As the internet gets more competitive, brands struggle to differentiate themselves and make an impression.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the best ways to boost your brand awareness and drive visitors to your site. SEO isn’t a quick or simple process, and a lot goes into getting a high ranking.
Link building is one of the most important aspects of SEO. This process includes creating quality inbound links that drive traffic to your website. As more authoritative sites link to you in their content, you climb up the search results.
Most link-building strategies are time-consuming and take a lot of work, but there is one surefire way to expand your organic reach: Thought leadership.
Understanding Thought Leadership
Thought leadership involves positioning your brand as an expert on an industry or topic. You provide content in your niche for websites and bloggers, which develops your reputation as a leader.
Over time, you’ll build a reputation as the source of valuable information about a topic. It also boosts your SEO.
Thought leadership can include:
- Interviews for publications
- Guest blogs
- Content creation for your channels
- Guest speaking at industry conferences
- Podcast or YouTube interviews
- Live broadcasts
- Content contributions to industry publications
Building Thought Leadership
Earning a reputation as a thought leader is highly coveted, but many don’t put in the time or effort to get that status.
Here are some strategies to build thought leadership:
Determine Your Expert Topic
Being a thought leader means having expertise on one topic. Even if you believe you know a wide range of topics, narrow your focus to become a thought leader on one overarching topic in your niche.
While you can leverage your knowledge in related areas, a narrow focus helps you gain a reputation as an authority on that particular one. Consider these questions to determine your best option:
- In what areas do people come to you for help?
- What problems are you trying to solve?
- What background do you have to be an expert?
- What could you talk about for hours?
- What subjects are you most familiar with?
These questions should help you narrow your focus. Think about what you like to talk about, what topics you prefer for your own content, and what value you may bring to an interview or guest post.
Once you have your focus, you can develop your content. For example: if your expertise is in finance, you could develop content around common questions like how to improve credit, smart financial decisions to make while you’re young, and how to manage a household budget.
Whatever topic you choose, make sure you know your target audience and what they can gain from you. How much knowledge do they have on the topic? Do they need beginner topics or more detailed content that expands on what they already know? Do they have specific problems you can address in your content?
Use these questions to guide your strategy and choose topics that your audience will enjoy as well as gain value from.
You have your content mapped out, so it’s time to create. Start making blog posts, social media campaigns, infographics, videos, and other content that will resonate with your audience. Keep the focus on evergreen content that can build links for your site.
Naturally, always keep the audience in mind. You want to provide value, so focus on what you can give your readers, not just what you want to say. If you give readers something they can use, they’re more likely to engage and share your content.
Link building takes time, so start small and create content about relevant, popular topics for niche audiences. This content may include:
- Podcasts with small audiences
- Guest posts for niche publications
- Speaking at local events
- Answering community questions on Quora
Limit your initial efforts to audiences that are around your brand’s audience size or smaller. Most small outlets have strong relationships with their audiences and will search for content that will provide value to them. This also means the audience will be more likely to engage with you.
Pitching is the best way to get your content out there. Reach out to publications and venues with your pitch and see what content they could use. If you’re successful, they may offer links to help your brand grow.
Not every pitch will get a response, and that’s okay. It’s a numbers game, so keep sending your pitches to different publications to see if you get a bite. Work on quality connections that can benefit you now and in the future.
Keep at It
Many people want to be thought leaders but believe it takes qualifications, massive followings, or bestsellers. Not all thought leaders have these on their resumes, however.
Thought leaders gain their reputation by being an authority on something. It doesn’t matter if they have formal education or wrote the book on the subject – it’s about whether they can share their expertise and influence others.
You may fail a few times before you gain traction, but don’t give up. Commit to becoming a thought leader and building your reputation while you learn more about your niche.
Best Practices for Thought Leadership
Like any other strategy, thought leadership takes fine-tuning and planning. There are several best practices for thought leadership.
However, consistency is the most important aspect of any thought leadership strategy. You must be consistent with the quality, value, and frequency of your content. Followers should look forward to what you have to offer, but they can’t do that if you’re posting sporadically.
Keep the reader at the forefront. Thought leadership isn’t about you – it’s about solving a problem for your audience. Think about how you can help the reader and develop your ideas around that.
One of the best aspects of thought leadership is that the more you create, the more authoritative you’ll become. Determine a schedule for brainstorming, researching, creating, and sharing content. You don’t have to post constantly – just make sure that you’re consistent.
If you struggle to find time to pitch publications, create a few templates with blanks to fill in specifics like the editor or journalist’s name. You’ll only have to change a few details, making it faster and more convenient to send out pitches regularly.
Fuel Growth with Thought Leadership
Thought leadership is an often-overlooked aspect of growing your brand and boosting organic traffic. However, building a reputation takes time, so you have to put the work in to see the long-term gains. As you get your name out there, you’ll continue to grow your authority and recognition.
Jason started freelancing in SEO back in college, sold his first agency, and now is the founder of Zupo, which is an Orange County-based SEO consulting agency helping construct powerful long-term SEO strategies for our clients. Jason also enjoys multiple cups of tea a day, hiding away on weekends, catching up on reading, and rewatching The Simpsons for the 20th time.