Brand Authority: the New Topical Authority?

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At my last company, SEO was just a part of the overall marketing strategy.

It was our worst-performing segment too (if you can believe it!).

As the Helpful Content Update rolls out and site owners start to connect the dots, the conversation surrounding “Brand” has been building steam.

The idea that you have to build a brand to rank long term in the SERPs. Certainly, Sammie Ellard-King has been on that for awhile now. His interview on the Niche Pursuits Podcast was all about it.

I agree with it.

I’m not saying you can’t get by with SEO being your only focus. There are plenty of sites still ranking well that employ an SEO only focus.

Topical Authority is still key.

But even with an SEO focus and Topical Authority nailed, you have to be really good, do all the things right, and probably have a bit of luck on your side too.

And it’s more risky. In other words, you’re gambling a bit going forward.

There will be plenty that still succeed. But there will be fewer of them. And futureproofing your website just very well might lie in creating a Brand.

So, for those of you who want to hear a deep dive into creating a Brand, I’ll share my thoughts below. Why listen to me? I’ve done it a number of times before.

And I’m going to make it super practical. I’ll skip most of the theory and get into the HOW of creating a brand.

No, I don’t do this with every “niche site” of mine. I’ve only (mostly) done this on one of them. And, it did take a hit in the HCU (about 15%). 

But, I am doing it with my agency. My Brand. It’s a long, slow process. When you get done reading this, you’ll probably see what I mean. But, if it’s the way forward, then that’s the way we move.

How To Turn Your Niche Site Into a Brand

Let’s say you’re convinced that creating a Brand is the best way forward. Here is the way I go about creating content for a Brand like my agency.

I’ll say at the outset – I don’t get it all right. Writing this reminded me that I need to do better at my Brand.

With that out of the way, let’s dive in.

1. Change Your Mindset

You no longer run a niche site. Heck, you no longer run a website. And, no, you’re not a blogger. You’re a business owner.

You run a brand that does X. And what is X?

Well, you need to answer that. And no, it isn’t serving ads. No one buys ads. And it isn’t affiliating products. What is your product? What is your business?

You have to have a bigger purpose, a bigger monetization strategy than just blogging. Because that’s what brands have. And, as a result, they do more things than just blogging.

And that’s who Google wants to reward, more and more. So what is your X?

If you can’t think of it, read on. Hopefully it will spark some ideas. But don’t do anything else until you figure that out.

2. Make a Content Plan

If you’re guilty of going after long tail, low competition keywords as you see them, you might want to stop. I can’t tell you how many sites I evaluate and review that fall victim of this.

You can keep writing about these topics. But only if they are a part of a larger, content roadmap.

To turn your website into a true brand, you need to cover all the topics that your target market and audience are interested in.

Brands don’t write topics that are of low competition. They write topics that are interesting to their audience. These include:

  • Industry news
  • New product and service offerings
  • Interviews
  • Case Studies

They also include helpful informational content. And, oftentimes, product reviews. Notice that I said “also” though? That isn’t the end game.

Content Plan should be a complete plan of attack for all the topics that a brand targeting X would cover.

They think about things like the buyer journey, and producing content that meets that audience at the Top of the Funnel (TOFU), Middle of the Funnel (MOFU), and Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU).

Usually, those things will include a variety of content topics, types, and mediums. Let’s focus on topics and subtopics for this Content Plan. Don’t just use your 3 biggest competitors and mine their keywords.

You need to fully flush out the topics that your audience wants. This should come from a variety of sources.

Don’t get me wrong. I still use keyword research as a part of this stage. It’s just that it’s not the only part.

Here is a good punch list for you. Research ALL of these to get topic ideas:

  • Websites
  • Blogs
  • Google Business Profile
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • TikTok
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • White Papers
  • Case Studies
  • Conferences (no need to go, just review the topics that were covered)
  • Podcasts

Believe it or not, this can all be done with the help of a VA and some good training processes.

That’s a lot more places to look than just Ahrefs, huh?

Which perfectly leads to my next step.

3. Pick Your Content Mediums

As I said at the outset, blogging is only one medium that a Brand engages in.

They make video content too.

Brands also make use of social media. Most have some form of a storefront or physical presence. They have relationships with vendors in their space.

They network at community and industry events. Perhaps they have mentorship problems. They might even give to charity events and have giving arms.

They do all this because they know that all of it is important to creating a Brand.

As a Brand, you need and want to be attractive to your target audience. And while they might have similar interests, they don’t all engage in the same Medium. Meaning, they don’t all prefer blog content.

Some prefer video. Of those that prefer video, some prefer short form, some long form. Some vertical, some horizontal. Some informational, some demonstrative, some review. 

Some prefer imagery and graphics. Some prefer podcasts. Some prefer email. You get the picture.

So, pick your mediums right now. Here is a good list to get you started (yes, I asked ChatGPT with a really good prompt, and then edited it):

Written Content

  • Blog: Share articles, how-tos, lists, reviews, etc.
  • E-books: Longer, in-depth content on specific topics.
  • Whitepapers: Detailed reports on specific topics.
  • Newsletters: Regular updates, news, and exclusive content.
  • Case Studies: Detailed analyses of specific projects or solutions.

Video Content

  • YouTube: For all types of video content.
  • Vimeo: Another platform for video sharing.
  • TikTok: Short, engaging video clips.
  • Instagram Reels: Short video content.
  • Facebook Video & Facebook Live: Live and pre-recorded videos.
  • LinkedIn Video & LinkedIn Live: Especially for B2B content.
  • Webinars: Online seminars or workshops.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) & Augmented Reality (AR): Immersive content experiences.

Audio Content:

  • Podcasts: Regular episodes on topics of interest.
  • Audiobooks: Narrated versions of written content.
  • Clubhouse/Twitter Spaces/Etc: Audio chat rooms for live discussions.
  • Spotify Greenroom: Another platform for live audio discussions.

Social Media

  • Twitter (I mean, X): Short updates, news, and engagement.
  • Instagram: Photos, stories, and IGTV.
  • Facebook: Posts, stories, groups, and pages.
  • LinkedIn: Professional updates, articles, and networking.
  • Pinterest: Visual pins and boards.
  • Snapchat: Short-lived visual content and stories.
  • Reddit: Engage in discussions and share content in relevant subreddits.

Interactive Content

  • Quizzes: Engage users with fun or informative quizzes.
  • Polls & Surveys: Gather feedback or opinions.
  • Infographics: Visual representation of data or information.
  • Interactive Videos: Videos where users can make choices.
  • Web Apps & Tools: Useful tools related to your business.

Physical Content

  • Print Magazines & Newspapers: Traditional print media.
  • Brochures & Flyers: For events, promotions, or information.
  • Books: Publish in-depth content in print or e-book form.
  • Direct Mail: Personalized letters, postcards, or packages.

Events & Experiences

  • Workshops: Hands-on learning experiences.
  • Conferences: Larger gatherings with multiple sessions.
  • Meetups: Smaller, informal gatherings.
  • Trade Shows: Showcase products or services.
  • Virtual Events: Online versions of physical events.

Other Platforms & Mediums:

  • Unique Imagery: custom photography
  • SMS & Messaging Apps: Direct communication with users.
  • Facebook Group: Join or start a community.
  • Forums & Community Boards: Engage in discussions. Be helpful
  • Q&A Platforms like Quora: Answer questions and establish expertise.
  • Email: Direct communication, updates, promotions, etc.
  • Discord: Join or start a community.
  • Twitch: Live streaming, especially for gaming content.

Partner Content:

  • Guest Blogging: Write for other blogs or invite others to write for yours. (NO, not for SEO, for genuine exposure about your Brand)
  • Collaborative Videos/Podcasts: Partner with other creators.
  • Sponsored Content: Collaborate with brands for sponsored posts, videos, etc.

Pick a reasonable number before moving on. I can’t tell you what to pick, because it should be based on a collection of things:

  • What your audience prefers
  • What you’re good at creating
  • Which mediums lend themselves to each other

If you’re stuck on some of them, leave them on the list. You can eliminate them later once you’re done with all the steps.

4. Group Content Topics Together

With your Content Plan created and mediums picked, it’s time to start grouping content topics together. From now on, I’m going to spend less time convincing you what Brands do, and more time showing you how to implement it.

Open a spreadsheet. List all of your topics and sub topics going down on the left as rows. List all of the mediums you selected as rows across the top as columns.

Now starts the lengthy process.

For every topic or subtopic (row), put an x in every medium that could apply. Meaning, it’s possible to apply that medium (not that you are going to). Let’s introduce an example. 

Let’s say you run an SEO agency…

And the mediums you selected are:

  • Blogging
  • YouTube
  • Email
  • Social Media
    • Twitter (X)
    • Linkedin
  • Case Studies
  • Guest Blogging
  • Workshops
  • Conferences
  • Meetups
  • Trade Shows
  • Virtual Events

And your topic is “content plans” I would start by asking, “Can I blog about a content plan”? The answer is yes. X

Can I create a YouTube video about a content plan? Yep. X

Can I send out an email about creating a content plan. Of course. X

And so forth.

Bonus: create a hierarchy.

Perhaps use a 1, 2, and 3 to distinguish which medium is great, ok, and not great but possible. A 3 means it’s perfect, but a 1 means it’s possible but not ideal.

5. Create a Content Outline Process

We need to create a process for outlining the content we’re going to create. (Notice I didn’t say “write”).

You need an outline process that surfaces everything you’ll need to create all of the content mediums.

I find this helpful… for every medium, ask:

“To fully create a _______, I will need the following: ________. _________, etc”

So, to fully create a blog post, I will need:

  • Content outline
  • Authoritative sources / citations
  • Visual media
  • Data for charts / graphs
  • Expert quotes

And then do this for every single medium you have selected. Now you can make a list of what every topic will need.  

If Topic A can take advantage of blog, YouTube, Email, Linkedin, and Twitter, I gather ALL of the things I need for ALL of those mediums. 

Once you have this list, you can make a comprehensive list of everything you’ll need for each piece of content.

The key here is to know what you need BEFORE you start producing content.

6. Group Mediums Together

This step is actually pretty easy. Group all of your mediums together into skill sets. Generally speaking, I group them as follows:

  • Writing
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Audio/Video
  • Graphics
  • Presentation
  • In-person

So, YouTube is Video. You need a skillset in video to create this. 

Unique imagery is Graphics. 

Podcast is Audio. 

Unless you also want to publish your podcast on YouTube. Then it’s Audio/Video.

You don’t technically need to do this step, if you’re the one who will be doing everything. But in Step #8, you’ll see why this segmentation is valuable.

If you’ll be hiring different people to help you with your content process, then this part is important.

7. Plan Order of Operations

Now it’s time to put all of this together. Let’s review what we’ve accomplished so far:

  • Picked ALL of your topics and subtopics
  • Picked ALL of your content mediums you’ll publish on
  • Grouped each topic / subtopic to every possible medium
  • Created a Content Outline Process for every medium
  • Grouped Mediums into Skillsets

Now, let’s build the process out. This is the order of operations. This is key.  Entire books have been written about process management. Heck, you can get a degree in it.

The goal is to get the order of operations right, so that you’re maximizing your productivity. Getting the order of operations right also means you’ll be able to bring others in to help you (if that’s your goal). 

Going back to my example, here’s an order of operations:

  1. Build 5-10 Tweets about each topic / sub topic
  2. Each quarter, evaluate the top 12 performing tweets from the previous quarter in terms of engagement metrics (likes, comments, retweets, etc)
  3. For each of the 12:
    1. Write a long form email that is highly personalized for my newsletter
    2. Build custom graphics where relevant for email
    3. If email performs well, add email to my auto-responder sequence
    4. Reformat email and post on my blog
    5. Feed my email into ChatGPT (with a well-refined prompt) and produce a 5-10 minute video script
    6. Record a YouTube video and publish
    7. Embed video into my blog post
    8. Create 5-10 YouTube Shorts from video
    9. Feed my email into ChatGPT (with a well-refined prompt) and produce a LinkedIn post
    10. Use the content topic to look into my agency’s past performance and find a Case Study to create from the topic
    11. Research and pitch relevant companies and/or vendors on expanding on the topic for their blog
    12. Research and pitch relevant podcasts on joining them to discuss the topic
  4. For the most popular of the 12 topics:
    1. Pitch popular publications on your topic, video, and Case Study to create a piece of content
    2. Pitch popular conferences and online events on your topic, video, and Case Study to create a presentation

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet… that actually is my strategy for my agency. Do I do each thing every single time? No.

We all drop the ball from time to time. But that’s not the point of this post or exercise.  This has never been more important than now, so I’m going to redouble my efforts to follow my own process.

With Steps #1-7, I can maximize my time and energy, allowing myself to get max value out of every piece of content.

I am meeting my target audience where they are, while growing my Brand.

8. Build the Process

Now it’s time to build the process. Who is going to do what? It might all be you. But, chances are, you’ll want to add team members to parts of the process.

Hire a writer. A freelance graphic designer. An editor. This is what I’m going to be talking about at my free Niche Site Summit presentation next month.

It’s free to watch (along with dozens of other amazing speakers) – all you need to do is register for the free event. So you’ll have to tune into that to see #8.

Suffice to say, this one section warrants an entire 30+ minute presentation.

Creating a Brand

Niche Site → Brand. I joined Gareth Boyd’s Twitter Space this past Sunday, and a bunch of us spent 2+ hours talking about this (listen to the recording here). 

There will be plenty of niche sites that still win in the future. They’ll get the complicated combination of signals correct that Google needs to see.

But that’s a gamble. And I don’t like gambling. Especially not with something I’ve worked hard towards.

Creating a Brand is more-than-likely the new way forward. And I’ve done it many times before, so I’m confident in this new process. 

Remember, this is a Strategy, with corresponding Tactics.

How well it works will depend largely on how well you implement it.

But like with so many things, having a good process on paper is key. Then you can turn to getting to work and cranking out content.

But not just SEO content.

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Jared Bauman

Jared Bauman is the Co-Founder of 201 Creative, and is a 20+ year entrepreneur who has started and sold several companies. He is the host of the popular Niche Pursuits podcast and a contributing author to Search Engine Land.

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