There are many factors that can make content successful—your topic choice, your level of engagement, and the practicality of your material are all important. But there’s one factor I think matters more than any of those, and it has to do with how much your users trust what you’re writing: authoritativeness. Authoritative content is seen as more trustworthy, more respectable, and more valuable—which means it’s going to be read, appreciated, shared, and discussed more often, and it’s going to carry more reputation value for your brand as well.
So what is it that makes content more “authoritative”? These are just seven examples:
- A confident voice. First, you have to write like you know what you’re talking about, and there are many ways to do this. Use technical terms when you can, and avoid the use of ambiguous generic terms like “thing” or “a lot.” These non-specific phrases make it seem like you don’t know what you’re talking about, or that you’re skirting around the subject matter. Instead, address your topic head-on, and in concise, straightforward terms. It expresses your points more clearly, and implies a degree of confidence. As you gain more experience writing for your niche, this will start developing naturally on its own, but until then, you’ll have to fake it.
- References to experience. It’s easy to give advice on a subject, but where is that advice coming from? Readers appreciate direct or indirect references to experience. For example, if you’re a small business owner, and you’re writing an article on how to better manage your finances, you might include a reference like, “when I first started my business, I noticed that I was having trouble keeping track of my cash flow,” or something similar. Any way to substantiate this—such as with photos or numbers—is good, but otherwise, an anecdote will serve you just fine.
- Statistics and data. Hard facts are persuasive. Why? Because they’re indisputable. There might be errors in the scientific model you used to obtain them, or you might have had an unintentional bias in your approach, or you might even be presenting the numbers with a slight inaccuracy. However, numbers, statistics, and other hard data points are generally objective figures, and that lends authoritative power to your arguments. It also lends a degree of specificity—you’re no longer talking in vague terms, you’re giving concrete evidence to support your points. Statistics also imply that you’ve done a significant degree of work to provide a basis for your argument.
- Illustrations, charts, and graphs. Anytime you can use a visual graphic to support or illustrate your points, do so. Visuals make your piece more authoritative for a slightly different reason than most of the factors I’ve recounted above. Up until this point, most of the factors have been geared toward making your argument more convincing. Instead, visuals make your argument more intuitive and approachable. Users can, at a glance, get a sense of your argument, and read the rest of your content with a better understanding of your intentions. If done right, they can also make your piece seem more professional and thought through.
- External citations. You aren’t the only person who’s ever covered this topic, and your readers know that. Citing outside authorities will make your piece more authoritative by proxy; simply making reference to known authorities on the subject will make you seem like you know what you’re talking about. If you exclude any external citations, it will seem like you’re making things up off the top of your head. Try to aim for outside sources that carry significant authority on their own; this will make you seem better informed as a content producer, and might even lend some page authority to your work for SEO purposes.
- Multiple perspectives. Whatever you’re arguing, there’s probably more than just one side. If there truly is only one side to your subject matter, you probably don’t need to be writing it in the first place. Showing the other side of the argument will make your piece more accessible to people on both sides of the fence, and more importantly, it will show that you’ve done your research in advance. Plus, when you have a better understanding of the counterarguments, you can form stronger counter-counterarguments of your own.
- Acknowledgments of weakness. This may seem counterintuitive, but admitting the weak points in your content can make your piece more authoritative. For example, you might admit that you haven’t done enough research, or that there’s a specific problem you haven’t yet figured out. Doing this shows that you’ve thought through your work completely, and that you’re transparent enough to admit when your argument isn’t perfect. It makes you seem more intelligent, more sincere, and therefore more authoritative and trustworthy, so don’t be afraid to admit your weaknesses.
These factors can help you make almost any piece of content more authoritative, but the real secret to developing authority is consistency; anyone can come up with one authoritative piece, but if every piece you develop is consistently authoritative, then you’ll truly start reaping the reputation benefits. Your brand will become known as an authority in its own right, imbuing automatic power to anything you produce from that point forward. It takes time to get to that point, of course, but with consistently authoritative content, you can get there.