Becoming an authoritative brand is no easy feat, but the massive benefits are worth the effort.
When you’ve built authority, potential customers and clients begin to count on you and trust you — and it’s hard to imagine that trust not leading to a sale (at some point).
But how exactly can a brand begin to build, or build upon, their authority? Content is an excellent way, and in this article, I’ll go through my tips on how it can be done.
1. Answer your audience’s questions
If you’re not doing this, there’s virtually no way you’ll become an authority. People grow to rely on brands when those brands provide the information they’re looking for, so if your content marketing doesn’t incorporate those answers, you’re not demonstrating to your audience why they should trust you.
By building on-site content that provides this kind of value, you can build authority while simultaneously building more awareness for your brand. In other words, you can position yourself as an expert for those who don’t already know you.
Search is a huge component of why this content tactic works. Google does a significant amount of curation for users, choosing what it thinks is the most appropriate results for a particular query. When users see that you’re ranking at the top for a certain keyword or topic, there’s an assumption you made it through the algorithm for good reason and know what you’re talking about.
Presumably, people are searching for this because they want to buy shoes, but they’re not sure what size to get. If they click this result, not only are they now on the website, but they recognize that this brand provided the answer they were looking for. Perhaps they’ll even browse for shoes while they’re on the site.
How to execute this strategy: Find out what your target audience is curious about by talking to your customer service representatives, performing keyword research, and using tools like Answer the Public and BuzzSumo’s Discover Questions feature. Then see what content already exists and if you can do better. If you can, get to creating!
2. Create newsworthy reports and studies
One of the best ways to demonstrate your authority is to show your continued interest in unearthing new information and insights. You can do this by prioritizing original research.
When you create your own studies, surveys, and reports (aka perform data journalism) based on new data or unveiling new insights, you not only provide value to readers, but also have something you can pitch to the media.
This gives you double benefit: Getting media coverage (and building even more brand authority) and earning high-quality backlinks, which signals to Google that you’re an authority.
We’ve used this strategy for our clients since Fractl first started up in 2012, and we’re convinced it’s one of the best brand authority strategies.
Let’s look at a study we did for The Interview Guys, as an example, which involved analyzing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Requirements Survey to identify the highest-paying jobs that require the least amount of experience. Here’s one of the graphics from the report:
By supplying new insights, The Interview Guys are positioned by the writers as the source of the information, which is an extremely authoritative way to be referenced.
How to execute this strategy: After doing the first tip and analyzing questions, zoom out a bit and consider what general questions in your industry still need answers. How can you answer them with data? Once you’ve created a report that reveals new information, utilize digital PR to pitch writers.
3. Utilize the authority of in-house experts
Some brands are built entirely around a particular persona, like Steve Jobs with Apple, but those examples can intimidate people. Smaller companies and newer companies alike can benefit from a similar strategy if they have subject matter experts (or SMEs) who can show their authority.
A great example of this is Headspace and how it features its founder, Andy Puddicombe. There’s a page all about him on their website where they explain his credentials but also provide what are called authority signals (which I’ll explain more in the next section) and embed his Ted Talk, so you can see for yourself what he knows.
Why is this smart? Headspace probably realized that as the literal voice behind Headspace (Andy does much of the meditation audio himself), Andy started building trust with audiences. It makes sense to double-down on that trust by helping people get to know who he is, and by having him explain even more concepts directly through Radio Headspace and their YouTube channel. After all, if people trust Andy, they’re more likely to trust the Headspace app.
How to execute this strategy: If your internal experts have never shared anything with the public, see if they’re comfortable contributing blog posts or quotes to your website. Pitch them to be on podcasts, or use Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to pitch them as sources for relevant news articles. Help them demonstrate their knowledge in ways that are useful to audiences.
4. Highlight reviews, case studies, and other proof of expertise
There are dozens of types of authority signals, from testimonials to reviews to social media share counts. The key is identifying which ones make sense to highlight for your products or services, and figuring out the best placement for them.
Your goal is to show people you know what you’re talking about by leveraging third-party validation. Your audience doesn’t just have to take your word for it that you know what you’re doing — other people can confirm that you’re great, too!
I like how SquadCast tackles this. On their homepage they have a few authority signals they provide, including testimonials that match with each user persona, which I think is really smart.
Then when you scroll further, they throw in the fact that household names like Spotify, Microsoft, Starbucks, and ESPN trust them.
If you look at the Fractl site, you’ll see we use a similar strategy. Not only do we have case studies showcasing the results we’ve gotten for clients, but we also have logos showing some of the clients we’ve worked with and the publications where our thought leadership appears.
All of this content says to a site visitor: “Others trust us, and you should too.”
How to execute this strategy: If you don’t already have this type of content, ask yourself how you can best collect it. Reach out to your best clients and ask them for a quote. Pull the best reviews you’ve ever gotten for your products. Call out any media mentions you’ve received. Then put this information on your homepage, but also on conversion pages to instill confidence when and where it counts.
5. Associate with other authoritative brands
You know the phrase, “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are?” That can apply in marketing, too.
If you align with other brands you respect and that are doing right by their customers/users, it’s possible some of that same trust will transfer to you if that company’s respect is reciprocated. Additionally, if you collaborate, you’re getting your brand name in front of a new audience.
So, think about which brands it makes sense to collaborate with. There are ways to do this outside of content marketing, like referral programs, but there are content-specific ways to work together, too.
This is an amazing example from Auntie Anne’s and Samuel Adams, who teamed up to create an at-home Oktoberfest kit, complete with Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer, Auntie Anne’s DIY Pretzel Kit, recipe book, a “Prost from Home” playlist you can stream, and more.
This isn’t purely a content strategy, but you can see the overlap between product and building more of an experience. People who love and count on Auntie Anne’s pretzels are exposed to Samuel Adams and vice versa. Through a collaboration like this, fans of one have the potential to become fans of the other, as you can see in this review:
This is a more fun example, but you can also execute a collaboration based on studies and surveys by partnering with organizations interested in answering the same questions or solving the same problems as your brand.
How to execute this strategy: Brainstorm which brands you may have a natural alignment in objectives or values with. How can you work together to provide something of value to both of your audiences?
6. Give away some of your secrets
This can be scary for a lot of marketers and especially for the C-suite. Why should you give away what makes you great?
It’s a valid question, and it won’t always apply. But in some cases, especially for service-based businesses, sharing information and breaking down exactly how you achieve that greatness can actually build trust.
Marcus Sheridan has a wonderful example of this. When my colleague attended Inbound last year, she was impressed by Marcus’s presentation in which he described a single blog post that earned him $2 million in sales. (Heidi Cohen has a great write up about it.)
Why did it work? Because he shared information no one else wanted to share: the actual cost of a fiberglass pool. Rather than hiding the information and revealing it later in the sales process, he was forthright and answered the question people wanted the answer to. Clearly this strategy paid off.
We use the same philosophy at Fractl, explaining exactly how we go about doing our work and building our clients links and brand awareness. There are process details we haven’t disclosed, but all and all, we’ve been very transparent about how we operate, and it’s worked well for us.
In fact, people still recall an Experts on the Wire podcast interview with Kerry Jones, our previous marketing director, in which she walked through our strategies. I’ve had marketing folks tell me that this is how they heard about Fractl in the first place. Years later, it’s still featured on the podcast’s main page:
People appreciate when you’re open and honest. In our case, even if people knew our strategy, clients often partner with us because they don’t have the bandwidth to execute the strategy at scale, as it requires a lot of time and resources. So by knowing how we work, they can trust us to handle it for them.
How to execute this strategy: Consider what information you have that you can share, even if (sometimes especially if) your competitors haven’t shared it. You can leave a big impression of you’re open about your industry in a way others aren’t. Of course, don’t do something that will jeopardize your company, but consider the question and see what might make sense.
The very act of investing in content marketing is a big step in building more brand authority. By creating content that’s beneficial for your audience, you’re demonstrating your own knowledge and utilizing your expertise.
By continuing to build on your strategy with the above tactics, you can greatly improve the chances your audience will not only remember your brand, but begin to trust your brand. Additionally, it’s likely the Google algorithm will recognize your authority, as well, especially after building an impressive link portfolio, and your results will rise in the SERP ranks.