Who or what we consider authoritative in life can have profound implications, and so it is on the web. In this episode of Here’s Why we’ll explain why the concept of authority is crucial for your website SEO.
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Mark: Hey Eric, I’d like to learn about the uses of the different redirect codes for SEO.
Eric: Kind of off our topic, Mark, but okay. How do you propose to learn that?
Mark: Well, I could do a Google search and just go with whatever comes up as the first result. In this case, maybe I just trust the featured snippet direct answer that Google provides.
Eric: Yes, you could do that.
Mark: Or I could read the appropriate chapter in The Art of the SEO, Eric Enge, lead co-author.
Eric: Even better.
Mark: Or I could walk down the hallway at Stone Temple and ask Eric Enge himself.
Eric: Best idea yet.
Mark: Now in each case I was making a decision about authority. I had to decide which source was the best authority or at least was authoritative enough for what I needed.
Eric: But there was a significant difference between your first source and the other two. Do you know what that is?
Mark: I do, I do, ask me! Yes, my first source was online via a search, while the other two were offline, a book and an actual real life person.
Eric: Exactly. And while any of those can be authoritative sources, the fact is these days, a lot, maybe even most quests for information start on the web. And most of those start with some kind of search.
Mark: So we end up highly dependent on search engines to vet and recommend the most authoritative sources for a query, much in the way we might rely on a librarian to tell us what the best book on a subject is. We trust that she’s done the work of sifting through the available books and authors so we don’t have to ourselves. In a sense, she’s an authority about authorities. And that’s what we expect a search engine to be.
Eric: So let’s talk about how search engines assess authority.
First, the search engine must crawl the pages of a site. Part of that process involves learning what a site is generally about, what topics it covers, and what specific topics should be associated with each page on the site. Over time, search engines like Google have become more sophisticated about assessing the value of content on a page, looking at things like how thoroughly the page covers its topic, what other resources it connects to, both on and off the page, and many other factors.
Mark: Now once the search engine understands what a web page is about and the quality of its on-page content, it turns next to external signals that help verify the authority of the page. Think of this like citations to an article in a scholarly journal, from articles by other authorities in the same field. The more citations the article has and the more authoritative those giving the citations, the more likely it is that the scholarly community will see that article as being authoritative.
Eric: And of course, in the world of the web, the primary form of citations is links. Search engines evaluate both the number of links coming to a page as well as the sources of those links. Links coming from sites that are both authoritative themselves and highly relevant to the target page give more authority to that page.
Mark: So one of your primary SEO goals should be to create a site that deserves to be seen as an authoritative source for your main topic areas. And then comes the hard work of building enough visibility and reputation that others come to see you as a trusted authority in the area of your business, and begin to link to you and generate the other signals that confirm to search engines that they should recommend you as the place to go for searches important to your business goals.
Eric: Building a truly worthwhile site with useful authoritative content and marketing it effectively are certainly the foundation of earning high quality links that drive up your authority.
The only downside is that you have no control over whether anyone will actually bother to link to you or where those links will come from. If you want to get more proactive, it’s possible to create situations where the links to your site are very intentional and coming from the best possible sources. You have to be very careful about that, though, as the links in the content and sites they come from still have to be of high quality and relevance and must have true value for the users of the site on which they exist.
Mark: Now here at Stone Temple, we’ve built a highly scientific approach to doing that we call Success by Design. That enables us to create for our clients highly valuable content marketing campaigns that not only result in high quality relevant links to their sites but also contribute positively to their brand image and reputation.
Eric: There is so much more we can say about the importance of authority SEO. But we do promise to keep these videos brief. For a deeper dive in this topic, see our chapter from Search Engine Journal’s newly updated “Guide to SEO.”