Earning the coveted “authority site” status means ranking at the top of search engines, enjoying a large, loyal fan base, and of course prestige and recognition. People will seek out your website for expertise and industry insight. The rewards are plentiful, but the journey is long. Authority-site status takes years to obtain, but if you’re truly passionate about your topic, the trek will be enjoyable and worth your while.
- Post regular, fresh content.
Quality content is the backbone of authority sites and the primary force driving visitors to your pages. Authority sites demonstrate their expertise through well-researched, fact-checked, insightful, current information.
In addition to accurate and reliable, content must also be intriguing enough to spark return visits. Add to the entertainment value by publishing different media, such as articles, e-books, guides, white papers, videos, podcasts and infographics.
Diversify even further by varying the content type across these different media. Offer how-to articles, expert interviews, lists, panel discussions, industry news, user-submitted product reviews, original research and company updates.
Having a set of fresh eyes review and edit content before it’s published is a necessity. Even if the message is spectacular, it will fall flat and lose credibility if it’s marred by spelling and grammatical errors. Further, fact-check all of your content using reliable sources. The information should be detailed and focused while bringing value to the industry.
True authority websites boast hundreds of high-quality articles and valuable information across various media. Achieving such high numbers may be daunting, so start by setting realistic goals, such as publishing at least one new entry per week. If you are able to contribute more, even better. Eventually, your website will achieve grand content on a large scale, moving it toward authority site status.
- Publish guest contributors.
Authority sites require a vast array of content, but the good news is you don’t have to create it all yourself. In fact, you’re encouraged not to. By publishing guest contributors’ submissions, you provide a much broader perspective on the industry and explore angles than you could never achieve alone.
Do allow visitors to post comments, but all content officially published by your website should be composed by knowledgeable, reputable contributors.
Reward guest authors by publishing their biographies at the end of their submission with links back to their respective websites. The closer you near authority site status, the more valuable this offer will be, making it even easier to gain contributions without monetary compensation.
- Encourage participation.
By allowing visitors to participate, they will feel more invested in your website and will be more likely to return. Consider creating a members-only forum — a popular feature of authority sites. Members will perceive joining your website as a formal invitation to join the industry.
Through your membership offering, you will gain email addresses, so you can institute an email marketing campaign and encourage further participation. Invite members to comment on articles, post product reviews, share your content on social media, vote on online polls, sign up for contests, and ask and answer questions on your forum. Don’t forget to respond to forum questions yourself. Members will be more likely to ask questions if there’s the possibility of receiving an expert response.
You can also increase members’ credibility by creating a ranking system with novice, professional or expert status. Your members’ drive to achieve a higher status encourages their participation and return visits. Active participation improves your search engine rankings, which is a key indicator — and benefit — of an authority site.
- Build a formidable social presence.
Social media participation can also benefit your website and SEO. Choose social media platforms that industry participants frequent, and update them regularly. Facebook and Twitter are the most popular, but research whether other platforms, such as YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram, are particularly prevalent within your industry.
If you can’t commit to updating a platform at least once per week, you’re better off not creating a presence on the site because inactivity could actually hurt your industry reputation. Be sure to post social share buttons and links to your social media on your website. Periodically direct your social media followers to relevant content on your website.
- Optimize your site’s usability.
Even with the best content in the world, many visitors will simply hit the back button if your site takes too long to load or appears unprofessional. Not only do you have to be an industry expert; your website has to look like one, too.
Create an attractive site design with plentiful, high-quality photos; strategically placed whitespace; complementary, pleasing colors; and a logical layout.
If your site is difficult to navigate, visitors may leave before finding the information they’re seeking, never to return again. Links should be clearly named and easily recognized. For example, don’t use “Communication Options” instead of “Contact Us” just to be unique or clever. Visitors expect certain link names and may be repelled by unclear or confusing substitutions.
Use surveys targeting your audience members and seek professional advice to ensure an effective, logical navigation. Thoughtfully organize your content and test your page load speeds. For every second of load time reduced between 15 seconds and seven, conversion rates increase by 3 percent, according to a study conducted by Intuit.
Your website should also be optimized for mobile devices. In January 2014, mobile use officially surpassed PC use, as reported by Search Engine Watch, so if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you could be alienating half your audience. Finally, test your website frequently to ensure it functions properly and there are no broken links.
- Continually improve your SEO.
Ranking well with the search engines is both an indicator and byproduct of an authority site. Through SEO, you can increase traffic and your online income. Practice on- and off-site SEO strategies or hire an expert to optimize your site for the search engines. Even with the best content, success will be difficult to achieve if no one can find your website.
Keep in mind the age of your website impacts your ranking, among many other factors, so don’t expect top billing overnight. Even after achieving the coveted top spot in the search engines, continue optimizing your website to maintain your position. Only by ranking at the top of the search engines can you officially claim authority site status.
In addition to your ongoing SEO efforts, keep learning about the industry and striving for improvement. If you really want to get you feet wet and the knowledge rolling, get yourself a paid or unpaid internship at organizations like YEAH! Local SEO company. Real life teaches you the fastes and the deepest. Continue your authority site education by checking out “10 Traits of Authority Sites.”
Simon Slade is CEO and co-founder of Affilorama, an affiliate marketing training portal with over 100 free video lessons; SaleHoo, an online wholesale directory of more than 8,000 prescreened suppliers; and their parent company Doubledot Media Limited, which provides seven different training and software applications to some 500,000 customers worldwide. Through these companies, Simon provides the education and resources for e-commerce professionals to start their own businesses and achieve occupational independence. You can follow Simon on most major social platforms, including Twitter, Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn, and his commentary can be found in Forbes, Fortune, SMH, and NZ Business.
In his spare time, Simon enjoys playing squash, snowboarding and spending time with his wife and daughter.