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Designed for Links: Why Authority Content Starts With Audience

Garrett French
Designed for Links: Why Authority Content Starts With Audience

If you’re using only your sales funnel and personas to develop content topics you’re missing out on enormous opportunities for domain and brand authority rankings.

When written for the right audiences, authority content can earn links (domain authority) and awareness (brand authority). But finding the right audience to target with a piece of content is a project in and of itself.

Authority Content Defined: It’s Bigger Than A Blog Post

We have a saying at Citation Labs that sets the standard for content we create for our site and blog, and for our clients: “Be relentlessly useful.” That, in essence, is authority content. It’s product-neutral (i.e. not sales-based), informational content built as part of a campaign, intended to drive links or brand.

Here are some key characteristics of authority content:

  • It’s evergreen; always useful
  • Highly thorough
  • Categorized with care, making knowledge easy to extract
  • Visually appealing
  • Can demonstrate subject matter expertise
  • May or may not be written text – could be a database, infographic, tool, video, etc.
  • Written for a specific audience based on specific pains

The tactics I’ll talk about here and in my upcoming webinar were established for authority content creation and promotion at the agency or enterprise level, though smaller teams can certainly adopt it on a smaller scale.

1. Build Brand With Authority Content

To serve our potential customers’ needs outside of the sales funnel, we have understand how they self-identify in “real life”. Most marketers know their customers’ favorite time of day to receive an email. They know the steps to a customer conversion and what customer needs their content marketing strategy addresses. But do they know how their customers introduce themselves at parties?

For example: motorcyclists. “Bikers.” Or are they “riders?” There is a difference, at least to many motorcycle enthusiasts. And if we’re looking for online publishers of content for motorcycle-riding readers, understanding this difference, and knowing which audience we’re addressing, is the first step in creating authority content for them that will appeal directly to their identity.

How to Plan Authority Content for Customers

The goal of authority content for customers is more about branding than sales. We’re finding the publishers that serve their lifestyle needs and providing authority content to get in front of them long before they enter our funnel. So when we’re reaching out to these blogs or online writers, we need to unravel our idea of audience from ‘sales persona’ and try to view them as an online publisher does.

Questions to consider:

  • Are we calling this audience by the right name?
  • Do we know this audience’s pains (besides the ones our product was intended to fix)?
  • Are we using the language and terms they use?

Do people over 60 call themselves “senior citizens,” or do they prefer “older adults?” Are international relocators “expats” or “immigrants?” At best, using the wrong terminology and phrasing can show that you’re an outsider. At worst, it can offend potential customers.

This is where conversations come in – just like an anthropologist, it’s our job to learn about our customers where they are, so we can create content that fits their pains. Pick up the phone and talk to 10, 20 or 50 customers if you can. Ask them open-ended questions related to your product, but not necessarily about your product, and see what you learn.

At Citation Labs, customer conversations by phone and email led to the understanding that many of our audiences were in-house SEOs and content marketers, not link building strategists. We realized that many of the terms we assumed our customers knew were flying over their heads, and that we needed to start simpler and cast a wider net when planning content to draw in new customers. We guarantee the learnings you bring back will bring a new spark to your authority content strategy.

2. Building Domain Rank With Authority Content

So many link building conversations center around tactics: Can it scale? Should it scale? Is guest posting still viable? What does Matt Cutts think about ______? These are important points to consider, but they’re jumping the gun. We can’t decide on the what before we’ve figured out the who. And the Who? in linker-land, is the audience that the linker serves with content.

What Are Linker-Valued Audiences?

Linker-valued audiences are the intended readers of links pages; they’re usually folks with a specific (product-neutral) need. They’re not looking for a lawnmower; they’re looking for lawn-keeping tips for people with physical disabilities. They aren’t seeking the cheapest hotels in Niagara Falls; they want information on the history of Niagara Falls, or the best hiking trails in the area. Looking for more examples? We recently wrote a post with 601 Linker-Valued Audiences on the Citation Labs blog.

These audiences are served by passionate curators who create content because they care, not because they’re selling something. In order to gain traction with these linkers, content creators need to develop articles or guides to meet their needs.

Planning Content For Linker-Valued Audiences

When you’re creating this content, it’s less about your market as an audience, and more about linker-valued audiences, which opens you up to far more link equity.

This can be a difficult content transition for many SEOs – when targeting linker-valued audiences, SEO keywords are no longer applicable. Many of the support emails we receive in relation to our SEO Tools come from customers who are solely inputting SEO keywords and who aren’t happy with the scope of their results. We tell these customers to take their topic into the educational realm by prospecting for their search terms among .edu and .gov domains. By branching out of the sales space, you find information-based conversations.

Ready To Dive In? We’ve Got A Webinar For That

This is only the beginning when it comes to authority content strategy. Next week, I’ll be leading a webinar that will take these strategies further, explaining tactical approaches for authority content planning and creation. I’ll talk about audience discovery and how to create content that appeals to online linkers and publishers.

Click here to join our June 16 Webinar to for tactics on how to determine the audience(s) for your on or off-brand authority content campaign.

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