There is little doubt that good search engine optimization (SEO) is important to ensure your site is properly indexed and ranked, but even the most optimized site is just a voice in the wind if you don’t have an audience. Becoming the authority in your area is quite possibly the No. 1 best avenue towards building that audience. In the process, you’ll enhance your search visibility and open new paths to acquiring customers. But how to do it?
Consumers trust authority
Think of the last time you wanted to purchase a product but knew next to nothing about it. What did you do? You likely used a search engine to look for online reviews or articles about the product. If the most helpful article was on a site that also sold the product, odds are that you purchased at that site.
Customers trust authority, and being the authority on your product or service leverages that trust into business relationships.
Taking your site’s content to that level is work, but it’s not that difficult. The old adage of “write what you know” is key here. It’s your business, and who knows it better than you do? Showcase that knowledge by creating informative content, and you’ll build credibility.
Should I start with a blog?
A blog definitely can help you establish authority in your industry and drive traffic to your business website. As professional blogger Julie Deneen writes in “Using your blog as a virtual storefront,” stellar blog content can work wonders at building your reputation as trustworthy, authoritative and helpful — just the kind of person others like to do business with.
You can use your blog as an informal platform for giving insights into your thought process as it relates to your business. You can review products, offer personal opinions (be careful, of course, to avoid serious controversy) and answer questions. Even if your blog readers aren’t ready to purchase your products or services, they’ll be more likely to turn to you when they are.
Who does the writing?
Ideally, if you’re running your own small business, doing your own writing establishes you as the authority. Everyone likes to deal with the owner, and this provides a way to establish many relationships with customers simply through generating your own content. Your employees or even friends are also potential sources. By having your employees write, you’re creating an atmosphere of having experts working for you. If you tap friends and other industry acquaintances, you’re showing that you not only play well with others, but that you’re well-connected. Consider finding associates in different markets and swap the occasional article.
Of course, make sure they can actually write well, or that they don’t mind if you edit them a bit. Ultimately, the quality reflects on you.
What kind of content?
It sounds cliché, but it’s true – mix it up. Consider these four hints:
- Be informative. Above all else, ensure you have informative content. The most entertaining writing doesn’t make you an authority on much more than entertainment.
- Be funny. Humor is great if you can do it. Make customers laugh and they’ll remember you.
- Be personal. Giving your personal opinion and opening up a little bit goes a long way towards creating rapport with your audience. Like many things, of course, don’t overdo it!
- Be engaging. This is key. Make sure your writing engages your audience. You don’t want them clicking-out after reading the first third of your post.
For more great tips, check out this post.
Promote your content
Once your site has a backlog of articles and information that your target audience finds both useful and entertaining, the next step is to promote that content (and yourself or your writers). If you don’t already have social media conduits, create them. A Facebook Page for your business. A Twitter account. Perhaps even an Instagram feed or some other social photo sharing feed. You can tease your content on these social networks and use them to drive traffic to your site, which should be the hub of activity. For example, posting a small summary of your latest article to your Facebook page along with an eye-catching graphic and a link back to your site opens a channel for your customers to click through, enjoy your content, and hopefully continue interacting with your site and business.
In other words, give the casual user enough on your social feed to keep them interested and engaged, but always gently remind them that your site is where the good stuff is. And, of course, avoid the urge to use “linkbait” — nothing ruins credibility like cheap tricks. Resist the temptation to post links like, “You’ll never guess what happened when my customers followed this one, simple trick…” These days, nobody is fooled.
Never underestimate the power of social sharing. If your content is compelling, it will get shared. Embrace this, as your customers and fans are your biggest promoters. Engage with them and let them sing your praises.
And then, back to SEO…
It’s a big cycle in that if you have quality, authoritative content, more people will read it, share it, help promote it, and talk about it. This creates an environment where the search engines see your content as more relevant and rank it higher. That higher rank brings in more readers (and hopefully customers) who then also promote it, and the cycle continues. Make sure your site follows good SEO guidelines and that your content is properly indexed, and then let the cycle do its work.