originally appeared on Forbes May 2017
There is great business value in being viewed as an expert in your field. Benefits to positioning yourself as an authority include: peers giving greater weight to your opinions, consumers being more likely to purchase your products and services, and achieving higher search engine results.
In my previous article, I look at how increasing your visibility in industry organizations and associations builds your reputation as an expert. Here, I explore the ways writing can increase your reputation as a thought leader and expert.
Maintaining your own business blog, guest blogging for industry blogs and trade magazines, and posting on social media are some of the ways to build your reputation as a thought leader.
To effectively build your authority and increase your visibility, you need to stay on top of the latest news, trends and developments in your field, and use that knowledge to pitch and publish ideas that have relevance. Not only will your name appear under the headline, but you might also be able to include a (well-written) bio at the end.
One caution: When you pitch blog and article ideas, take the time to do your research and provide links to authoritative sources. This will enhance your credibility and expertise so that you do not come across as self-promoting.
Three Ways To Use Writing For Thought Leadership
If you simply throw a hundred articles at the wall and hope one or two of them sticks, you’re not going to get the results you need. Becoming an expert in your field is easier than you think, but it does require work and a solid, well-executed plan.
Here are three ways to use writing as a tool for thought leadership.
1. Create your own business blog.
The best business blogs succeed because they give readers important information they can use, and back it up with links to authoritative sources and smart commentary.
Consider the blog at FedEx. The company understands that a lot of its customers have e-commerce websites, so they regularly post articles that give those customers useful information, like in the post Fred Smith Talks Autonomous Vehicles, Robots and More.
To make your business blog a tool to increase your reputation as a thought leader, you must spend a good deal of time reading about your industry and identifying topics that have current relevance. It’s also important to increase your knowledge base and learn which sources are the most trustworthy.
If you do your homework, your blog will build your expertise and get great search engine rankings because you are becoming an educator and advocate for your target audience and the needs they face.
2. Guest blog on authoritative websites.
As they say, you’re known by the company you keep. If you guest blog for the Times, Forbes or Harvard Business Review, industry leaders are naturally going to take you a lot more seriously.
But it’s not about focusing on just the biggest brand names. The trick is to identify the most authoritative sites in your market niche. One easy way is to find out where industry thought leaders are guest blogging. For example, Neil Patel is a thought leader in marketing. If you Google “guest post by Neil Patel,” you’ll quickly learn that his posts appear on Forbes and HubSpot, among others. If you’re a marketer, submit well-researched posts to well-known blogs in your industry.
3. Embrace long-form content.
The reason search engines like long-form content is that it requires writers to dive deeper into a subject matter than the typical 600-word blog, which usually means it has greater authority.
Get in the habit of posting long-form content like white papers, e-books and even podcasts. (With podcasts, you can post the audio as well as transcribe the text.) Research your topic carefully and post long-form content on the most credible sites.
Research shows that when someone hears about a business, 90% of the time, they will go directly to Google and search before purchasing from that business. They want to see what is being said online about the business or entrepreneur — from reviews to news stories or just online presence.
The Value Of Authoritative Positioning
When you begin building out your authority positioning assets, you should keep a collection of these URLs and use them to increase your credibility. Think about it: When you are mentioned in a media piece or business interview and those media URLs are inserted in your SEO campaigns for your brand name and main keywords, what do you think will show up over time in the top Google results?
Imagine you have a critically important business meeting in the morning. You could go in cold, or you could send attendees a packet of your most relevant and authoritative publications beforehand. Perhaps that packet includes your guest blogs with Forbes or the Huffington Post. Let’s go a step further and imagine you even include an Amazon best-selling book. Picture the look on their faces when you walk into the conference room.
Sound impossible? It’s easier than you might think. Make a plan and take small actionable steps toward achieving it each week.