When you’re planning to buy something – whether it’s a taco or a stand mixer or a car – what do you do? You look for reviews, read expert recommendations, or ask a friend for advice. Each vote of confidence brings you a step closer to making your purchase.
Google does the same thing when ranking your business website. Search engines look for signals that your business is trustworthy, reputable, and worth recommending – and they do this by analyzing your backlink profile.
Each website linking to your site is a vote of confidence for your business. Quality backlinks are a signal to search engines that reputable companies within your industry are vouching for you – it’s the equivalent of a 5-star review, a Facebook like, and a friend referral all in one. The more quality backlinks you have, the higher you rank on Google, and the more likely your ideal customers find your business.
This is why authentic backlink-building should be an essential element of your SEO strategy. But when you’re busy creating content for your own platform, it’s easy to put off or even completely forego off-page SEO tactics. You want to focus on creating your own content rather than spending time and effort writing guest posts for other websites.
So how do you juggle creating content for your platform and building authentic backlinks? By focusing on creating thought leadership content.
Let’s look at CXL Institute – an educational platform for digital marketers focused on conversion rate optimization and improving user experience.
Even with the abundance of conversion ninjas and UX wizards, CXL manages to stand out in a saturated niche. Just look at that impressive backlink profile – big names and companies like Neil Patel, Yoast, Shopify, Forbes, and even digital marketing powerhouse Hubspot are linking to them.
How do they do this? With thought leadership content – comprehensive and strategic content that provides deep insights and fresh perspectives on topics relevant to their ideal audience.
Go through CXL’s blog, and you’ll see them writing about topics like copywriting and design best practices. These topics appeal to their ideal audience – aspiring digital marketers who benefit the most from CXL’s paid educational courses.
CXL also publishes deep dives on psychology and business building, gather and analyze industry data, and conduct original research on conversion optimization and persuasion. And these are the topics that catch the attention of more established marketers, even those already leading their niche.
In this way, CXL wields the power of thought leadership content in two ways: attracting and sustaining their ideal customers’ attention and becoming an expert to the experts. The first one gets them quality leads; the second gets them backlinks. These tactics ultimately work together to boost their company’s income and impact.
How do you create content so useful and insightful that others would recommend it to their audience? Impactful thought leadership content that naturally builds backlinks has these qualities.
Excellent thought leadership content offers value to your audience, and the audience of other businesses and personalities in your industry. It provides better ways to tackle an existing challenge in the industry. It also delves into how products and industries evolve to meet the changing needs of customers.
The goal of thought leadership content is to inspire customers to act and make their lives better. It also guides your industry to grow better businesses and embrace positive change.
For your thought leadership content to work, you must have a defined target audience. It’s then easier to identify their problems and provide practical solutions. You can also go deep on their issues and offer practical advice because you are focused on a specific group of people.
Exceptional thought leadership content offers solutions that are practical, timely, and useful. Ground your insights on real-life experiences and circumstances.
Thought leadership content should offer visionary ideas on how companies in a particular industry can achieve their goals. It should also provide better solutions that address the current needs of customers and the challenges of the industry.
In this article, I gave you a strategy for creating thought leadership content for your ideal customers.
Now, we’ll be talking about using the same strategy to attract not just customers, but colleagues, counterparts, and – yes – even competitors.
As you go through the next steps, try to reverse-engineer CXL’s success. How would you do it in your niche?
Like CXL’s, your thought leadership content strategy should target two groups: your ideal customer and your ideal industry authority.
To be their thought leader, you must first understand them. Know their aspirations, needs, and motivators. Understand the world from their perspective. Create a buyer persona to guide your messages.
Make a list of business owners, content creators, and decision-makers in your space. Who are the HubSpots, Neil Patels, and Yoasts in your niche?
Go through their company websites and social media platforms. What are they stuck on? What can help them boost their businesses? What are you doing in your business that they’re not?
Now that you have a better understanding of your target audience, let’s define your thought leadership content goals.
Ask yourself these questions:
As you begin to execute your thought leadership content strategy, you’re likely to get many unintended results. Setting goals from the start helps keep you on track and working towards your long-game goals.
You now have your key themes and overarching goals – let’s break it down and plan your editorial calendar. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Monitor your niche. Go on social media and industry-specific forums. What’s new in your industry? What are some questions that your counterparts asked lately? What do you believe or know about your industry that very few people do?
Counternarrative opinions. Do you have a different, better way of doing things? Show proof that it is indeed better and make a comprehensive guide for other businesses to follow.
Personal narrative. How did you or your company solve a particular problem that you know a lot of companies are dealing with as well? Tell a good story and give specific steps to replicate your success.
Tap into your connections. Tell another company’s success story and clarify it for your audience with your insights and expertise. Break it down into a strategy for other businesses to execute.
Analyze your industry. Research about your industry’s most significant pain points and use the data to recommend a feasible strategy.
All good content marketing strategies – whether it’s blogging, podcasting, or social media influencing – have this one thing in common: consistency.
To stay relevant and top of mind, you must consistently produce valuable, thoughtful content.
Stick to a schedule – 1-2 articles per week is a good start. As you publish your content and start to get engagement and backlinks, you see what kinds of content resonate with your target audience. You also get a better sense of which platforms to use. Start by publishing in your company blog and then move on to relevant platforms like digital publications and social media.
Backlink-building through thought leadership content creation is a long game. To keep you from getting distracted or discouraged, set realistic KPIs that reflect your business and marketing goals.
Monitor your company’s reputation on social media and industry-specific forums. Is your target audience responding positively to your thought leadership content? Do you need to adjust your messages to be more relevant and valuable?
Check your site on Ahref’s backlink checker to see which sites are linking back to you, and which content they’re linking to. How can you adjust or amplify these results? Which topics are resonating most with your target audience? Is it aligned with your thought leadership content goals?
By evaluating your results – and screening out the noise – you learn what areas need improvement and how to make it better.
Consistently publishing good thought leadership content is a crucial element of your online marketing strategy – it connects you with your ideal customers and positions you as an expert in your industry.
Strive first to become a good leader – know your audience, listen to them, and help them achieve their goals. Stay on top of industry trends, monitor your niche, and build meaningful relationships with your counterparts within and across industries.
Tap into your relationships, experience, and expertise to create and publish thought leadership content consistently. With time, you get more readers and followers and increase your reach through authentic backlinks and SEO.
Adriana Stein is an Online Marketing Consultant based in Hamburg, Germany. Originally from the US, she is a native English speaker and specializes in helping companies with their SEO & content marketing strategies, along with graphic design, brand copy and website development.