Updated: May 27
Thought leadership and SEO are both long-term strategies that will not see immediate benefits, but in the medium to long-term, you will be paid back with strong customer bonds and high-quality content that drive SEO though back linking, leading to high rankings in search results.
Why SEO and Thought Leadership are Linked
Since the rise of search engines, SEO has become an essential tool in getting your voice heard in a bustling online environment. Having your content found by your customers presents an enormous advantage to both building relationships and eventually turning those relationships into sales.
How to Create Evergreen Thought Leadership Content
Now that we have covered the theory behind the components of thought leadership, we can expand on those elements and give some practical advice so that you can start planning your own thought leadership strategy and share your expertise.
Credibility Through Quality, Valuable Content
Credibility is key.
If you lack credibility, you’re never going to be a thought leader, its as simple as that.
We talked about the importance of being a credible source in our last post, but what does that mean in practice?
Well, first of all, your content has to be well researched and produced. A sure-fire way to lose credibility is by making simple mistakes that make you look unprofessional and that you don’t look like you know what you’re talking about. Truly great content cant always be rushed and sometimes you need to sit with your research for a while until you have fully come to terms with it and can write it into some detailed analysis using your own expertise. Stating your sources when creating content is important for credibility too.
Commenting on other peoples work to illustrate where you stand in relation to your peers or competitions can provide great value, but transparency when doing so is crucial. You don’t want to be accused of stealing other peoples work as that is in direct opposition to what you are trying to produce with thought leadership content.
You should also be questioning what value you are adding to such sources when you use them: are they illustrating and informing your broader narrative or are you just sharing other peoples work?
Another way of building credibility is by occasionally commenting on trends. Trends are, naturally, popular topics and they therefore serve a dual benefit to you when writing about them.
Of course commenting on trends that are popular will already have a lot of buzz around them and adding your unique perspective on them will be interesting to your audience but they simultaneously signal to your audience that you are in tune to the industry around you. That’s not to say that you necessarily have to agree with the popular opinion but your counter narrative opinion can be interesting also.
If you’re feeling bolder in your content creation and you are confident about your expertise, you can make predictions.
“The value of a prediction is not accuracy (though it is better to be right than wrong), but the reasoning and conversation that the prediction catalyzes.” - Professor Scott Galloway
While that is certainly true, in order to maintain credibility, you need to be transparent about those predictions. If you want to take credit for your predictions coming true, then you need to be honest when they don’t. As Prof Galloway says, there is still value in the analysis and discussion that lead up to your final prediction, but for that analysis to hold credibility, you must be honest where you have made mistakes.
Value for Your Audience
The second element of thought leadership content is audience value. Creating valuable content is, of course, a great way to win favorability with potential customers but is often easier said than done. In a world where finding information is easier than ever before, a question you should be asking yourself is, what content can you create that is uniquely valuable to your audience?
Above, we mentioned the well researched and well sourced content is important for the sake of transparency, but having great references and recommended reading for your audience can show that you are in touch with other authority figures in the field. As you create valuable content you can expect that others will also start linking to your work, which is why thought leadership can be an incredibly effective tool for SEO.
This value can come in many forms. How-to guides are great, industry analysis is valuable too, but the key is to find out what kind of questions your audience is looking for answers to and be the place they go to for answers.
There is no “correct tone” for your content other that to say that it should be brand consistent, platform appropriate and engaging. Professionalism doesn’t have to mean that your content has to be boring and emotionless, in fact quite the opposite. Let your passion for your subject show through and you will be rewarded with an audience that is engaged and excited too. Remember that thought leadership, along with creating value for your audience, is about creating long-term relationships with them and that is never going to happen if your content lacks character.
Goals and Review
Not everybody’s intentions when creating thought leadership content are the same and so, having a set of SMART targets before you create content is going to keep you on track towards your goals. You need to think about what it is exactly that you want from this content, how long do you think it will take you to achieve that and what success will look like.
The most important step of this is understanding your audience and that doesn’t just mean your current audience. Its common for people to very carefully plan their target audience at the beginning of a project and then after the first few blogs to forget about it. Understanding your audience is a constant process. If your campaign is successful, your audience will change and at every step you should be evaluating how that affects your goals. Your audience may be growing but is that translating to sales and if not, why not.
None of this means that success and growth will happen immediately, and you should be realistic about the timelines involved. However, setting goals that you are regularly measuring yourself against is important in order to track those changes and capitalise on positives or fix negatives early on.
What are the Common Mistakes?
Thought leadership is certainly not easy but hopefully by following these steps you can start to think about what sort of approach you might take. As we have mentioned some tips, lets talk about some common mistakes also. The most obvious mistake that creators make is thinking that the best way to highlight the expertise is, essentially, a 1500 word advertisement. The goal of this content is not to directly push for sales but earn respect and build relationships on the hope that when the time is right, the customers will come back. Content that is too direct in its sales appeal loses all credibility, as the content doesn’t feel genuine.
Somewhat related to that, when you think of thought leadership you need to think about leveraging your unique talents to stand out from the crowd. You can follow all the steps above but if your content is not interesting and unique, it will never set you apart from the pack. Be bold in predictions, be genuine in your approach and don’t be afraid to counter the perceived wisdom in your field.
Thought leadership is one of the most powerful forms of content that you can aspire to create. The value created for customers and the respect for the creator in return make mean that in the best cases, everybody wins. If you haven’t already, check out our first post on thought leadership to learn more.
At Kahana, we live and breathe content creation. We love learning new concepts, exploring emergent trends, and writing about topics that foster creativity and wellness.