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You’re Probably Not the Authority on You

In this month’s newsletter on how SEO works, I mentioned the idea of authority several times, particularly drawing a distinction between the overall authority that PageRank measures—which I suggested we call “influence” instead—and the specific authority a URL can have over a particular subject. For a tightly positioned firm with a good content strategy, this should be fairly easy to grasp. Perhaps you’re a marketing firm that focuses specifically on credit unions; with enough writing and good on-page SEO, you should be able to establish solid authority as far as queries like “credit union marketing” are concerned (not taking into account solid competition, from, say, other really good firms that do this).

But just to drive the point home, consider this: As far as Google is concerned, you are probably not the authority on you. That is, unless you have a truly unique name or you are extremely prolific and your name is just all over the web. Remember, Google will look for a query and the sources online that have the most to say about the words or phrases in that query. If I kept a blog about Barack Obama for five years before his campaign, I might make it pretty hard for him to be the top Google result for searches for his name. See what I mean?

But my name isn’t very unique, so it makes a good example. Go ahead and try searching for “chrisopher butler.” You’ll see that the top result is a Wikipedia entry for Christopher Butler, only he’s not me. The second and third “Christopher Butlers” on the list are me, but then the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, all of the images, eight, ninth and tenth results are not. I’ve done ok (I’ll explain how in a moment), but I’m not exactly the authority on my own name and probably never will be. That’s ok with me.

The key to authority is specificity. My name alone is just never going to be that specific. But if I add a modifier—something that makes sense for me—I should hope to be the authoritative source (not just top result but also multiple results on the first page) for that query. For example, “christopher butler web,” which returns a search results page on which the top result (as well as the third, fifth, sixth, and ninth) is me. If you get even more specific, like “christopher butler web strategy,” the majority of the results are me. You get the idea: the more specific the area of authority, the better. After all, I’d bet that 98% of searches for “christopher butler” aren’t looking for me anyway.

Waaaay back in January, 2008, I wrote a post about this explaining how to establish an online “hub” to which you can point all your various social media profiles and other “outposts” in order to build up your authority for both your own name and whatever your core expertise is. Three years later, I think that instruction is still legit. Try it out for yourself. While I won’t guarantee results, I’m pretty confident that it will deliver improvement.

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