January 11, 2023 (Updated: November 8, 2023)
These days content is everywhere. With misinformation and spam lurking everywhere, your audience likely doesn’t know who they can trust. If your brand develops authority content, you’re making an unspoken promise to them that they can, and should, believe everything you say. Today, we’re covering what authority content is and answering your questions about how it affects your marketing:
Authority content includes informational, engaging, and trustworthy pieces created for a defined audience. The purpose of authority content is to share these pieces with people who benefit from your products or services. It’s also meant to build trust between your brand and its audience through consistent content development and distribution in all forms.
Authority content is more concerned with quality, not quantity. Though you want to share information consistently, that doesn’t mean you have to share three pieces of content 365 days per year. You just need to share informational and trustworthy content on a schedule your audience can learn and follow. Aside from sharing knowledge, all your content should be helpful and focus on what your audience wants and needs to know. Focusing on their pain points can help you choose the right topics to guide your authority content development.
Authority influences more aspects of life than you might think. One of the most famous experiments on the topic took place at Yale University in 1963. Known today as the Milgram Experiment, the study paired two strangers together. One person asked another a series of questions. If the person answering got one wrong, the researcher overseeing the study instructed the asker to shock the answerer. The more questions they got wrong, the higher the voltage of the shock. It went up to 450 volts. For reference, 600 volts are considered “High Voltage” and warrant a “do not touch” sign.
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This concept translates to content marketing, too. If your brand is an authority in its niche, and your team tells its audience they need a product or service, they’re going to trust what you say. They might not really need a new car or an SEO consult. But if an authoritative source plants the idea in their head, they’re more likely to consider it.
But authority in content marketing is also a relative concept. The brand with the most authority has the most power to get away with something like this. They’re the companies that influence the most people and make the most sales. Content from authoritative sources also brings people back for more. If you steer your audience in the right direction the first time, it’ll increase their trust in your brand. When they have another question or need another product or service, they’ll be more likely to listen to what your business has to say over another.
The most important reason to create authoritative content is to help build trust with your audience. If they can trust what you say, then they’re more likely to come back the next time they have a problem to solve. Building thought leadership within your industry is another benefit of developing authority content. While your audience is your primary target, catching the eye and attention of other companies in your industry helps solidify your status as a leader. Authoritative content also helps you reach brand goals like:
If you’re not sure if your brand already creates content, consider if your content fits within these criteria:
Having consistent and recognizable branding helps increase the authority of your content. When people can recognize that content comes from your company they’re more likely to trust it. You can develop branding through visuals and voice. When sharing your content, use your company logo. You can also use a style guide to ensure your voice appears correctly in every piece.
Do people believe what you say? Or better yet should they believe what you say? Brand trust comes from a lot of factors, including consistency and honesty. If you’re honest in your content and when providing your products and services, you have a better chance of creating something your audience trusts.
It’s difficult to define “high-quality” content because the factors that influence quality are subjective. But there are a few things you can look at to make sure your content is good quality. All your written pieces should be free of grammatical errors. The information you share should be honest and accurate. Your pieces should be easy to read or view on any device or channel. If you’re not meeting these basic standards your content doesn’t have quality.
When creating content, there are three main types of authority you can try to grab. They include:
Core authority is the most important type of authority you want to gain for your content and your brand. This type of authority focuses on learning all about your target audience and applying what you know to the content development process. You gain core authority by understanding what your audience wants and needs and providing the right solutions. It’s more than just providing answers. It’s sharing them in the way your audience understands and in the content types they engage with.
Diversifying your content offerings for different segments of your audience can help you develop a body of work that builds trust with the people you want to appeal to most.
Social authority is the type of authority you get when someone outside your company gives the brand a stamp of approval. While organic social authority is the most trustworthy, some paid social authority works too. Paid social authority includes influencer partnerships, guest posting, and other content partnerships. Through these channels, you can work with other organizations to promote your content and get someone else’s seal of approval.
Organic social authority comes from real customer reviews or links and quotes from other authoritative organizations. Having someone outside your company promote the brand holds more weight than simply talking about how awesome your brand is in your own content.
Related: The Importance of Using Testimonials
Your content itself isn’t the only thing that helps build authority. Your channels help, too. It’s important to build authority through your website. It’s the place you’re going to publish most of your content. But it’s also the place where most of your audience lands when they need to explore your company, products, or services.
The fastest way to build website authority is to create a good user experience with your site and content. Focus on easy and logical navigation. Don’t bog your site down with too many visuals or ads. Optimize your page load times. When your website and other channels don’t look spammy, this enhances your content. Even if the information you share is helpful on its own, when it appears on a clean site versus one filled with ads, people are more likely to trust what you have to say.
Authority content is a great way to build trust with your audience and make inroads to brand loyalty. But figuring out how to do it is tricky. Here are a few tips to help you develop authority content your audience can trust:
Creative writers follow the “show, don’t tell” principle. Showing the reader what’s happening in a scene versus outright telling them is what makes fiction interesting. It creates drama, tension, and emotion. If you wanted to tell your audience a character was mad, you could simply write, “she was mad.” But that’s boring.
Instead, a good writer would say something like, “she kicked the table leg while she let out a frustrated sigh. She crumpled the paper and threw it in the garbage can before turning on her heel and crossing her arms over her chest, digging her nails into her biceps.” See the difference? One paints a much more vivid picture.
Your content marketing should do the same. You can’t just tell your audience that you know what you’re talking about. They’re not going to take your word for it that you’re an expert in your niche. You have to show them through high-quality content. Practicing what you preach, both when delivering products and services and through your content offerings lets the audience know you’re the real deal. And you never have to toot your own horn. The consistency speaks for itself.
Related: What Does “Quality Content” Mean?
What if we told you that authority has less to do with what your team knows and more about what you can teach your audience? Your most successful authority content is the kind that empowers your audience to do something new or something they thought they couldn’t do. Your audience should be the focus of everything you do. If you’re not thinking about what you can do for them, you’re not really flexing your authority muscles. When you give the audience the tools they need to succeed, they’re more likely to see you as an authority on the topic.
Sometimes you can boost the illusion of authority by making your content exclusive. If it’s not available to the general public, it must be good, right? You can use this tactic sparingly by putting the best of the best content behind a gate, or a “free paywall.” To gain access, your audience must complete an action, such as filling out a form with their contact information.
There has to be a balance within your gated content strategy, though. You can’t put everything behind a gate and expect a bunch of signups. No matter the topic, you have to build some authority first through public content. Then you can draw your audience to the gated content by promising something better or more exclusive behind the wall. Just make sure you follow through on your promise. What people get behind the gate should be something they truly can’t get elsewhere for “free.” This tactic increases your authority and thought leadership even more.
In marketing and sales, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you always need to “close the deal.” Your job, after all, is to convince people they need what you’re offering. But the truth is, even within your target audience, not everyone needs everything you offer all the time. When you’re so focused on “selling” a product, service, or even an idea, you’re not listening to what your leads truly need.
Luckily, a lot of content marketing is informational. You’re not making a hard sell to your audience. But it’s still important to consider that they may not need what you’re offering right now. Part of building authority with them is being honest about that. When creating content, share every angle with your audience. For example, if you’re creating an article on how to choose a generator for the home, it’s okay to get into the negatives of this type of purchase. Do more than just tell the audience how great it is to have a generator.
No matter what anybody says, you can’t “fake it ’til you make it” with authority. Sure, you can sound authoritative. But perception means nothing when you’re trying to make genuine connections with your audience. It’s impossible to be an expert on everything. And sometimes as your brand grows, you may explore new topics and niches that aren’t in your wheelhouse. You can’t fake authority in these areas. You have to earn it the old-fashioned way.
Jawad Khan at Nichehacks told a story about a friend who “hacks” topics to be an authority on everything. Aside from coming off like a know-it-all, Khan’s friend isn’t actually an authority on anything. He’s just a fast talker who wants people to think he’s smart. You know the type. They spout off jargon and big words to sound superior, but they don’t actually know anything beyond the same surface-level info you find with an online search.
You’re building a brand and a business where you want the audience to stick around. You’re not just trying to get attention on a night out at the bar. So don’t try to “hack” authority. Instead, invest time and money into research and putting together quality teams of true subject matter experts to build genuine authority. You can also dedicate time to researching and studying related niche topics.
You don’t have to put in the full 10,000 hours of work to become a full-blown master at something. But the more time you spend learning about a topic or practicing any skill, the more you know about it.
One of the most annoying qualities any authority figure has is when they’re aware they know more than someone else and flaunt it. If you are an authority in your field, you likely know more about it than most of your competitors. And you know a lot more than your audience about specific niches or topics. When you know a lot, it’s easy to get caught up in the specifics and the technical details.
But you’re not talking to peers with your content. You’re talking to newbies and people who want to learn. Bring your content down to the most basic level. One of the best skills of an authority brand is being able to share complex information in a way that makes sense to everyone. You don’t need to use fancy words and tricks to make your brand sound smart. If you know what you’re talking about that comes through in your explanations—no six-syllable words required.
Unfortunately, unlike some other content marketing efforts, there isn’t a strictly numerical way to track whether or not you’re creating authority content. Authority is a human, behavioral concept, so there isn’t a scorecard you can use to measure it. But there are some things to look out for that can help you determine if you’re creating authoritative content for your audience:
All of these situations could demonstrate that the content you develop and share with your audience has authority.
If you’re looking to build authority in certain industry niches, keyword research can make all the difference. Join our webinar with Search Engine Journal called How To Supercharge Your Keyword Research With Powerful Topic Clustering to get a head start. At this live event you’ll learn:
Use tips from our Founder and CEO, Dave Snyder, and VP of Partner Development, Sabrina Hipps, to revamp authority content for your marketing strategy and build successful campaigns for the new year.
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