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Producing quality content is an essential part of most digital marketing strategies.
But what makes content quality? How can you increase the chances that your readers (and Google) view what you’re creating as something legitimate, valuable, and relevant?
There are a lot of answers to that question, but one of the most recent buzzworthy concepts is authority. There’s been debate around the impact of E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trust), and while it’s not an explicit Google ranking factor, it’s hard to argue that being authoritative doesn’t help your content seem more credible in the eyes of your audience.
The teams at BuzzStream and Fractl consider authority to be a crucial aspect of any brand and any content created by that brand. If people don’t trust who you are and what you have to say, it’s unlikely your message will resonate.
So, we decided to investigate: How can marketers create, design, and promote content in the most authoritative way?
When creating content, it’s extremely important to consider the source of the information you’re reporting on or writing about, because the core of authority starts with the methodology.
There are many ways to explore a topic, though, so we showed each of our survey respondents one version of an article snippet that were all exactly the same — except for the methodology.
Here’s one of the article snippets we used:
Summer is an ideal time for vacation for a variety of reasons — the kids are off school, the weather is warm, and you’re dying for a break after half-a-year’s worth of work.
But where are the best places to visit?
To find out, we surveyed 1,000 Americans about where they’ve vacationed in the summer and how much they enjoyed it.
The top answer in the United States? Miami, Florida. Internationally? London, England.
But we subbed out the italicized part in other versions with the following methodologies:
- To find out, we worked with Expedia to analyze flight data in July-September to see where people are traveling the most. [DATA ANALYSIS]
- The Travel + Leisure editorial board provided their thoughts on the top summer vacation destinations. [WELL-KNOWN BRAND OPINION]
- We at SummerVacations.com have compiled a list of our all-time favorite summer destinations. [LESSER-KNOWN SITE OPINION]
- To find out, we used a combination of Southwest flight data (to see where people were traveling most) as well as TripAdvisor’s ratings for the top attractions in those cities to determine the best destinations. [DATA COMBINATION/INDEX]
We then asked respondents — who, again, only saw one methodology — how they’d rate the trustworthiness of the findings.
Unsurprisingly, all of these methodologies were rated at least somewhat trustworthy, probably because they were either data based or relying on the authority and relevance of the brand itself.
But as you can see, there are differences between methodologies, which becomes a bit more distinct when you look at the results when we asked how authoritative they rated the snippet.
Data certainly wins out. Whether it’s a straightforward data analysis or a combination of multiple data sets to create an index or explore new insights, data-based research seems to be the most authoritative way to create content (at least among these methodological options).
Also noteworthy here is the power of an authoritative brand. Notice the discrepancy between the opinion provided by Travel + Leisure compared to the opinion provided by the hypothetical SummerVacations.com. There appears to be an immediate bias about what information will be more trusted and authoritative based on where it’s coming from.
So, methodology matters. Before starting your next project, consider which method for collecting information best lends itself to building the authority of your content.
But it’s not enough to just collect the information — you also have to present it in a way that illustrates its authority.
As we all know, first impressions matter, and how you display your content can set the right (or wrong) tone for how people should perceive the information.
But what is the “right” kind of design? To remove some of the objectivity, we showed our survey respondents either a simple table design or a more elaborate table design. (This time it’s based on real data from a BuzzStream report.)
Then we asked how they’d rank the authority/expertise of the image.
As you can see, it’s neck and neck. The simple design has a slight edge over the elaborate design when it comes to giving the impression of high authority. Though some would argue that if both design styles are nearly the same, it might not be worth putting in the extra work to add the design flourishes.
We decided to take it one step further and answer a question we’ve often had ourselves: What if we include the brand logo on the image? Does that affect the authority of the content?
So we tested two versions of the simple design — one with the BuzzStream logo at the bottom, and one without it.
And we got our answer. The logo does indeed diminish the perceived authority of an image.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad idea. It does help with brand awareness and provides a source for the content. But if you produced really top-notch content from original data, and you want it to appear as authoritative as possible, you might want to consider leaving the logo off the images.
But even if your brand is the source of the data, include a simple line that says Source: XX performs better when compared to including your logo.
Consider your priorities when creating a graphic and whether adding the logo improves or decreases your chance of meeting your goal.
Ready to Promote It?
Not all content is created equal. If you want to create something that’s trusted, valuable, and appealing to publishers, you have to put in the work to make it newsworthy (and look the part).
Once it’s ready, it’s time for the second half of the process: promotions. Even if your content is excellent, it doesn’t mean a writer will open your pitch email.