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Becoming a Web Authority: The story of Sally and Edward

by Hamlet Batista | July 09, 2007 | 16 Comments

authority.jpgGetting permanent search engine rankings for your site requires making it very popular within your specific niche. This is what we call a web authority. Other site owners will naturally link to your site when they are talking about your topic because you have some of the best content out there. 

It's common sense that if you want your site to become popular, you'll seek advice from those who have already made it. That's assuming they are willing to share how they did it. I personally like to read Neil Patel's blog. He is one of the few SEO celebrities who is open to share how he made it to the top.

Most advanced SEOs carefully study high-ranking pages for the keywords they are targeting. If you can understand how those sites got there, you can apply the same techniques to your site. Unfortunately, as I explained previously, not all sites ranking high will remain there. These sites are like a house of cards, destined to be brought down by the next fair wind. If you apply the strategies of such cardboard castles, yours will come down too. Let me illustrate my point with this story about Sally and Edward.

Sally wants to make money online. She is thinking about buying an e-course from a supposedly well known and respected 'guru.' She reads a very detailed, 14-page sales letter, with those characteristic large headings in red, hundreds of testimonials, lots of promises, and money-back guarantees. She does a Google search and finds a lot of positive reviews from a lot of sites (affiliates) encouraging her to by the product.

So she buys it. She spends several hundred dollars and after reading the first chapters and watching the first set of videos, she figures out the cold truth. The author is primarily bragging about how successful he is, promoting his other businesses and teaching how much money you can make by selling his product as an affiliate. The rest of the filler information is already available for free on the web. Sally feels incredibly disappointed. Instead of making money, she has ended up losing it.

Edward, on the other hand, takes a rather different approach. He learns about a very popular SEO book sold at a reasonable price. The author has a decent sales letter with testimonials from university professors and respected Internet marketers. He also blogs regularly and provides very useful tips and techniques with an active and participatory readership. Still not totally convinced, he asks for feedback on the book in an SEO forum. The response is mostly positive and enthusiastic.

Edward buys the book. He learns a lot of useful tips and techniques. He didn't have any idea that you could actually learn SEO for yourself. He applied the techniques to one of the sites and, after a few weeks, started to see amazing results. He decides to share his own personal experiences and successes in popular SEO forums and, after a few more months, other members start to consult him and regard him as an expert.

Turning your website into a web authority is very similar. You need to learn from the right successful websites — sites that rank high consistently. Learn from the wrong ones and you will lose your time, effort, and money.

How can you identify the web authorities in your niche?

There are a couple of different strategies we can use to identify web authorities. Let's look at what they have in common:

1. Age. Web authorities are not two weeks old. There might be a few exceptions but most of the time they are sites that are several years old.

2. Traffic. They need to have good, growing, and consistent traffic. Websites whose traffic keeps declining are not good web authorities.

3. Link structure. The quantity and quality of the links coming from unrelated sources is another indicator of how authoritative a site is.

4. Importance. Closely related to the links, search engines score 'importance' to every page on the Web. For Google this is called PageRank.

5. Trust. Search engines do not trust all pages on the Web equaly. For example, Google lists undeserving pages in its supplemental index.

The first approach is to carefully look at each one of the top ranking sites for the keywords you are trying to reach. Identify the ones that have the best traits. Those are the ones that will keep ranking there.

Alexa is an excellent service to help you with this research. Although, as I have mentioned before, Alexa's data is not incredibly accurate, it is good enough for this purpose.

Here is a practical example from the search "web hosting":


Another useful tool that uses a different approach to identify authorities is Seobook's Myriad search. This alternative strategy consists in identifying websites listed in the top of the main search engines.

Here is a screenshot:


How to make your site an authority

Now that you know the website that you want to learn from, it's time to carefully analyze the site. Remember that current search engines look primarily at links and content — and in that order. I like to call the analysis the web relevance profile — how the search engines see your website. Each website has an on-page and off-page relevance profile, depending upon whether the search engine uses metrics found directly in the content or through links coming from other websites. I will explain the relevance profiles in more detail in the next installment.

I wish I could say that it is easy to become an authority, but it isn't. It's as hard as it is to become popular in the real world.

Fortunately it all comes down to how much you are willing to share what you have. If you look at most of the sites that are heavily linked in your niche, you will notice that most of them are giving something of value for free. Whether it is a tool, a report, an article, etc. They give something that others need and appreciate. This is the core principle behind link worthy content or linkbait.

Following the exact path of a winner is no guarantee of success

Although it's a good idea to learn from web authorities, there is no guarantee that you will achieve the same level of success by simply following the steps. Why? Being the first in a niche has many advantages, the main one is that people will always remember who was first. The only way to beat number 1 is to be exc
eptionally better. Y
ahoo and MSN have been copying everything Google does, but they don't manage to become #1. Google, on the other hand, was exceptionally better than Altavista, and beat them. Another approach is to invent your own sub-niche and be the first :-). That is my approach with this "Advanced Search Engine Marketing" blog.

I have not created the first linkbait for this blog yet, but I think I have a good idea for one. I plan to create a free web tool that can help identify the pages that are not doing well in terms of links and are ending up in the supplemental index. A lot of people are concerned about having their pages in the supplemental index and I think they will find such a tool very valuable. What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments!


Hamlet Batista

Chief Executive Officer

Hamlet Batista is CEO and founder of RankSense, an agile SEO platform for online retailers and manufacturers. He holds US patents on innovative SEO technologies, started doing SEO as a successful affiliate marketer back in 2002, and believes great SEO results should not take 6 months



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