Search engine optimization (SEO) is an effective strategy to drive organic traffic to your website and boost brand awareness. SEO involves many different tactics that contribute to a high ranking and discovery, such as keyword research and link building.
One of the often-overlooked aspects of SEO is building links through thought leadership. With this tactic, you create quality inbound links from external sites that direct visitors to your website. The more links you can get from authoritative sites, the better your ranking will be.
What is Thought Leadership?
Thought leadership is a tactic to position yourself or your brand as the go-to expert on a particular topic. As you create content for blogs, websites, and digital publications, you’ll build a reputation as a leader in your niche.
Over time, people will come to think of you as the source of expertise and knowledge on a topic, which boosts your SEO.
Thought leadership takes many forms, including:
- Posting content to your own blog or social media
- Speaking at industry-specific conferences
- Writing guest blogs
- Sharing knowledge through YouTube interviews
- Being a guest on a podcast
- Being interviewed by industry publications
How to Build Thought Leadership
Becoming a thought leader is a dream of many, but it takes a lot of work and effort. Building a reputation takes time, but you can start on a great foundation with these strategies:
Choose Your Expertise
Thought leaders have expertise on a specific topic or industry. Even if you think you could be an expert on a diverse range of topics, it’s important to focus on one broad topic and related topic.
The more you narrow your focus, the faster you can earn a reputation as the go-to expert on that topic. Here are some things to consider in determining your best topic:
- What are your qualifications or background in the field?
- What subjects do you know inside and out?
- What could you talk about endlessly without boredom?
- What do people come to you to learn?
- What problems are you trying to solve?
The answers to these questions can help you choose the best topic to focus on. Consider what you enjoy and what people look for from you, because that’s exactly what value you have to offer for interviews, guest posts, or speaking engagements.
After you choose a topic, you can begin to plan your content. If you have a broad topic, such as ecommerce, you can create content that covers general questions like how to get started with an ecommerce store.
From there, you can drill down to create in-depth topics that fall under the same umbrella, such as blog posts on using Shopify for ecommerce or how to choose the best Shopify plan for your ecommerce business.
Whatever you choose, make sure the audience is the focus. You want to provide value to your audience, so consider how much knowledge your readers have on the topic. Do they need broad strokes or in-depth information? Do they have specific questions you can answer?
This can help you direct your content strategy and find the best topics for your audience, which will get you more engagement and a reputation as a source of valuable information.
You have your topic and your content, so it’s time to put it into action. Create your social media posts, blogs, guest posts, and videos about your topics. Try to stick to evergreen content, which is more likely to get external links from authoritative sources.
Think about your audience. How do your readers like to consume content? Are they younger with a preference for short videos on social media? Or will they read an industry publication? Focus your content on what the audience wants to see.
Work with Small Publications
Building authority and links can take time, so don’t be afraid to target smaller publications and venues at first. Niche audiences are passionate followers, so you have a better opportunity to engage them.
This can include:
- Guest posts for niche publications
- Questions and answers on Reddit communities or Quora
- Small podcasts
Ideally, the publication should have an audience roughly the size of your own. These niche publications tend to have a dedicated following and want to do the best for their audience, so they’re more likely to work with you.
Pitch publications to see how you can help and what content you can provide. Do your research and ensure that the publication is the best outlet for your content, however. Don’t pitch your broad topics to a niche audience with foundational knowledge, and likewise, don’t go into detail for audiences that need more surface-level content.
You may not always get a response to your pitch, but don’t give up. Some publications may not have the resources or the opening for what you have, but they may in the future. Work on building connections for the future, when the timing is better.
Don’t Get Discouraged
When you think of a thought leader, do you think of a person with advanced degrees and books on the bestseller list? While they may be thought leaders, these qualifications aren’t necessary for thought leadership.
Successful thought leaders build a reputation by being an expert on a topic. Whether they have formal education or impressive credentials isn’t as important as whether they can tap into an audience’s need and offer value.
You may fail the first few times, but don’t get discouraged. Once you commit to becoming a thought leader, you must keep trying and building your reputation and knowledge as you go.
Thought Leadership Best Practices
Like any other strategy, consistency is vital to successful thought leadership. You have to be consistent in the quality, frequency, and value you offer for your audience. People should be able to look forward to what you’re going to share and what they can learn.
The audience should always be the primary focus. Thought leadership isn’t about showing off, but giving the audience the help they need. Always consider how you can help the reader and solve their problems.
The more thought leadership content you create, the more authority you’ll gain. Brainstorm, research, and create regularly. You don’t have to post all the time, but consistent content will build your reputation.
Build Your Growth with Thought Leadership
SEO is challenging but thought leadership is one of the best tactics to boost your ranking and drive traffic to your website. Gaining a reputation as an expert takes time, work, and thought, but you can generate incredible growth in the long term.
Jason started freelancing in SEO back in college, sold his first agency, and now is 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.