Your Guide to Building Authority Beyond Your Backlinks

Jeremy Rivera


January 19, 2024 (Updated: January 22, 2024)

Establishing brand and content authority in your industry is crucial to building more trust with your target audience, improving customer loyalty, and enhancing relationships with your business. These factors also play a role in how your brand builds its presence and reputation in the market and showcases how it’s unique from other businesses. If you’ve used link building as part of the process to build web authority, no doubt you have experience with the benefits that a quality backlink profile can have.

However, there’s more to establishing a high-authority reputation with your content than launching a link-building strategy.

Plus, the continuous advancement of generative AI tools makes it more important than ever to highlight this authority and ensure search engines and online platforms see your content as a verified, human-created source of credible information. This is why it’s so important to step beyond your link-building strategy with additional approaches to building your brand authority.

In this two-part series, I will be discussing these topics with tips on how you can strengthen your brand and website authority beyond link-building.

Jump ahead:

Importance of Authority in the World of Generative AI

Expertise plays a major role when looking at authority. But with the increasing use of AI tools like ChatGPT and generative search features, the question becomes one of trust and credibility. The responses that — though getting more advanced — a lot of these generative AI tools provide often come with inaccurate statements, stats, and facts. The nature of these tools is just that: generative.

They generate content, meaning they combine, restructure, and spit out information that already exists. These tools rely on machine learning and pre-programmed language functions; they cannot think. And this is where the concept of hallucination comes in. Some of the answers you get from these tools are completely made up. Nonsense.

While it’s no secret that AI tools have been around in the SEO and digital spaces for a while, generative AI is different. It’s not quite like optimizing for generative search results, but the process is to aggregate information and combine it into a response. It creates “unique” content according to what programmers and developers have trained it to do. So, you have iterative process tools like ChatGPT go through to create “new” content, but the word “new” is a relative term in this case.

The content is “new” in that it’s not plagiarized or taken verbatim from another source. But that doesn’t mean the contents and the finished product are brand-new ideas. This Star Trek analysis hits home on the concept:

“Have you ever watched Star Trek? If so, then you know Data was an android. He went through all these journeys, these iterations, of becoming human and, you know, what’s not to be a human. But we’re not even close to scratching the surface of something like an android or personality.” -Jeremy Rivera

Generative AI tools are far from being androids.

But this is still a problem in itself.

The generative functions of these tools leave room for inaccuracies, biases, and even harmful discrepancies in the content. The responses you get from something like ChatGPT can seem authentic and factual. However, when you look more closely, it’s difficult to prove how and where the program pulls that information.

Is it coming from a trusted source? What about a recent one? How can you tell if the AI program is telling you the truth?

It’s simple.

There’s no contest between expert, human-created content and machine-generated content when it comes to both creativity and vetted factual accuracy. And it’s more important now than ever to focus on establishing trust and authority in your niche to counter the mass of AI content.

Get your free guide on establishing authorship and authority for successful content marketing.

Fact Is Stranger Than Fiction

One of the current problems people are facing with AI tools is in the answer. People have reported that AI tools are displaying aggressive and even angry responses. That creates this unspoken idea that “ChatGPT is hostile.”

But in reality, that’s not the case. The tool relies on the prompts you give it.

So, if you’re rude to ChatGPT, it’s going to be rude back. The tool “learns” how people speak based on the input. When people purposefully feed this tool biased or inappropriate requests, they get responses mirroring that human activity. It’s not AI to blame for being aggressive. It’s coming from human users typing their prompts into the system.

When it comes to content creation, though, these biases and inaccuracies can have huge impacts on a business’s or brand’s online authority, credibility, and reputation. A great example of this is the response ChatGPT generates to answer the question, “What’s in the basement of the Alamo?” —

ChatGPT explains a little about the Alamo’s history before describing several renovations and how the basement of the Alamo is likely used for storage. The answer reads like a legitimate and credible source. But if you know your history (or if you look at the official website for the Alamo), you also know that the Alamo doesn’t have a basement.

The entire response is now unreliable, even though it’s true that the Battle of the Alamo occurred in 1836 and the site is now managed by the Texas General Land Office and Alamo Trust.

But this just further highlights the challenges of AI-generated content. The program doesn’t understand the context. AI can’t determine that the Alamo doesn’t have a basement if we haven’t programmed it with the source information. Instead, it assumes that the user must know best. It takes the information it knows about the Alamo and basements and corroborates that with what it can access up to 2021 and puts it all together.

This also frequently happens when searching for specific articles. That was another case study we tried, looking for ways to gather recent articles from well-known British journalists. ChatGPT returned a list of articles, which looked like credible and high-quality sources. But in reality, these articles do not exist!

After just a few minutes of searching for the articles online and it was clear: AI regurgitated a response based on the language models it was programmed to understand. It took a bunch of popular British journalists’ headlines and put words together to make new, realistic-sounding articles that aren’t even real.

These problems become especially challenging when platforms, publishers, and other content developers take these ChatGPT responses and cram them as-is into an article. There are many out there who are literally just copying and pasting the responses they generate and calling it a day. And this doesn’t bode well for any company or brand trying to position itself as a trustworthy expert.

The confidence in what you’re delivering to your audience has to be high, especially in the face of the tens of thousands—and likely millions—of content competitors using AI to produce ranking content. While fact may be stranger than fiction, it’s imperative to ensure you’re developing and distributing content that’s made for humans by humans, even if you’re using AI tools to simplify the initial stages of planning.

Read the guide: How To Humanize SEO for Your Brand

Human Experience Is Essential to Authority

The challenge is real: a human vs. AI—who wrote it? Even high school teachers and college professors are having a hard time figuring that out now with student essays. The real problem, though, is that the human element in AI content is lacking.

Sure, ChatGPT can generate a decent, if not completely accurate, response if you’re looking for simple information before and up to 2021.

Take the U.S. states, for example. If you want to separate the states into regions and then alphabetize them all, ChatGPT makes quick work of it.

You’ll get your list in a few seconds, which is definitely preferable to taking the time to do it yourself. Plus, the 50 states and their respective regions are well-known — and ChatGPT can access this information because it’s older than 2021.

This is a simple, almost rote-style task, though. There’s no need for creativity, emotion, or first-person experience to alphabetize a regional list of the U.S. states. But there’s no creativity, emotion, or first-person experience at all within AI-generated content. The feeling isn’t there. The connection isn’t there. And these challenges do more than generate inaccurate content. They create an atmosphere of distrust in the platforms that spit out nothing but AI-generated content.

So, this creates a problem between AI and authority. If you can’t trust the accuracy of a ChatGPT response, you need to leave it out of your content.

It goes back to having a level of confidence in what you’re being told. Say you’re compiling a list of past articles on a health topic. Let’s go even further and say you have two or three high-authority publications you want to see articles from. There’s no guarantee that the list of publications from the World Health Organization, for instance, that the AI generates will actually be straight from the WHO.

Heck, there’s no guarantee that they’ll even be real!

The credibility of fact-checking, injecting first-hand expertise, and delivering trustworthy information diminishes when you take away the human element and try to replace it with AI. It’s highly likely that brand and online authority will be paramount in the face of advancing generative AI. But with the right approaches, you can develop your brand authority through your content that will go far beyond a simple link-building strategy.

Be sure to catch the second part of this series, where I share my top approaches to building authority beyond your backlinks.

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Author Image - Jeremy Rivera
Jeremy Rivera

With over 17+ years in SEO, Jeremy Rivera has worked with enterprise level companies and literally hundreds of small businesses in dozens of industries. His skills have been used at nationally recognized SEO SaaS companies, SEO agencies and multiple years of running his own freelance consulting business. He specializes in building SEO forecasting models, understanding how data and software can augment SEO campaigns and how to help overcome technical SEO challenges to supercharge SEO outcomes.

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