If you care about making money, then you care about brand authority.
Sometimes when it comes to making a purchase decision, a person will go with the brand they trust most. And while being authoritative doesn’t guarantee you will be trusted, it does go a long way in improving the chances.
But what if you are a new or small brand that needs to build up your reputation? Or what if your competitive landscape is saturated with authoritative players? Here are steps nearly any brand can take to increase their level of authority in their space.
1. Decide What, Specifically, You Want to Be an Authority In
You may think your competitors beat you to it — that you have no chance of becoming an authority on your topic.
But you might be thinking too generally. Sure, maybe you will never rank in the search engine result pages (SERPs) for “travel,” but what about for topics around women traveling to Europe solo?
The more specific you get, the less competition you have, and the more focused you will be on your product or service offering.
You see it happen when you Google search for “traveling Europe alone female.”
Screenshot of Google results for "traveling Europe alone female".
Sites like Be My Travel Muse and Adventurous Kate beat out the authoritative brands of Rick Steves, Hostel World, Trip Advisor, and Travel + Leisure.
When you narrow down your messaging (and create fantastic content), you can certainly become an authority in a more focused topic area. In this case, rather than worrying about ranking for "travel," these sites are creating content around more specific situations (like women who travel alone).
If you are starting with a general topic, ask yourself: What are specific situations and problems your audience might encounter? That will allow you to narrow down your focus and target less competitive subtopics.
Top takeaway: Consider your brand mission. Who, very specifically, are you trying to help? What, specifically, are you trying to solve? Then do keyword research around these long-tail inquiries.
If you are new to this type of research, start with a simple but very effective tool: Google's related searches.
For example, let's say you knew you wanted to write about traveling alone. Looking at related searches can help you narrow things down even further.
Searches related to "traveling alone".
In this case, you could uncover the topic of traveling alone as a woman and also see people are interested in good places to travel solo, and what the benefits are of this type of travel.
2. Promote Your Experts or Credible Information Sources
You know what you want to be an authority in, but how will you be accessing that expertise regularly?
Perhaps you have subject matter experts at your organization who can provide insight or be quoted. If this is the case, it is good to set up a process for how you will interact with them going forward. Perhaps it is a monthly check-in, or maybe you forward any Help a Reporter Out (HARO) requests that they can answer.
Maybe your tool or service is your brand’s primary value, so you will have to figure out a way for you to more generally demonstrate your authority as a brand.
Content marketing is an excellent way to accomplish this. There are two top-level strategies you can implement.
Provide Problem-solving Content on Your Site
When you can clearly answer your target audience’s questions and help them through their challenges, they are going to start seeing you as an authority — and they are going to identify your brand as a company with solutions.
Whether you have a blog or you want to create standalone guides, there are several ways to research the types of questions your audience has:
Consider your audience personas. What are the challenges they face? How can you help them through content? Sometimes syncing up with your sales or customer service teams can really help you explore the personas in full and tap into challenges your audience faces that you didn’t realize.
Use tools to uncover relevant, common questions in your niche. Try Google’s People Also Ask and Answer the Public. Are you equipped to answer them comprehensively? For example, in the screenshot above, you will see searchers are asking where it is safest for women to travel alone in Europe, which could make for a good topic if your brand can accurately provide help in this area.
Do keyword research around relevant topics. What are people searching for? What information are they trying to find? Can you provide it? When using SEMrush’s Keyword Magic tool, subtopics I see are the best destinations for solo travel, best hostels for solo travel, best places to go based on time of year, etc.
Screenshot of SEMrush’s Keyword Magic tool results for "solo travel Europe".
The more your website becomes a trusted resource, the more your brand will be associated with authority in your area.
Additionally, if people seem to keep coming back to your page and linking to it because they find it valuable, Google will notice this and rank you accordingly. Appearing higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs) will make you seem even more authoritative. It is a wonderful cycle.
Top takeaway: Build on-site content that uses your company’s expertise to answer questions your audience has comprehensively and accurately. Not sure where to start? See what you are already ranking for and improve it. For new opportunities, use SEMrush’s Keyword Gap tool to see what topics your competitors aren’t covering well enough.
Create Data-focused Content That Merits Media Coverage
The other way to demonstrate authority in your space is to publish research, studies, and surveys relevant to your industry.
You see this strategy often when brands release trend reports, like Kayak’s Travel Trends, or rankings like Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice, which distills all of their own data into easy to understand “best of” lists.
Screenshot of Trip Advisor's Top 25 Hotels — World list
Brands use either their internal data, or they do new research to find the answers to questions many in the industry are wondering, and that need more than editorial opinion.
Not only does having data-backed research on your site automatically elevate your authority (because it demonstrates you have an interest in industry trends and what is fact rather than just opinion), but it shows you care about informing your audience and staying current with the industry’s norms.
But, there is an even bigger perk. When you do it right — figure out the best question to answer, answering it with data, and presenting it clearly and beautifully — you can also promote it and exponentially increase your brand’s authority.
How? By pitching writers at authoritative publications with your expert content. If they agree with you that what you created is accurate and compelling and they agree to cover it, you are getting public recognition that your content is top-quality, and the resulting backlinks signal that authority to Google, as well.
For example, Skyscanner Australia did the research of asking travel industry experts about their tips on how to save money when traveling. Then Daily Mail covered the story, linking back to Skyscanner Australia's website.
Screenshot of Daily Mail article about Skyscanner's travel tips
Key takeaway: See if you can tell a story with your internal data your audience will find engaging. If not? It is time to do some research to create content that writers want to cover. Then employ digital PR strategies to get your studies and surveys in the media and out into the world.
It is important to note that even if you create a killer piece of content that is referred back to for years, this isn’t a one-and-done strategy. Brand authority isn’t built on one blog post or content project. Quality content creation is an ongoing investment, but the benefits are innumerable.
So, create that on-site content plan and dig through your data to figure out what data journalism stories you can tell. The more your audience hears from you (and the more authoritative that message is), the more trust you will build. And there is not much more valuable than that.