5 Ways to Build Your Online Authority and Expand Your Readership

You’ve set up a blog, written some pillar content, and started tinkering with social media, but the traffic isn’t exactly pouring in.

So, what comes next?

Building an online platform for your book is no easy task.  But by establishing yourself as an authority in your niche early on, you’ll be able to build a strong online reputation and increase your blog’s reach.

An authority is defined as a trusted source of information and a recognized expert in a particular subject.  When you become a voice of authority online, your blog will receive more traffic, earn more links, and attract more readers.

Here are 5 ways to get started:

1. Create Highly Useful Content

The great thing about blog content is that it does most of the talking for you by demonstrating your expertise.

To maximize your blog content’s effectiveness, do some research to find out what kind of information your target audience craves and then deliver that information in your posts.  Tutorials and “how to” blog posts work particularly well.

When you focus on teaching, people are naturally attracted to your blog because they feel like they’re learning something every time they read your content.  So, if you consistently provide useful, quality content, your authority status will start to grow organically.

2. Network and Connect with Your Target Audience

What others say about you is more important than what you say about yourself.

Therefore, rather than writing “me, me, me” content and hanging out in your own corner of the web, get out there and start connecting with like-minded people who’ll help you spread the good word about your blog.

To discover your target audience, you can:

  • Comment on other blogs
  • Participate actively in forums
  • Follow people who share similar interests on Twitter
  • Join a mastermind or accountability group
  • Guest post on other blogs in your niche

Not only will networking help you drive more traffic to your site and build a stronger online presence, it will help you make more online friends, who’ll eagerly promote your content.

3. Invest in a Professionally Designed Website

The cliché that content is king still applies, but that doesn’t mean you can get away with blogging on a free Blogger template forever.  Okay, so some people can, but they are exceptions to the rule.  Design matters.

A professional, visually appealing site will increase people’s trust in your content because it will show them that you take your craft seriously.  If you take a look at the websites of authority bloggers, you’ll notice that virtually all of them have a memorable, customized design.  Just as products with attractive packaging win consumers, blogs with attractive, professional-looking designs win readers.

4. Improve Your Site’s SEO

If you’ve been avoiding SEO, you’re missing an essential piece of the online platform building puzzle.  Think about it this way: your blog won’t grow if people can’t find your content.  When your blog’s content ranks well on the search engines, people will be able to find it more easily.

Your readers aren’t the only ones who love authority; the search engines do, too.  Google measures a site’s authority based on the quantity and quality of its backlinks (links to your website on other websites).

To accumulate more valuable backlinks, you can submit guest posts with a link back to your site to other blogs, submit your URL to reputable directories, and add your URL to forum signatures.  SEO also goes hand in hand with networking; the more people you have in your online network, the more links your content will get.

To improve your website’s “on-page” SEO, incorporate target keywords into your content, title tags, and description tags.  If you’re not confident in your ability to optimize your content for target keywords, consider using an SEO copywriting tool like Scribe.  Premium WordPress themes like Thesis and Frugal and WordPress’s SEO Pack plug-in simplify the process of creating SEO-friendly title tags and description tags.

5. Optimize Your Site for Social Proof

Remember the old saying, “Monkey see, monkey do?”  That’s social proof in a nutshell.

According to the theory of social proof, people seek affirmation and validation from those around them before they act.  So, that means people who visit your website will examine existing public opinion to determine whether or not they should trust your content.

You can make social proof work to your advantage by displaying the positive actions and/or opinions of others on your website.  For example, you can display:

  • Logos of websites and media sources where you’ve been mentioned
  • Testimonials from clients or people in your niche
  • Twitter testimonials
  • Twitter follower counter
  • RSS feed subscriber counter
  • Number of monthly visitors your site receives
  • Awards you’ve won
  • Top commenters or latest comments

So, what are you waiting for?  Start implementing these tips to slowly but surely increase your blog’s reach and influence.  All authors who build online platforms start at zero, but there’s no doubt that those who actively work to increase their authority and expand their readership grow their blogs at a much faster rate.

Can you think of other ways to build online authority and expand your readership?  If so, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Kathleen O’Connor is the founder of O’Copy, a web copywriting service for online businesses.  Follow O’Copy on Twitter or check out the O’Copy blog for more online business building tips and insight.

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  1. This is a helpful post, boy do I still have a great deal to learn.

    You made the following suggestions to “discover your target audience.”
    Comment on other blogs
    Participate actively in forums
    Follow people who share similar interests on Twitter
    Join a mastermind or accountability group
    Guest post on other blogs in your niche

    As you explain, these actions bring me people that do things similar to what I do. How might I also get the target audience to include those folks that I hope will use my services and buy my book, when it comes out.

    Are you saying that by building this network of peers I am in fact bringing “ProNagger fans” to my site?

    Thanks again, so glad I found this post.
    .-= Rachel Z Cornell´s last blog ..Winston Churchill said: “If you are going through hell, keep going.” =-.

  2. Hi Rachel,

    Thank you for the comment. I think that when you take these actions, it’s helpful to focus on building a network that consists of both your peers AND your target customers, if you think that they’re 2 distinct groups.

    Are the people who are attracted to your blog content different from the people that buy your services? If your primary goal is to attract customers through your blog, it may be helpful to write your posts with your target customer in mind.

    On the other hand, the advantage of making the effort to connect with people in your niche is that your potential customers will come to see you as an authority in your field. For example, a blog like freelanceswitch.com is aimed at freelancer designers/writers, even though the primary blogger is a designer. But by establishing himself as an expert among his peers, the blogger earns his target customers’ trust.

    It’s good to think about exactly who your target audience is, what they read, where they hang out, etc. You can leave thoughtful comments where they hang out in order drive targeted traffic to your site. I am a copywriter and my blog targets business owners, not copywriters, because I chose to focus my efforts on attracting the attention of my target customer rather than my peers. But some bloggers write for their peers and find success with that. Getting exposure through guest posting on blogs where their target customers DO hang out is probably one way that they spread the word about their services.

    Hope this helps!
    .-= Kathleen O’Connor´s last blog ..What Krispy Kreme Fever in Japan Can Teach You about Selling with Social Proof =-.

  3. Kathleen,
    Very helpful, thank you. I think I’m on the right path.
    .-= Rachel Z Cornell´s last blog ..Winston Churchill said: “If you are going through hell, keep going.” =-.

  4. Super useful, Kathleen, thank you!
    .-= Sonia Simone´s last blog ..The Spooky Secret to Designing Your Perfect Business =-.

  5. Great explanation & summary, Kathleen!

    Social proof – how do you work that when you are exploring new paths that may not yet be supported by the mainstream?

  6. Thanks, Sonia and Birdy!

    Birdy – I think that displaying any form of recognition is fine, even if it’s not directly related to what you’re selling/marketing. For example, I noticed that on the site, fluentself.com, Havi displays logos of famous media sources where she’s been mentioned. However, those mentions aren’t about the work she’s selling through her site; they’re about her yoga practice. Either way, they are an effective form of social proof.

    Also, just showing that other people appreciate your work is effective, even if it’s not something mainstream! Social proof works, even if people aren’t exactly sure what’s being sold. I just wrote a post on my blog about social proof in Japan, where many people wait in line to buy things, even when they aren’t sure what’s being sold at the front of the line. They simply decide to buy something when they see a long line. So, even if a vendor is selling monkey brains, more people will be enticed to buy it if they notice that many others are doing it. And since you’re not selling monkey brains, I’m sure you’ll fare much better! ;)

    • Ah… thank’ee’s! That explains a lot. :-)

      And since you’re not selling monkey brains, I’m sure you’ll fare much better! ;)

      *hee!* Thank’ee’s! I certainly hope so! :-D

  7. Guest blogging goes a long way to help building your authority. Just think if someone has never heard of you, but one day they are reading one of their favorite blogs and there you are! Or if someone sees your name on several different sites they enjoy perusing. You’ve now increased your exposure and put yourself in their mind as someone whose opinion in that particular industry is valued. It’s a great idea all around, and helps boost your SEO as well.
    .-= Kristi´s last blog ..My Favorite 2010 Search & Social Awards Nominees =-.

  8. Neil Macdonald says:

    Hi Kathleen,
    I think I’ll take your advice and comment :)

    Good advice, thanks. I like the idea of an accountability group.

    This was my first time here. You were RTed on twitter by @kikolani who I follow…sooo you wrote an article…it was RTed to kiko’s followers…. I saw it..read and liked it..now I am going to RT it…some of my followers may RT it again…..and so on…and so on.
    The power of social networks is unbelievable

    I remember when you would go to groups and hand out business cards to network.

    See you around.


  9. Kristi – Totally! Some people have built their businesses from the ground up with guest posting alone. It’s a highly effective way to improve your site’s SEO, drive traffic to your site, and network! I just relaunched my site, so it’s definitely going to be a part of my strategy. I also noticed with myself that I start to pay more attention to people after seeing them around EVERYWHERE: guest posting, commenting, tweeting, etc. It definitely helps to be all over the place, although it’s time-consuming to acheive it.

    Neil – Isn’t it awesome? I have never been to an offline networking event, so I’m curious about how that works! :o) I guess I’m an armchair networker at this point. I’ve met a lot of great people from joining an private membership group on the internet (specifically, the Remarkable Marketing Blueprint by Sonia Simone). That’s how I met Carole and got the opportunity to guest post on this blog!

  10. Great points re social proof. I sometimes wish this wasn’t so, but as humans we’re always looking to other people to see whether they like the same things we like.
    .-= Joe´s last blog ..Teaching Kids to be Entrepreneurs =-.

  11. Rachel,

    When I decided to start my blog, I sat down with these questions:

    1) Why am I doing the blog?
    2) Who am I trying to reach?
    3) What do I want the blog to accomplish? Goal.

    It is the same questions that businesses need to consider. A blog is a business. Most people now blog for business reasons vs creating an online diary. The answers help pin down the target audience.

    Those basic questions helped me structure what I need to do. My target audience isn’t online reading blogs. I have to develop support programs in the real world to bring them to the blog. I have to translate and create podcasts to make the material accessible to some of the women that I am trying to help.

    Knowing the business intent of the blog and setting realistic expectations of the progress will keep you sane and upbeat when you are trying to compare yourself to someone who has a different business model.
    .-= Kim Luu´s last blog ..Crackdown on Job Classification Coming Soon =-.