You’ve seen us talking a lot about authority — authority with your audience, with search engines, with colleagues, with other web publishers.
Why do you want it? Because given the noisy, cluttered state of the web right now, it’s the authoritative site that earns the business.
- It’s the site that delivers credible, effective solutions to customer problems.
- It’s the site that attracts links from other authoritative publishers.
- It’s the site that earns plenty of social sharing from an audience that wants to share high-quality, user-friendly content.
- And it’s the site with a confident, ethical sales process that converts attention into business.
There are a lot of components to authority — site design, intelligent SEO, strategic content promotion.
But behind all of these is a single, non-negotiable element that every authoritative site needs. You’ll find a clue in the graphic that accompanies this post.
The “secret sauce” — the magic ingredient that makes the others work — is the intelligence and skill set of a talented, well-trained author.
In other words, the secret sauce is you.
Why the author is at the heart of authority
The web, for all of the automated stock trading and spambots, is made of people. It’s made of readers and writers, connectors and curators, mavens and clowns, teachers and trolls.
Creating a site that people trust and turn to can only happen when smart, informed authors make a concerted effort to create something worth reading.
That’s why “spun” content and anonymous content farms were never going to amount to anything. They might have managed to fool search engines for a short while, but they never fooled readers into thinking that their content was useful or interesting — and they never will.
After observing hundreds of authors with hundreds of different business and audience types, here are my thoughts on what makes the difference between a run-of-the-mill web publisher and a true authority. Remember, like all business values, these are important because of how they affect your audience and your customers. They come first, you come second.
#1: Authorities serve their audiences
Your worth as an authority, in my excruciatingly humble opinion, comes from the number of people you help and how profoundly you help them.
A “guru” whose advice doesn’t solve real problems in the real world isn’t an authority — she’s a con artist.
Any train wreck who gets a million site hits a month for being an idiot isn’t an authority — he’s just an attention-craving jackass.
Authorities help others. They serve their audience first.
That doesn’t mean you don’t get to put your own needs into the equation. As my favorite Zig Ziglar quote says,
You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.
#2: Authorities genuinely know their stuff
In order to help people, you have to actually know something.
In fact, we look for credible authorities precisely because there’s so much downright bad information available on the web.
Authorities take the time to really understand their topics. They sift out misinformation. They ask a lot of critical questions … including of themselves. They stay on top of their topics and make sure their advice is as good as it can possibly be.
That doesn’t mean that an authority is always the world’s foremost expert in a topic. Often, the most valued authority is the one who can take useful information and turn it into interesting, digestible, user-friendly content.
#3: Authorities give a damn
When you stop caring about your audience, it starts to show. Quickly.
Authority can bring tremendous satisfaction with it — from the good you do for the people you serve. The energy you bring to your site and your business comes from that satisfaction.
#4: Authorities are strategic
All of this may sound very kumbaya — but to be a valued author who’s getting recognized on the web and elsewhere, you need a strong grasp of strategy.
You need to understand things like site design and SEO and content promotion. You need to understand how to put your great message into the world so it will be heard.
And if your authoritative site supports a business, you need to make money. Consistently. You need your expertise and authority to translate into paying customers, or all of it is just a time-consuming hobby.
#5: Authorities take the long view
We live in an “instant results” society, but a true authority knows that the riches go to the one who can successfully play the long game.
As I like to tell my students, Don’t take shortcuts, they take too long.
Fortunately, the web itself is such a powerful accelerator that we don’t have to wait 10 or 20 years for our hard work to pay off. But we’re not going to build thriving businesses in 10 days, we’re not going to triple our audience in a month, and we’re not going to double our revenue this year without plenty of hard work and smart strategy.
Patience, integrity, and hard work — combined with some smart business education to make sure you’re making the best use of your time — are what works. They always have been, they always will be. Put these at the heart of your business strategy and you’ll see real results that last.