Image from Flickr by Xataka
You’re creating the best content you can: explaining things clearly, writing well, and covering everything that your prospects are likely to want to know.
But … there’s a whole world of content out there covering similar topics, in engaging ways. Why should your prospects listen to you instead of someone else?
You need to be seen as a trusted source, an expert or authority in your field: not just yet another content producer writing about the same old things in the same old way, but someone who really knows what they’re talking about.
As Eric Enge puts it in his Copyblogger post, 21 Reasons You Must Become an Expert:
"No one cares what you think if you aren’t an expert — I know that sounds harsh, but I’m not talking about your friends or social conversations here."
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have 20 years experience, or a raft of impressive qualifications (though of course that wouldn’t hurt!)
Instead, you need to ensure that you continually learn more about your chosen field, and ‒ just as importantly ‒ that you’re able to communicate what you know and demonstrate your growing expertise.
Building your expertise
Image from Flickr by Rodrigo Galindez.
A quick word of caution: don’t throw the word “expert” around if you’re really fairly new to a particular area. If you’ve taken our SEO introduction course, for instance, you’ll certainly know more than the average business person ‒ but calling yourself “an expert in SEO” could well backfire.
In fact, it’s often better to avoid using the word “expert” or “authority” about yourself. Let other people use those terms or think them.
Chances are, you have a good level of basic knowledge in your field ‒ but you might well feel that you need to take it further. Here are some simple steps to take:
#1: Read a lot
When it comes to online marketing, it’s very easy to get focused on blogs and social media as your main source of information. While many blogs contain fantastic up-to-the-minute articles (especially in fast-moving fields), they won’t always provide the same depth ‒ or the same rigorous standards ‒ that you can get in other areas.
How many books relating to your field have you read in the last year? How about journals or other periodicals? Set aside some time for these, as well as for keeping up with the latest news and blog posts.
To do: There’s a good chance you’ve got plenty of relevant books gathering dust on your shelves. Choose one and commit to reading it: you might review it on your blog to give you extra incentive (and to show your readers you know your stuff).
#2: Take a class or course
You probably have plenty of hands-on experience in your field ‒ maybe you’ve been designing websites for years ‒ but a one-off class or longer-term course could fill in any gaps in your knowledge.
You might worry about wasting your time and money on the wrong class, but look at it this way. If you take a class and find that you already know most of the material, that may well give you confidence: it’s a great sign that you do know what you’re talking about!
(You could also write a review or summary of a fairly basic class ‒ an easy piece of content for your blog, and one that shows readers you’re committed to your professional growth.)
Usually, though, you’ll gain at least a handful of new tips or ideas from taking a class or course ‒ whether those are from the course leader or from other participants with lots of practical experience to share.
To do: Look for a relevant class or course today, and book your place: once it’s in your calendar, you’ll find the time! If your business involves providing SEO, social media or content marketing services, why not book on one of our courses to brush up your skills?
#3: Curate content
By bringing together some of the best resources in your field, you’ll find yourself learning a lot. (You’ll also be gently encouraging your readers to see you as an expert, as you’ll be offering them something of value and demonstrating your ability to sift through lots of materials and find the most useful and relevant ones.)
The content you bring together could be almost anything: book titles, quotes, tweets, articles posted online. You could organise it in multiple ways, such as:
- Themed by date published, like The Weekly Optimiser. This works well for blog posts, particular in a fast-moving industry.
- Themed by topic. For instance, if your business sells wooden toys for babies and toddlers, you might bring together ten great tips about teething.
- Themed by author. This could mean rounding up quotes from a prominent figure in your industry.
To add more value to your content curation, offer a few words of commentary ‒ perhaps a brief summary of each piece.
To do: Read our post 13 Handy Content Marketing Tools and find at least one to help you with content curation (we use #7, Diigo, to put together The Weekly Optimiser).
#4: Interview experts
Like curating content, this is a great way to learn more while also providing value for your readers. (Plus, featuring these experts on your blog can have a bit of a knock-on effect, with your readers seeing you as more of an expert too.)
It’s a good idea to look for experts who’ve already done interviews, guest posts, or similar on other websites; they’re likely to be open to requests. You could also try anyone with a new book out: they’ll almost certainly be glad of an opportunity to promote it! (If you can’t reach them directly, contact their publisher.)
When interviewing someone, consider:
- Whether a text or audio interview will be best. Many blogs run text interviews, as these allow the interviewee to answer questions at their leisure. They don’t, however, allow you to change or add questions in the light of earlier responses.
- Which questions will be most valuable. If you have half-a-dozen basic questions about their career at the start of the interview, this is going to make it long and increase the chance of them saying “no”. You could probably quote from or summarise their bio on their website instead.
- What’s in it for them. Even if you’re only expecting them to answer five quick questions by email, you’re asking for a commitment of time from someone who’s likely very busy. Make it worth their while by promoting their books, products, or services in the interview post (as part of the interview, as an introduction to them, or as a note at the end).
To do: Come up with 5 - 7 questions and email them to one expert in your field today. You’ll never get a “yes” unless you ask!
Showing Your Expertise
Image from Flickr by 林子揚
Your readers need to know about your expertise. Even if you’re hugely experienced, churning out content that covers the same handful of beginners’ topics, or that exists solely to promote your products/services, isn’t going to establish you as an expert in readers’ eyes.
Instead, try one or more of these.
#1: Answering readers’ questions
Whether you do this as an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) document on your website, or in posts on your blog, answering real questions from real readers is a great way to show that you’re an authority in your field.
The individual readers who have questions answered will be impressed. Their questions won’t usually be particularly tricky ones ‒ though you might find yourself surprised by just how much you know.
Plus, other readers will see, through the questions and answers, that you’re (a) genuinely helpful, rather than just looking to make a quick sale, and (b) you know your topic well enough to answer a wide range of questions about it.
To do: A good first step here is to make sure you answer comments. This is one way a smaller business can really stand out and create a great first impression. You can then collate some of the best comments and answers into an FAQ or blog post.
#2: In-depth content
While regular blog posts are great for establishing an audience, they aren’t always the best form to showcase your expertise.
A really good way to go further is to produce a comprehensive resource (probably in a downloadable format, like a .pdf) that covers a specific topic within your field. A good example is Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks, a free .pdf that readers can download in exchange for their email address. It’s a useful and unique resource, one that fellow bloggers-on-blogging will often link to.
Another option to is to focus on producing more cornerstone content (posts that are longer than average, and that tackle important topics). These are likely to get more tweets, shares and links than your regular posts.
As a bonus, this sort of in-depth content is likely to become more and more important for SEO, as Google begins to feature long-form content especially prominently.
To do: Many business owners put off creating longer pieces of content for when they’re “less busy” (which, let’s face it, doesn’t ever happen!) Instead, set aside 15 minutes at the start of each day to work on creating an in-depth resource.
#3: Multimedia content
It’s very easy to create audio or video content for your site ‒ and this tends to have a higher perceived value than text-only content (even if it covers the exact same ground). We’re used to paying more for audio books than for regular books, and considerably more for live, in-person conferences.
Some ideas work best in a multimedia context. Perhaps you want to give a joint presentation with another expert in your field, so you create a podcast together; this is likely to work much better than writing a back-and-forth blog post.
Often, a topic can be taught more easily through video than text (even text with screenshots). For instance, if you sell hand-decorated cookies, it’s going to be a lot easier to show your audience how to decorate their own business instead of trying to explain the process in words.
If you speak at any events, try to get a recording. Your prospects will (hopefully!) find the content useful and engaging ‒ and the fact that you speak at live events will help establish you in their minds as more of an authority.
To do: Have a go at creating audio or video content. You don’t have to show it to anyone ‒ but the more trial runs you have, the more confident you’ll feel. (And remember: almost everyone hates the way their voice sounds on a recording, it’s not just you!)
#4: Social proof
What other people say and think about you is critical, and new prospects will be alert to this. They’ll notice:
- How many reviews or testimonials you have (on Google+, TripAdvisor, or whatever site is appropriate for your field) and what your average star rating is. They may well read or skim a number of reviews.
- How large your Twitter following is, how many fans you have on Facebook, and how many circles you’re in on Google+. (If you’ve implemented Google Authorship, your circles number will show up next to your content in Google searches.)
- How many comments your blog posts receive. They may well notice whether or not you reply to comments, and whether your content sections are full of spam.
To ensure you’re giving a good first impression, make sure you highlight your most impressive social media metrics. For instance, if you have a Twitter following of 5,000 but a Facebook fan-base of 30, you’ll want to make sure the first number is the one that readers notice!
You can also subtly boost your social proof by giving monthly rather than daily statistics (for instance, by writing “100,000 monthly readers” next to your blog’s email sign up, counting your web traffic in with your email subscribers).
To do: Look at your reviews, testimonials, Twitter following, Facebook fans, blog subscribers, etc. Choose your most impressive metric and add it to your sidebar, near the top. If you have any unimpressive metrics displayed prominently, get rid of them.
Expertise isn’t something you gain overnight, but nor is it something reserved for other people!
By constantly learning more ‒ through what you read, through classes, and simply through continuing to work in your profession ‒ you’ll become an authority in your field. And by ensuring that readers see your expertise through the content you produce, you’ll establish yourself as the go-to source for information, and for products and services.