This guest post is by Amy Harrison of Harrisonamy.com.
To the public, not all experts are created equal.
What’s more, this division exists in all industries, and in every blogging niche.
And it’s not just about working harder, or longer than other people. It’s about knowing how to rise through the ranks of the expert “hierarchy.”
To illustrate, consider for a moment the difference between a chef in a restaurant, a head chef in a five-star restaurant, and then Gordon Ramsay.
In reality, they could have the exact same cooking abilities, but in terms of perceived value, you’re looking at an annual wage of: $30,000, $100,000 and … $24million.
Between the head chef and Gordon Ramsay, that’s an increase of 23,900%
This might seem like quite a leap, but when you understand the following five rungs on the expert ladder, you’ll see how your own value can change dramatically in the eyes of your audience.
1: Generalist (the fry cook)
Most start out as generalists in their careers. In chef terms, this is like a fry cook. You can cook a number of different meals, but could be replaced by someone with little training and experience.
Your blog is on this level if:
You’ve just started and are still finding your blogging voice. You might cover a variety of topics, or taking a general view of a wide subject such as health and beauty or finance.
You’ll notice other bloggers writing about your subject and may be struggling to get your content shared and traffic to your site.
This is your starting step, and the launch pad of your expert journey. If you want to start standing out though, you need to move to the next level which is…
2: Specialist (the vegan chef)
Here you have a more focused area of expertise, for example a chef who only creates vegan meals. This specialist view means that when it comes to vegan cuisine, we value this level of expert more than the fry cook.
Your blog is on this level if:
You’ve drilled down your blogging topic to a more specific niche, such as skin care routines to help with acne, or how to get the best deal from credit cards.
By covering a smaller topic, your blog content has a more consistent theme, and you’re able to make points which are more in-depth and of greater value to your audience. You’re less overwhelmed by what other generalist bloggers are writing about and more aware of what topics fit into your niche, and what don’t.
This is where some bloggers stay, yet it’s only the second rung on the expert ladder.
You can continue to increase your expert value by moving to the third stage which is…
3: The certified specialist (the five-star restaurant chef)
People love credentials.
A certified Executive Chef has a competitive edge over someone with only “hands-on” experience. They might both know how to cook a great steak, but when a Michelin starred restaurant is hiring, who do you think they pick for the position (and handsome compensation)?
Your blog is on this level if:
You have relevant qualifications within your topic AND you are displaying them on your blog, letting readers know your certified level of expertise.
If your goal is to prove your expertise to your audience, don’t underestimate the value of a sign that says “Approved by the Board Of…” and “Certified Specialist in…”
After that, you’re ready for the fourth stage of expertise.
4: Expert authority (the food critic)
Expert authorities invest time creating more in-depth studies and publishing the results. They may also have a firm stance on issues within their niche (which may or may not be controversial).
This is like a chef who has spent a year travelling to produce a guide to the top seafood restaurants, or written a paper on the effect of global warming on seasonal food production. Others can then access this information as a “shortcut” to answers without having to do the research themselves.
Your blog is on this level if:
You have published an in-depth white paper, ebook or series of articles. You may choose to focus on a recent trend in your industry, or some controversial news, or to simply create a “shortcut” to a more complex matter.
- a white paper on why native plants should be encouraged into any garden
- an ebook about how changes in financial legislation will affect home owners
- a series of articles explaining a complicated news topic such as the SOPA bill.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, if you do the research others don’t want to (e.g. the top 100 free resources for web designers) you will gain an authoritative status.
From there, we move to the final rung of the expert ladder which is:
5: All of the above, plus celebrity status (Gordon Ramsay)
The highest level of being an expert comes with celebrity status. This is about being the go-to person within that niche.
Millionaire Chef Gordon Ramsay has 13 Michelin Stars, has published 21 books, has a controversial, outspoken style, and is featured in his own TV shows.
An extreme example? Perhaps, but if you’re passionate about your subject, why not strive for the highest level of expertise? Reaching this level takes hard work, but it might be the hard work people in your industry aren’t doing.
Warning: You cannot build celebrity status without having anything to say, or being properly qualified on your subject. You might see many bloggers shoot to fame seemingly overnight, but the ones that stay at the top are the ones who have mastered their art and skills for years.
Your blog is at this level if:
You are consistently producing and promoting content based on your expertise.
Some of the tools bloggers have used to achieve a celebrity status include:
- “out of the box” ways of getting online attention
- offline speaking at conferences
- guest posting regularly on other blogs
- writing for trade publications or magazines
- pitching for interviews on other websites
- pitching your side of a current news story to media outlets
- writing regular books or ebooks
- holding regular events for example webinars, seminars and teleseminars
- hosting your own online TV show
- having a regular radio podcast.
Achieving this level as a blogger means you expand your audience and attract people who are willing to pay more to work with you, not just because of what you are trained to do, but because they get access to you.
What do you think? Who do you see as other experts in your industry, and can you see how they’ve used different tools to increase their value to their audience?
Next have a look at where you are and see what you can do get to the next level of blogging expertise!
Amy Harrison is a copywriter and content marketer for Personality Entrepreneurs wanting to connect and sell authentically to their audience. You can now download her free report on how to write sales copy when personality is part of your business at Harrisonamy.com.
Love the analogy, Amy. Nice work.
Thanks James :-)
Great post, Amy. I’m sitting in the fry cook stage but expect by the end of the year to be the 5 star restaurant chef and a year later ALL OF THE ABOVE. I liked how you set this one out. Keep it up.
That’s good to hear Dwayne :-) Those next levels are just a few steps away.
Great post, Amy. Achieving the Gordon Ramsay status as a blogger will not come overnight but it is possible. It just takes hard work, consistency, creativity and a healthy dose of luck.
Hey Sharon – I think hard work and consistency are key! As they’re the less glamorous side of it, they get overlooked but they’re probably the most important. Too many people give up too soon. :-)
This has been an interesting read! I’m sitting quite comfortably on the second level, I think. (I went through the generalist phase some years ago with another blog.) I’ll be happy staying there for a while, but nevertheless am looking forward to reading the next post.
I love all the varied perspectives ProBlogger has been giving me on the blogging world! It’s good to be back. :)
Thanks Amy for such an great info.Its really an different approach for such task. However it requires hard work and patience.
Great post, I am most defiantly at stage one! I note that you talk about specializing in a niche for your blog to move up the ladder. What if your blog was created to cover everything and anything! Can categorization of topics on one blog help here, or would a series of blogs, one for each topic provide more beneficial?
It kind of depends what the goals are for your blog, who your ideal reader is and what they’re looking for.
For example, on your site, you cover a range of subjects, but do people come here to be entertained? Or to catch up on the news? Or find something for conversation starters?
You can still have an eclectic mix of content, as long as it answers the main reason your readers come to your site.
If you eventually wanted to start selling relevant products / services I would say that individual blogs would be much easier to attract targeted traffic that you can convert into sales.
It really depends on your vision and your customer! :-)
I dig the analogies here.
Learn your craft inside out. I mean, really well. If you study blogging like mad, you can become an expert because you naturally attract high energy opportunities – guest posts, interviews, etc – to expand your presence.
Study, and apply. Post frequently. Post really helpful, usable content. Stuff your readers can digest and put into use immediately. Become a content creation machine and wonderful things can happen for you. You can become the Go To guy or gal in your niche but you must make a full commitment to being the Go To guy or gal. This does not happen overnight. Might be months, or years, before it happens, but the patient wait is well worth it.
Gordon Ramsay did not become Gordon Ramsay by accident. He did things a certain way and became a wild success. The same thing can happen for you if you are willing to get super specific in drilling down your niche and fully commit to your craft.
As you said produce and promote. Rinse, wash, repeat. Persist like heck and good things can happen for you.
Thanks for sharing Amy!
You’re welcome Ryan – thanks for your comment.
It definitely doesn’t happen overnight, but that’s a good thing. If you spend time building a solid foundation you’re really building a sustainable blog / business.
Lots of little steps tends to turn into those big breaks! :-)
I am on the first rung, still finding my blogger voice and defining my specific niche. However, I hope to reach the second rung in a couple of months :D. Thanks for the info.
How can to fin the right niche?
What you know + what you love = right niche.
I would also say, what you know + what you love + what people want to pay for = profitable niche :-)
I guess I’m about to be the expert authority once I publish my ebook.
I like the breakdown and I think it is important to find your voice, have it be a strong one you don’t deviate from (your readers will lose trust if you do), publish great content showing results and aim to be the Gordon Ramsay of your niche! :)
This analogy really works for me. Put into steps like this, it’s easier to see the path to celebrity status, and plan for it.
It also keeps me calm when people are catapulted to celeb status seemingly overnight. Hard work, smart work, and strategy will lead to results in time.
Hey Jack – keeping your head down and producing content and creating products is the best way to deal with the explosion of others’ overnight successes. :-)
Awesome post Amy. The action points listed in section 5 are extremely valid and somewhat inspirational as I am just getting ready for my first interview for a popular marketing blog!
An interesting read, Amy.
Becoming a Gordon Ramsey(esque) style of blogger? Wow! That would be one way to go.
There are a few sites out there which have sort of gone for that approach, whereby they switch off the “don’t be offended button” and just go for it.
You will probably find similar sites in most niches(topics).
Establishing a “Unique voice” out on the web-o-sphere to stand out from the crowd is something that would certainly aid in the level of success achieved by a site(webmaster) in whichever niche they may be in.
Only 23,900%, huh? I was hoping for at least a 30,000% ROI. LOL
Great content, I personally struggled with being seen as an expert, but this post breaks it down so that you have a general guideline that gives a beginner some necessary steps to reach celebrity status.
I love this post and the way Amy has it written. She makes clear points and describes them in a very precise form.
She also puts examples withing the points that you know what you would have to do to follow the advise to climb up on the ladder of blogging success.
Nice work Amy and I love your point of view.
Thanks Anton! So pleased you enjoyed it. :-)
I’m currently at stage 2.5, though I’m not sure exactly what qualifications I should have or how to display them ;) Though I think maybe for the case of bloggers your content will show your qualifications?
I’m looking forward to moving my way up through the ranks, though I don’t think I really want to be Gordon Ramsey becoming his equivalent would be great!
Spot on! I remember the first time I saw Gordon Ramsay on TV, I was blown away by his puzzling yet fascinating charm.
The problem is we have only one Gordon Ramsay…but I don’t think we bloggers need that narrow-top celebrity…we are more likely to be 300 spartans who are born to blog!
I am totally stuck somewhere below fry cook (is there something worse?) great post, keep up the good work!
I found that being able to stay committed and actually start getting out there is the essential key for being able to get the results we want. Though nothing is guaranteed, our luck can be helped a little bit if we stand up and take action for ourselves.
Great post Amy! I love how you put it into steps like a chef, awesome. When you see somebody become successful overnight, it probably really isn’t an overnight success. There are people who do a lot of research and hard work before they start their blogs. This would appear to be overnight success to us. Some people just have a really great idea and they learn quickly how to create a success with this idea. Usually it does take years from the beginning to the big success tho.
I have to honestly say that I had to Google Gordon Ramsey, but I thought of it as a couple of other famous chefs I know when I read this.
I am working on the ebook within the next couple of months, but my first blog is almost 5 years old. I taught myself and also followed the advice of other bloggers along the way. For those who are starting out, do not get discouraged when you do not see instant success.
This post is a must read for all bloggers, no matter what level you are at.
Most definitely still at stage 1, need some hard work and time to grow more. However, I love the analogy mixed with Gordon Ramsay
Great post, I think many of us behave like fry cooks without intending to. It takes courage to define our exact area and then claim that space. We try to be everything and cover every angle.
I like the framework you have used. I am heading back to my site to reduce the size of the menu and concentrate on the quality.