There are millions upon billions of pages floating on the World Wide Web today. A few hundred more are likely to be added by the time you finish reading this blog. In fact, in 2014 it is projected that the millions upon billions of pages currently up will only double, triple, even quadruple. In such a vast and turbulent sea, how do you possibly stand out and gain authority? Is gaining authority even worth the effort?

In 2013, we started to hear a lot of chatter on the topic of content authority. Everyone from brand and business owners to guru marketers soon agreed that a successful online content strategy was soon to revolve almost entirely on authoritative content. To skimp on this trend—or ignore it altogether—would mean running the harsh risk of losing out on (or completely losing) ranking opportunities as Google launched their next series of updates. As 2013 came to a close, it became even more apparent that the leading 2014 trend was, without a doubt, content authority. Future search engine results are soon to be driven by it. In fact, we’re seeing this drive right now. Building authority is not just worth the effort, it’s a survival essential!

Google’s Concentration on Content Authority
Google’s Matt Cutts had this to say regarding authority right before the Panda update released in 2013: “We’re doing a better job of detecting when someone is more of an authority on a specific [topic]… medical… travel… whatever. And try[ing] to make sure those rank a little more highly if you’re some sort of authority… we think might be a little more appropriate for users.” Before the close of 2013, we saw Google drop the Hummingbird update. Cutts’ words became even more relevant as Hummingbird improved upon Panda.

Why Authority Makes You Stand Out
Since the dawn of online marketing, content has been its heart and soul. Today we focus more heavily on its quality than anything else. Vague, keyword stuffed content is out. Readers are beginning to rapidly understand a simple truth: “Anyone can dole out generic content…but it doesn’t make them an expert.”

Saturating content with ambiguous, generalized information can reflect ignorance. Once your audience catches this reflection, they’ll move on, likely never to return. By presenting specific, relevant information, you reflect just the opposite of ignorance: authority or expertise.

Experts are authorities. They have years of hands-on experience and firsthand knowledge. They are also continuous learners. In order to turn yourself into and continue to be a content authority, you will need to become a continuous learner.

How to Become a Continuous Learner
It’s important to understand that being a continuous learner does not mean you continuously expand your knowledge through various educational courses. While seminars, conferences and educational courses can be prime avenues for continual learning (depending on your industry), being a continuous learner really boils down to constantly staying current with your industry. You can accomplish this in many ways, and it will forever be a daily process.

The best way to become a continuous learner is to read, listen, and watch. Here are just a few tips you can use on a daily basis:

  • Stay receptive to new information. Each day, read up on a new topic. Try to stick to a topic a day. Dive into it. Research a little. If possible, shadow an expert, conduct an interview, experiment to gain firsthand experience and grab opportunities to connect with real people.
  • Collaborate and connect. Your colleagues and professional peers can be valuable sources of continual education. Engage them. Discuss trends. Make predictions together. Don’t just network for numbers, engage with your network!
  • Question and examine. You can connect to new topics by expanding on your existing knowledge base. Question your current knowledge and branch into new topics. Examine topics and what you know by asking probing questions. If you lack an answer or find yourself with weak answers, make a research to-do list.
  • Learn how to speed read. People aren’t born with the ability to speed read; it’s a learned ability. Practice speed reading so that you improve. You’ll be able to consume information faster.
  • Learn how to filter information. As your ability to speed read grows, learn how to filter the information. This will allow you to spotlight the new and important information.

Displaying Content Authority in 3 Steps
Being an expert is only half the battle. The other half is displaying your content authority correctly to the audience and Google.

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm is a bloodhound trained on the scent of content authority and website presence. Instead of chasing down black and white keywords based on user input, Hummingbird dashes out using concepts. These concepts address the complexity of search queries. Hummingbird tries to understand the concept behind whatever words, phrase, or question is used when making a query. The algorithm rushes out in search of optimized content for what is now being called “more conversational queries.”

Step 1: Build niche authority.
Building authority within your niche accomplishes a few things. First, you will rapidly gain more readers. The audience likes to see expertise within a niche. It makes it easier for them to find useful, relevant information. And it makes it clear that you yourself are focused. Avoid bouncing all over the board. Stay focused on your niche and your following will expand.

Secondly, building niche authority helps optimize your link building efforts. We’ll talk about link building in more detail in a minute. But for right now, understand that staying true to your niche makes finding links to other authorities in your niche and industry easier. The more you link to high quality resources, the greater your authority—both in the eyes of the discerning reader and the almighty Google gods.

You can build your niche authority through niche content and quality linking. Here are some other hot tips:

  • Utilize social media channels. Social media is HUGE! The potential audience alone is astonishing, not to mention all of the communities that fit right in to your particular niche. Use your social media channels to connect and engage with people, organizations, businesses, and communities that fall into your niche. The more you chat, the more your following will grow. Couple an ever growing audience with niche content and watch your authority skyrocket.
  • Build a reputation through high quality content. Creating high quality content will benefit you in several ways nowadays: 1) Based on your content, potential customers will be more likely to read and react, 2) Audiences across social media platforms will be more likely to share your content and 3) Your search engine ranking with Google will increase.
  • Drive traffic via sharing. When content is engaging, relevant and emotionally charged, people want to share it. As your concentrate on creating this content within your niche, your audience will share links to your website. If you’re content is high quality, you’ll likely receive even more traffic as friends of friends share and re-share. Driving traffic to your website will help build your Google rank.
  • Write targeted, informative, and lengthy content. Years ago we used to say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Today, this idiom is practically obsolete. We are bombarded with so much information that we often judge it immediately by its cover picture. This is why infographics have become such a huge part of content strategy and marketing. Not only does the appearance of your content need to demand attention, but the information itself must also engage the reader. Studies indicate readers are more likely to read a 2,000-word blog or article because it is relevant, informative, and often educational. Less isn’t more, not anymore.

Step 2: Links reign supreme.
It’s undeniable. “Links continue to reign supreme as the ultimate SEO authority signals,” says the 2014 SEO Playbook published on Search Engine Land, a leading online source of SEO, content, marketing, and Google information.

Linking needn’t be an overly confusing concept, but some articles and guides get so technical that the average reader ignores their use out of pure fear. The concept can seem so intense that unless you’re tech savvy, you might feel doomed to failure. Here are some plain English tips (no tech talk!) to help you start taking advantage of this necessary way to build content authority:

  • Download the Moz Bar. Honestly, this is the linking tip. Moz has become an outstanding resource for simplifying linking. The more authoritative links incorporated on your website, the higher your authority. The Moz Bar allows you to determine quickly just how credible or authoritative any given webpage is. Armed with this information, you can link to the best as you present relevant, supportive information, facts, or quotes.
  • Be sure you link to relevant material. Do not link merely to link. The links you use should lead to material that is directly related and relevant to the topic your content discusses. Linking merely to link is a sure fire way to be pigeonholed as a “fly-by-night website,” effectively losing any and all authority.
  • Link to your content. One of your goals should be to build on your content. As you do this, link the content together. Slowly but surely, you will produce your own credible knowledge base within your own walls. This will go a long way to increasing your authority and creating a strong reputation.

Step 3: Never, ever assume.
Assumptions are scary things. They can lead to bad habits and terrible outcomes. It’s fine to predict that your Twitter following will retweet your latest tweet, but never assume that they will or did. It’s important to monitor your social media channels.

In 2014, Google is giving preference to brands. Never, ever assume that your brand is strong enough to be snapped up by Google’s algorithms. If you’re tweets are barely seeing retweets or you lack a steady stream of chatter and exposure from social media channels, chances are your brand isn’t big enough to be captured by Google. This brings us back to step one: building niche authority. It’s the best way to grow an audience that will grow your exposure. As your online presence expands, your content authority will rise.

Google Authorship and Google Plus+
In closing, we’re going to leave you with two of the most advantageous ways to increase your content authority: using Google Authorship and Google Plus+. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Google Authorships. It’s a form of linking. Once you sign-up for it (it’s free, by the way), Authorship will link to all of your authored online work, meaning any of your e-printed by-lines will be connected directly to your online presence. Your profile picture will even appear next to your content in Google searches. Authorship helps brand you, making you easily recognizable to the masses. As a result, their familiarity with your content will contribute to increasing your overall credibility and authority.
  • Google Plus+ It really is an essential to building your content authority. Content posted on Google Plus+ is crawled and indexed almost immediately. It’s an unrivaled launch site that can get your best content onto search engine result pages fast.

The truth of content authority is found in details. To truly build strong content authority, you have to pay attention to every detail of your content. You can’t afford to skimp on anything. Your copy needs to be relevant, engaging and—most importantly—correct. If you can’t confirm the facts you plan to present, don’t present them. If you can’t find authoritative links to include in your copy, revise the topic. If you can’t seem to get your social media following to share your content, find out why.

Building content authority boils down to establishing yourself as an expert with the audience and Google. It’s not a task that will be accomplished overnight. It will take time and planning. Don’t be discouraged if it’s a slow project at first, but expect it to pick up steam as your audience grows and your content affects them.