3 Ways to Build Authority Online Without Link Outreach

You’re sitting on LinkedIn and you see an article about growing your business through organic search with SEO. One of the first things the article mentions is building authority online by getting links to your site from other high authority websites. 

So you work with your PR team or hire an outside link-building agency and work on getting links.

The email you send:

“Hi, our site is relevant to your industry, please give us a link.”

The response you get:

You start feeling a little discouraged about the resources you have invested in PR, testing out different email approaches, and link building. How can you show Google the authority your business has to compete in the search results if no one will link to your site?

Earning inbound links to your site is a huge component of organic search success, and always will be, but email outreach isn’t the only way to build your website authority and promote your site online. Today let’s discuss three simple tactics that any business could get started with today:

  1. E-A-T Content – Credentials & Quality Content
  2. Business Listings Focusing on Google My Business
  3. Social Media

Let’s get into it.

E-A-T Content – Credentials & Quality

In a February 2019 white paper, Kristie Canegallo, the VP of Trust & Safety at Google, got up on the virtual podium and said, “it’s time for some quality control.” Canegallo explained that Google is getting tired of “disinformation” and will use three pillars to examine content to make sure it’s not spreading false information: expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.

Google doesn’t have scholars researching whether every site on the internet presents accurate facts. Instead, they’re looking for ways to algorithmically determine whether or not a given site or piece of content was created by experts who know what they’re talking about and can be trusted to provide accurate information. A website needs to send clear signals, to both humans and search engines, spelling out:

E-A-T has been a known factor for a couple of years now, but in early 2021, there was an algorithmic update that caused some major upheaval in the search results. Many SEO experts are pointing fingers at our good friend E-A-T, saying that it is the top-ranking factor in this upheaval.

Inbound links are still an important authority signal, but let’s get into some quick things you can do with your existing content to send signals that your site’s content indeed has expertise, has authority, and is trustworthy.

Resource Guides

A resource guide in this context is different from a resource center. A resource center will house links to further articles and tools often sorted by category. A resource guide is a long-form piece of content that discusses a subject and acts as the hub in a Hub and Spoke model of content. If you imagine a bike wheel, the resource guide is at the center, and the spoke pieces of content go into depth on specific areas mentioned in the guide. This approach to content is also called Topic Clustering or Pillar Content.

Resource guides and E-A-T content

According to Search Engine Journal, a long-form piece of content that links out to “spoke” content allows users and Google to understand what is on your site and where your expertise lies. These content pieces provide a jumping-off point to the deeper, more specific content that showcases your authority on specific areas of a larger topic. The goal of this content is to rank for those large keywords in your industry by offering everything a user needs to dive in and understand the subject.

Search Engine Journal advises that these long-form pieces of content be “a long, exhaustive piece on the main subject. While this works to show Google and users what your site is about, the supporting topic clusters show them that you know the subject through-and-through.”

You want these resource guides to be on topics that your audience is interested in and will benefit from, and on which you have some expertise to show off (or can hire someone with expertise).

For example, if your business hosted a TV show and podcast that specialized in teaching people about wild food, your audience would probably be highly interested in a Guide to Edible Wild Mushrooms for Beginners. This guide would be your hub that you could structure like this:

  1. Overview of fungi and mushrooms.
  2. Importance of proper identification.
  3. Three of the easiest wild mushrooms to identify.
  4. Cooking and preparation of Wild Mushrooms.
  5. Health benefits of wild mushrooms.

Now, for your spoke content, you would build out (or pull from existing content) blog posts on each of the following subjects:

  1. History of mushrooms.
  2. Mushrooms: the fruiting bodies of fungi.
  3. Cultural implications of mushrooms outside of the US.
  4. 5 ways to find a Mushie Mentor.
  5. 10 mushrooms with really similar poisonous look-alikes.
  6. Finding and identifying the Chanterelle.
  7. Finding and identifying a Morel.
  8. Finding and identifying Puffball Mushrooms.
  9. Chicken of the Woods vs. Hen of the Woods: are they different?
  10. 3 wild mushroom cook books for beginners.
  11. What common mistakes do beginner mushroom hunters make when cooking?
  12. To dry or to freeze, understanding mushroom preservation.
  13. What diseases do wild mushrooms help prevent?
  14. Wild mushrooms with more protein than an egg.
  15. Why wild mushrooms are more nutrient-rich than store-bought.

Spoke content is a great place to address long-tail queries like the question “is chicken of the woods the same as hen of the woods?” These pieces of spoke content will be linked throughout the resource guide. 

Creating graphics that highlight or summarize an aspect of the resource guide and placing it in the guide provides something that a reader can easily share. Then you have a visual to share on your social media when it’s time to promote that guide!

How Resource Guides Can Help Boost Authority

This approach to resource guides organizes and clusters your content while also improving internal linking. Linking intentionally between resources will provide multiple pathways for Google and users to explore the breadth of expert content your site has to offer.

A few words of warning: Although these resource guides will link out to several different “spoke” pieces of content, be sure that there is a substantial amount of content guide itself. We want this page to be an in-depth resource on its own, one with plenty of information and content that can rank for relevant queries and provide value for users. We don’t want it to end up with just a few paragraphs of content and a long list of links.

Credentialed Content Creators

In the Quality Rater Guidelines, Google instructs the quality rater to look at the author’s expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. As we mentioned before, you want to make all E-A-T signals extremely clear and easy to find. We suggest showcasing contributors, employees, and their qualifications on a page on a prominent page that’s easy to find. 

You want to mention qualifications while focusing on those most relevant to your industry or the website content pieces with their name on them. Some things to include under qualifications:

  • Degrees and additional education.
  • Certifications and awards.
  • Number of years in the relevant field.
  • Interviews or mentions on other websites.
  • Volunteer experience.

Putting this page in the main navigation will help Google’s quality raters and users find it easily.

Creating an internal linking strategy around these pages will also help. For example, if there is a class page taught by one of your employees, you should add a link to the page with their credentials (and vice versa).

Hire Experts

Freelance writers have helped many businesses stay consistent with their blog posting (I used to be one of them). However, many businesses are finding that having a freelance writer with no subject-matter expertise research a topic and write about it may not be a strong enough signal to Google that a page has expertise or authority. Hiring experts to write for you is more expensive and requires more legwork to find the right writer, but it results in rich, informative website content and builds relationships with experts in your industry. It also helps to create another authoritative contributor page mentioned above.

Business Listing

Business listings serve many purposes, especially for businesses that also have brick-and-mortar stores or service areas. These listings drive traffic to your website while also helping your audience and Google understand your business and website better. According to Moz, “Local business listings and citations play a vital role in reputation, rankings, and revenue.”

Here is the process I would go through to get started with business listings:

  1. Audit your website’s current listings using a tool like Yext or Moz Local to see if there are any that you were not aware of. I have seen business listings for client’s businesses that do not link back to their website. 
  2. Gain control of existing listings that you aren’t already managing.
  3. Make a sheet of websites to create new listings for.

One powerful and free business listing (especially businesses with a physical location or service areas) is Google My Business (GMB). GMB serves as both a business listing and a social media, making it great for building authority. 

Your business may already have a GMB profile that Google has created based on what they can find about your business online. However, you should claim your GMB profile so that you can optimize it, keep it up to date, and share posts. If your business does not have a GMB profile, they are simple to set up, and the verification process can be done either by getting a postcard sent to your store’s physical location or with your business phone number. 

Having a built-out GMB profile for your business and its locations helps increase your site’s visibility. It also keeps users and potential customers up-to-date with the latest information about your business, like coupons and hours, and it’s a place where users can leave and read reviews. 

As far as building trust, I think keeping your hours updated on Google My Business is such an overlooked aspect of good customer service that is really simple to do. On the subject of building authority online, changing these hours may not directly impact how Google sees your site, but it may impact the reviews you get and your customers’ positive experience of your brand.

I think the world would be a better place if every business kept their GMB profile updated, especially with changing hours and COVID-19 updates.

Social Media

In my opinion, most businesses are focused on the wrong aspect of social media.

Most business’ strategies for how to use organic social media (not paid ads) boil down to something like: post 3 times a week.

By focusing on the posting aspect, many businesses forget the social part.

Let’s step away from business for a moment just to focus on people with a common interest. Imagine that you are really into wildlife photography, and you round up a bunch of people for a campfire night to talk about wildlife photography. 

But when your guests show up, there is a stage, a microphone, and a rehearsed presentation of your portfolio and stories. Then when you are finished, you leave no room for questions and end the event. You may have had an excellent presentation, but those people came to have conversations — with each other, as well as with you. 

Now, what does this have to do with social media for your business? Like an in-person event, you want the interaction to be enjoyable, causing the attendees to return and tell their friends to attend.

Let’s sum it up with this mantra:My social media strategy will include the usual content promotion, data-driven decisions, researching and trying out new ideas, but above all, hanging out with my people.

Social media for your business is just hanging out with your people and sharing things (resource guides, blog posts, sales, relevant content from other industry leaders) that they might be interested in. The language needs to come out of an organic interest in the subject. If you’re passionate about something, you want to create spaces for conversation; just like at a party, you want to make sure you don’t spend the whole time just talking about yourself.

People often talk about creating engaging posts but forget to engage.

So, does having a social media presence impact your authority online?

Not on its own, but it is part of the process of leveraging social media to build an online reputation, which increases your ability to acquire backlinks organically. Sites can’t link to your site if they don’t know who you are. Social media is where you can meet your people, hang out and get them talking about your business.

Once someone reaches your social media, you need to have somewhere for them to go.

There are a variety of ways to send users to your site via social media:

  • Twitter: Directly linked in a tweet, in your bio, and in comments to other tweets.
  • Facebook: directly linked in a post, on your profile, and in comments to other posts.
  • Instagram: in the bio, and in the swipe up features for Instagram stories for some accounts. 

(FYI: Links placed in Instagram captions are NOT clickable, and doing so may give some users the impression that you don’t understand the platform, decreasing your credibility.) 

Clickable links on social media provide an excellent opportunity to lead your followers and visitors to your profile to learn more about resource guides, new blog posts, deals, new products, and so on.

These links merely provide a bridge of how to get users from your social media to your website. However, you need to get people to your social media for them to even get to the bridge. A lot of businesses do this with ads, but it can be done with organic social media through engagement!

The goal of engagement is to have more opportunities to get people in front of your content and get them interested in your business. Social media serves as the medium through which you can connect with your people, show them what your business is all about, foster a relationship, and drive them to your high-quality content. The more eyes you can get on your content, the more opportunities you have that bloggers and websites that align with your mission or industry will link to your high-quality content. 

Creating content that users want to share is key. That is why promoting your content is important, but it needs to be valuable content that users want to share (fortunately, we already did that in step one with our robust resource guides and in-depth content). Pull up the folder with your resource guide graphics, and let’s get social.

Here is a brief social media plan that won’t take too many resources but can help boost your authority:

  1. Engage with your audience and influencers. Respond to every comment and DM while following and interacting with relevant accounts. Your comments’ tone should be non-promotional, organic, warm/friendly, while also maintaining your brand voice.
  2. Create a consistent posting schedule. I put this after engagement because I want to emphasize the importance of engagement. If you have limited resources, switch up the posting three times a week to posting once a week and engaging for 10-15 minutes a day.
  3. Promote your website content in posts and stories. Make sure to include links to the content you are promoting in posts and update these links in places like social profile bios.

Does driving traffic from your social media to your website build authority? No, on its own, driving traffic to your site won’t build E-A-T or authority with search engines. However, engagement is a key component to building your online reputation. By connecting with your people, who are likely to share your content, you increase the likelihood of accruing links organically. 

Mentioning and engaging with influencers within your industry can also help you create relationships that may turn into backlinks. When you add this to your social media strategy, do yourself a favor and include using a tool like SparkToro to explore within your audience’s interests and find influencers and businesses. Making sure that the influencers’ audience lines up with your audience is key, and this tool makes that easy.

Of course, there is a lot more that can be done on your social media to increase ROI, brand awareness, engagement, and so on. However, not every business has the resources for a more time-consuming social media strategy. These three steps above are focused on simple ways to build authority with social media.

Building authority online is just like everything in SEO; there really are no guarantees. You should still be actively working to market your site online in other ways, including attracting inbound links; however, these steps will do a lot to boost your reputation with both your target audience and with search engines like Google.

Written by
Mike founded UpBuild in 2015 and served as its CEO for seven years, before passing the torch to Ruth Burr Reedy. Mike remains with the company today as Head of Business Operations.

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