There seems to be a lot of confusion out there about what matters most when it comes to doing business online.
Sure, there are a lot of factors, but one of the most important ones (IMHO) is organic search rankings; unless you have good organic rankings for your website or blog, it will be difficult to compete in any given niche.
That’s where the concept of Website Authority comes in. You might be asking yourself, “Does my website have authority?” or “Why does website authority matter?”
Both of these questions are important to answer because they determine how your site is ranked.
Website authority is a measure of your website’s importance as compared to other websites in your niche. Here are some good examples of high-authority sites: CNN.com has a lot of authority in the news segment, MLB.com in the sports segment, and Edmunds.com in the automotive segment.
Authority websites are not just sites with recognizable brands. Rather, authority websites are those that people have come to know and trust in a given niche. There are authority websites in every niche from marketing blogs, to doorknobs to sneakers (ex: Zappos).
Because of the factors we will discuss in a moment, these sites get top rankings for niche-specific keywords, and garner the lion’s share of traffic.
What exactly determines website authority?
Website authority isn’t subjective – it is built on a handful of objectively measurable factors:
- The number of quality, inbound links to website
- The age of your domain
- The time users spend browsing your site
These are some of the key authority factors used by Google and other search engines to measure authority. As you might imagine, authority valuation is relative. Said another way, if you want top rankings in your niche, your site needs more authority than the site currently ranked in the number one place for a given keyword phrase.
Building authority takes time, but if you understand the factors associated with website authority, you can start down the path of developing an authoritative site that results in more qualified traffic, lower online advertising costs, and better organic rankings.
I like to think of website authority in simple terms: can you be trusted? This is a broad question, but your website says a lot about you, your brand, and the products or services you offer.
Build On-Site Authority for a Specific Niche
The biggest mistake you can make today, either online or offline, is trying to be all things to all people.
In fact, this is still one of the most common failures I see among the companies I’ve consulted for. Start by asking yourself “what is my business good at?” and “who do I serve?” Once you have specific answers to those questions, and you know who you’re targeting, the next step is to translate that to your website in order to build authority and dominate your niche.
Begin by ensuring that your website is technically sound and provides a positive user experience. If you have a strong foundation in the form of a well optimized website, you can expand indefinitely as your traffic grows and your horizons broaden. Having a technically sound website means that your code is error free. I suggest using the W3C validator to check for errors. Additionally, you should read up on other search engine optimization best practices to implement proper meta tags, alt tags, internal linking structures, and so on. One commonality across all authority websites is the constant review and fix of programming errors.
Once you’ve built a sound architecture for your website, the next step is to focus on specific keywords that are representative of your niche. For example, someone who is an authority on social media speaks somewhat exclusively about social media. If you don’t see Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn mentioned somewhere on their website, you know pretty quickly they’re not the real deal.
You can easily research keywords using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and improve the latent semantic index (LSI) of your keyword usage. An effective LSI means that you are using tightly clustered keywords around a specific theme or topic. All authority websites are focused around a particular theme. If your content is too broad, search engines will have a difficult time characterizing your content, making it difficult to determine your appropriate ranking.
After updating all of your on-page factors with your niche-specific keywords, the next step is to plan for the ongoing development of original content. Google loves original content, and so should you. If necessary, you’re better off linking out to quality resources from other high authority websites instead of copying and pasting content into your site. Develop a plan for adding new content on a regular basis.
Today’s best-know authority sites are large. They have numerous pages focused on a particular subject or topic. This should be a combination of your content and user generated content, an aspect frequently associated with high authority websites in the form of comments and social media.
One of the fastest ways to accomplish this goal is with the addition of a blog. Thanks to Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr, adding a blog to your site is easy and fairly simple to manage. The more posts you develop around your niche, the more authority you’re building for your web site. Forums and online communities are another popular method for attracting visitors and getting them to interact on your site. I launched a forum on one of my sites to accomplish this goal. It is now one of the leading Internet marketing forums online and has improved my website authority, Alexa ranking, and organic search results.
How can you develop quality inbound links to improve authority?
As important as it is to develop niche specific content that is original and engaging, it’s even more important to build and attract authoritative inbound links to your site steadily over time. One of the biggest mistakes I see small to large businesses make is the speed at which they generating inbound links. Remember that the key is quality over quantity. I’d rather attract one quality inbound link per week than 300 or more links that have no authority.
Over the years, I have gravitated towards a few methods for attracting quality inbound links to build my website authority. Most authoritative sites may not be that willing to provide you with a one way link unless you can demonstrate value. As such, it’s important to determine how you can offer up a benefit that’s unique and of interest to potential link providers. Here are a few strategies I have used to obtain links on authoritative sites which in turn pass authority to my primary website:
Are you a fan of networking? The concept used to scare me but once I started getting out there and connecting with other like-minded people, there was no turning back. Join a group that’s specific to your niche on LinkedIn. Attend a meet-up group or local event in your area. Introduce yourself and let others know that you blog on a regular basis. There are even events for bloggers like BlogWorld where you can connect directly with blog owners. The more relationships you develop offline, the more opportunities you’ll have online to build website authority. Leverage these relationships to create additional links to specific resources you offer on your website or blog.
Another great strategy for getting authoritative inbound links is through content development. The concept is that you create original content for a website or blog and provide them exclusive rights to that content. When doing so, you ask for link back to your site in exchange. The most successful websites are always on the lookout for original content they can share with their readers. When someone else offers to do the writing, many website and blog owners will have a level of interest in what you have to offer.
Link Getting Methods
This technique requires a little more work but is a great way to provide value to both authoritative websites and your own website or blog. Develop a whitepaper or tip sheet that is 100% unique. Place it on a prominent page of your website and spread the word. You can tell others about it through your own house list, social media, and so on. In your communication, ask them to link to the resource. This drives quality inbound links to either your home page or deep within our site. Either way, you’re attracting quality inbound links that will improve your website authority and website ranking.
More Ways to Build Website Authority
Once you’ve established a strong foundation for your website and begun the process of generating authoritative inbound links, it’s time to put your authority building on overdrive. The key is to cultivate your list of contacts and leverage their networks for increase authority. For example, Google is placing a greater emphasis than ever on social media. Are you connected? Is your network interacting with your website? If so, how often do they interact? Use the following ideas to enhance your authority.
Customer Incentives/Promotions (Like, CheckIns)
One of the best places to start expanding your website authority is with your current base of prospects and customers. Thanks to widgets and apps, it’s easier than ever to get people to support your business through social media. Begin by placing social media icons such as a “Like”, “+1”, and “Retweet” buttons on your website or blog. The next step is to encourage website and store visitors to share their interactions. A great example of this is signage that says, “Check in on FourSquare” for example. As users indicate their status, your site is building authority and leveraging the power of social media.
Specials for those who spread the word…
The most effective use of social media that I’ve seen is by companies who offer exclusive promotions for individuals who sign up for a Facebook Fan Page or start following the business via Twitter. This provides a win-win for consumers and businesses looking to develop a following that is willing to share with their network.
Working with Influencers
To become an authoritative website, you must work with authoritative people, website, and blogs. Identify some of the top influencers in your niche. Develop a plan for reaching out to them, making yourself and your brand known, and offering something of value. You might be surprised at how approachable some of these influencers are. No doubt you will find some who won’t give you the time of day. In fact, even though I’ve been at this for years, I still get the occasional rejection. Just last week I reached out to an influential person in the marketing niche just last week and got an email back that said, “Sorry, but not interested, I work alone.” Okay, no biggie, moving on.
Doing all of this can seem a bit difficult at first but it provides a huge payoff. If you are overwhelmed about getting started, break your tasks down into smaller segments and consider different strategies that would be easy for you to implement. By taking this approach you’d be amazed at the progress you can make in 30 days or less. In fact, one of my customers, a small retail shop, decided to start dropping cards asking for social media interaction into every customer’s bag. In less than a month they gained over 300 twitter followers and Facebook Likes. This is only the beginning and they are continuing to build authority day after day.
Set your sites on developing a long-term strategy for authority creation. Adding small bits of content on a regular basis, improving your utilization of social media, and developing meaningful partnerships can directly translate into inbound links and improved authority.