Shine Brightly as an Expert

In the online world, just about any site can function as a publisher for your materials. And if a site draws traffic and wants to feature you as an expert, you’ve got the equivalent of your very own “Dear Abby” column in a newspaper or magazine.

As I explained last week, when such sites invest in drawing visitors, they’re increasing your visibility and credibility and bringing you highly targeted leads: Readers impressed with your savvy will click on the links to your site or send you email. Some sites even pay you for serving as a resident expert.

This week I have some additional tips for this publicity strategy, based on conversations with Joan Stewart, publisher of The Publicity Hound and a featured expert for Entrepreneur.com; Ilise Benun, mastermind of The Art of Self Promotion and a featured expert for DesignScout and formerly for GoBizGo; and Lesley Spencer, who has engaged featured experts for her site, Home-Based Working Moms.

The more you understand about how a site benefits from spotlighting experts, the better you can argue your case for inclusion or favorable terms — or for a site to start implementing this tactic if it hasn’t already done so. From the site’s point of view, experts offer the following:

  • The voice of experience, which appeals to novices seeking know-how

  • A dose of credibility, especially for a new site with no offline existence
  • Content, which, when regularly replenished, propels repeat traffic
  • A spur for community, when experts are used as stimulus for visitor-to-visitor exchanges
  • The promise of comprehensiveness, when a team of experts seems to cover a wide range of interests

Who counts as an expert? “We were looking for experts who were authors, speakers, business owners, and/or consultants,” says Lesley Spencer of Home-Based Working Moms. Except for areas of knowledge such as law and medicine, where most of us defer to licensed professionals, self-anointed expert status is fine. Whatever you happen to know a lot about, you can leverage into a halo of authority. Just create content for your own site by demonstrating what you know — and congratulations, you’re an expert.

In negotiating with a site interested in featuring you as an expert, you should at least get to have your photo and bio there, along with both a link to your web site and a “mailto” email link to you. The more involvement and work the site expects, the stronger your case to get paid your usual rates. After all, the hours you spend increasing the site’s credibility, widening its range of content, and contributing to its community are hours that you can’t spend earning money from your regular line of work. Ilise Benun says that GoBizGo asked her to set aside 10 hours a week (no small commitment!) — and paid her accordingly.

When a site wants you to contribute articles, several factors have a bearing on whether and how much the site should pay.

For example, do you have stuff hanging around in your files that you can offer? Then maybe you’ll toss those items into the deal for free. But when the site expects original or exclusive content — articles or annotated links produced for deadlines, or visitor questions answered on a regular schedule — that’s work deserving compensation.

What if the site balks at paying for your labor, saying that you should be satisfied with the publicity benefit alone? For a brand-new, unproven site, be skeptical about the promise of traffic. But in the case of a well-established site, the flow of publicity may indeed be considerable — so, too, should the credibility you can gain.

“I get lots of traffic to my web site and orders for my products because Entrepreneur.com links to me,” says Joan Stewart. “More important, however, is the credibility I gain from being able to use the Entrepreneur.com logo on my marketing materials and to tell the world I am an ‘Ask the Experts’ columnist for them.”

Ilise Benun agrees: “Although I can’t track any publicity that came directly from either DesignScout or GoBizGo, the value of it on my risumi is very high. My advice would be to write lots of articles and get them posted anywhere and everywhere online so that people looking for experts will find them.” And you.

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