Competitive plans for authority blogging call for a more than just a rudimentary anti-competition strategy. With information flowing freely across the blogosphere now, you’ll have noticed that only the very best blogs are getting noticed or read in each niche. But how do you tell which are the “best” blogs in your niche? There are over 3 million or more blog posts being created everyday. The first problem is identifying your true competitors. The second problem is seeing what they are doing better than you. The third problem is taking rear-guard action fast.
Remember, it’s not enough that you are consistently producing great posts … you have to get an idea of what the evolving public tastes are like in your niche and which of your competitors is best providing that fodder to the target audiences and making your efforts look like less than ideal. If you’re looking to create an authority blog, competitor analysis can help you in two other ways too: one, you can take inspiration from the positive attributes of your competition (and thus beat them at their own game!); and two, you can avoid their mistakes.
All of the above is possible, though, only if you are always (repeat, always!) tuned in to what the competitors are doing. Once you see what their game is, you can easily plan a counter-strategy. Most bloggers, however, fail to watch out pro-actively, and therefore lose their market-hold by default, just because they were so preoccupied with themselves and did not have an ear to the ground.
Step #1: Understand the practical uses for competitive analysis
Before we go into exactly how to do seriously good competitor analysis, let’s take a moment to see what we can gain (and should aim to gain) from knowing and understanding our competitors. It helps to understand what exactly we hope to achieve by keeping an eye on the market and its players.
There can be many reasons why you, as an authority blogger, are tempted to take stock of your competitors. You may want to know what’s going on around you, who is making a mark, who has fallen in the popularity stakes, and whether the blog-writing trends have been reshaped by some new players in your space. But beyond just casual interest in your niche and its contributors, it helps to have some strategic reasons for keeping tabs on your competitors and trying to decipher their methods. How seriously you take your competitors is a measure of how seriously you take your target audiences and your own blogging.
Here are what I think of as the big four uses of competitive analysis that can sharpen your authority-blogging game. These are by no means the only ways you can use competitor analysis to your advantage. As you develop competitor watching skills, more ideas of how to use your market intelligence to your advantage will occur to you. But whatever else you hope to gain from competitor-tracking, these four points, according to my experience, need to be always held in mind.
1. Use competitive analysis to identify your own strategy’s strengths and weaknesses
Quite often, you may do a lot of initial research about yourself and your audiences to find your own strategy’s strengths and weaknesses. But it pays to understand that you can only be as strong as your competitors will allow you to be, and likewise, you can only be as weak as your competitors are themselves weak. In other words, strengths and weaknesses of strategy are relative to your competitors. You may often find that what you thought of as a weakness in yourself could turn out to be a strength in the market – or vice versa. For example, let’s say you see your “lack of aggressive brand tone of voice” as a strategic weakness. But in a market full of loud-voiced, hard-selling competitors, your subtle, nuanced tone of voice could sound like a breath of fresh air to the audiences, and add to your perceived value as a “non-needy, non-crass” respectable authority. The moral: revisit your strategy in terms of strengths and weaknesses against competition to see your true market position.
2. Use competitive analysis to understand what topics interest your audiences currently
It’s not always possible to engage in full-scale research all the time to keep abreast of the evolution of the tastes and preferences of your target audiences. You will find that audiences are a moving target. They change rather fast with time and trends. One great way of keeping up with them is to keep up with what your competitors are writing about, and with good social research tools you can see which types of articles are being liked, shared or linked to by target audiences. It’s thus possible to use competitor research to spend less time and money on audience research!
3. Use competitive analysis to protect the market gap you are exploiting
It invariably happens that when people start their blogs they spend a lot of time identifying the market gap. The market gap is the space available to you to enter the market. It’s a space uncovered by any competitor and therefore available to you to exploit via your own niche selection, or the selection of topics you want to write about. For example, in your initial research you may find that all your competitive “fashion expert” bloggers are writing about Western style clothing, but the area of ethnic couture is uncovered – and you may select this as a niche. So far so good, right? But beware of the complacence that sets in thereafter.
If you take your eye off the competitors, you may not even notice that a few new bloggers have started eating into your ethnic clothing space, and are, in fact, carving out areas within that niche that are the most profitable. What do you do, if you are having to now fight harder in those highly profitable areas they have quietly arrogated, leaving your traffic and income depleted?
It’s very hard to re-capture lost market gaps, so that’s why it’s a better strategy to ensure that you identify the areas in your niche you would like to run away with early in your strategy. Once you’ve identified pockets of profitability in your niche, you have to create enough content in these areas as your first priority – so that your range and reach in these profitable areas acts as a “barrier to entry” for newbie bloggers.
The recipe for success: keep your eye, early in your blogging life, on the most profitable ends of your niche, and write prolifically in these areas, covering as much ground as you can, as fast as you can – so it becomes hard for anyone new in the space to try and catch up.
4. Use competitive analysis to protect your unique selling point from attack
Your unique selling point (or USP) is what differentiates you from competitors. You have to be extremely alert to see if any competitors are trying one of these three anti-USP strategies: one, they may be trying to steal your USP; two, they may be trying to subtly re-position your USP; three, they may be trying to publicly decry your USP. Let’s look at these three scenarios in a bit of detail.
If a competitor is trying to steal your USP, you have to be fairly fast in exposing the culprit. Let’s say, your USP is that you have the most experience in the market in eco-friendly home solutions. If you have not overtly said so in your tagline, a competitor with half your experience may get away with saying he has the most experience in this line in the market. It’s often too late to be trying to seal your barn doors, after the horse has bolted. That’s why when you plan your USP initially, you have to plan for its long-term relevance – and also plan for likely attempts to steal it away from you. Locate your USP and reinforce the proposition unassailably from the get-go.
Secondly, watch if any competitor is re-positioning you subtly and thus promoting himself. For instance, again, let’s say you are a very experienced expert with over 35 years in a particular field. An upstart blogger could easily “reposition” you as “an expert from old times” and market himself as “more cutting-edge than you”. Once you spot this, it’s easy to counter this claim with a counter-repositioning of this new guy as a “loud-mouthed newbie with low experience”. But unless you are constantly watching out, you can’t use this counter-strategy, right? Being aware of such tricks is nine-tenths of the game, countering the strategy is one-tenth of the game.
Thirdly, watch if a competitor is openly decrying you as a brand. You may find that he or she is deliberately contradicting your articles or frequently questioning your point of view – or generally making his objections to your brand heard – overtly or subtly – in the social media. Decrying you is one clever way of actually piggy-backing on your popularity to find the shortest cut to visibility. How do you counter this? The answer is fairly easy … provided, again, that your ears are to the ground and you catch the negative game fast. Don’t react or reply to the competitor as yourself. Instead, see if you can get a few of your trusted followers to challenge his view and write in your favor. Never make the mistake of engaging the openly competitive and denigrating competitor. It’s what he’s spoiling for – a one-on-one fight with you, so he can look like the guy with more muscles. Instead, refuse to stoop to trading viewpoints with the vindictive ones, and show the strength of your hand by showing how many followers your opinion has! Show him that he is just one man against an army of loyalists you have that closes ranks around you.
- Why Your Competitors Are The Best Friends You Have by Alasdair Inglis (@wearegrow)
- Competitor Analysis and Competitive Intelligence by Martin Luenendonk (@EntreInsights)
- How Researching Competitors Can Improve Your Blog Content by Ian Cleary (@IanCleary)
Step #2: Use the many tools to spy on your competition
Try “googling” the keywords “spying on competitors” and you’re sure to find long lists of spying tools. It’s very common for bloggers to believe that the spying tools are the key to spying on competitors. The problem with this approach is that your spying is not a 360-degree effort. You get limited by the tools you use, and most of them help you spy on just one or two things. Half knowledge can be dangerous when trying to fathom the strategies of your competitors.
It would be a a far better approach to make a list of things you want to find out about competition and then find the tools that best serve the items on your list. Also when you are spying on a competitor always do a parallel analysis of where you are vis-a-vis the competitor on your judgment criteria.
There are many tools that help you track and monitor competition, but my pick of the best 9 tools would be these:
Ahrefs is an immensely popular tool. If you must have just one tool, this one is it. Ahref has a collection of features to improve your search traffic, research your competitors and monitor your niche. It helps you to learn why your competitors are ranking so high and what you need to do to outrank them. Speaking from my personal experience, Ahrefs also offers excellent customer service. Tim Soulo, the Founder, also has a great YouTube video series called Oversimplified SEO where he makes spying on competitors uber easy.
The easiest way to check your bad links and your competitor’s good links. Monitor Backlinks shows you the links your competitors are getting, and it also sorts the information by domain ranking and whether the links are do follow or not. That’s a lot of really useful detail You can ensure you get reports sent to your email inbox when new links are discovered.
SEM Rush is another popular tool among online marketers. As it claims, it’s an all-in-one tool that covers SEO, Paid Traffic, Social Media and Content and PR. After you enter a competitor’s URL, you get more than just information like organic keywords, search rankings, and ad keywords. You’ll also get competitors’ traffic and cost, and it’s all in an easily readable graph format.
You don’t need to spend time manually entering competitive URLs every week to get continuous updates ontheir performance. You can set up SpyFu to get regular updates about organic and paid searches enjoyed by competitors. SpyFu is not a very inexpensive tool, but nevertheless it may seem viable since you’ll get comprehensive keyword data about all your competitors, including how much they are paying for their PPC campaigns.It saves you a lot of time doing keyword research yourself.
What Runs Where gives you substantial information about your competitors’ advertising campaigns so you can get more information about what keywords to target and what kind of budget you need to be effective. Since What Runs Where monitors over 40 ad networks (and growing), you’ll get loads of valuable and current information about your where competitors are targeting audience segments.
Moz is by far the leader in search marketing, and its tool, Open Site Explorer is ideal for many different types of online brands. Most importantly Open Site Explorer shows you the links your competitors are getting, as well as the page and domain authority (DA) of those who are linking to them. It also gives you the exact anchor text for these incoming links to competitor sites. This is a goldmine for you, if you would like to target the same link givers.
There’s still nothing like Alexa to get major insights into the overall page health of your own site and those of your competitors. Alexa shows you statistics like the traffic and conversions your competitors get, their bounce rate, their daily page views per visitor, their average time spent on the site, and a lot of demographic and geographic data. Use Alexa to get a complete overview of the health of your competitor. Many competitors may fudge their traffic figures, but a small peek at Alexa will reveal all.
Simply Measured gives you an extensive array of information about competitors. You can get almost 35 different reports about a site, including traffic, conversion rates, social media stats, trends, and more. This is one of the most expensive tools available online, but it will give you a n ultra-comprehensive overview of any competitor site.
iSpionage allows you to get keyword information about your competitors for both Google and Bing performance. You’ll learn what your competitors are spending on paid search, and also find out their most effective advertising copy. A graphical interface make it easy for you to find the best performing keywords for your competitors and more. More than just stealing your competitors’ traffic, you can uncover their conversion strategy.
- How to be the James Bond of the Web: 37 Best Marketing Tools to Spy on Your Competitors by Chris Kilbourn (@ChrisKilbourn)
- 15 Awesome Tools for SEO Competitor Analysis by Irena Weber (@irinaweber048)
- 10 Ways to Spy on Competition (Like They’re Spying On You) by Barry Moltz (@barrymoltz)
Step #3: Get a framework to audit competitive content
What goes into a competitive content audit? It’s often not enough to use tools to spy on competitors, and just get the numbers on your competitors performance. It’s equally important to also evaluate your competitors’ content based on qualitative factors. Most of the numbers you get on competitor performance are usually associated with SEO-related items – such as backlinks, Google rankings, traffic, conversions and so on. You also get numbers for social shares, likes, and followers. But does that ever give you a “feel” of what the competitor’s style and quality are like?
Where numbers alone can’t tell the whole story, it’s important to become a reader of your competitors to be able to get a gauge of the competitors’ content standards and consistency. The simplest way to become a judge of your competitors blogging quality is to subscribe to their mailing lists or RSS feeds, and get alerted every time there is an addition to their blogs.
There are primarily four factors related to content quality I would be interested in knowing about any competitor:
Quality content is that which is of the appropriate reading length for both the consumer and Google, has good supportive visual aids to enhance the copy, is immaculate on grammar without being overfussy or pedantic, has cogency and coherence in thought and layout, is readable and understandable for the audiences you have in mind, links to great and enriching other sources of content, and is clearly written by someone who has the necessary depth and professional experience to claim authority status. Also remember that quality is not what the authors consider to be quality, but what the audience considers to be quality. So when you look at competitor content quality, don’t judge it from your perspective as a blogger, but instead put yourself in audiences’ shoes!
Content variety includes two kinds of variety: a variety of subject matter and a variety of supplementary media.
Is your competitor writing on a broad range of ideas in your niche or is he getting stuck with just a few concepts and going around them in circles. A seriously good competitor is one who seems to make a conscious effort to widen the scope of topics he writes about every day, because getting locked on the same topics can easily become a habit. (That’s one of the reasons why it pays to calendarize your blog topics well before-hand, so you too can include a good mix of subjects to write about.)
Also, is the competitor supplementing his content with a rich variety of images, charts and graphs, videos, slide decks, infographics and other media? Visual content largely outperforms pure-text content. Visually enriched blog posts get more inbound links, social media shares, and attentive reading. Statistics show that almost 40% of people respond better to visual information and multimedia content has been known to be shared up to 12X more than text content. Also, see if your competitor is using visuals to really add to content value … or is he simply padding up empty space with visual fluff?
In the blogosphere, content has to be seen as widely abounding in relevant places and contexts. With broader reach you can be seen around a lot, but without broad and focused reach, you can be seen by a lot of people who don’t matter. That’s why it pays to carefully choose where you want your guest posts and social updates to be seen. If you are merely looking for highly-rated backlinks from big sites like the Huffington Post or Forbes, but these sites are not a right match for your specific target audience, your being visible in the wrong places achieves nothing much. The same goes for your competitors. When checking on a competitor’s reach and dispersion of content, see if the competitor is in the places where it impacts your specific target audiences. Don’t get envious just because the competitor is guest-posting for high DA sites that are irrelevant to your niche.
To judge the engagement levels of target audiences with your competitor sites, look at the number of blog comments, the time spent by readers on pages and posts, the bounce rate, the number of subscribers, or the shares and retweets of social updates. Experts suggest that you look at the three A’s of competitor content engagement:
- Applause (how have people liked or approved of what is written).
- Amplification (how much have readers wanted to share and reach your content out to others).
- Articulation (how much have readers felt moved enough to comment on articles, engage in active conversation online and add their two bits on the social media).
- How to do a Competitive Content Audit to Beat Your Competition by Michael Ferrari (@MikePFerrari)
- Size up the competition with a competitive content audit by Keesia Wirt (@KeesiaWirt)
- How To Do a Content Audit – Step-by-Step by Everett Sizemore McKee (@balibones)
Step #4: Nuance your brand positioning versus competition
Most of us in marketing will remember that the original definition of brand positioning was given to us by Reis and Trout’s bestselling book “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” – the idea was (and partially still is) that brand positioning is the process of finding a unique position for your your brand in the mind of your customers. Since those early days, however, the definition of brand positioning has evolved. The two realities that hit most marketers, especially those in fiercely competitive online markets, are these: one, positioning is no longer something you do to the customer’s mind, but instead, is also conditioned by how the customer chooses to perceive you, in the context of his needs; and two, positioning is not something any single marketer can create in a vacuum — because the market is choc-a-bloc with competitors, the whole positioning game is, in a sense, a co-authored creation with the competitors. In other words, the mind-state of the consumer and the game-plan of the competitor now have a greater say in how you want to position yourself, than they ever had before.
With more complexity now coming into the positioning game, positioning has become all about nuancing. Very often, your brand difference may hinge on the smallest and most finely chiselled differences you can establish in the consumer’s mind about how you are more valuable than a competitor.
Previously in any brand positioning statement, chances are we may have thought to find answers for three or four questions, at most:
- Who is the customer, and what is his problem?
- What is our product, and how does it solve the customer’s problem?
- Who else offers what we do to the same customer, and what do they do to solve the customer’s problem?
- Where is the market gap where we can show that we can solve the customer’s problem better than competition?
In the positioning nuancing we have to do these days, at least fifteen to twenty different questions need to be answered before we can detect an ultra-fine differential that elevates us above competition. So if you are stymied by a market thronging with competitors, it’s worth asking yourself a lot of “what, when, where, why, and how questions” to find that “needle in a haystack” that can become your unique differential. In finding this differential, do remember, though, that even if it’s a small difference, it has to have the ability to make sense to the customer over a long time. Though the difference be small, it has to be sharp enough to create an impact, and durable enough to last for the long haul.
Further, once you’ve got the positioning nuance that makes positive sense to you and your customer (and escapes the eye of your competitor), the game doesn’t unfortunately end there. In the online authority blogging markets, the hard part is in the implementation of such finely nuanced positioning. Since the difference between you and your competitor may be very minor, you should use every small opportunity you get to reinforce your positioning to customers. To be able to do this, you have to get together a list of all your brand’s touch-points (i.e. points of interaction) with your customers. Then with a critical and intuitive eye, you have to ask yourself two questions:
- How can I ensure I communicate my brand’s desired position to each potential customer via each touchpoint?
- Is there coherence in the way my brand positioning is reflected through all the many touch-points? Do they all add to the cogency of my brand positioning – or do they sound, look or behave disparately?
There’s a a reason why these two questions can make or break your brand in the online world. The blogosphere, especially, is a non-linear world, where consumer journeys and their touch-points of with your brand and with competitors needn’t follow a straight and simple line. With the plethora of communication channels, technologies, devices and formats for content, no blogger may ever be able to accurately plot how and when a consumer may come into contact with your brand … or whether the customer may ever come into contact with your brand again after the first casual skirmish. The solution is therefore to hazard no guesses, expect no sequences, and make sure your brand positioning gets ingrained into customer memory at whichever point of his journey a customer comes across your brand for the first time and every time.
The best analogy I can think of for this whole strategy is to not only find that “needle in a haystack” positioning difference, but then go on to create your own “haystack of needles” to be able to poke your customer with your differential at every little touch-point and with every piece of content you create.
- Competitive Brand Positioning by Denise Lee Yohn (@deniseleeyohn)
- How to define a competitive position for your brand by Duffy Agency (@Duffy_Agency)
- Brand Positioning for a Competitive Edge – Part 1: Competitive Positioning Strategy by Susan Gunelius (@susangunelius)
Step #5: Nuance your brand positioning versus competition
To be seen and noted as an authority, it’s critical to be able to showcase good analytical skills. The difference between a merely knowledgeable person and an authority lies in the ability go deep into knowledge – to break ideas down, to dissect facts and to arrive at conclusions that seal insights. Mining through facts and arriving at underlying patterns enables you to lead the opinions of others by displaying your mind’s superior thinking methodology.
Some people tend to believe that analytical thinking and critical thinking are the same thing. That is not actually true.
When you find yourself thinking critically, you’ll see that you are making decisions on whether or not a situation appears to be right or wrong. Once you are given information, you find yourself evaluating the data and determining how it should be best interpreted – as a positive to the situation or a negative. You then make conclusions based on your unique perception of the information. Critical thinking takes facts and uses them to form an opinion or a belief, for or against an idea.
In analytical thinking, however, you do not allow your value-judgments to operate. You explore the topic or situation from all angles, to see how the idea branches out and how many threads of thought build up an idea – and whether these threads can be differently arranged to produce a conclusion that challenges originally held opinions. Analytical thinking is a very important skill for someone who wants to blog for authority because it shows that you are not fixated with your own ideas, and you are willing to see emerging threads of a situation to alter your perceptions and the perceptions of others.
So if you want to increase you analytical skills, where do you start? The best tools for analytical thinking are mind-maps. Given below is a snapshot of what a mind-map looks like (courtesy Matchware) … you take the subject under your consideration and split it up into its component branches and sub-branches, so that a layout of the whole topic landscape emerges, and you begin to see which are the causes and which are the effects in any situation.
Mind maps can be used for pretty much any thinking challenge. The Asian Efficiency blog offers a few interesting ways to use mind maps you might not have thought of: create a knowledge bank, solve problems, build on a keyword list for SEO, create book summaries, or set business or blogging goals.
The four big reasons why mind-maps are so critical to analysis are:
Mind-maps are quasi-visual.
They are part information and part image, and so the ease of understanding and memorability factors are high.
Mind maps group concepts together through natural associations.
This helps lay out cause-effect associations, helps in presenting ideas and shows up idea-gaps where innovation is needed to fill the gaps.
Mind-maps give you both macro and micro details.
A mind map can at once give you an overview of a large subject while also holding large amounts of micro-detail.
Mind-maps are intuitive since they flow as your brain flows.
It’s both easy to draw them in the same fashion as you think along, and it’s easy to put clarity, cogency and coherence into your thinking.
With all these advantages, it’s a great idea to use analytical mind-mapping when you are writing long posts with a number of topics and sub topics, and you’d like your content to flow easily in a way that seems utterly logical and readable to your target audiences. Many elaborate blog posts now also include the expert’s mind-maps of a topic as an illustration of the thinking that went behind the post – thus building upon the authoritative expert’s brand.
- 5 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Improve Your Analytical Thinking Skills by Zulfa Abrahams (@zulfah871)
- Developing your analytical skills by Tony Obregon (@tonyobregon)
- What is a Mind Map? by Tony Buzan (@Tony_Buzan)
Step #6: Set up a system for staying at the cutting edge
One of the smartest shortcuts to getting professional authority and visibility very fast is to join your industry’s apex associations or organizations, where professionals like you abound. Merely being a member of such associations gives you a lot of benefits, such as state-of-the-art knowledge and extremely valuable peer-contacts. But that should not be the sum and substance of your game.
You have to aim to rise in the hierarchy of professionals in such bodies by volunteering to stand for the position of a key office-bearer, preferably at the leadership level – or at least at the level where you have to deal with the PR agencies that work for the organizations.
Professional associations pack a lot of punch: their job is to constantly provide events and seminars and learning opportunities to members to share what they know, discuss the latest and network amongst themselves. Beyond this, professional associations drive industry special initiatives, get associated with professional causes, and often lobby with governments for policy reforms. All this gets reported extensively by the Press … so if it’s visibility as a leading professional and an authority that you want, stand for election at these associations.
There are two special ways in which you can drive the best possible authority for yourself from professional associations:
Promotion, branding and visibility can be yours
Any association is the face and voice of its industry, and usually spends a great deal of effort in promoting the benefits, strengths and values of its industry. It generates truckloads of promotional materials and periodically gives high visibility to its membership offers. Most such organizations connect with the media and have websites and other promotional tools. Marketing and communication are key components for organizations and provide significant value to members. It’s also pretty easy to serve as board member or office-bearer of repute and responsibility in a professional association because generally, no one wants to do it. Most people don’t realize that if they value and volunteer their active participation in such organizations as a marketing investment, it can do wonders for their personal businesses. If you’re willing to put in the time, having such office-bearer credentials and opportunities to be seen and heard in the media and at industry events can enhance your authority no end.
You can write for professional publications
In addition to blogging in your own professional capacity, writing articles on the initiatives of the organizations, that you are at the helm of, has a direct rub-off on your own blogging. You can cross-link your articles to make people realize the many hats you wear. The same approach applies to speaking to industry groups. All this can be both online and offline. The whole idea is to use your leverage as a spokesman of your larger industry to embellish your own personal credentials as an authority blogger. Belonging to and actively driving industry initiatives enhances credibility and trust, not just in the slow way that blogging does, but in spikes and spurts of high-visibility.
- 10 tips for increasing your professional visibility and exposure by Calvin Sun (@calvin_t_sun)
- Top Reasons Members Join Industry or Trade Associations by Carrie Kolar (@webbright)
- How to Lead Your Association Through Difficult Times by Christina Green (@SociousSuccess)
Step #7: Beat your competitor with comprehensive content
There’s always a raging debate in the blogging world about whether it’s better to voice your opinion (even if it’s controversial) or whether in the long run, controversy-creation actually damages your reputation. Those who are all for voicing your opinion strongly, may either be genuinely for “expressing the truth fearlessly” – or often they may be on the side of using “controversy” to fuel reader engagement. If it’s the former, being authentic (even if that means courting controversy) may be a good thing. If it’s the latter, however, using “controversial positions” as a way to keep the readers hooked is not a long-term ploy you can use. After all, how many controversial things can you keep finding to say, to stay perennially in the news?
Despite the “controversy” about whether “controversy” is a good content marketing tool or not, voicing an honest opinion need not necessarily mean stirring the hornet’s nest. You can take a forceful stand on the side of a debate without being controversial and you can come through as honest, fearless and always supportive of your positions with facts. These are all hallmarks of great writers and bloggers and definitely signs of authority – because when those in authority hold a stand on topics of general excitement, debate and concern, it helps other people examine their own opinions to see where they themselves would like to stand on any topic.
Incidentally, there are levels of stating an opinion strongly, and you have to decide what your own style of declaring your opinions should be. One of the smart ways to see what kinds of “strong voice” you could adopt, go to a site like CreateDebate.com, where there are always subjects of hot debate being argued from all sides by experts and lay people. Notice in the image below (taken from CreateDebate.com) how there can be so many shades of strong opinion – you could be, for instance, persuasive, provocative, outspoken or creative, or a combination! You can decide which category of strong opinion makes you sound authoritative and also feel comfortable with your tone of voice!
If building authority via the route of strong opinions appeals to you, there are three important points to think further about:
Strong opinions reinforce your image of self-confidence. But don’t use it as way of trying to look confident artificially.
While opining strongly on subjects, it’s also important not to say something strong just to look and sound confident. Any form of dubious confidence has an ugly way of revealing itself. Let your opinions naturally create a aura of your confidence, but don’t use strong opinions as a ploy or tactic to create an artificial self-confident image. Worse than having no strength in your opinions is an inauthentic forced confidence of opinion. Online, where people cannot see your body language, your words will reveal more nuances about you than you suspect. So be careful not to make any confidence, or strength of thought, forced or synthetic.
Strong opinions encourage engagement if done correctly. People naturally like to share if they are genuinely asked for their ideas.
When you state a point of view with authority, it often works beautifully if you invite others to say whether they agree or disagree with you. This is a great way, for instance to end a blog post, asking for reader comments. Don’t sound inflexible, but make your point with the air of one reasonably certain about your point of view, while also being open to all manner of contra-opinions. Sound like an eager learner rather than a know-it-all. People love to share their views if they feel valued, and if they feel the other person will genuinely absorb and respect what they say.
When you have a strong view, take a moment to see what a strong opposite view sounds like to you. You will learn a lot about yourself.
Every now and again, all bloggers see the truth in this statement. Hardly do you complete writing down a strong point of view, when the “devil’s advocate” inside of yourself will get activated and start asking you if that’s really what you feel, or whether you feel the exact opposite. When you have these moments during your writing, learn to listen to your inner voice deeply. Do not try to brush off your “inconvenient” opposite voice, just because it forces you to rewrite that whole paragraph from another point of view. There’s a good reason why your own internal contrasting opinion always surfaces just when you think you have deciphered a topic. This is because, very often, it is human tendency to hold very tight to a belief that you suspect may not be entirely right. If you really believed in something, fully and unshakeably, you would not need to hold such a hard opinion on it. You’d be more relaxed with your idea of it. The stronger the force with which you hold your opinion, the more the likelihood that your forceful mental hold may be because of a slippery foothold on the topic. So your inner voice is doing you a favor by asking you to reconsider. Thank that inner voice. It will show you when your hold on something is too tight and therefore needs examining with all honesty.
- 7 Reasons to Never Hold Back Your Opinion by Jayson DeMers (@jaysondemers)
- Be Bold, Be Opinionated, Or Don’t Bother by Mindy Gibbins-Klein (@bookmidwife)
- Opinions Versus Opinionated by William B. Bradshaw (@BradshawBud)
Step #8: Make your own content very difficult to copy
What is social proof and why is it so important for displaying your domain authority as a power-blogger? Social proof is any visible or tangible proof that reinforces what you say you you are good at.
A very simple example would be a blog post you are reading. If you find that several hundreds of people have commented on the post, you would get the feeling that this post is by a much-read and much-appreciated author, wouldn’t you? No matter even if another author claimed to have a lot of readership, but you saw the “poor engagement” on his site, evidenced by the lack of comments on his blog, you might be tempted to deduce that the second author may not be a genuinely famous expert.
Your assumptions may not be correct, though, because it could be that you have been looking myopically at “comments” as a measure of blog traffic and engagement. Maybe the second author’s posts get more shared on social media than the first one’s … but so long as you don’t know that, you have only the number of comments by which to judge, right?
Now let’s say the second author decides to put up a fast-moving tweet counter on his site that shows how much his post has been tweeted – and how much it continues to be retweeted per every second. Would that “dynamic proof of popularity” not change your mind about the second author?
The moral of the story is that, in the blogosphere, where you cannot physically see someone to get a measure of him, and you have no reliable evidence of his “popularity”, it’s tough to tell if a person is a real expert or a self-appointed one. That’s why power-bloggers wishing to display and stamp their authority status need to able to show some social proof that is commonly acknowledged by readers as real evidence of expert status.
This brings us to the question of what kinds of evidence can be shown as social proof. What do people believe in – and what forms of social proof do not really impress? Among “authority bloggers”, some of the most popular ways of showing popularity are case studies, testimonials, before-after images, citations from top magazines and blogs, photos with powerful influencers, awards, badges, credentials, reviews and ratings, media logos, certifications, comments from influencers, books you have published, social media popularity numbers, the sheer size of your list of email subscribers … and so on.
Here is a good example of social proof from the Kissmetrics blog …
You must try to include social proof of your authority status where appropriate, but even in doing so, you have to beware of looking tacky, dubious or self-congratulatory. You also have to beware of “following the fad” when showing social proof.
For example, some years ago, it used to be a great fad of internet marketing consultants to show how well they have succeeded in life, using their own proprietary “systems of success”, by showing photos of themselves on exotic beaches or standing beside swanky cars – with the photo-caption reading “I don’t want to brag, but this is me now with a six-figure income – you can have it all too if you enrol for my course etc etc”. Then, when such photos started getting splashed across too many marketing consultant’s blogs and websites, readers, who were always silently skeptical, started openly devaluing “Photoshopped-proof”.
The same thing happened again a few years later when bloggers started displaying their Google Analytics charts of spectacular traffic growth, or their financial checks from clients, or their income statements – invariably with humongous numbers on them. Even now, some bloggers, in the bid to sound authentic, display their income statements, month after month. I know many of them personally and would not hesitate to believe that they are being truthful. But the question is not whether I believe them, but whether target audiences are getting so bombarded with blog after blog showing income statements that the very credibility of income statements begins to be questioned as authentic, non-manipulated social proof.
Social proof thus has a good side and a bad side. The good part is that adds gloss to your credibility, but the bad part of it is that even the most innovative ideas of showing social proof soon become so overused that their credibility starts sounding doubtful.
When you think of showing “social proof” think of it less as “proof-display” and more as “trust-creation”. You will then naturally check yourself to see if the social proof you want to include will really add to trust. It’s a dicey decision, because in a bid to add trust, the kind of social proof you choose to show on your blog should not end up eroding trust.
One smart blogger I remember always used to show his failed-experiments in marketing, which was an ingenious kind of social proof that worked remarkably well. As a reader, you got the impression that he was always working upon his methodologies to perfect them, and he was relentless in the pursuit of success, and he would be really valuable as an expert because he has repeatedly seen what failure is – and has risen from the ashes with a bunch of winning ideas. Failures, everybody accepts, are the real stepping stones of success. This was a really innovative way, I thought, to underscore the idea that this “expert” was always “sharpening his saw”.
If you want to succeed at showing social proof, you too have to think out of the box. Be very careful that your choice of social proof matches your personal brand, your niche and your readership. Try to be innovative, but when people try and copy your methods, realize it’s time to move on to newer methods of showing credible social proof. It pays to stay ahead of the pack to prevent your social proof from getting devalued by the fad-driven market.
- What is Social Proof & Why Is It Crucial For Your Blog’s Success? by Kishensreehari (@kishensreeharii)
- 7 Things You MUST Understand When Leveraging Social Proof in Your Marketing Efforts by Gregory Ciotti (@gregoryciotti)
- Social Proof: Your Key to More Magnetic Marketing by Barry Feldman (@FeldmanCreative)
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