Are You the “Likable Expert” that Owns Your Market?

image of Authority Rules report

You may have heard us say before that to attract traffic, engage readers, and convert them to buyers, you need to become an authority in your topic.

But what does that really mean?

Does it mean you puff yourself up and pretend to know more than you do?

Does it mean you put other people in your niche down?

Or does it mean you bore your audience to tears with dry, flavorless facts?

Of course not.

For awhile, the conventional wisdom was that people (particularly young people) don’t care about authority any more.

The theory was that we were so burned out by scandals from traditional authority, and that these days we were only listening to what our friends recommended. We didn’t care about experts, we didn’t recognize authority, and we only trusted people we knew.

This was obvious nonsense to anyone who has ever studied the science of human behavior. We’re hard-wired to respect authority, no matter how much we might fight it at times. It’s part of our DNA, and nothing the 21st century throws at us is going to change that.

But who are we hard-wired to respect? An anonymous actor in a white coat who plays a doctor on TV? A charismatic televangelist we’ve never met?

Becoming the expert they respect and like

Of course not. We’re hard-wired to respect and take direction from people we know, like, and trust who know more than we do about something we care about.

It may be the tribal shaman, or the wise woman who knows all about healing herbs, or the group’s most skillful hunter.

It’s not a stranger, and the authority comes from both the relationship with the tribe and being able to benefit that tribe in a meaningful way.

(Try bluffing your ice age buddies by puffing yourself up with false authority. You’d end up shipped out of town on the next ice floe.)

Let’s talk about authority

We think this topic is so important that we want to talk a lot more about it. More specifically, we want to give you a bunch of high-quality free content on authority.

Starting with an updated version of Brian Clark’s classic report Authority Rules, which spells out the 10 elements you need to build real authority (not a fake swagger) in your business.

And expanded with a series of three in-depth webinars on the essential tactics and strategies that build your authority in the right way — that make you the “likable expert” that customers, clients and Google love.

I’ll also send you additional articles that won’t be published elsewhere, about things like the 6 critical elements that will grow your business, how to look like a pro even when your business is tiny, and how to approach those “gurus” in your topic without feeling (or looking) like an idiot.

Where to grab all the free stuff

Click here to get started with Authority Rules

You’ll need to give us your email address so we can send you the report, the articles, and the call-in details for the webinars. Of course we won’t ever rent or share your information with anyone else for any reason.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media. Share your own secret formulas with Sonia on twitter.

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Reader Comments (29)

  1. says

    In my opinion the concept of authority is a bit deceiving, because it can be faked or emulated. Anyone can try to come across as an authority at something, and depending on a number of factors they may actually succeed… even if they have no actual skill.

    People in the know are increasingly aware of this – hence, we are increasingly drawn towards actual “results” over mere “authority”.

    It’s all about the results, if you ask me! Get results, give results, make results happen. I suspect that’s how one can build genuine and long-lasting authority in a given field of expertise.

    • says

      True Pedro, but it’s hard to fake it in social media. Besides, the type of authority we’re talking about is demonstrated, not claimed.

      • says

        Lol… hope I’m not coming across as the cantankerous type, barging in here claiming it’s POTATO not POTATOE, one time after the other.

        Regarding the present matter, I do agree we’re just talking the same thing with different words (authority vs results); this is what I like to call semantic juggling and truth be told, it was somewhat deliberate of me:.

        Today I’ve been contemplating the notion of how disagreement can actually be a powerful way to get a message across. Because it adds contrast and lowers redundancy.

        Don’t you feel this “Not Quite So!” angle is more engaging than the typically widespread “Amen to That”?

    • says

      Even if you could fake your expertise, given all of the social media scrutiny and the rate at which bogus claims get called out, we wouldn’t recommend it.

      We’re talking to people who have something great to deliver, but they need some help with presenting that message.

      • says

        You are absolutely right, Sonia! In fact, I’ll rephrase my opinion in a positive fashion that adds value to the target audience reading this specific article:

        Real authority may take a while to build. Providing results may be a shortcut to it.

        Focus on delivering results, and your authority will grow quickly by itself.

      • says

        Agreed, authenticity is step one. I was just writing a post on my blog about my “strong belief that the most sustainable authority brand is one that engenders trust around a core set of ideas” when I received your email. Cool timing :). I think we can all become short term authorities, the trick is sustaining that reputation. These days so many ‘experts’ seem to be focused on blueprints and sales funnels first before they get real with themselves. Thanks for the PDF, look forward to reading it!

      • says

        Right! And if you try to fake it, you might coast along for a time, but eventually you’ll be forced to walk the walk — and if you can’t do it, you might as well kiss your reputation goodbye!

        Social media and authority building are only going to get stronger as junk and scraper sites are mowed over in favor of real, likable experts.

    • says

      you can fake authority but why do it when it’s easier to show proof of whatever it is you promise to deliver?

      for e.g. my tagline says: “The most productive Internet Marketing copywriter” and I have a link on the top page bar on my blog redirecting to the portfolio. It is evidence of my “authority”. Cannot fake that :)

  2. says

    Thanks for the article Sonia. I’ll definitely have to check out Authority Rules since I’m sure there’s some more stuff (in addition to what you wrote about in this article) that I’m doing all wrong!

  3. says


    We are hard wired to respect authority. But, we also seem to have a 6th sense that tells us when something does not seem right.

    Someone trying to pose as an authority on anything is eventually found out and after that no one respects them.

    Even on the internet it becomes obvious just who knows what they are doing and who does not.

    Dee Ann

  4. says

    What’s interesting to me is that in order to be an authority in a subject, you just have to know more than the people that you’re speaking with. Even though I don’t know as much as Brian or Sonia, the people in my personal circles think I know a lot about blogging. In that circle, I’m an authority.

    It’s important to remember that authority doesn’t mean your the greatest in the world. It just means that you know a little more than the person you’re explaining things to.

  5. says

    You’ve made a very good point Sonia. My fear is that some other ‘authority’ will come along and publicly criticise my expert opinion. I have found that to a degree, being a girl-geek has sometimes been a harder row to hoe that if I was a boy-geek, simply because technical things are often the domain of guys and creative things are the domain of gals. Huge generalisation I know, but I have often had my voice overridden by stronger make voices, only to be proved right later on. (Not that I’m a technical genius, I just know a fair bit is all)

    • says

      I’ve seen a lot of that with women in various fields, and I’ve noticed it in myself as well. For me the “cure” is basically to keep showing up, to keep checking in with myself (“do I really know this? actually, yes I do”) and to find the voice that’s right for me.

      The shouty aggressive voice isn’t always the one that gets the sale. There are a lot of ways to be confident. :)

  6. says

    That was an amazing article to read. Thanks for sharing it with us. Would love to read more of your articles. Keep up the great work.

  7. says

    It’s hard to fake authority for long, especially on a social networking site. The minute someone catches you puffing yourself up they will call you on it. To be a real authority, you not only have to know what you are talking about, you have to know how to talk! People have to believe that you aren’t making yourself something more than you are.

  8. says

    When I was an undergraduate at the University of Washington I had a part-time job as assistant to the Dean of the Business School.

    One day he asked me to draft a letter to Pepsi-Cola letting them know that he would gladly accept their invitation to speak at their conference in Hawaii if they would agree to pick up the tab for taking his family and two colleagues along.

    I was so shocked by the audacity of this request that I blurted out, “Wow, you must be some big shot expert if you think they’re going to do this.”

    He just grinned and said, “They think I am. That’s what counts.”

    Pepsi-Cola paid him an astronomical amount of money to speak, plus they paid the way for seven people to spend five days in Hawaii.

    And I never forgot the lesson learned: Expert status is conferred and then authority rules.

  9. says

    It doesn’t take too long to become an expert in some way within a niche or market. You don’t have to know everything about a topic or niche because it’s likely nobody does. Instead, approach becoming an expert via a particular angle or perspective. This isn’t that hard to achieve in a relatively short time. Of course you can expand your expertise over time.

    For example, there are many people who do SEO and write about SEO. It’s a broad topic with many established authorities. However, there are many sub-topics within SEO such as article marketing for SEO, blog commenting, guest posting, on-site SEO, etc. Choose a sub-topic to focus on and it doesn’t take that long to learn much of the topic, at least enough to write and discuss it.

    From there it’s a matter of promoting what you know.

  10. Patrick Vuleta says

    “Does it mean you put other people in your niche down?”

    “Of course not.”


    “If you think a competitor sucks, say so.” – Rework, page 141. The book then goes on to use examples like Apple jabbing at Microsoft.

    I’ll say it does take a certain amount of skill to do so, though. There’s intelligent criticism and there’s defamation. :)

  11. says

    I find it helpful to remember that “authority” and “authenticity” are, at their core, about having written the book on something. So when I “Question Authority” I ask myself whether the person “wrote the book” on the topic. Or at least a book, even a figurative one.

    And that “writing the book” is essentially about teaching. And the best teachers are always learning.

    Thanks, Sonia, and I’m looking forward to “grabbing the free stuff.”

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