478012455I always dreamed of being an author but I never dreamed that authorship would help my business so much. My story—of having a published book, a blog, and speaking engagements that turn into sales at higher prices—is just one of many.

Most of the research on how becoming a trusted authority fixes many of the problems small businesses face in their marketing, lay out an extremely similar path. The benefits of marketing yourself as an expert / authority are many and it is a repeatable process.

Before I discuss six of the most important marketing problems authority building fixes - especially for professional service firms - I want to share with you specifically how Google is hyper-focused on this concept as well.

Trust and Authority

Did you know that Google was originally named Backrub? In 1997 Larry Page, one of the founders of Google, applied for a patent on a concept that is now known as Google Page Rank. In a nutshell, Larry’s algorithm, which in part was sparked by a dream he had of downloading the entire Internet and just saving the back links, is all about judging the value of one website based on the amount of high quality websites that link to it.

Essentially, one site linking to another gives it a form of “digital backrub” that improves its “well-being” or ranking. This concept made Google very different from the search engines at the time, which were almost exclusively focused on text and keywords.

Below is an image illustrating how websites with a lot of high quality links to them, pass an incredible amount of link energy every time they link out to another website. Notice how even just one authoritative link to the orange circle/site makes it more powerful than the others below.


Links are still an enormously important part of why websites and blogs do well in the search engines, especially Google. It is not just about content but clearly about link authority.

In 2005 Google applied for another patent called Google Agent Rank, which extends the original foundation of Google. It is clear that, despite recently dropping the visible aspects of their authorship program, Google has a history of developing systems to track levels of authority for sites based on the status of authors as well as on the structure of their link profile.

While the quote below from the Agent Rank patent application is a bit dense, it highlights Google’s interest in potentially scoring content based on the “agents” or authors who create it.

“The techniques include receiving multiple content items from a corpus of content items; receiving digital signatures each made by one of multiple agents, each digital signature associating one of the agents with one or more of the content items; and assigning a score to a first agent of the multiple agents, wherein the score is based upon the content items associated with the first agent by the digital signatures.”

If you want to impress both Google and your customers you must remain aware of the way the quality of your content and likely the authors you choose to do your writing will affect your success moving forward.

How “Authority Marketing” Helps Small Businesses

Enough about Google, let’s consider a few of the small business problems strategic authority marketing can solve.

1) Your marketing lacks direction and strategy

As a small business owner, you can’t afford to fall into the typical trap of being tactical and not strategic. When you are tactical, you jump on the bandwagon of any latest Internet marketing trend, thinking one tactic will solve all your problems.

Authority marketing, at its foundation, is a strategic enterprise that focuses your marketing around the idea of building your thought leadership. When done correctly, all of the things you do will tie into the overarching plan to increase your presence and recognition within a particular field, which gives you a clear direction and roadmap.

2) There is not enough time in the day to do marketing

Most small businesses struggle to make time for marketing, whereas authority marketers are so excited about receiving more respect, and having their marketing work better, that their energy turns from muddled to positive. When your direction is clear and fun you will make time for it or find good ways to delegate.

A lesson I learned from Tony Robbins, the personal development guru, is that one of the reasons we don’t succeed is that we associate pain with doing the things we need to do to get ahead. Being seen as a thought leader is fun for people who have lots of helpful information to share, and can give you renewed focus and energy rather than dreading marketing.

3) You lack a clear value proposition

Being seen as a thought leader online sets you apart from others and will increase your visibility. Visitors will get to know, grow to like, and be willing to trust you more than your peers who only communicate their thoughts in one-to-one relationships.

When people trust you they will be more likely to buy from you, which is critical for increasing online conversions. Just make sure you pick a specific niche, allowing you to be the big fish in a small pond. This speeds things up significantly and helps you stand out now that content marketing is being done by just about everyone.

4) Your farmed out or haphazard content is falling short

In order to truly stand out and avoid being lost in a sea of competitors content, it is critical you don’t whip off a lot of low value or marginally unique content. I have had SEO clients that either couldn’t keep up a consistent content schedule or paid for as much as two low quality blog posts a day, only to find that it was doing very little for them.

One way to ensure that you get expert level content is to do podcasting and video interviews with key team members. I call this “talk marketing”. If you don’t have time to write and you are not satisfied with farmed out content, pick a keyword rich title and three questions for every 15 minute interview. Record yourself or team members using a basic MP3 recorder.

By publishing the podcasts and transcripts on your blog, you can easily create content that is right from the voice of experts who might not otherwise have time to write. Eventually you should turn this content into e-books and a printed book, which will take your content marketing from good to great.

5) Your back link profile stinks like a men's locker room

One of the true signs of authority online is having a lot of high quality sites linking to you. That simply will not happen without lots of content assets, like a powerful blog and resources. First, make sure your back link profile is cleaned up or Google Penguin will “punish” you for being seen as gaming the system.

Consider using a tool like Link Detox and then reach out to journalists and high quality bloggers to get featured on their sites, preferably with a back link. Prleads.com and helpareporter.com are great ways to find people/influencers looking for stories or experts to quote. When you have a book, are a speaker and a top blogger, this process will be much easier.

6) Your SEO and social media are built on shifting sands

Pumping out crap content just for the search engines or for social media is a losing strategy. There is a leaked document called the Google Quality Rater Guidelines which asks a small army of low-level Google employees to judge websites based on an acronym called E-A-T. The term E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. That should make it clear to all web marketing people that Google is serious about quality, trust and authority.

In summary, authority marketing is a strategic enterprise where you systematically develop niche content to build up your positioning as a thought leader and trusted advisor. This will help you gain the respect of Google and your customers simultaneously, and give you a clear roadmap for your company’s marketing.

Do you think authority marketing and building thought leadership is essential for modern content marketing? Please let us know in the comments below. If you want to learn more, check out our new site authoritymarketing.com and come to our all-day event on Nov 19th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Woburn, MA.

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Originally published Oct 27, 2014 1:00:00 PM, updated January 19 2023


SEO Strategy