October 17, 2023
Over the past few weeks, we’ve embarked on a comprehensive journey, unraveling the intricacies of establishing and amplifying authority through content. In the first post of this series, we delved deep into the foundation of Google’s interest in authorship, understanding its current stance and the undeniable value of optimizing authorship for search engines.
Our second guide shifted gears to focus on the challenges of transforming raw expertise into compelling content. We explored the types of content that can elevate your authority, the nuances of stakeholder buy-in, and the art of optimizing author bio pages for search.
The third post helped to broaden our horizons, emphasizing the importance of leveraging platforms beyond our own. We discussed the multifaceted approach to pitching, the power of linkless attribution, and the significance of building genuine relationships over transactions.Through the lens of our Hipmunk case study, you saw the tangible impact of strategic partnerships and content creation in authority building.
In this wrap-up, we’ll be focusing on putting everything we learned into developing a singular authority-building machine. From securing stakeholder buy-in to mastering the art of outreach, and from content creation to monitoring Google’s use of schema, we’ll guide you through each cog and gear of this machine.
The goal? To empower you with a holistic strategy that not only establishes authority but also drives tangible results across multiple channels.
Catch up on the entire Authority Building series:
In the second post of our series, we discussed getting stakeholder buy-in on the expert level. Now we need to discuss getting the buy-in of the people signing off on the budget. Senior management is going to care about ROI, and assessing ROI for authority-based initiatives can feel like a daunting task.
One of the most straightforward channels to forecast, in terms of ROI, is organic search. It’s never going to be an exact science, but there’s enough data available to make solid assessments of the traffic and ROI potentials. Here’s an approach I take as a starting point for organic search forecasting:
First and foremost, you need to build topical clusters from raw keyword data. Content doesn’t rank for singular keywords. Instead, it ranks for clusters of keywords. Understanding the full traffic potential for content means looking at the entire opportunity. Your keyword data that makes up your clusters is still going to have issues, as any data source is going to give you general estimates of search volumes, but these estimates become more reliable as the clusters are formed.
Calculate the overall Cluster Search Volume (CSV) after creating your cluster. Do this by summing the volumes for all of the cluster’s keywords.
Use the 2% CTR assumption. I use a really simple 2% CTR assumption to help me turn search volume into a Forecastable Traffic Potential (FTP). This number comes from CopyPress’s work across hundreds of thousands of pages over a decade. It’s not scientific, but we’re forecasting performance, which isn’t an exact science.
We’ve found that a well-structured content effort will see a third of its pages completely fail to gain traffic six months post-publishing, a third hit the general forecasted target range after the six-month mark, and a third exceed or greatly exceed expectations.
There are obviously going to be tons of factors at play beyond the content here (bundle all your ranking factors), but IF you are addressing the optimization of your website overall, you can start your forecasting with 2% and adjust as you get new data.
If you work in a localized vertical, you can further localize FTP by multiplying it by the ratio of the local population to the overall country population, resulting in Estimated Local Traffic Potential (ELTP). This, again, isn’t an exact number, but a general guide to understanding your ROI.
Traffic alone rarely has value. We need to plan for questions about the value of the traffic. This planning is going to be different for every vertical, but we can discuss general strategies for B2B and B2C campaigns.
Any content campaign — whether it’s B2B- or B2C-focused — needs to be realistically measured by the traffic it drives to conversion points. The traffic driven to the content itself is unlikely to simply convert directly on that page. The consumer reading your authoritative content is likely looking for:
While I don’t see anything wrong with offering these readers a conversion point directly to the bottom of your sales pipeline (i.e., a sales call) the conversion rates are just unlikely to be high. You need to think about conversion points that address the consumer needs above, like:
If your organization doesn’t have assets like these, they need to be added to your overall content strategy, along with email sequences to move your leads through your funnel.
You’ll need to use generalized data to estimate success. I linked to some data above, but you need to keep in mind some of that data is based on what happens when the user is already on a landing page for conversion. So, add in the click-through rate estimate on the initial CTA.
There’s going to be a lot of variance in conversion rates based on the overall setup and offer, but for back-of-the-napkin forecasting, I’ll usually go as low as 0.5% and rarely go above 1% without supporting data.
Building a visual of your customer flow — from initial CTA to final sale with corresponding conversion rates for each layer — will help you communicate the full expectations in a clear way.
Once you have your numbers dialed in, you need to create a plan for:
If you have Lifetime Value (LTV) data, you can layer this on top of your analysis to give value for every visitor and conversion on each level.
Expert content is often overlooked in the B2C space. This is especially true when conversion rates between this type of traffic and other channels are being compared. However, as the price of the product increases, so does the user’s desire to research and make an informed decision on the product.
For example, in 2021, I started building a home gym, and I spent countless hours researching equipment before making purchases. This went beyond just researching the equipment itself to also understanding how much utility I could get out of it by watching videos from experts using the equipment. These purchases were costly and took up a ton of space. I didn’t want to end up with a gym full of useless equipment.
The conversion issue for B2C is the same as for B2B: how do you get a researcher to become a purchaser? Our list of CTAs and conversion aides just changes a bit:
Conversions can and do happen directly from this content, but we need to squeeze every bit of potential value out of them. Don’t rely on your content being the endpoint for the user journey and build CTAs that will help you engage with them as they continue their potential buying cycle.
You need to make sure you have customer enrichment emails running for all sign-up lists you generate. And the more you can customize the content to the initial product or category, the better your long-term conversion rate will be.
Just as with our B2B plan, you should try to push for LTV to be the measurement rather than simply the first conversion. Further, you’ll need to monitor attribution beyond the last conversion to make sure the value you create throughout the buying process is being recognized.
Our fully built authority-building machine is going to include outreach that offers our experts for interviews, podcasts, co-authored content, and more. These types of activities fit cleanly into the digital PR channel. If your company has a digital PR team as discussed in the third installment, you’ll want to get them involved early. This would include the forecasting stage:
👉 How do they assess success?
👉 What metrics do they qualify as valuable?
If you don’t have a digital PR team, you can build some baseline KPIs based on:
Visibility: How many eyes saw the content or how many social posts shared the content and brand?
Traffic: How many direct visitors entered from interviews, podcasts, and co-authored content?
If you need to tie a specific value to this channel, you can use a CPM-based model on visibility and follow the same conversion modeling used for search traffic. Traffic from digital PR will likely convert at a lower rate, so for forecasting purposes, you can adjust the initial CTA conversion rate down. But the rest of the funnel should have similar conversion metrics.
Along with forecasting, the return on investment from the authority content, and its conversions, you can show the value of spreading the costs of the content across channels.
This content doesn’t have a single use or utility, and marrying budgets is a great way to increase the relative ROI for each channel. All of these channels can benefit from the authority-building machine:
✅ Sales: The sales team is hungry for content to put into sequences and initiate outreach. You’ll find an eager ally here in terms of budget utilization.
✅ HR and company education: This is often a team that marketers overlook, but like the sales team, the HR team is hungry for content that can help educate the team and document processes.
✅ Social media: If you’re working in a B2B space, you’ll find more willingness for help from your social media team. But as we discussed in the second newsletter, if you begin the conversations with this group before content creation, you can likely find a route to a cohesive plan regardless of the type of company you’re in.
✅ Paid advertising: Retargeting should be a minimum of the value this team can find in the content.
✅SEO: We’ve already focused on this channel, and the value is obvious from a traffic generation perspective.
✅ PR: It’ll be important to approach this relationship with care. You want your content to be seen as an opportunity and not be seen as an overstep. Pre-planning, like with the social media team, is a key to getting full buy-in.
Once you have full buy-in and budgets for your project, it’s time to combine our on- and off-site authority strategies into a single authority-building machine.
In the second newsletter of this series, we discussed how to build the author bio pages for your experts on-site. These won’t just be the targets for your author.url schema property on your own published articles but will be what you communicate to potential publishing partners as your preferred article schema markup on their website as well.
Part of this process will be investigating whether the targeted publisher currently uses schema, and just as importantly, if they use it properly. If the answer to either is “no,” I would suggest discussing the possibility of adding this data, but don’t do this in a way that will endanger the relationship.
Offer some information on the importance of schema and how to set it up but let them know that you still want to be involved with the interview, podcast, or co-authored content — even if this is too large of a request for them to fulfill.
As a part of this process, you’ll also want to link to the content, interviews, and podcasts from your author bio page on your website. This creates a verification of authenticity via schema as we discussed in our first guide of the series.
I’m a huge proponent of constructing content calendars around quarterly cohesive topics. For example, the current guide you’re reading is going to eventually turn into a combined eBook. We have also launched:
👉 These newsletters in a blog post format on-site and on LinkedIn.
👉 Created video interviews around the authority and authorship concepts.
👉 Created an authority-based analysis as a lead magnet.
👉 A series of unique sales sequences centered around the topic and content.
Keeping the content focused on a singular macro concept won’t just lead to better content distribution across channels, it’ll also lower the burnout rate of your experts. They won’t be saddled with doing research and writing across multiple topics. Instead, they can focus on expanding a singular concept in multiple directions.
Your authority-based outreach should follow this same concept. You should contact publishers and podcasts offering interviews around the same macro topic as the focal point of the conversation. This will allow you to work in pitches to lead magnets like eBooks, webinars, and tools.
Outreach types can be looked at from multiple perspectives. The author you reach out to and interview could also serve as a great expert to feature on your website. They may even produce their own podcast.
Think about your outreach through the lens of what you’re trying to accomplish and not simply as a list of contacts. Create relationships and see where you can add value to potentially engage with these opportunities over and over again.
We started our series by understanding how platforms like Google are looking for ways to better understand entities related to content and how schema gives them a potentially powerful tool.
This foundation set the stage for our exploration into the challenges and nuances of transforming expertise into compelling, impactful content. We learned that authority isn’t just about what your experts know, but it’s also about helping them get those ideas into useful content with as little friction as possible.
Our journey then took us beyond our own platforms, emphasizing the power of leveraging external platforms and the art of pitching expert, authoritative content. We discussed the importance of digital PR, linkless attribution, and the significance of genuine relationships. We also provided a detailed case study illustrating the impact of strategic partnerships and content creation.
In this final installment, we’ve brought everything around full circle, focusing on the synthesis of our learnings into the creation of an “Authority Building Machine.” We’ve delved deep into the intricacies of securing buy-in, mastering outreach, and tying together on-site and off-site authority-driven content.
We’ve emphasized the importance of cohesive content calendars, the power of merging outreach types, and the value of building lasting outreach-based relationships.
As we conclude this series, remember that authority isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. It’s an ongoing process of learning, adapting, and growing. And with the insights and strategies we’ve shared, you’re now equipped to navigate this journey successfully.
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