What is an Authority?

If you thought a link would drive targeted traffic, lead to additional readers, and perhaps lead to other editorial citations would that be an easy way to define an authority link? Before the Google Florida Update I was ranking at ~ #6 for search engine marketing even though I really didn't know much about the topic. Within 9 months of being on the web, and on a few hundred dollars of ad spend I had a ranking that I soooo did not deserve (thank you primitive search technology!!!). After the Florida Update my then low grade link spam was rendered ineffective.

When the Florida update happened I read everything I could about it and started testing pages to see why I though they dropped. Danny Sullivan mentioned my article in one of his articles. Before he mentioned me in his article I basically got told two words when asking for links fuck and off. After Danny mentioned me, many of the sites which brushed me away were more willing to link to my sites.

After I noticed a few citations driving good traffic I thought that while I had a bit of credibility, a few minutes of mindshare, and the decent traffic that goes with it, that I ought to consider that ripe time to hunt down more well trusted authoritative links. And it was exceptionally easy. Some people who would generally reject me in the past said things like "Oh, you are that Aaron. We will get your link up today."

Within a few month my other site was again ranking for search engine marketing. Through that one article and the authoritative links it made possible I gained the authority I lacked. (Note: About a year later that site ranking later dropped a good bit likely due to a lack of anchor text diversity and me spending most of my time promoting this site as a stronger brand).

The amount of information is growing much faster than the available attention to consume it. There is far greater opportunity during periods of instability, as long as you allow yourself the flexibility to be able to read the market and are willing to be wrong with what you say. And if you find some type of success it is important to build off that success while the iron is still hot.

The weak point of the top reporters is not laziness, but vanity. You don't pitch stories to them. You have to approach them as if you were a specimen under their all-seeing microscope, and make it seem as if the story you want them to run is something they thought of themselves.

Our greatest PR coup was a two-part one. We estimated, based on some fairly informal math, that there were about 5000 stores on the Web. We got one paper to print this number, which seemed neutral enough. But once this "fact" was out there in print, we could quote it to other publications, and claim that with 1000 users we had 20% of the online store market.

Stats are just arbitrary numbers used to make news sound well researched and legitimate.

Published: September 10, 2006 by Aaron Wall in seo tips


September 11, 2006 - 10:01am

An authoritive person is always an authority on a perticular subject.

But is it better to be in a newspaper with a large audience and a more general authority? Or is it better to be in an expert's whitepaper with some readers that has authority on a specific subject?

And what do you think search engines like better?

September 11, 2006 - 10:58am

I think that, like you posted, it doesn't have to be either / or ... you should get whichever you can.

Ensure you have a bit of both and then place more emphasis on whichever you would naturally get. This site will get more barber type links / topical expert links because of my personality and lack of polish. Some of my other sites might get more of the newspaper ones.

If your site is new and has no exposure at all it might be worth going after a few of the broad newspaper type links to build your core trust level, but after that I would probably spend more time working within the topical community.

September 11, 2006 - 11:18pm

I think that what you are getting at here (and in other posts) is that there is a very important human element to the web and that our marketing efforts should relate to that fact. We shouldn't get so caught up in the fact that search engines are based off of search algorithms as to lose site of the human element of marketing one's site online and how that human element can actual help our ratings in the search engines. Nice post (again)!


September 12, 2006 - 5:10am

When defining an authority, it boils down to a few things that make it trusted or authoratative. Link popularity, from the right neighborhoods/relevance, and the actual link text decide who's king of the hill.

As you illustrated rather well, it's similar to branding. Or building a relationship. The overall quality of contributions, nurturing, and time invested is what can take one from being on the map to being in a spotlight.

September 12, 2006 - 2:24pm

On a philosophical level, I believe that an authority is a few things. The most important one that I can foresee is "buy in". Without that, IMHO you have a long road ahead because if people can't buy in to what they are being told, the chance of becoming that authority is going to diminish and the likelihood of getting that link form someone who has a well established "buy in factor" is going to be next to impossible. IMHO buy in is an essential step to authority. When I read what you stated about getting that link from Danny prior to him posting that article, I immediately thought that Danny did not have that "buy in" at that time. Then over time he did have it and linked to you. All in all I think it is a long road for anyone that is striving to become an authority in whatever they market, but if you can get the buy in, you will get there a lot quicker. /end morning babblings :)

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