Corporate Eye

Trust Me, I Know: The Marketing Power of Authoritative Content

When you’re watching television, does an advertisement screaming “48-hour sale!” make you want to jump off the couch and make a beeline for the store? Probably not. It’s more likely to make you reach for the remote control and– click – change the channel.

Marketing and Leadership Strategist David Meerman Scott describes this type of advertising as ‘interruptive advertising’. He defines interruptive advertising as traditional advertising techniques that rely upon “getting prospects to stop what they are doing and pay attention to a message.”

Interruptive advertising not only falls short in its attempt to persuade its target audience into action, it also fails to develop consumer trust.

For numerous years, a popular saying has been used in the web development industry: “Content is King”. This couldn’t be more true. Content is what drives organizations forward: it determines how search engine algorithms are constructed; it determines which websites get traffic; and which websites do not. Most importantly, by itself, content can build consumer trust.  It does so by branding an organization as an authority in the industry.

There are many forms of web content, all of which are important in their own right. When it comes to developing your organizations authoritative image and gaining consumer trust, 3 particular forms of content are important:

  1. Blog articles:  Typically part of a website, a blog is the medium through which organizations can share any ideas or thoughts related to their organization.
  2. White papers: Written in a professional tone and based upon data and formal research, these are meant to be rather intense reads that reflect expertise.
  3. Case studies: These examine a single aspect of the organization, and provide the reader with a formal story of how certain aspects of the organization can benefit the customer or client.

(Source: Handley & Chapman, 2011)

A common persuasive element flows through all three of these formats: consumer trust. This trust is only developed when authoritative content makes its way to the computer screens or mobile devices of potential customers or clients.

The Psychology of Trust

Authoritative content builds trust through a psychological concept termed the association principle, which is a component of the much larger Learning Theory (Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953). On a very micro level, the association principle describes the process that occurs when a positive reaction to one concept is paired with another concept simply because they were encountered at the same time. Now, when applying the association principle to authoritative content, the process is as follows:

  1. A user searches for a topic relevant to your industry.
  2. They come across your authoritative content (i.e. white paper, blog, or case study).
  3. The positive response (i.e. trust) to the authority of your content is then directly paired with your organization
  4. The reader assumes if you have such informative content online, then you must be a leading authority in the industry.
  5. This automatically builds their trust in your organization.
  6. They then visit your site where they will most likely become a client or customer.

The association principle is a tried and true pillar of psychology. Organizations that correctly apply it to their content marketing plan find nothing but success.


For more information on authoritative content and social media marketing in general:

Scott, D. M. (2011). The new rules of marketing & PR.  Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

For more information on the association principle and Learning Theory:

Hoveland, C.I., Janis, I.L., & Kelley, H.H. (1953) Communication and persuasion. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

For more information on blogs, white papers, and case studies, or web content in general:

Handley, A. & Chapman, C.C. (2011). Content rules: How to create killer blogs, podcasts, videos, eBooks, and webinars that engage customers and ignite your business. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.


I’m reading through your blog since it’s so fascinating; the content is straight to the point and clear. Moving on to the article, isn’t it that Google’s also on the move to promote authorship as the basis for ranking?

Thank you so much for your comment. Yes, news from the experts does indeed indicate that Google will be promoting authorship, but not necessarily as the sole basis for ranking – it will be more of an additional component in their effort to clean up the content that is found on the Internet. Some argue that it is yet another way for Google to control the Internet, but I personally am grateful for their attempts to acknowledge well-written, authoritative content. Some also claim that Google walks a fine line between quality-control and monopolization, however, which is an interesting thought as well. Regardless, authorship ranking is in its infancy, and it will be very interesting to see which direction it takes.

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