- Brand authority can make a huge difference in whether someone decides to buy from you or not.
- First you have to examine what your current brand recognition is like by seeing how you’re talked about online. This can help you identify opportunity areas.
- Then you can dive in deeper and start researching typical questions your target audience has. Why? So you can answer them.
- Finally, you’ll set out to answer the questions you collected in an authoritative way to start building trust.
Please forgive the fact that I’m tweaking a tired adage, but the message is true: Building your brand authority doesn’t happen overnight.
I was reminded of this fact very recently while scrolling through LinkedIn:
Ongoing marketing efforts are needed to tell an authoritative story and build trust in potential customers. It can always make a difference when someone is deciding between two companies, and it’s even more important with B2B, since those products/services tend to involve a higher cost.
Here’s how you can go about utilizing digital marketing to increase your brand authority.
Note: I’m going to focus on the content itself, but earning backlinks — which is significantly easier to do with high-quality content — is a primary way to indicate to Google that other sites trust you, which signals that you’re more authoritative. Prioritizing your backlink portfolio will dramatically help you in all other authority-building efforts.
Gauge your brand authority level
Don’t assume you already understand how you’re viewed by your audience. Instead, before launching into any marketing strategies, check the data to get a sense of how you’re being perceived.
- Have your branded searches increased or decreased? What search terms are people pairing with your brand?
- How are your customers or leads finding out about your brand? Was it from authoritative interviews or content you put out there or some other way?
- Are you ever mentioned in the media? If you haven’t already, set up Google Alerts for your brand name and any prominent, public-facing employees.
Another interesting consideration is: Who are the current authorities in your space? Are you aware of them all?
The first way to identify this is to type into Google the phrases you wish you ranked for and see who is ranking for those terms. Sometimes it’s the competitors you knew about, but sometimes other sites have climbed up the authority ladder.
Additionally, you can use tools like SparkToro to search your topic area and see where your audience is going for information.
If you search for your vertical, you can then see the most popular publications, podcasts, social channels, and more visited by the audience interested in your vertical.
Then the question becomes, are you on these lists? If not, who is and why? What are they doing well? You can aim to be featured on these different media outlets, as you know they appeal to your target audience.
Identify your audience’s questions
If you answer your audience’s questions, they’ll start to trust you and see you as an authority.
The concept sounds simple, and it is. But the execution is harder. First, how do you find out what their questions are?
Here are a few ways:
- Tools like Answer the Public and BuzzSumo’s Questions will show you what people are asking based on different keywords you enter.
Snapshot of BuzzSumo’s Questions tool
- Keyword research can reveal the types of challenges people are facing. Don’t just look at keyword volume — look at “People also ask”. Get lost for a little while, clicking on various questions and related keywords. (Keywords Everywhere is a cool tool for search volume/competition, as is Keyword Surfer).
- Talk to your sales team about what common questions are coming up. Have you answered these with content? Do they speak to the greater problems your audience faces?
- Brush up on your audience personas. Different segments of your audience may have different problems. See if you’ve been accidentally neglecting a segment.
Once you have a solid list of the questions your audience has, you can work on effectively answering those questions.
Answer the questions with authoritative content
Once you know what you want to write about, how do you make it authoritative?
First of all, your methodology matters. Do your own original research whenever possible. Content backed by data is inherently more trustworthy than content based on opinion. If you’re featuring opinion, make sure it’s someone who can prove their expertise through their past experience.
Secondly, the content has to be created in a way that conveys authority:
- It shouldn’t have any grammar or spelling errors
- If it’s time-sensitive in any way, it needs a date on the article so people know exactly when it was written and thus the content can be put in its proper context
- Sources should all be cited
- The design should be clean and easy to read
- The structure and navigation should be well-thought-out and provide insight into exactly what readers will learn
- All information should be backed up with explanations and facts
- If your piece was written by experts, provide their name and bio
Let’s take a look at some examples. I pulled the top organic text and video results for the query “how to choose a bike.” (I’m thinking about buying a bike, so I’m finding myself using a lot of bike-related examples as of late…)
REI’s article, “How to Choose a Bike,” ranks number one. I use REI examples a lot because I think they have a fantastic content strategy by using their expertise to answer all kinds of questions their customers could have.
But let’s focus specifically on what makes this article seem authoritative.
First, it’s well organized and clearly outlined, even including a table where you can get the top-level information very quickly. Having a well-thought-out structure and design is a visual indication of knowledge and understanding of a topic.
They also have a section at the bottom labeled “Contributing Experts” so you know exactly who put the guide together and what experience they have.
Finally, they responded to all of their comments, providing additional information to the people who had further questions.
Now let’s check out the top video result, which is from 2013, meaning people have found it useful for more than six years. What about it feels authoritative?
For one, look at how he outlines right at the beginning what the video will cover, setting proper expectations and indicating a solid knowledge of the subject.
Additionally, he doesn’t just list the features of the different types; he explains the usefulness of those features to help you make a more informed decision.
There are a few other techniques to display authority, as well. Andy Crestodina recommends including quotes and tips from other thought leaders in your piece. You can also get third-party validation for your content in the form of testimonials, reviews, or asking influencers to share what you created. The point here is to showcase that you associate with experts and that other people trust you.
It’ll take time and effort, but once you’re an authority, every other aspect of your marketing will gain more traction. Consider how to build authority into all of your digital marketing, and you’ll have the potential to amplify your results even further.
Amanda Milligan is the Marketing Director at Fractl, a prominent growth marketing agency that’s worked with Fortune 500 companies and boutique businesses.