You might not see yourself as the primary expert in your industry. But the fact is that being an expert is all about positioning yourself by means of invisible authority.
What happens when you search for information on a topic and you see the first few results pop up on the screen? Isn’t there a part of you that assumes the top results have more credibility simply because they are at the top?
When the top results are full of trusted names, their credibility is even higher. Their rank and reputation tell users both that other people find these sources helpful and that Google believes they are valuable enough to put in the top results on the first page.
Small business owners can grow their businesses by using the tips below to position themselves to achieve high search rankings and get found online.
If You Have Specialized Knowledge, You Can Become an Authority
No one is going to come along and magically pronounce that you have “arrived” as an expert. Your authority in your industry is something you have to claim on your own, based on the fact that you have something unique to offer.
But there are millions of people in the world who have enough knowledge about something that they could claim to be “experts” in their fields. How then can you set yourself apart and grow your business?
As an example, imagine there are one hundred dentists who all have the same skills. But only one of them gets interviewed on CNN or Fox News. All of a sudden, that one dentist sees a huge increase in the visibility of his business, simply because he positioned himself as a thought leader and expert.
This “positioning” is, to a large degree, an illusion. It seems to the people watching the news that the one dentist is more credible than the others. The truth is he has the edge because he made himself visible when the others were not.
Here’s What This Looks Like in a Particular Niche
In the online world, attaining authority is achieved through visibility. You need to have content online that is both valuable and known by credible sites so they will link to you.
Google will then rank you higher, giving you more perceived authority – and most importantly, more potential customers.
Dental Marketing Coach Justin Morgan calls this strategy building “invisible authority.” He himself is a thought leader in the dental SEO industry and has created an entire dental SEO course specifically for that market called the “Invisalinks Method.”
Morgan has a specific target audience. He has recognized a genuine need (lack of knowledge in SEO) in the dental industry niche.
Dentists do not often put out quality content online. They also rarely have the connections they need to network with people who could link to that content.
But, of course, dentists have specialized knowledge about a particular area that many people do not. There is no question that they are “thought leaders” in their industry. They just need to position themselves as such.
Morgan’s course helps dentists to optimize their sites’ content so that people will want to link to their information. He then helps them connect with credible sources to request backlinks. Morgan establishes his clients as experts online.
He says, “The Invisalinks Method is about being competitive in SEO, while being collaborative in real life. It’s an SEO course where I teach you with real-life examples and case studies. We’ll review other dentists achieving results through making their website a hub of information that Google favors.”
The key to attracting incoming links is to have the best, most comprehensive, current, and colorful content online.
What Is Invisible Authority
What makes this strategy “invisible” is that patients don’t need to know that important blogs, outlets, or journals have linked to their dentist. They don’t need to know he was interviewed on their local TV station or published on Forbes.
These activities are important because what matters more is that Google knows. Google sees that the dentist’s website is getting tons of credible backlinks and consequently ranks the site higher in the search results.
What people do see is the dentist’s higher search engine ranking. So they perceive his practice as being more authoritative than the other sites that appear in the results. Or they would simply rather not sort through all the results that aren’t on the first page, and they choose the result that is easiest to find.
How to Build Invisible Authority
There is a reason brands use PR agencies and that reason is to be proactive about increasing their visibility and authority. Small businesses can hire a PR agency, but they can also do their own promoting and positioning themselves.
Start with Strong Content
To optimize your site’s content in the way that Morgan recommends, you first need to have valuable content. If you have anything worth selling, then you already have a basis for creating good content.
One obvious and important strategy is having a blog on your website that provides valuable, evergreen content for online readers. A dentist could post about basic oral care, the best foods to eat, or how neglecting your teeth could impact the overall health of your body.
It should go without saying that your content should be of the highest quality possible. Do thorough research, be concise, and use excellent grammar. And don’t forget to include images, videos, and other compelling media.
Create Embeddable Media
One of the easiest ways to attract incoming links and increase visibility is to provide creative materials writers can use in their content. Go one step further and make it obvious that you are granting them permission to republish without them having to ask for it.
Although YouTube and other video platforms allow the person who uploads video to determine whether others can embed it, not everyone is aware of that option. Some journalists and freelance writers will not use a video without express permission. Make it easy on them and put permission in the video description.
Turn your best content into a video and/or visual SlideShare that links back to your site. Again, even though all SlideShares have embed codes, put express permission in the SlideShare description to encourage journalists, site editors, and freelance writers to add them to their content.
SlideShare goes overboard by putting two links under the SlideShare. These can be removed by the site. (Some sites will remove them; others will not.) They are not necessary as the SlideShare already links back to the SlideShare site and the creator’s other SlideShares.
Because SlideShare has poor search functionality, you will need to find ways to make your SlideShares easier to find and use. (See the next section in this post for how to do that.) Read The Power of SlideShare and What It Can Do For Your Business for how-to information.
Do not go overboard on self-promotion in your videos, SlideShares, and custom images. A discrete logo, a URL, or your company name at the end is enough. Creatives need to be non-promotional to increase the number of sites where they can be utilized.
Create a Virtual Data Room (VDR)
If you want to pitch ideas that are truly unique, you need data you can share that is not already published. Focus on compiling current industry statistics and find collaborators willing to share in-house data. Develop your own case studies and custom graphics.
Consider this unique content valuable and proprietary until you choose where to have it published. It is your competitive advantage to be shared with journalists, influencers, and your team of content creators.
Use a virtual data room to control who can access which data. SecureDocs explains everything you need to know about virtual data rooms and how to use them. Many companies use these primarily for financial transactions and other confidential data.
Impress journalists by providing direct access to cutting edge industry statistics and insights to make their jobs easier. Be sure to include your embeddable media (videos, images, SlideShares, graphs, infographics). Remember to provide detailed permission for reprinting that spells out how what you provide can be used.
By creating and saving assets and making them easily accessible for select people, your brand will enjoy more mentions and a competitive advantage as will those who choose to report about your business and industry.
Going out of your way to provide current information about your industry is an ideal way to be seen as an authority and quoted often.
Frame Your Content to Appeal
In the same way that you need to position yourself advantageously, you need to frame your content in a way that appeals to people. The visual layout of your blog posts is important. If your site is unattractive and you have huge chunks of text, users will move on to posts that are easier to read.
It should go without saying that people are drawn to visual content, so use videos, SlideShares and infographics. Create custom graphs with current statistics branded with your logo and link them to a page that gives journalists and bloggers permission to republish them with attribution.
Make sure that you have a clear idea of who your target audience members are and how your content is solving their problems. Anything you can do to talk to and engage with your audience is helpful.
Do keep in mind that some marketing principles will work better for you than others. Pay attention to what does and does not work, and then focus on what is effective for your business.
Write a Book (Or Have It Ghostwritten)
Book authors are automatically and often sub-consciously seen as greater authorities. It is common for real estate brokers and lawyers to either write a book and have it edited or to hire a company to ghost write a book for them.
Printed books, even when self-published, are seen as more authoritative than ebooks. But either or both can go a long way to impressing your potential customers. They also provide another method to stand out and give your existing clients another reason to recommend you.
Well known social media influencer David Leonhardt owns THGM Writers, a company that edits or even completely ghost writes books for small businesses. He explains how publishing a book improves your personal branding and builds your reputation.
Don’t Forget to Network
Once you have strong content to offer people, your next goal should be to network with credible outlets where you can share that content. Authority, says Morgan, is “about how connected you are with the rest of the ‘web.’”
Identify the other thought leaders in your field. Research where industry experts in your niche are sharing their knowledge online. What are the credible sites that could give you beneficial backlinks?
Find those people, and engage with them. Comment on their blog posts. Follow them, quote them, and share their posts on social media. Ask if you can interview them for your own site.
You can use a tool such as a BuzzSumo to help you find industry experts. Use it to analyze what they share and where they share it. Then support their efforts online before reaching out to them on their favorite platforms or through their websites. Twitter and LinkedIn work best for this.
Another method for contacting journalists is HARO, which stands for “help a reporter out.” HARO is a platform that exists to help journalists find breaking news stories. If there is a piece of trending news you could speak about as an authority, HARO is a great way of finding a journalist who is willing to give you visibility.
Leverage the News
Trending news is an excellent way of getting free publicity. Jeff Crilley is a former TV reporter who wrote the book Free Publicity and now runs his own PR firm, RealNewsPR, staffed entirely by journalists. He encourages people seeking visibility to give the media what it already wants.
There are times when it is very easy to predict what kinds of stories the media will want to tell, something Crilley calls a “feeding frenzy.” One situation to look for is when a major event has happened in the news and journalists are looking for a new angle so they can continue talking about it. Can your company give them that angle?
You can also pay attention to the most common types of news stories. Crilley points out that in recent years, a majority of news stories tend to be on the economy.
Another slam dunk situation is major holidays. You know that when the Fourth of July, Halloween, and Christmas come around, the media will report on them. Find a way to relate what you do to a holiday, pitch your idea to local TV and radio stations, and there’s a good chance they will report on you.
Build Your Invisible Authority
If you have knowledge, you have authority. But if you do nothing to make your expertise visible to others, people will not find you online. Google won’t promote you, and your business will not grow, at least not at the rate it could.
So if you have something valuable to offer, get it out there. Help people find it. Position yourself as the expert and build your invisible authority. The more you work on your brand building, the higher your site will rank and the more customers Google will send you.
Expert Photo via Shutterstock