourcing the writer. They should be comfortable that the person writing content with their name on it represents them well.
Scaling content production is a challenge many content marketers face. As the demand for fresh, relevant content grows, so does the need for efficient processes and tools to meet that demand.
Scaling will mean having to identify or create:
The process of scaling a content program can feel daunting. However, the upside is that the better you prepare your system before launching the program, the better you’ll be able to manage the time and effort after the first three or four months that the program is running.
In the vast landscape of content marketing, certain types of content stand out as particularly effective for building authority.
✅ Interviews: Conducting interviews with industry experts or thought leaders can be a goldmine for content. Not only do they provide unique insights, but they also lend credibility to your content. Michael Brown, GLG Network Member and President of Strategy noted in his article, “How to Effectively Conduct an Expert Interview” that the key to a successful interview lies in preparation, asking open-ended questions, and actively listening.
Remember, the goal is to extract valuable expertise that matches the needs and wants of your buyer personas.
✅ Quotes: Incorporating expert quotes into your content can enhance its credibility and provide varied perspectives. If you utilize quotes make sure you fully understand proper attribution, adding context and ensuring the quote actually improves the content with its inclusion.
✅ Data stories: Data, when presented in a compelling narrative, can be incredibly persuasive. It’s not just about showcasing numbers, but weaving them into a story that drives a point home. Experts are key in compiling the data and unlocking its meaning.
✅ Co-written articles: Co-written articles can take some pressure off of the expert. Finding a copywriter with experience in a vertical is easier than finding a copywriter who is also an expert in the specific niche your company focuses on. Expert copywriters exist for sure. When you find them, never let them go. The rest of the time, you can utilize vetted copywriters who your experts are comfortable sharing a byline with.
✅ Ghost-written articles: The only difference between co-authoring and ghostwriting is the absence of the copywriter’s byline. This is most often needed in organizations where outside vendors and contractors aren’t allowed to be cited on the website.
I find co-written articles to be the better route, as they can effectively give you two authoritative figures on a single article.
It still astounds me that so many companies I talk to don’t have a content style guide. Style guides, instructions, and briefs are the starting place for any content campaign.
They’re not just tools; they’re the very foundation of every piece of content you craft.
Operating without a style guide inevitably leads to more editing, QA checks, and draft revisions. This can mean you run the risk of burning out copywriters and experts.
Style guides help writers get to know the nuances of the brand, voice, and tone required for the assignment. It connects your experts, writers, editors, and QA specialists in a single shared understanding of what a viable end product is in terms of quality.
Think of briefs as the blueprints of your content program. A well-crafted brief sets the direction, communicates the needed structure, and points the writer in the right direction on the content level.
The use of style guides and briefs is something you should drop everything and do TODAY if you aren’t already. It’ll save you countless hours in revising, editing, and QA.
A content calendar is a necessity when scaling content. There are simply too many people to organize and dates to keep. Each piece of content in an authority-focused campaign is likely to have an expert, writer, editor, and QA all assigned with potentially several stages each.
Creating and maintaining a quality content calendar will become as critical as your style guide and brief creation as the program grows.
Every content calendar is different, but here are the components that I personally think make a successful content calendar:
I’ve used a ton of different SaaS options to manage content calendars. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all solution, and it ultimately comes down to your personal preference. If your company already utilizes a project management system, start there. The following tools are great options as well:
I personally try to stay away from using Google Sheets or another web-based spreadsheet. Too often these setups end up growing and expanding with no boundaries or forethought, leaving messy data.
Many marketing professionals I have worked with have defaulted to the strategy of asking experts to write content on topics to kick off and maintain their expert content programs.
As we’ve discussed, some experts will not be keen on this idea. Further, getting to know your experts and where their passions lie is an important part of stakeholder engagement.
Whether it’s as a simple introduction interview, a partnership with a ghostwriter, or a copywriter to co-author content with your expert, setting up and managing an interview schedule and process will be key.
Before we dive into the “how,” let’s talk about the “why.” Expert interviews are gold mines. They lend credibility, offer fresh perspectives, and elevate your content to a whole new level.
Scheduling might seem straightforward, but when you’re dealing with industry leaders and subject matter experts, their time is precious. You need to work on their schedule and be flexible. Offer multiple time slots and use tools to streamline the process.
This is where a tool like Notion becomes super useful. You can create and attach interview forms to your main content calendar to keep everything organized and nested.
It also might be a wise idea, for programs at a really large scale, to keep two separate calendars for content and interviews.
One of the most important steps in this process is going to be interview prep. Anyone who’s going to conduct the interview should be able to review information on the expert as well as any content they have previously created. Your questions should be pointed and well-researched. Open-ended, macro-level questions won’t get intriguing responses.
Once you decide where you want to house your content for review (like Google Docs), your content calendar should give you everything you need to manage your campaign. But let’s look at a sample three-month kick-off schedule to highlight all the steps:
1. Confirm KPIs and goals with management.
2. Create a list of all experts at your disposal and any information on availability. Think of this as a database and add info like:
3. Create a style guide.
4. Create a content calendar and interview calendar.
5. Interview 1 with experts: Simple intro to get to know them more. Add new details to your expert data.
6. Ideation for your three-month calendar using your research with experts.
7. Review ideas with experts, update, and add to the calendar with info you have.
8. Review the three-month calendar with experts and get the final commitment.
9. Begin to find writers to assist with ghostwriting and co-authoring. Include the expert in this phase.
10. Create test pieces based on your style guide to add as writer instructions and run these by management for style guide refinements.
11. Set up interviews for the three-month engagement and add them to the calendar. Facilitate these on behalf of the writers.
12. Content Creation:
14. Monitor the campaign.
An author bio isn’t just a few lines about where you studied or your favorite pastime. It’s a testament to your expertise, your journey, and your unique voice. A well-crafted bio establishes trust and showcases your credentials.
But how do we ensure that this bio gets the attention it deserves?
Enter schema markup.
Author schema markup is a powerful tool that informs search engines about the author of a content piece. It’s like a digital spotlight, highlighting the author’s credentials and expertise.
We discussed how to use author schema in detail with examples in the last newsletter, so I won’t go into detail here again. If you didn’t get the last newsletter, send me an email.
My one note will be that using the “url” property in the author schema is key and that the URL should be the same on every website your expert writes on.
So, what makes a bio stand out? Here are some key takeaways:
✅ Professionalism: A high-quality photo and clear, concise writing set the tone.
✅ Relevance: Tailor your bio to your audience. Your beer brewing hobby is awesome, but your light bulb customers don’t care.
✅ Stay updated: Regularly update your bio to reflect your current achievements and status.
✅ Link out! Link out to all your content. Since search engines are looking at this bio as a hub for your experts’ authority, those links help serve as a possible verification for the linked content. But this is all theoretical. For more information on this concept, review last week’s newsletter.
Creating authority-driven content is a big undertaking. You have to get stakeholder buy-in from management and experts. Then you have to organize the program, develop foundational documentation, and hire any needed contractors.
And this is all before you even create any content.
A quality, authority-based campaign is worth the effort. It gives you an opportunity to create content for multiple channels and teams. Sales can use the expert content in emails and pitches. The social media team can use the content on your social channels. This content is exactly what search engines want to prioritize, and the expertise helps raise the value of the overall brand.
Next week, we’ll look at how you take this same approach with partner publishers. We’ll discuss ways to find potential partners, how to communicate with them, and how to ensure your content is optimized to give as much value to your on-site campaigns as possible.
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