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.

Knowledge

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.

Community

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?

Sharing

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.

Study

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.

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