Despite emerging as a trendy buzzword in recent years, many people would be hard-pressed to tell you exactly what thought leadership means and how it relates to search engine optimization (SEO). This represents a missed opportunity. Integrating thought leadership and SEO into your website’s content strategy will enable you to reach more people and drive deeper engagement.
As an industry expert, you have unique knowledge and experiences to share with the world. Effective thought leadership will help you build your personal brand, multiplying your business opportunities. At the same time, this marketing strategy will enable you to give back by providing high-quality and insightful content to other members of your field.
What Is Thought Leadership?
Thought leaders provide valuable insights into a given industry or field. They challenge existing beliefs with well-researched and original information. The best thought leaders are genuine. They can relate their own experiences and industry knowledge in a clear, personable, and empathetic manner. People often focus on the “thought” aspect of thought leadership to the detriment of being a leader.
Readers look to thought leaders to expand their horizons. Thought leaders signal industry direction shifts through brand-specific insights. Much of thought leadership is data-driven. Commissioning a survey or conducting a study can help you deliver value to your readers. Other forms of thought leadership favor softer but no less important insights driven by personal experiences and wisdom earned through years of industry experience.
Ultimately, thought leadership is a high-level marketing strategy designed to build online authority, allowing you to increase brand awareness. Thought leaders generally compete on quality, not prices. Becoming a thought leader can help you justify charging premium prices for your brand’s product or service.
Why Are Content Marketing and Thought Leadership Valuable?
Content marketing lets brands connect with consumers at a deeper level than traditional marketing channels typically allow. With content marketing, you position yourself as a subject matter expert. This can help you build trust with your customer base. If they look to you as an authority, they’ll be more likely to trust your product or service.
For example, a bank can foster feelings of trust with its patrons by publishing a series of articles on how to build credit on its website. By offering internet users valuable information for free, the bank is positioning itself as a subject matter authority. Internet searchers will be grateful for the free and informative content.
Thought leadership enhances SEO content by offering bold, challenging, and innovative views. While an article on building credit can help a bank with its overall SEO strategy, a thought leadership piece on the impact that the Federal Reserve’s recent rate hikes have had on the property market will reach more eyes and drive more engagement.
That’s because credit building is neither new nor timely—articles of a similar nature flood the internet. But offering key insight into an ongoing issue provides greater value to curious consumers. Thought leadership is largely about fulfilling deeply unmet needs.
3 Narratives to Leverage
Many people struggle to write thought leadership pieces because they feel that they have nothing unique or insightful to say. However, if you dig down, you’ll quickly find that it’s false. Use these three prompts to help you craft a top-notch thought leadership content piece.
1. Your Story
We all have a story, and people are more interested in hearing yours than you might think. For thousands of years, stories have allowed humans to connect with one another on a deeper level. Stories do more than inform and entertain. They build trust and cultivate empathy. When you share your lived experiences with others, you’re simultaneously acting the part of teacher, guide, and friend.
Leverage your unique experiences to set yourself apart from the competition. Think back over your life to the events that shaped you. What lessons did you learn? A good story provides a masterclass on navigating work, life, and professional and personal relationships.
2. What You Know
Your competitive edge lies in your niche knowledge. Unfortunately, the web suffers from an overabundance of rehashed content. Do a Google search for a common issue in your industry, and you’ll come up with, at minimum, thousands of articles all competing for the same space on the front page of Google’s search results page.
In this saturated system, the best way to set yourself apart from the competition is to rely on your unique knowledge. Despite the avalanche of information out there, there’s still room for new and unheard insights. As an industry professional, you can leverage insights you’ve gleaned from your years in the field to stand out from the competition.
3. Utilize Content From Industry Experts
Interviewing a leading expert in your industry is another way to provide high-value content for your readers. Experienced professionals are often all too happy to share their wisdom with others. These relationships can be mutually advantageous. Featuring an industry expert on your blog or company website will help them build their personal brand by providing them with valuable social proof.
How to Develop a Content Strategy for Thought Leadership
Before you start writing, it’s important to create a content strategy to align your work with your goals. Content strategies can take different forms. For example, some businesses choose to create content clusters which are a series of blog articles or other content forms all centered on a single topic.
Write High-Quality Content
In the early days of the internet, companies could get away with posting poorly written or unoriginal content. We’ve long since moved past that stage. Instead, readers demand high-quality and informative content. With so many options on the table, there’s simply no reason to bother with anything less.
At the core of high-quality content is unique, challenging, or otherwise informative content. Sharp and detail-heavy writing will win out over fuzzy, vague, or rambling content. Equally important and often under-emphasized is the importance of proper spelling, grammar, and formatting. It doesn’t matter how insightful or original your ideas are if no one can understand them.
Build your Personal Brand and SEO
Thought leadership is more than just a one-and-done deal. The most effective thought leaders build up a strong personal brand through years of outreach and education. As a thought leader, you want to be the go-to person for questions about your field.
How does SEO play into this? Recent changes to Google’s algorithm favor the use of topic clusters when ranking web pages. The more you’ve written on a given subject and the more link building you do, the higher your work will rise. Establishing yourself as an authority figure within a given niche will give you leverage on Google’s search results page, which will drive more eyeballs toward your website.
Does Thought Leadership Content Actually Work?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is thought leadership content can produce extraordinary results, but it requires time, patience, and a well-thought-out thought leadership strategy. Internet users are hungry for high-quality, informative work. They want new and unique insights. Therefore, thought leadership should be a mutually advantageous relationship. When thought leadership is done right, all parties benefit.
Thought leadership fails when it rehashes familiar content and substitutes fluff for insight. With so much information freely available online, thought leaders must leverage their unique knowledge and experiences to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Keeping track of key metrics is necessary to tell how effective your thought leadership strategy actually is. However, before measuring your results, it’s important to define what success means to you. For example, do you want to drive more traffic to your website or a social media profile? What types of engagement are you looking for? Do you want to spark a conversation or drive leads to your website’s service page?
Measuring results will look different depending on your goals, your posting platform, and the industry you work in. For example, B2B thought leadership might favor a more formal tone than B2C thought leadership content marketing. On the other hand, if your thought leadership marketing goals include driving more traffic to your website, you’ll want to brush up on your Google Analytics skills.
By contrast, if you’re an email marketer, you may focus more on email tracking statistics, such as open rates and click-through rates to URLs embedded in the body of your email. Social media gurus will want to see how much visibility their post is getting and the level and type of engagement it’s receiving. Social media can be especially tricky because, contrary to popular wisdom, not all press is good press. If the comments on your LinkedIn post are overwhelmingly negative or off-topic, you’ll know it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Publishing thought leader content can enhance your public image by positioning you as an authority figure within your realm of expertise. Utilizing SEO best practices can help you expand your audience organically. As a parting thought, when engaging in thought leadership, authenticity is everything. Reflect deeply on your lived experiences to discover what sets you apart from the pack. To put it in business terms, leverage your unique selling proposition to become an authority in your field.