thought leader

10 Key Ways To Stand Out From The Crowd & Be A Thought Leader

To be a “thought leader” is one of the most sought-after titles a marketer can hope for.

Thought leaders are influential individuals who play a huge role in informing the public, leading the direction of the industry, presenting new information and breaking barriers.

Theirs is the content that is loved; shared; read; and sought-after.

You can’t just go to school to be a thought leader, though. It requires the careful cultivation of a set of particular skills, strengths and networks. It’s not enough to simply be intelligent, hard working or interested: you also need to be passionate, unique and unafraid of pushing the boundaries of possibility.

thought leader

What is a True Online Thought Leader?

Thought leaders are many things but, to put it simply, they’re the people to whom everyone else goes for new ideas and key questions. They are informed individuals who offer valuable opinions and inspiration for the people who learn from them and they serve the amazingly important purpose of turning intangible ideas into solid realities.

Thought leaders make things happen and, more often than not, they undertake the task of transforming industries and instigating great change across varieties of platforms.

Thought leaders in the content marketing world include Brian Clark, the CEO of CopyBlogger; Brian Halligan, the Co-Founder of HubSpot and Joe Pulizzi, the Founder of Content Marketing Institute.

How to Be a Thought Leader: 10 Solid Tips

Becoming a thought leader is a little bit like becoming a unicorn: it takes a lot of effort and just a little bit of magic. Fortunately, you’re totally capable of both of those things. In the world of content marketing, the process of becoming a thought leader boils down to having unique ideas, expounding upon them in a unique way and offering people real, tangible value.

Follow these 10 tips to become a thought leader in your industry.

1) Be Authentic

Although it’s part of a thought leader’s job description to create high-level content that answers tough questions and provides real value for readers, it’s also important to know yourself and know your audience. This is especially difficult when you take into account the external pressure that is exerted on though leaders all the time. While it can be tough to avoid becoming distracted by things like the analytics attached to your blog, it’s important to remember that those things don’t provide a real window the to the big picture.

Additionally, they make it hard to remember that there are actually people behind all those swoopy lines and numbers. Because of this, the first step to becoming a thought leader is to be authentic, both to yourself and your audience.

You came to this business because some aspect of it was interesting to you. Therefore, there is very little that is more important than continuing to chase that interest. By writing what you know and are passionate about, your content will already have an edge over a great deal of content available on the Internet. Additionally, doing this will allow you to draw a series of followers who genuinely care about your topic.

How We’re Being Authentic (On Social)

One way we’re working on our authenticity is bringing a new level of transparency in our social media. In August 2015 we opened an Instagram account. We’ve started to feature a weekly #virtualworkforceculture post about our remote writers, with a picture of their faces, in their location: and our CEO has been traveling weekly to local businesses for a #localbusiness feature. among other things. Here’s a glimpse:

Featured #virtualworkforceculture of the week – our full time creative #writer, Oana G, based in Milano, Italy: “As you can see, I’m fighting a lost battle with clutter. To be honest, I like to surround myself with eclectic, odd, one-of-a-kind things that offer me the highest dosage of inspiration and energy. I love to connect objects with places and experiences, and I adore my job, because it allows me to get creative in my own environment.” #workfromhome #homeoffice #copywriter #copywriting #writing #marketing #SEO #contentmarketing #blogging #SMM #content #inboundmarketing #growthhacking #marketing #webtraffic #success #sales #expresswriters #photooftheday #loveit #selfie #instadaily #picoftheday #igers #instacool

A photo posted by Express Writers (@expwriters) on

This is the start to a very transparent social account that shows just what we’re up to in the office, and ties together faces in our work-at-home based team.

2) Seek to be a Hub of Information

Nobody wants another loudmouth marketer who takes over a huge portion of the Internet by hawking products or hard-selling readers. For this reason, one of the most important steps in becoming a thought leader is to dedicate yourself to being a hub of information rather than a blaring siren.

Business and personal blogs should act as platforms for reader engagement and should seek, primarily, to offer value to customers. Additionally, these platforms should offer a place for people to gather and engage in conversation via blog comments, tweets and re-tweets or social media shares. By doing that, you serve the most important purpose of a thought leader: inspiring ideas and facilitating cohesion.

3) Inspire Action

One of the most important purposes your content can serve is to inspire action within your readers. Your content should be so irresistible that people want to share it on social media, read the book you mentioned, try their hand at something new or travel to the exotic locale outlined in your most recent post. The goal can vary but the outcome should be the same: in order to be a thought leader, your content needs to move people to action.

4) Cultivate Your “Breakthrough Idea”

One of the traits of thought leaders everywhere is that they’re associated with a breakthrough idea. Depending upon your niche, your breakthrough idea could be an area of expertise or a particular approach to an old topic. Whatever your breakthrough idea is, it should inform the rest of your content.

For example, if you’re going to run a blog about optimizing efficiency and getting more done with less stress, your guests should be people who do that very well, your topics should be focused around wellness, productivity and success and your layout should be conducive to the rest of the message. The breakthrough idea informs the thought leader, who then informs the audience.

5) Be Consistent

Even if you write great content with a unique and inspiring message, it’s going to be tough for anyone to get onboard if they can’t predict where you’re going to go next. For this reason, thought leaders need to be consistent. Consistency promotes trust and accountability and gives people something to look forward to within your material.

6) Be Present

It’s hard to be a thought leader if you’re not actively participating in your industry and maintaining a consistent web presence. With that in mind, get out there and get published on a regular basis. It’s great to write several posts a week for your individual blog, but the true leaders will take this a step further by guest blogging, writing for authoritative sites, publishing a variety of content on dozens of different platforms and writing for industry leaders. This promotes a larger audience and contributes to a more recognizable brand.

7) Shoot for the Stars

Nobody ever became a thought leader refusing to hit for the bleachers. Because of this, it’s important to make big claims. Have confidence in your expertise and your brand and don’t be afraid to drive new ideas. This is one of the main things that set thought leaders apart from everyone else: thought leaders make big claims and they deliver results.

It’s impossible to make innovative change in your industry without doing this. Don’t worry about doing it all in a day, however. Just shoot for developing the ability to make big claims and, soon enough, your achievements will change as a result.

8) Network

Networking is an important part of becoming a thought leader. It’s tough to exist as an island and, in order to claim maximum success; you’ll need a network of like-minded individuals around you. In order to attain this, it’s important to work closely with influencers and mentors and participate on several social media platforms.

Additionally, you should be reaching out to followers by responding to comments, tweeting and re-tweeting and getting intimately involved in discussions on sites like Quora. Don’t miss opportunities to attend in-person events and conferences and call on your network when you need it. The easiest way to rise to the top is to have people prepared to help boost you.

9) Break Rules

This goes hand in hand with making big claims but it’s an important part of the equation. In order to become a thought leader, you need to get really comfortable with breaking rules and transcending boundaries. The fact that somebody said it’s not possible should mean next to nothing to you and, if anything, you should take it as inspiration to succeed. Think of it this way: boundaries are there to separate thought leaders from everyone else and it’s your job to figure out a way to jump over them.

10) Think Different

It’s no secret that one of Apple’s most successful slogans was “Think Different.” That’s exactly what Apple has always done and if there were ever a tech industry thought leader, it’s safe to say that it has been Apple and Steve Jobs. In order to become a through leader in any industry, though, it’s important to do just that: by thinking different you help yourself stand out from the crowd. You also fill gaps in content, provide new ideas and help customers connect to you.

Becoming a thought leader is not an overnight process but by working on these 10 points, you can be well on your way to becoming an industry thought leader in no time.

web content ranking

Less is Not More (Anymore): Secrets of New Year Web Content Ranking

In previous years, content marketers have held to the standard that “less is more.” As a result, we’ve kept web pages short, blog posts concise, and gotten a lot of practice condensing huge topics into 300 to 600 word shots. If you’ve struggled with this practice, you’re in for a treat as the trend to web content ranking makes a hard right turn.


Google Hummingbird Sets the Standard for New Web Content

In 2013, we weathered more changes in search engine optimization than any other year in the history of SEO. Since 2011, Google was dropping hints via Panda and Penguin updates; that search and ranking models and algorithms would change. Hummingbird marked the new SEO focus: quality web content containing substance.


For those of us manning the SEO trenches, we’ve seen innumerable marketing hypes come and go. However, Google’s algorithm updates have resulted in more than just hype; an entirely new trend and best practice has emerged: content-driven search engine optimization for higher web content ranking.


The Meaning of ‘Content-Driven’

What does ‘content-driven’ mean when it comes to SEO? It means your SERP (search engine results page) ranking will be directly related to your content quality. Google is listening to what consumers want, and they want to be educated buyers. As a result, it is imperative that your content contain well-written and relevant material in relation to your business, brand, product, or service.


Content-driven optimization is happening as soon as a web page is created. As we create the web content, we inherently make our target audience the focus. As Eddie Choi says in his ClickZ article about content-driven SEO, “the semantic logic then follows naturally to hyperlink the texts, pictures, videos, and external and internal citations.” As a result, we connect ourselves with similar or associated social profiles. Google’s algorithms then “read” all of this information and increase your ranking accordingly.


In essence, optimization is happening when the content is written. It’s not an afterthought or second process built in later.


The New Secret Ingredient: Longer Content = Higher Rankings

As we said at the outset of this article, the standard of “less is more” is dead. We used to cram keywords and keyword phrases into a short piece of web content to push search engine rankings. Those days are in the past, never to be repeated—at least as far as we can tell from Google’s rapid push to arrive at 100 percent of search keyword data returning with “(not provided).” What does this mean in terms of word count?


Word count is about to go up. Google has indicated that content containing about 2,000 words versus 300 to 600 will rank higher. Skeptical? So were we. So, we tested the waters:


At Express Writers, we took it upon ourselves to test whether or not long content really does matter. So, we switched over to 2000 word blogs approximately mid-November, 2013. These were posted daily with 1 to 2 stock images per blog, SEO optimized, and socially shared (as we did with all of our previous 300-600 word blogs). Mid-December, our rankings took a huge increase. We had about 7 keywords in the top 3 rankings on Google, and mid-December after we switched to 2000-word blogs, we achieved no less than 35 top keywords in the top 3 rankings. Folks, the cat’s out of the bag. IT WORKS!


2014 Web Content: What to Keep & Toss

The new trend in web content is all about giving the audience what they want: a one-stop shopping experience. Your audience wants all the pertinent information from you, not 2 to 3 other websites that all drop breadcrumbs about the same topic. This means your readers want all the best info in ONE lengthy article. The best way to prepare such an article is to understand exactly what SEO is today:

  • Analytics
  • Content
  • Marketing
  • Social


Notice, “keywords” is not included in this list. The surest way to kill your search engine optimization efforts in the New Year is to riddle your content with keywords and phrases over and over. Google’s algorithms are acutely attuned to synonyms. Flooding content with the same keyword or phrase is no longer necessary; variations are completely acceptable and absolutely encouraged!


Keep in mind that your audience is composed of intelligent individuals. They might even understand more than you think, especially when it comes to technical information. Avoid talking down to them or reusing the same keywords over and over. Such methods are outdated and will quickly turn potential customers—and Google rankings—away, swiftly killing your New Year’s marketing.


The Secret to Making a Difference

The new frontier of search engine optimization focuses heavily on:

  • Quality content
  • Relevant content
  • Longer content
  • Social media presence
  • Customer reviews


Your web content plan should therefore focus on at least four primary areas:

  1. Product or service sales
  2. Company information
  3. Customer support
  4. Education, information, and resources


Keep in mind that today’s content marketing is not a “one-size-fits-all” plan. You might have a fifth or even sixth, content area that fits your business and fleshes out your plan even further. However, you will need to include these four primary areas at minimum to ensure the building blocks for SEO are present.


One of the most groundbreaking changes to the SEO frontier is Google’s move away from static. Neither Google nor your market is static. This means it’s time to rethink your strategy for ranking placement:

  • You’ll need a local, national, and international plan so that searchers from any location will find you. Mobile searches are hot and heavy for the New Year, which is why marketing in each category equates to survival.
  • Local search terms are vital. Anyone searching by mobile in your locale will find you, if you have local search terms built into your content.
  • Customer reviews are about to be huge. This means what customers are saying about you means higher or lower search engine rankings. Customer support, education, information, and resources are key to survival.


On top of rethinking your SEO strategy, you’ll also need to measure the effectiveness of your web content by potential, not performance, because this is what Google will see. Consider:

  • Your audience. They must be the focal point of every piece of content you create. Know who they are and what they’re looking for. Be ready to educate them regarding how your company’s product or service will meet—even exceed—their needs. Focus less on increasing traffic and revenue, more on what your audience wants to see. If you do this, traffic and revenue will follow as your SERP ranking climbs.
  • Keywords. Like we said, Google’s synonym technology has blossomed, and your audience knows there is more than one way to refer to something. Variety in keywords is key. Instead of pushing for a specific keyword density, allow the keyword(s) to be built in as needed during the writing process. It’s far more important to create engaging, fresh web content versus a storm of keywords.
  • Your competition. They’re going to be working hard to raise their SERPs and hold their positions. You need to know who your competition is and find creative ways to present fresher content and get your social communities chattering.


Choosing Your Words

Your web content for the New Year is all about words, but they need to be more than just words. Unrelated, irrelevant, and confusing word use just to meet a word count will kill your rankings overnight. We used to think of word counts as almighty in SEO. We focused more on a set word count and keyword density than the content itself. As a result, we often produced short, fluff-filled content that landed readers on our website, but gave them little—if anything—to actually read. Holding to this practice will KILL your SEO from here forward. What can you do to reprogram yourself?

    • Intimately understand your target audience. Before you even start to create content, know your target audience inside and out. You have to intimately understand their needs, wants, and motivations. What drives them to make a purchase? What benefits do they want? What issues are presently relevant to them? What content will they want to read? Successful web content will revolve 100 percent around your audience and their needs. Your ability to build content for your audience will directly relate to your marketing success. Conversion to sales will directly relate to your ability to educate and meet their needs through your content, as it relates to your business.


    • Seek quality, relevant content versus an overly strict word count and keyword density percent. The day of a 2 percent keyword density within a 500-word, word count has been put to rest. Trying to rigidly stick with this concept at the cost of well-written web content will spell disaster. You can make a marked difference in your optimization results by ensuring every piece of content you release is relevant, packed full of quality writing, and approaches the topic from a fresh perspective. Let the content choose its own word count based on context and quality, and let your keywords be woven in 1 to 2 times as the content allows.


    • Focus on page content versus burst content. Traditionally, we’ve made our landing and sales pages short and to the point. They usually cover who we are, what we offer, and how to purchase. All too often, we failed to educate the customer about why. Why choose my business over the other guy’s? Why buy my product or service versus this cheaper or more expensive one? Customers care less about price and more about value. They want quality and the opportunity to build a trusting relationship, which is why your page content needs to be revised. Present your audience with quality, relevant, and educational web content. Don’t be afraid to change your sales page from a 500-word blurb to a 2,000 word informative page, arming the potential customer with every piece of information they’ll need to choose your business over every other. Use your web pages to impart a treasure trove of content to your audience.


    • Look for opportunities to link up. Linking has become a SEO phenomenon in the past few years, and it couldn’t be easier to link yourself up to similar organizations and communities. For example, thanks to the free MozBar, you can easily discover which websites and communities offer the best linking potential to expand your presence. The links you’ve seen throughout this article all house articles that expand on a specific subtopic introduced in this post. The trick is to still write compelling, engaging, and educational content—the kind that’s kept you reading this far—while giving your smart audience (that’s you) the tools to dive deeper into the nitty-gritty details at their own leisure. If you can deliver this type of quality content, you’ll build a loyal community in no time.


    • At all costs, do not underestimate social media. Social media is about people engaging in meaningful conversations. Google is tapping into these conversations like never before. If you don’t have a social media presence because you didn’t see the importance, it’s time to drop the skepticism and get crackin’! Here’s the truth about social media: the more active yours is, the greater contribution to your SERPs. The more customers talk positively about you, the higher your ranking. Miss out on this facet of ranking, and you could slip far down the listings.


As you can see, the world of SEO has changed forever. New practices are going into effect, and if you expect to keep your website and content optimized, it’s time to catch up and keep up with the Jones’ (Google, in this case). Rankings are no longer statistical; they are 100 percent content-driven. You can make a huge difference in your chances of “staying on top” by turning your attention to awesome, quality web content—the kind that speaks personally to your audience and makes them say, “Wow! This company really has character.”