From Zero to Hero: Harnessing Thought Leadership Content to Build Your Authority

Picture of Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy

Creator and Co-founder

thought leadership content

Are you looking to grow your business and establish yourself as an authority in the marketplace?

Thought leadership content is a great way to do this.

But what exactly is thought leadership content?

How can it help position you as an expert in your field, and how should you go about writing it for maximum success?

In this blog post, we’ll explore all of these questions and more – giving you the insights you need to leverage effective, authoritative content marketing on your website.

Let’s discover strategies for creating excellent thought leadership content that will get results.

Table of Contents

What Is Thought Leadership Content?

Thought leadership content is a type of long-form content that provides more than just valuable information to an audience.

It goes above and beyond that.

Here’s everything that thought leadership content can or should do:

  • Share a unique perspective on a topic, from an expert point of view.
  • Provide insights & wisdom gleaned from years of experience or study.
  • Assert an expert opinion backed up by data or evidence.
  • Offer a unique solution to an industry problem.
  • Share stories from an experienced, wise perspective that sheds new light on a topic.
  • Above all, position the author as a thought leader/expert in their field.

Ultimately, this type of content is totally unique to the brand and the people creating it. It will not look like the content on your competitor’s site or the top content on Google. Nor will it regurgitate information that’s already out there.

Above all, experts who are passionate about their industry and want to share their knowledge with others create thought leadership content.

What Are the Benefits of Creating Thought Leadership Content?

The primary benefit of thought leadership content is that it helps position you as an authority figure within your industry or niche.

Since this type of expert content goes beyond surface-level information and instead draws from wisdom, skill, experience, and knowledge, it’s packed with value.

Even further, it demonstrates your expertise and builds your credibility among potential customers or clients.

Additionally, thought leadership content has been shown to increase website traffic and improve SEO rankings.

Why? Most of it is also long-form. (Our content study proved how much more effective long-form content is than short-form.)

short form vs long form content a clear winner content hacker

Finally, thought leadership content is a great way to differentiate your business from your competitors. By showcasing unique perspectives on topics related to your niche, you’ll stand out.

Examples of Thought Leadership Content

Used correctly, thought leadership content can be a powerful tool. Let’s look at a few examples of thought leaders doing it right for inspiration.

Mark Schaefer

An industry leader producing thought leadership content almost weekly is top digital marketer Mark Schaefer.

You could pull almost any piece from his blog as a prime example of this type of content, but we’ll look at one piece in particular: “Does social media marketing still matter?

mark schaefer thought leadership content

Here are all the elements that make it a great thought leadership piece:

  • Mark Schaefer states in the introduction that the post is a response to a reader’s question. Thought leadership content is all about creating an open dialogue with your audience.
  • He expresses a firm opinion (social media marketing has changed forever, he says) about a niche topic based on his expertise. (That’s key!)
  • The point of the post is to share his perspective and advice in a helpful way.
  • He doesn’t just bank on you knowing already that he’s an expert. He proves his expertise continually throughout the post.
    • For example, he references concepts he wrote about in his book, Belonging to the Brand. Not just anybody can write a book — and mentioning it signals to us, “Hey, I know my stuff. I wrote an entire book on these concepts!”

mark schaefer thought leadership content

Brian Dean

If you’ve heard of SEO, you’ve probably also heard of Brian Dean.

One of the many reasons he’s so well-known is because of the thought leadership content he published on his site, Backlinko.

Take, for instance, this original research report on evergreen content.

backlinko thought leadership content

Now, you may notice that this isn’t quite like Mark Schaefer’s authority content. Instead of offering opinions and advice rooted in years of expertise, Brian Dean is handing his readers detailed, thorough research based on tons of data he and his team dug up, analyzed, and organized.

Here’s why this is thought-leadership quality:

  • It’s exhaustive. Not only did Brian Dean/Backlinko invest in resources to analyze 3.6 billion articles, but he also wrote a 2,400-word report on it full of examples and analysis.
  • The research is rooted in expertise. A newbie couldn’t have written this post. This stuff takes some skill and knowledge to sift through, and even more to write about it in an easy-to-understand way.

Now that you know what thought leadership content looks like, let’s go deeper.

If you know how to position yourself as an expert, you can create quality content that engages your audience and drives business growth. Let’s look at how to do this next.

How to Position Yourself as an Authority with Thought Leadership Content

Positioning yourself as an authority with thought leadership content is a great way to establish your brand and build trust with potential customers.

But how do you do that?

Here are some strategies for writing excellent thought leadership content.

1. Lean into Your Differentiator

As you set out to create authoritative content that positions your brand as a thought leader, you need to know and lean into your differentiator in your niche.

This is because true thought leadership is unique.

When you’re a thought leader, your voice stands out because you’re not parroting what someone else has already said. You don’t sound like your competitor or a faceless company — you sound like an expert with your own thoughts, opinions, and ideas.

So, understanding what sets you apart will give you a good foundation to build on and will color your perspective on any topic — which is exactly what you want.

Think about:

  • The experiences that have shaped your company. How has your past influenced your future?
  • The key people who have guided its growth, including their unique paths to expertise (experiences, education, etc.). This can include founders, top executives, directors, or subject matter experts, for instance. If you’re a small business or solopreneur, YOU are that key person!
  • Your brand’s work culture, mission, and values.
  • Challenges you’ve overcome (and how you did it).
  • Successes you’ve reached (and how you did it).
  • Unique problems you’ve solved in your niche.

Find ways to infuse these stories and elements into your content. Here’s an example from one of our blogs that references my experience:

adding personal experience to content

(The point I made: You need a growth mindset in place before you can think about scaling a business. This isn’t advice you hear that often from business coaches, but I give it because I was once in this position and didn’t see growth until I made this change. I told the story here to drive the point home, but an added bonus is it positions me as an expert.)

2. Choose Content Topics Carefully

Not just any topic will work for showcasing thought leadership.

This content won’t look like the regular topics you post on your blog.

Don’t get me wrong. Guides, how-tos, listicles, and tutorials are all great for building keyword rankings and ratcheting up trust with your audience. But they don’t qualify as thought leadership (most of the time).

So, what does? What kinds of topics should you look at for thought leadership pieces?

  1. Of-the-moment topics or industry news. What is everyone talking about in the industry right now? What’s your expert take on it? For instance, when ChatGPT exploded onto the content writing scene, I dove in and wrote about it.
  2. Deep knowledge and insight on a specific subject, especially if it’s your specialty. For instance, say you’re a travel expert who lived in Ireland for a year. Thus, publishing an exhaustive educational guide on traveling through Ireland that includes your personal experiences, advice, and recommendations would qualify as thought leadership.
  3. Long-form content topics. Thought leadership is never shallow. That means short content pieces usually don’t fit the bill. Instead, you need to go deep and dig into whatever you’re talking about with gusto. That means long-form.
  4. Original research. Researching and conducting your own study and then analyzing, compiling, and publishing the data builds mega-authority.
  5. Expert opinion pieces. Thought leaders stay abreast of the issues in their niche and think about them deeply. Sharing your insights and opinions based on your experiences, skills, and knowledge is highly valuable.

Content ideation and creation are a whole lot easier if you have a solid process in place. Get my Content Process Blueprint for just that, including templates and tools, plus how to use AI to streamline and speed up content production.

content process blueprint

3. Research Your Topic Thoroughly and Stay Up-to-Date on Trends in Your Industry

When creating thought leadership content, it’s essential to do thorough research into the topic at hand.

Make sure you have a good understanding of the subject matter before you start writing so that your information is accurate and up-to-date.

Remember: Thought leaders earn that title because they are passionate about their industry, their work, their brand, and their audience.

That means they are constantly immersed in it all — reading industry news, reviewing new studies and data, talking to their audience, and collaborating with their peers.

If you want to be a thought leader, you need that level of dedication, too, and it needs to show up in your content.

Ultimately, staying immersed like this will help keep your knowledge base fresh and give you new ideas for topics to write about.

4. Use Data to Support Your Claims and Make Them Credible and Reliable

To make sure that readers take away valuable insights from your piece, use data whenever possible when making claims or statements within the article.

Using data helps back up what you say with facts rather than just opinions.

“But wait,” you might be thinking. “Didn’t you just say opinions are super-important in a thought leadership piece?”

Yes, but you need to give weight to those opinions you share. You still need to prove yourself.

Adding in facts and data makes your content more credible and reliable for readers who may not be familiar with the topic yet, or who are reading your content for the first time.

With a few well-cited statistics, you can create an even more powerful impact on your readers.

5. Optimize Your Thought Leadership Content for SEO

Optimizing your thought leadership content for SEO is an essential part of any successful digital marketing strategy.

By using keywords strategically throughout the post, you can improve rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Additionally, by including internal and external links to other relevant posts on your website or blog, as well as high-quality sources, you can showcase your knowledge and authority on the subject matter.

Use Keywords Strategically Throughout the Post

When it comes to optimizing thought leadership content for SEO, keywords are key.

Identify a few primary keywords that relate to the topic of your post and use them naturally throughout the text. This will help increase visibility in SERPs when users type those terms into search engines like Google or Bing.

It’s also important to include variations of these words such as synonyms or related phrases. This makes your content easier to read, but an added benefit is better optimization for search engines.

For example, if you were writing about “content marketing strategies” you could also include phrases like “digital marketing tactics” or “online advertising techniques” within the same piece of content.

By the way, the best AI tool for long-form content creation, Content at Scale, also automatically optimizes each piece for SEO. It scans the top of Google at the moment of creation, so your first content draft is correctly optimized for you. 

Linking internally from one page on your website to another is a best practice for a reason. It helps boost traffic flow and user engagement while providing additional information for readers who want more detail on a particular topic discussed in your post.

Make sure each link points directly toward its intended destination without any broken URLs along the way.

You should also consider adding anchor text which describes what visitors will find when they click through – this makes it easier for both humans and search engine bots alike to understand where they are being directed after clicking a link within a piece of content.

Finally, don’t forget to link externally to other authoritative sources. Link to credible blogs and websites that add extra depth to your topic, or find relevant and useful studies or statistics that back up your points.

Good external linking practices ultimately boost your SEO, so don’t write them off as unnecessary.

Write Thought Leadership Content to Boost Your Business

Thought leadership content has the power to establish your brand and build trust with potential customers.

But remember: Thought leadership is earned, not created.

You must show up with consistent, amazing content time and again to build your overarching brand reputation. And when you create thought leadership content, you must do it with a unique perspective and insights backed up by solid expertise.

Without a unique voice and deep expertise, you can’t be a thought leader.

But if it’s your dream to reach that level in business, you can get there.

If you’re ready to do the work, I’m ready to teach you.

The Content Transformation System is the complete package you need to build, grow, and scale your business.

It’s a 12-month, impactful mentorship program designed to give you all the skills, systems, and strategies you need to reach that next level.

Ready to become a thought leader in your niche? Let’s grow together.

Apply today to get started.

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