In a five-year period from 2006 to 2011, the number of blogs grew from 35 million to a staggering 181 million, worldwide, according to research conducted by the Nielsen. With an ever-growing number of blogs vying for attention, it’s much harder for individual bloggers to stand out from the crowd. And as the number of blogs has increased, the payout per CPM ad has gone down. For bloggers, advertising alone is not going to pay the rent.
The most successful bloggers today are the ones who have combined blogging with other marketing techniques, using a hybrid methodology to separate themselves from the competition. These bloggers have entered the highest echelon of their field, and they share many qualities with well-known superstars in other industries. We call these stars Visible Experts℠.
Visible Expert, Defined
There are certain experts who are so well known within their fields that their name becomes its own powerful brand. A few obvious examples are Warren Buffet, for finance, or Mark Zuckerberg, for technology. These stars are great examples of Visible Experts, which we define as individuals “with high visibility and acknowledged expertise who can command influence within a specific target audience.” But it’s not necessary to be world-famous to be a Visible Expert—every industry has its own experts whose names command respect and credibility, even if they are only known inside that world.
For bloggers, the most obvious benefit to becoming a Visible Expert is financial.
Their Visible Expert status allows them to diversify into other more lucrative related ventures, such as speaking engagements, consulting, paid media appearances, authoring or publishing books, and being hired to partner with lesser-known people or brands. It also brings more readers onto their blog, making advertising a more effective revenue stream.
Becoming a Visible Expert
To become a Visible Expert, you will need to focus on several areas:
1. Target Audience
The first step is to define your target audience. Ask yourself, who are you trying to reach? Who is interested in your area of expertise? What kind of content is most appealing to them? How can you reach these readers? Do they tend to congregate in certain social media platforms? Remember that it’s easier to be a big fish in a small pond—the more focused your audience, the easier it will be to become a Visible Expert.
Taking time to carefully research the answers to these questions will provide you with a strategy for maximizing your effectiveness. For instance, if it turns out that your primary audience favors Google+ and Tumblr, it might be a waste of time and resources to be managing Facebook or Twitter accounts.
If you discover that your audience responds well to video, you may want to try mixing up your usual written content by posting a few weekly videos to your blog. Knowing and understanding your audience allows you to be smarter about reaching them.
2. Area of Expertise
The second step is to analyze your area of expertise. Again, start by asking yourself some important questions. What is your specialty? What makes you different? Is your blog offering something that no one else is already providing? Determining your specialty will help you figure out how to differentiate yourself from the competition.
In this analysis it’s also important to figure out if what you are currently known for is what you want to be known for. This sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many of our marketing clients think they are known for providing X, while their audience actually believes they offer Y. Make sure that your content lines up with what your audience actually wants from you!
3. Level of Visibility
You will also need to assess your current level of visibility. It’s possible to be a great blogger providing valuable content, but with very low visibility—no one knows about you. How well are you known? How much influence do you command?
Online Tools: Many bloggers are comfortable using a variety of online tools to measure their online visibility, such as Google search results, organic traffic, citation indexes, Twitter followers, and the like. The rapid growth of social media has made this sort of measurement easier. But it’s important to ensure that you are measuring the correct audience. The metric must be reflective of visibility only within your target audience, and not within a wider or unrelated audience. Many online tools make it difficult to parse out those specific results.
There are other, more direct, ways to track visibility. For instance, you can ask your target audience to name any specific blogs they can think of in your area of expertise (this is called unaided recall) or ask them to rate blogs from a carefully designed list. These direct assessments take more time to compile, but they can be a valuable resource, telling you who your competitors are and if you are visible to your audience—or not.
To increase your visibility, you should employ a variety of online and offline strategies. Many bloggers are accustomed to employing SEO and Link building tactics to increase visibility and reach of their content, and much has been written about that topic. But SEO techniques alone will not launch you into Visible Expert status.
Partnerships: Building strategic partnerships is an important way to increase visibility. How? Social media is a great place to make inroads. Become friendly with other industry experts on Twitter or LinkedIn (first establishing that this is where your target audience hangs out), offering insights and sharing valuable information and tips.
Remember that you should be sharing 80% of someone else’s content, and only 20% of your own. Offering to write guest posts on more popular blogs is another way to increase your visibility. Make sure that you send the blog owner a detailed outline of what you will write about and how it will help their audience—don’t waste their time by asking them for ideas.
Offline Visibility: It’s also critical to increase visibility by moving offline. Again, it starts with your audience. Figure out where you target audience goes, and be there. Join professional associations. Volunteer to share your expertise by guest speaking or monitoring a panel. Attend conferences and other networking events.
Many bloggers tend to feel more comfortable behind their keyboard. If you feel shy about speaking in public, joining Toastmasters or taking classes in acting or public speaking can be a great investment. Remember that Visible Experts are expected to be public figures who are able to mingle, network, and speak publicly.
Putting it all together
In today’s competitive marketplace, bloggers who want to differentiate themselves need to start thinking beyond the words they type on the screen. Providing valuable content is only one of many factors necessary to success. Bloggers need to think strategically about marketing, becoming Visible Experts and learning to strategically position their brands in the marketplace. The bloggers who are able to embrace these marketing strategies will find themselves racing ahead of the competition.