Being an authority figure in the online space should really be the goal of any website. When you are an authority figure you have the power to socially influence through your actions and words which means you hold a great deal of power & trust in front of your audience. The Bing Webmaster Blog recently put out a great piece on being an online authority which I think everyone should read. Please keep in mind that being an authority figure does not come from slapping together a mediocre plan. It takes though and dedication to put together a fierce action plan.
“If a site is an authority in your industry, you can bet that it will be for Google as well. So if you’re a web designer, a link from Smashing Magazine or A List Apart helps, as a lot of other web design sites will be linking to those sites, thus causing those sites to be ‘hubs’ in the web design space.”
— Joost De Valk, Yoast
Being an authority online comes with huge benefits.
Increased rankings for individual website pages
Heavy online influence
Immense traffic spikes
Basically there is no down fall to being an authority figure in any industry but if you truly want to get there you have to lay out a path in the right direction to make it happen.
Here are some great ways to get on the right path to be an authority figure in your space:
If you are just getting started in your space you are not going to influence anyone overnight. Authority requires seasoning and experience in a space along with being able to present that experience in the right manner in front of your target audience.
Get Active in your Community
You absolutely have to get active socially in front of your community. If you want to be viewed as a leader you will have to engage with your audience on social communities like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You also want to make your website a destination spot that promotes back and forth interaction. (important)
Be a Resource
You want your audience to come to you for advice and help. Once they start turning towards you for help that means they are starting to look at you in a whole new different light.
If you want others to share your material you are going to have to share their material as well. Encourage proactive content sharing so your audience can learn from not only you but from the people around you too. This will allow you to become a central hub which is really the focus of your efforts.
From Google: (again)
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.
Negative Trust Influences
What can you do to your own site, or could a competitor do to you, that will nuke your trust and therefore rankings?
“I always think that links have a positive or negative value. Let’s say the BBC gives you a +10,000 and a spammy blogspot link gives you a -100, you still have a positive 9,900 score. The problems occur when the BBC get hit with a link selling penalty, if your backlinks have fallen into negative equity things go south quickly.
Get caught selling links and your link value could shift from a positive value to a negative value, so I re-visit my clients links monthly and check out what’s happening to the sites that link to them”
— David Naylor, Bronco
Buy and Sell Links – First is if you are obvious in your link buying, don’t expect to last long in the search engines. Mr Cutts is very keen on tracking down and destroying sold links. There are even some sites that are so “dirty” in Google’s eyes that a purchase in the right place and right time can nuke you over night. Don’t believe me? Ask the right people at the right conferences to show you the evidence. That’s all I am saying :)
Bad Neighbors – If your links are not paid but still associate you with the seedier parts of the interwebs, don’t be surprised if you are seen as guilty by association.
Comment Spam – Leave the spam up, get it indexed, and watch your results rocket to the bottom. It’s the “broken windows” theory of SEO.
Unnatural Growth Patterns – Google will look carefully at your link growth for any signs of unnatural acquisition. This isn’t to say that if you get on the front page of Digg and garner 20k visitors and as a result, 100 fresh links that you will be penalized. What is likely though is they will take a closer look if your brand new domain arrives out of the gate with one page of content and 10,000 links overnight.
Lack of Link Diversity – Are your links coming from friends and your own sites or are they arriving naturally because your content is awesome?
Thin or Spammy Content – Duplicate, scraped or feed content, or spammy gibberish is likely to get marked down. As you would expect, Google is aiming to promote the highest quality. They will use human checks, algorithms and watch the behaviour of their customers to see if what they are delivering meets expectations.
So the first element to emphasize is make your site evolve as naturally as possible!
“You can manufacture authority with a very intelligent link building campaign but more often than not it’s the natural growth of the site and links with other sites in the same industry that gives Google reason to trust the site.”