SEO: Leverage Expert Authors for Ecommerce

Google is actively working on ways to decrease its reliance on links by its algorithms, including identifying and promoting content written by expert authors. While content sites are obvious beneficiaries of this algorithmic initiative, ecommerce sites can tap into it as well.

From Backlinks to Authority

This week’s Google Webmaster video by Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts addressed the transition: “…What we’re trying to do is figure out how an expert user would, say, this particular page matched their information needs. I think as we get better at understanding who wrote something, and what the real meaning of that content is, inevitably over time, there will be a little less emphasis on links.”

Historically, backlinks have been the lifeblood of search engine optimization. At first, search engines’ algorithms focused on quantity: Which site has the most links? That site must be the most authoritative.

As marketers found more and more ways to buy and build links to artificially boost link authority and inflate rankings, search engines shifted their algorithmic focus to quality and relevance: Which site has the most links from other quality sites that are topically relevant? That site must be the most authoritative.

Part of the algorithmic focus on backlink quality and relevance has been demoting sites that have a large percentage of low quality links in their backlink portfolios. Bur rooting out the many different types of link spam is hard work. Hence the desire to broaden the algorithmic focus to include an expert author component.

To be sure, quality, relevant backlinks are still and will continue to be an important part of search engine algorithms for many years. However, as we look to the future, we’ll see author expertise as an increasingly important aspect of search engine optimization.

Expert Authors and Algorithms

Just as sites have historically been algorithmically deemed authoritative, Google is working on determining individual people who are authoritative in any of thousands of topics.

In a December 2013 “This Week in Google” video, Cutts said: “So we are trying to figure out who are the authorities in the individual little topic areas and then how do we make sure those sites show up, for medical, or shopping or travel or any one of thousands of other topics. That is to be done algorithmically not by humans…”

To do this, Google has to understand who people are and what they’re saying. In essence, they have to understand natural language and identity. Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update in September 2013 set the stage for Google to understand natural language and identity. It’s up to ecommerce site owners to begin to leverage or assert that authority.

Create an Expert Author

Every company has someone at the top that’s passionate about the business and has some expertise in the industry. That passion, channeled into content creation and marketing, can translate to recognized expertise that search engines identify as individual authority.

Think about your founder, your executives, your senior marketing executives, your product developers, your engineers. Each of them has some degree of passion for your site’s industry. Look for the most passionate ones, the ones who either desire or at least don’t detest being in the spotlight, and the ones that communicate well. The combination of those three elements makes the ideal spokesperson, which in turn makes the ideal expert author.

Naturally, those people will also be extremely busy doing the things that make them well suited to being an author. They’re busy building the business, and developing and selling the product. Taking focus away from their day job to moonlight as an expert author may seem counterproductive.

Look at it from a sales and marketing perspective: Developing a spokesperson/expert author for your ecommerce site is another form of content marketing, and done well can drive additional traffic, leads, and sales.

Work with an Expert Author

Maybe you’re not blessed with a single person that contains the right combination of passion, communication, and desire for attention that it takes to be an authority or spokesperson. Find someone who is and work with her.

Maybe you’re not blessed with a single person that contains the right combination of passion, communication, and desire for attention that it takes to be an authority or spokesperson. Find someone who is and work with her.

The world is filled with people who are passionate and want a platform to communicate their messages. Identify a selection of people whose messages are consistent with the messages your ecommerce company wants to convey, are prolific, and can communicate effectively. Reach out to those people to determine which of them may be interested in working with your brand in a mutually beneficial and exclusive manner.

The ideal expert author to work with would already have a network of fans, followers and readers so that the messages sponsored by your brand would reach a broad and relevant audience right away. However, you may also want to grow your own expert authority by working with someone who has less exposure today but whom you feel has great potential.

Content Marketing for Expert Authors

Note that promoting an expert author is different than promoting the expertise of the company. The two are related, certainly, but a company cannot be an expert author. In addition to marketing the company and increasing its visibility and authority in the industry, you’ll also need to establish and/or promote an individual as an expert author with authority in your industry.

This is just another example of content marketing in a way that benefits SEO. Your potential expert author probably already speaks at conferences, blogs or guest blogs, gives interviews with the press, and so on. Market those activities in ways that matter to SEO as the basis of promoting your expert author.

For example, when your expert speaks at a conference, upload the slides to SlideShare and link to them (and his conference bio) from your ecommerce site. If you can acquire or create a video clip, upload that to YouTube and embed the video in a page on your site. Have your expert write a blog post or guest blog post about the conference and his speech (or ghost write it for him if needed). Then share the slides, video, blog post, and author’s bio through the relevant marketing channels like social media, PR, and your blog.

Make sure your expert’s public profiles like Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blog, and SlideShare link to each other and contain descriptions of your expert and his area of authority. And naturally, as you’re doing this, work in the relevant keyword phrases for your author’s area of expertise and the relevant products that your ecommerce site sells.

These are just a couple of ideas to get you started, not a primer in content marketing. If it sounds difficult, you’re right. It is. Nothing about establishing authority in natural search is easy anymore.

Earning links is difficult and is inextricably tied to content marketing. Earning authority, likewise, is difficult and is inextricably tied to content marketing. The only easy thing is realizing that the future of SEO and ranking well in natural search depends on doing both.

Jill Kocher Brown
Jill Kocher Brown
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