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Is Authority And Trust Earned Or Given?

Graeme Benge

by Graeme Benge on 8th February 2013

What is authority?bigstock-Trust-10707392

Domain Authority has been a site metric used by SEOMoz for quite some time now. But I think this metric should actually break out of the confines of a bland calculation and become an aspiration for site owners.

As a concept, domain authority refers to the collective value of all indicators of trust and strength a site has earned. Domain authority could also describe a website as being a branded resource of influence, evidenced by social proof and quality inbound links, referencing quality content.

Bit of a mouthful, but let’s break that down.

  • Domain Authority reflects the trust in a site that a search engine has
  • It also reflects the success of a site for ranking well for multiple and long tail keywords
  • It highlights a scale of quality inbound links that once reached can generate a force field protecting your site from the Empire, Voldemort as well as nasty negative SEO-ers
  • Most of all though, Domain Authority should reflect the TRUST a site engenders from its user base

Why would you want it?

Seems a trite question as the answer is… well a bit obvious, but it’s not often people refer to their aspirations for a website as being “to become an authority”. Tends to be “rank first, get a bucket load of traffic and make a ton of cash” or words to that effect.

Taking a step back, a successful business is built and sustained on reputation and relationships and this simple fact is what should be applied to any business website. A reputation is built slowly (and tarnished quickly) through establishing yourself as a specialist in a particular field and the signals sent that attract consumers to your messages. Your content then becomes your recruitment tool; it will establish your brand and maybe generate some fans to help bear the load of promotion. Those fans will become the benchmark for how you handle your relationships and reinforce what perception there is of your brand as something to trust and go to. Repeatedly.

If that is at all desirable, applying it to your shop window…no not the real one, the 24/7 one now found on desktops, tablets and mobiles, right?

Why would you not do it?

There are cases where a site needs to be lean and mean. Get ‘em on site and get their wallets/purses open, quick smart. Having gawkers land on your site and not really interact is a big deterrent for site owners when the lengthy time and cash investment for a project is taken into consideration. That is a blinkered view as ultimately a user needs to trust you before flashing the cash; but it can be a hard view to overcome without some timelines to signpost the route to success.

 How do you do it?

A point of reference would be good but there isn’t a list of what authority sites there are currently for you to look at in your niche. Technorati has its top 100 blogs but that’s just a segment of the millions of sites out there. SEOMoz has its monthly Top 500, but again this is dominated by news and publishing sites.

You need to take the high ground and become whiter than white. Keep on top of your back link profile. Welcome and expand on links from varied sources. Sources that themselves show strong trust signals, such as:

  • Thoughtful and targeted content being added frequently
  • Social engagement –people sharing from the webpage to their social networks, effective social recruitment and engaging by actively responding to comments
  • A mix of on page links; author bio links, external links to other authority sites, unpacked links
  • Off-page a variety of inbound links from strong sources

The best example of building authority through a user base over a hyper-technical solution has to be the Huffington Post. As well as the constant content, it’s a barrage of social prompts. No wonder it tops Technorati’s list:

Share or Follow: The HuffPo Authority Is Earned Through Users Not Wizardry

An authority site doesn’t rest on its laurels waiting for engagement to come to it either. Breaking what you know about your audience down can reveal the best ways to interact with them. There will be times when a carpet bombing approach might work, such as the announcement of an event. There may be other occasions when a more refined approach is required. This post highlights an interesting way to use Facebook’s Post Privacy Gating to promote to specific fan segments and not just all of your fans.

Features to consider are:

  • A range of content types; not just text but video and image based content too. People process information in different ways – don’t alienate
  • Value features; how to guides, tutorials or whitepaper downloads

Our range of Whitepapers have added an extra dimension to our offering and is extending our reach as we’re opening up the channels of communication to people that would normally seek, consume and leave.

Koozai Free Whitepaper "Facebook Pages - Creating, Optimising & Analysing"

Conclusion

Mia Hamm said “Success Breeds Success”, but that describes the tipping point. Before reaching this point, it takes a lot of graft and a commitment to understanding what it is that inspires trust in your user base. Conquer that and apply a considered approach to fulfilling their appetites and the search engines will follow suit.

The tipping point will come when the viral potential of your site starts to be realised. But it can’t stop here. Having understood your audience’s demand and your strengths, you must capitalise on this with a strategy that feeds that demand with unique content that can’t help but be shared.

Image Credits

Trust - Big Stock Images

 

Graeme Benge

Graeme Benge

With five years background in Travel, Graeme has built up strong commercial experience alongside online and offline marketing skills working with a variety of Travel Agents and Cruise Specialists. A passionate advocate of SEO and Social Media, Graeme has a strong interest in ROI and analytics in order to deliver the best level of returns.

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6 Comments

  • Ty Whalin 8th February 2013

    Could not agree more, the battle for links continues; but the shift is now for more quality vs. quantity. This quality serves as part of the authoritative concept. The higher the quality the higher the authority and the like. Not all sites are created equal and receive the same amount of traffic flux. Although visitor count can be noticed as authority, this is not main determining factor for a site being on top as a authoritative icon.

    It would seem that a solid link portfolio a long with some other contributing factors can generate this high valued and respected type of website people are in search of constantly. This unprecedented combination of quality everything is the de’ facto result all are wanting to achieve.

    Nicely written, very informative post.

    Reply to this comment

  • Graeme Benge

    Graeme Benge 8th February 2013

    Thanks Ty.

    I think you’re bang on saying “not all sites are created equal”, but to transact one constant is true, you need to be trusted. How do people reach that point of trust…by building authority.

    Looking at sites that show those types of features should highlight the path to enlightenment regardless of what industry or niche a business is in.

    Ty, are there any sites you think have successfully created trust and authority? Thanks again for the comment.

    Reply to this comment

  • Ravi 8th February 2013

    First Link Juice,then Pagerank and Now Domain Authority, Blogging Just has gone Beyond Quality Articles, Its just like they are forcing us to Find Blogs to Increase Internet Revenues. I guess they will launch something else like these three soon to make bloggers mad about links

    Reply to this comment

    • Graeme Benge

      Graeme Benge 11th February 2013

      Hi Ravi

      I imagine the game will just go on and on…my view is that if you’ve built up some trust and authority with a good sized user base, you’ll have helped spread some risk come the “new” game changing update, as those users will still know who you are and where to find you.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Reply to this comment

  • Ty Whalin 8th February 2013

    Well for one my own. It took some time to gain a list of web blog subscribers of our e-news letter on demand for the web blog. Secondly, there are tons of sites out there that have gained authority over time, but there are a few that have gained trust somewhat quickly. For example it would seem a lot of the sites that have gained trust quickly usually have a substantial budget to be notice faster than the norm.

    Third, I would say this site in general for the simple fact the information I read on here is current news and accurate from what I have read through the past year. But some select sites that stand out with out a doubt are Google, Yahoo, Microsoft – big names that started from zip.

    There is one that is not a big name that came too within the past two years or so. Point Blank SEO. This guy got recognized fairly fast. I remember a while back he posted a guest post on SEOmoz and got a ton of recognition from it. Guest blogging still works and still generates those much sought after links, especially if those links are quality.

    How about you? Can you name one or two as well that come to mind right off the top of your mind?

    Reply to this comment

    • Graeme Benge

      Graeme Benge 11th February 2013

      Hi Ty

      I think Jon Morrow has done an excellent all round marketing job for Point Blank SEO. He’s dialled in to an audience, added a lot of value, connected with regular joes as well as industry leaders and put Point Blank on the map as you say, pretty rapidly.

      Am a big fan of what http://www.cruise.co.uk have achieved (disclaimer: I worked with but not for them for a bit in a previous life). They took a very popular but still relatively niche holiday type here in the UK, leveraged content from their users and cruise evangelists and scaled it. Rewarding cruise reviews with a freebie and then saw people come back to have their say again and again and again. Then their non customers joined the fun. The site grew massively from user generated content. That builds a lot of trust in itself and can certainly place a business in the sub conscious of a prospective customer.

      You can see that with the gradual death of the printed press, this is the focus a lot of news/publisher sites need to take.

      g.

      Reply to this comment

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