Building Authority

This chapter will talk about two different kinds of authority. First, we will talk about numerical authority, or how strong your website is in the eyes of search engines and thus how trustworthy it is. Second, we will talk about personal authority, or your personal brand, and how that plays into the success of your blog.

Domain Authority

Search engines assign websites numerical weights to gauge their authority and ability to rank. While the number assigned to it via the search engine’s algorithm is unknown to us, as we do not have access to the algorithm, so the industry standard that is used is Domain Authority (DA), which was created by the company SEOmoz.

This measure of authority is based off the original PageRank algorithm paper, available here. Within the paper, the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, outline the features of the PageRank algorithm method of ranking websites. The important snippets include:

Academic citation literature has been applied to the web, largely by counting citations or backlinks to a given page. This gives some approximation of a page’s importance or quality. PageRank extends this idea by not counting links from all pages equally, and by normalizing by the number of links on a page.

Another intuitive justification is that a page can have a high PageRank if there are many pages that point to it, or if there are some pages that point to it and have a high PageRank. Intuitively, pages that are well cited from many places around the web are worth looking at. Also, pages that have perhaps only one citation from something like the Yahoo! homepage are also generally worth looking at. If a page was not high quality, or was a broken link, it is quite likely that Yahoo’s homepage would not link to it. PageRank handles both these cases and everything in between by recursively propagating weights through the link structure of the web.

The text of links is treated in a special way in our search engine. Most search engines associate the text of a link with the page that the link is on. In addition, we associate it with the page the link points to.

As you can see, Domain Authority, and Google’s own ranking algorithms, base rankings to some degree off of:

  • The number of citations (backlinks) pointing to a page;
  • The strength of the backlinks pointing to the page. Not all backlinks are counted equally;
  • The text comprising the link which points to the target page helps the algorithm determine context.

Domain Authority is calculated on a logarithmic scale, which basically means you see the strength of your site in relation to the other sites on the Internet. As one site gets stronger, another site’s relative strength decreases thus removing its competitive advantage for ranking.

Finding Domain Authority
Lucky for you, SEOmoz calculates your site’s Domain authority every time their link index of the Internet, called MozScape, updates. To find your site’s Domain Authority, navigate to OpenSiteExplorer and enter your URL:

You will find the Domain Authority on the left side of the metrics located at the top of the page. As your site becomes stronger through earning more links from more authoritative websites, the Domain Authority will change. If you have a Moz Pro Account, you then have access to your site’s DA over time for as long as you have had a Pro Campaign active for the site. Here is my site’s authority over time:

Building Domain Authority
Because DA is a relative metric and not ultimately indicative of success, it may increase while your readership and traffic stay static. Focusing on Domain Authority and using it as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for your site’s success is a fool’s errand as this number does not tell anything substantial about traffic, email subscribers, social follower counts, or other ways of spreading the word about your site. However, an increase in DA does indicate that your site is gaining more links, which is often a sign that it is being talked about and referenced other places.

DA increases by increasing the number of links to your site. This happens in two ways – organically and manually.

Organic Links
Organic, or naturally placed unsolicited links, are the holy grail of links because they do not require your effort to build and they are always from relevant sites that also reach your target audience. As a site that gets referenced by the other authorities in your blogging space, your site begins to become a canonical authority for your blog niche’s audience.

Spreading the word about your content to earn organic links happens in numerous ways.

  • First, building your social following and pushing out every post you write alongside other useful links you find across the Internet.
  • Second, building your RSS and email subscribers so that they see your content in their EF aggregator or inbox as well as socially.
  • Third, engaging on other sites that are publishing related content and letting them know that you are going to write, or have written, a response to their post or tweet, or that you referenced them in a post.

Measuring and regulating the acquisition of organic links is a difficult task, as they are freely given and never consistent. You can, however, use the links you get naturally to build relationships with those bloggers which then increases your chances of being referenced more often by them and other blogs. Especially for bloggers and small businesses, leveraging this tactic can become a big win for your website.

Finding Sites Linking To You
To manually find sites that are linking to you, use Moz’s OpenSiteExplorer. Navigate to the Root Domains and use the dropdown under each domain to see the individual pages.

I am a big proponent of automating manual work where possible. To get alerts when a new site or page links to you, use the service Linkstant. Linkstant authenticates with your Google Analytics account and sends you an email or updates your RSS feed when a new page or site (aka referrer) sends a visit to a page on your site. Using this information, you can then go to that site and leave a comment or share it socially if it will add value to your audience.

One last way to passively find new mentions online is through Google’s free Alerts. Simply navigate to and set up an alert to come to your inbox however often you desire.

Manually Leveraged Profile Links

As a content creator on the Internet, you have more web properties than you probably realize. At a quick glance, you probably have:
* Facebook
* Twitter
* Google+
* Klout
* Company profile page
* LinkedIn
* Tumblr
* Pinterest
* Community profiles

Most, if not all, of these sites will allow you to link back to your main property, providing valuable link equity as well as the possibility of referral traffic if you build your name in that community.

For example, I have linked my Instagram account to my photography website because that link is:

  • High in Domain Authority;
  • Topically relevant.

We should note that your profiles may not always be easy to find on the existing website, so sometimes we must help the search engines find other profiles by linking to them from our existing web properties. For example, I linked to Instagram from my About page on my main site to ensure that the profile page is cached by the search engines.

Manually Leveraged Content Links

SEOs talk about “link building”, which can be a nebulous term if you do not understand different ways to build links. You can also find a plethora of “X Ways to Build Links” posts online, so I will let you find those if you are interested. The best resource I have found is 47 Resources To Carry Your Linkbuilding Through 2013.

You’re a writer, though, and building the authority of your site. The best way, in my opinion, to manually build links to your site is through guest content placed on another site, such as a blogger friend’s site or larger sites that accept content, such as Forbes or the equivalent in your niche.

Guest posting has a few simple rules – provide content that will be useful to that site’s audience, create something of high value so that the piece will get links and shares, and be sure to link back to your own website in a natural way, even if just from your author bio at the bottom of the post. Do not worry about exact anchor text (like “writes on his personal finance blog”). Instead, focus on branded or partial anchor text, like “writes on his site PennySavers” or “writes on his website about personal finance”. These links are more natural, and linking in this way improves your chances of both getting the content placed (most big sites are very link-savvy) and getting clicks through to your site as referral traffic.

Remember that the goal with guest content is to get your writing in front of a new audience to establish your personal and site’s authority in your niche primarily, with links back to your site as a secondary benefit.

I wrote a guest post on ProBlogger, for example, that is still shared socially and provided me with a way to write on a well-respected website in a niche that I respect, while also pointing a few links to my own website properties as well as those of others. The biggest benefit, though, was the relationship built with the editors who now trust me and my writing.

Personal Authority

Now on to personal authority – who are you and why should people listen to you? There are two ways to skin this cat – building your public facing authority by leveraging psychological triggers that make you appear authoritative, and building your personal voice and reputation through thought leadership pieces, varied types of content, and your presence on other websites and social channels.

Before we get into the details, you must recognize that without a trustworthy personal voice and reputation, these levers will only get you so far. Let’s explain with an analogy.

The House

Think about a house. Now, this house is three stories tall, brick, with a pool in the backyard, a pool house, terraced gardens, and a Bentley parked in the underground parking lot, right next to the black Ferrari Scuderia and the black Ducati.

This house sounds pretty sweet, right? It looks beautiful. But let’s go for a tour.

We walk inside, into the grand hall, and stop, perplexed. It’s empty. The chandelier has cobwebs in it. The stairs haven’t been dusted or shined in months. We continue through and find that every room is this way. When we look out the back, the pool has a foot of water in it and it’s green with slime. The pool house has a bum’s mattress in it, and the Ducati, Bentley, and Ferrari are all kit cars, not real.

The person who owns this place may look good from the outside, but when a person gets close they will see their hypocrisy. All show, no go.

The same principles apply to you online. You can have a social profile everywhere, a professional profile photo, a well-optimized site, and an author photo or five review stars in the search results. But if you or your company does not have a voice, reputation, or trust, you will never get as far as you could otherwise.

Now that we have that covered, let’s talk about your public authority face and how to leverage, as Ross Hudgens called them, static force multiplier.

Public Facing Authority

Your public face is an important part of your authority online. This is what people see and associate with you on other websites. Your face or name is your brand online, and while we are not able to measure it scientifically, people who see a photo or screenname that they have seen before and trusted are much more likely to click on that image or refer to that screenname than another that they have just come across.

Presence Audit

Before you begin with your site, you first need to audit your personal search result to look for anything potentially negative against you such as past blogs, dating website profiles (I’m serious), and the like. This is most important with a business, but can also apply personally.

The best tool to use to automatically track your personal search results is BrandYourself. Every week you will receive an update from them about movement in your search results.

Profile Optimization

It is more important now than ever to sync our public face across the different platforms and websites we use, so as to build personal recognition and trust in the eyes of our intended audience.

We are going to look at your:

* Profile photo
* Screenname
* Social profiles and descriptions

Profile Photo

Saying that your profile photo is your public face online feels like saying that a dirty dog needs a bath before it comes inside. An obvious statement, but one that we often do not realize until it is explicitly stated.

Your photo is how people recognize and associate with you on first glance. Therefore, it’s necessary to have the same photo across all of your profiles in order to have people recognize and give you credit for the work you are doing.

Studies have been done, such as this one from Cyrus Shepard that was presented at Mozcon about optimizing profile photos for clicks and impressions in search, but we need to go further and think about our profile photos in the context of all of our profiles.

Ross talks about using the same profile picture across all of your profiles. You can see here what I have done across all of my profiles:

For a long while, I had two sets of photos that I used for different purposes, but ultimately decided one day that it was best to streamline public profiles across my web properties in order to help people know when it is my profile. However, I have not used the same profile photo in more private profiles such as Instagram and my private, friends-only Facebook page.


Along with your profile photo comes the importance of your rel-author markup on your website so that your photo shows in the search results alongside your content when it appears for organic searches. If you are not aware, with the proper implementation your profile picture can show next to articles that you write on your blog and others, such as:

This is accomplished relatively easily. Begin with your Google+ profile page. If you do not have one, create one and use your regular photo. Then, list your website as a site that you “Contribute To”.

Go back to your website. Now we must implement a link back to your Google+ profile from each article you have written on your site. There are two different ways to implement this, depending on if your site accepts guest posts or not. I recommend setting up authorship as if you do accept guest posts so that you leave that option open to yourself in the future.

The best way to implement Authorship on your site is with a link from each individual post you write back to your Google+ profile from an author bio. This is done by forming a link within the biography with ?rel=author at the end of your Google+ profile. For example, to implement it on my site, the link is <a href=””>Google+</a>. You can see it here:


The next part of your public profile to consider is your screenname. While many SEOs will create screen names with partial keyword matches for search purposes, I do not believe this to be the best option.

Your screenname stays with you regardless of your company or industry, so create it carefully and for the longterm, keeping in mind that you may not be in your current position in 5 years, and also that your place of employment will most likely change. Screennames should also be memorable (for example, underscores in Twitter handles have been shown to increase the odds of someone referring you getting it wrong) and short.

Look at Rand Fishkin, the CEO of SEOmoz. His screenname across all of his profiles is randfish. Some have said that he may regret not using his full name (randfishkin) for his name, but I think that Rand made a smart move in using the shorter version since it is memorable and unique.

Imagine if Rand had used randfishkinseoguru as his screenname. He would not be taken seriously in today’s world of search marketing where people who self-label as gurus and experts are seen as low-level scum or spammers, not as trustworthy and actually expert. If Rand had started off with randfishkinseoguru as his screenname, he would presently have much more trouble transitioning into the well-regarded CEO of an inbound marketing tools company.

At the least, he probably should have gone back, if he had started with this longer name, and changed to something shorter like randfish. And he would have had to do this across all of his social profiles, and most likely would have created some confusion and lost some visibility for a while.

Social Profiles

Following with above, your social profile trustworthiness is closely tied to not only the photo you show and the content you share, but also to the description you have of yourself.

First, claim your profile with your desired screenname in as many places as possible. I recommend using the service KnowEm to find where your screenname has not been claimed. Even if you do not plan to use the service, some of these may rank for your name and thus you want to optimize them, even just using basic optimization best practices, especially your profile description.

KnowEm is also very useful for finding all of your profiles after the fact for optimization purposes. When you become serious about blogging, claiming your profile across networks or updating existing profiles with new information is an important part of establishing your online profile.

Tweet-Length Profiles

I recommend having three stock descriptions that you use – a tweet-length 140 character description, an unlimited characters description, and a professional description. This is also a content strategy best practice, as you do not know where your description will be placed or which services will syndicate it.

Some services, such as Twitter or Instagram, limit the number of characters you are allowed to use in your description, so you must optimize these to fit your personal information within the confines of the space. For me, the important information to have includes –

* Your title and company of employment
* Location
* Website
* A professional interesting fact or two

Here is my Twitter profile:

Notice that I include what I do, who I do it for currently, a few succinct facts about me, my location, and my primary website, which is my canonical web presence (ie the one I control and send people to most often).

Here is my Instagram profile –

Notice that the two are a bit different, as the audience is a bit different. Depending on your audience and how often you use the service, slightly different descriptions can serve you well. Since Instagram is a more creative service and outlet for me than Twitter, I use a slightly more creative description that still includes the important information about me.

Note – do not be afraid to add your own personal voice and touch to your profile. Play with it a bit, and then have a trusted friend look at it for you. I used to have my location on Twitter set as “Internationally Minded” because I was moving around quite a bit for a few years and did not want to change my location every 9-12 months. However, since I am now established in Brooklyn and NYC, I chose to update my location to an actual place. But remember that something unexpected like “Internationally Minded” can also cause your profile to stick in the minds of others.

Unlimited Characters Description

The unlimited characters description is the longest of your descriptions, and may only be used on your personal website and one or two other sites where you contribute. Think about your unlimited characters description as your résumé or CV in story format.

The parts that you may want to include are –

  • Why you are where you are in your career
  • Experience
  • Past jobs and industries
  • Important milestones and accomplishments
  • Specialities and goals

Professional Description

The final description that you should write is your professional description. The professional description is most likely a shorter version of your unlimited characters description and is designed to go on professional profiles, biography mentions for conference speaking gigs or author bios on most large sites, or industry news.

This professional description should be a more fleshed-out version of your tweet-length description as well. It will include –

* Your title and company
* A few facts about you
* Any notable achievements
* Links back to your website and a main social profile

Put this description in a notable place where it can be copied and referenced. Here is Rand’s on SEOmoz –

Rand Fishkin is the CEO of SEO software company; SEOmoz. He co-authored the Art of SEOfrom O’Reilly Media, co-founded, and was named on PSBJ’s 40 Under 40 List and BusinessWeek’s 30 Best Tech Entrepreneurs Under 30. Rand is an addict of all things content & social on the web, from his blog on entrepreneurship to TwitterGoogle+Facebook,LinkedIn, and FourSquare. In his minuscule spare time, Rand enjoys the company of his amazing wife, Geraldine, whose serendipitous travel blog chronicles their journeys.

If interested, all of his different speaking gigs that have used this description are here.

In this chapter we talked about both site authority and personal authority. You’ve learned about domain authority, building it through links, and then positioning yourself as an authority in your space.

Here is your action plan for everything described here –

* Create your Google+ page and connect it to your site and vice versa;
* Decide on the image you will use;
* Settle on your screenname (you probably already have this);
* Write your tweet-length description;
* Go claim all of your profiles using KnowEm;
* Write your unlimited characters description and place it on your profile page on your website.
* Write your professional description and place it on your website with language telling people to use when referencing you for conferences and other engagements.

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