Want to be an authority? Here’s how…

Everyone wants to be an authority.  Everyone wants to be acknowledged for their, well, knowledge.  Everyone wants the increased ranking and traffic that comes when an engine sees you as an authoritative resource.  But so few actually plan a path to success, thinking instead that blasting everything they find across Twitter and auto-following everyone will boost their numbers and get them recognized as an authority.

Let’s take a look at what it really takes, shall we.  And when we’re done here, I encourage folks to add to the list of items, actions and approaches noted as there are bound to be some points missed here, though this will serve as a solid starting point.


Be honest here.  If you only just started learning SEO, paid search marketing or social media marketing, simply repeating your last lesson doesn’t make you an authority.  To develop into an authority takes experience.  There’s a certain “been –there-done-that” which enables seasoned pros to anticipate future changes and roll with the punches.  That comes with years of experience, not months of experience.  That comes with having run your own websites and watching them succeed and fail.  All that experience, that hard won knowledge, contributes to you being an authority.


To be an authority usually means others in your community recognizes you as such.  This doesn’t just apply to the SEO community, either.  I’m sure even florists and locksmiths have their own yearly conference where the best of the best are celebrated.  Being recognized by your peers takes time.  First you need to hit the radar.  Then you need to prove you’re contributions are valuable.  Then you need to continue those valuable contributions.  Hopefully any pot-holes you step in along the way won’t be too deep, lest they derail you.  Making mistakes is not an issue, just own them and try to move forward.  Your experience will help stabilize you in rough waters.

Your work

This needs to speak for itself.  Don’t worry if you first work is on your own website.  Don’t fret that no one has ever heard of the domain you work on.  We all started exactly there at one point.  No one was born to this industry, we all learned by doing and even today precious few useful training resources exist in a formalized sense.  True, there are a lot of online resources, but trying finding an SEO course to study at your local university.  A place your next employer will likely contact when verifying your resume.  So make sure you keep track of your work, the success and learning moments, both.  This is the stuff you’ll need to have handy to prove to an employer you’re an authority.  Sure, they never heard of that last domain you worked on, but you increased traffic 700% and that’s what counts – you’re good at your job.

You as a resource

Others look to you for advice.  This is where others reach out to ask your opinion on things.  A simple version of this in action can be seen in Twitter accounts.  No need to even follow people to see it, either.  Take a look at the following/follower ratio of folks claiming to offer expert services.  Are they roughly equal?  It’s a safe bet they’re using an auto-follow feature to boost follower counts.  True authorities have numbers skewed to many more followers than following.  No, this “rule” isn’t carved in stone, but check some of the accounts of people you know are authorities.  Notice a pattern?


First off, no one became an authority without sharing what they know.  For people to feel you’re an authority, they need to hear your thoughts.  So share.  Share wide and far.  The world is a big place and almost every point of view can gather a following online.  Don’t be afraid that by sharing you give away secrets and others can beat you.  In fact most of what you’ll tell people will cement your authority in their mind while they will fail to act on your advice.   You’ll also find that other people are more willing to share with you when they see you sharing with others.


Take the time to look through data, watching for interesting trends or points others aren’t speaking about.  Bring these ideas forward.  Sure, some will be duds, but that happens to everyone.  Those items you point out that do take hold, however, elevate you in the minds of those seeing the idea for the first time.

Authority – engine-style

Its generally held that when an engine assigns deep links to the content of your website, you’re an authority.  And while this is more or less true, the engine seeing you as an authority happens well in advance of those links appearing.
As you produce useful content, we try to match that useful content against queries.  If the actions searchers take indicate they are pleased with your content as a solid resource, then we try you again the next time.  This testing happens a lot.  Hundreds of thousands to millions of times, depending on query volumes and content matches.

We watch the patterns of interaction and soon enough, those resources that searchers seem to be particularly pleased with start to float to the top.  We’re not just talking click-through-rates here, either.  We’re talking the entire signal-set that influences ranking at work here.

  • Do you have unique, useful content?  Check.
  • Do you produce new content frequently? Check.
  • Do you have a solid history?  Check.
  • Do you have trustworthy links pointing at your content? Check.
  • Do you have an active social presence?  Check.
  • Do people retweet and like your social content? Check.

…and so on down through the long, long list of signals it goes.  The bottom line is that when the engine decides your authority is growing, you start ranking higher more often.  In most cases your first clue is increased traffic.  And at this stage both you and the engine are happy.  You’re getting traffic and the engine is showing authoritative resources to searchers, making the searchers happy.

So, if there is a top-tip for becoming an authority, it’s to share.  You can’t fake the other elements for very long, so don’t try.  The surest, straightest path to getting the search engines to see you as an authority is to have others consistently tell us you are an authority.  We’d love to just take your word for it, but, ah… some might take advantage of that.

Join the conversation

  1. scottgaertner

    Great post! Will you share with me? I am one of those real estate scums, and I am tying to illustrate a great location with amazing mountain views. I am doing a screencast using Bing maps to show location from 1000 feet up, then swoop down to street level and I would love to then have a photo showing the mountain views out the back yard. The way I was using photosynth it didnt work. Any suggestions? THANK YOU!!!

  2. Duane Forrester

    Well, for photosynth to work it needs images it can stitch together, which obvious cues within the images to allow the system to make the stitches at obvious points.  I'll also recommend checking in with the photsynth website and contacting them: photosynth.net/help.aspx

    And don't be so hard on your self, Scott. :)  "…Scums"  I actually think this, while totally off topic for our blog, is a clever use of the technology…if it'll work this way.

  3. scottgaertner

    You are very kind Duane. Thank you very much for your help.

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  6. repairwizard

    The way I think of authority on the web is to think of it like a job. Most people don't become part of the management team at a regular job from the start. If you work hard and put in the time hopefully you will be rewarded. Same online. If you put in the time it is possible to become an authority.

  7. Duane Forrester

    Excellent way to view it repairwizard!  Becoming an authority is as much about the journey as the destination, and too many people think it's strictly a destination.

  8. Durex condooms

    In my opinion it is hard to become an authority because it is hard to define when you are recognized as an authority. It is a long way and normally some people will already see you as an authority where others won't. Just learn and share and the rest will follow automatic.

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  10. Drachsi

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  11. jeffshinn

    "Just learn and share and the rest will follow automatic."

    Good comment, I agree.  It is very perceptual.  I think the best bet is to be honest and accurate, especially when dealing with the sciences and technologies most of us do.

  12. anip_sue

    Nice Information, tq

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  14. mosley

    "An ignorant person is one who doesn't know what you have just found out.”

    Will Rogers

    As a Microsoft Partner, member of the WebsiteSpark Program and just about every Microsoft Forum and an exclusive user of Microsoft Technologies over a long period. I am obviously Pro Microsoft and Pro Bing; I would like to contribute to the Bing Forum. But I have to say I have been les then impressed.

    I would like to share but about the only mature answers I have ever got on the forums have been from you Duane. There is a lot of spam, a lot of unhelpful verbatim answers, a lot of rudeness from some of the daily users and a lot of spam.

    This goes back way before you came on the scene Duane not having a dig at you personaly, but I would like to see the forums better moderated and better quality of participation. I will have to admit, that I sunk to a tit for tat mentality on this group, before gaining my senses and going elsewhere. As an example, after asking my first question, I was told somthing along the lines; if your an SEO why are you asking questuions, this forum was not for SEO's ask questions. No one intervened as far as I could tell, the rudeness continued, not only to me, but any new user was set upon by some by some of the frequent users ensuring that the group never grew.

    There I have had my rant.

  15. Duane Forrester

    I LOVE well a stated rant!  It's tough work building a community, but your points are well founded and noteworthy.  I'm going to keep this sentiment handy, Alan, to help guide future plans on how we manage the community here.  It's tough sometimes to get a clear statement to work from, but yours is crystal and your candor is appreciated.

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  20. Dona Alfian

    Thanks for the information, it make me clear and understand.

  21. DaveJay

    Very interesting – especially the "authority -engine style" section.  Can you say if bing uses criteria like #pageviews per user / time on site, etc in it's rankings?

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  23. Noguchi

    Real great post!

    Very informative and usefull article.

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  24. crozzzlinx

    ok, very helpful, although I have not been able to do everything.

  25. GregTraver

    Duane, You are right on the money once again.  Your very first heading; Knowledge – can not be stressed enough, it goes hand in hand with authority.  I know that it is only human nature for one to seek the "magic bullet" but the truth be told it is nothing more than a LOT of hard work.  It is writing original content in your own unique style and flair.  And then doing it over, and over and over again.  It is not fun nor is it easy to keep swinging away when then are no immediate results.  It takes time to be discovered as well. You learn to become very adept at juggling all the various duties while trying to maintain balance.  Besides learning about SEO comes the task applying it to the subject or theme of the website.  It is a daunting challenge and is not for the faint of heart. It flies in the face of instant gratification.  I had a friend that was fond of saying, "Don't give up fifteen minutes before your miracle shows up" That sage advice in this arena to be sure.  It takes years to develop the points you outlined above and that kind of brutal honesty is not what most of us want to hear, but what we must eventually accept if we want to succeed. You learn to ignore the comments, spam and negativity and think about the next page you are going to write about and then at it.  Thanks again, keep it coming!

  26. bioactivist

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