Guide to Leveraging Industry Expert Interviews to Write High-Quality Content
There’s good content. And, then there’s high-quality content, the stuff that rises in the search engine results pages, oozing those attractive and useful characteristics both consumers and search engines value.
For an SEO copywriter, there are few SEO content writing tips that make your content more “valuable and useful” to your readers than including first-hand information from an expert.
If your web copy isn’t performing, it might be because it lacks credible, expert information.
While it takes extra time and research, the voice of an expert has the power to lift good content to high-quality heights.
Think about it like this. Would you trust an essay, a research paper, or a white paper without original research and real sources? Moreover, would you trust a paper that was plagiarized? Yet for some reason we expect consumers to simply accept digital content even when it’s copied from material on the web and presented without sources and citations. On top of that, we expect search engines to reward that type of content with rankings. It just doesn’t happen that way.
Regardless of your industry or topic, expert information brings credibility to a site. Credible content not only nourishes consumer appetites, but also meets Google’s bar for the amount of E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) on a webpage, boosting your rankings. It happens this way.
So is your website content credible? Does it demonstrate a high level of expertise? If so, that’s great news. You can check out the rest of our SEO Copywriting Checklist for other ways you can improve your content. If not, it’s time to make some friends with experts.
How? I’m going to share with you a step-by-step process for building and maintaining healthy relationships with industry experts, a process we’ve had the chance to perfect producing content for a big-brand client in the wedding industry.
Use these SEO content writing tips to make relationships with real experts who will help you publish high-quality content, whether you’re writing SEO web content, articles or blogs.
This article will walk you through:
- How to Identify Industry Experts
- How to Find Industry Experts
- How to Reach out to Experts
- Tips on Conducting Interviews
- Tips on How to Maintain Relationships
How to Identify Industry Experts
What makes an industry expert?
Not to be confused with industry influencers, industry experts are people with the expert knowledge, experience, education, data or advice on the specific topics you’re writing about.
According to Google, the level of expertise required for a site varies depending on the topic and industry. In its Search Quality Rating Guidelines, Google gives the example that a medical site should have information with “appropriate medical expertise or accreditation,” yet suggests a site about the proper care of cats could easily be rated high-quality if it features expertise by everyday cat owners as opposed to trained veterinarians.
Ask yourself these basic yet important questions to help you identify the best expert for SEO copywriting:
- What type of information do you need? (Studies, analyses, facts, testimonials, opinions?)
- Who has first-hand knowledge of this information?
- Who does your target audience want to hear from most?
For the purpose of SEO content writing, find an expert who is doing the work today (as opposed to a retiree or someone who just speaks or writes about the topic). These are doers and dream makers, the ones who can provide you with unique, never-before-seen quotes and advice.
It’s also important to talk to someone who not only has been interviewed before, but also enjoys talking about what they do or know. It’s not enough to find a professional with the knowledge you need. You want an expert who can appeal to your target audience by simplifying complex concepts without industry jargon.
Next, competitive analysis will reveal the level of authority you want to go after. At the very least you want an expert at the same level or higher than the ones featured on competitor sites.
For this project, this meant talking to wedding planners. On the topic of wedding etiquette, my first thought was to reach out to etiquette experts, such as the team at The Emily Post Institute. Yet I went with wedding planners because I knew that they could provide me with all things etiquette, plus real-world tips on how to incorporate those rules into modern scenarios facing the couples who are their clients today.
How to Find Industry Experts
You know the title or level of expertise you need, so how do you find the experts?
Here, a few places you can begin your search:
Recent newspaper and magazine articles. If an expert is passionate about what they do and know, chances are they’ve been interviewed before. Begin your search in websites of major newspapers and magazines for the topics you’re writing about to discover notable experts.
If you’re writing about sleep apnea, for example, a recent article in the New York Times on the same subject reveals the name of Dr. Avidan, director of the sleep clinic at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine, someone who just might know a thing or two about sleep apnea and can talk about it in a way that’s not so (queue yawn) boring.
For my project, I needed a wedding planner, but not any planner would do. I needed the best of the best, and that meant planners who produce events and weddings for the stars. I picked well known celebrity wedding planners who helped bring celebrity weddings to life within the last year or were recently named one of the top wedding planners by reputable publications such as the Knot, Vogue, or Martha Stewart Weddings.
University faculty and professors. This is a great resource for a wide range of topics required for informational websites. Many universities have professors and staff who regularly speak to journalists for interviews. Look for the institution’s media page to find a list of faculty by expertise. For example, UCLA has this handy Media Guide to UCLA Experts.
Popular bloggers. If you want to feature information or advice by everyday people with experience in the topic you’re writing about, find an active blogger who is immersed in the conversation. If you’re writing about how to potty train your toddler, for example, it might help to have quotes or advice from a mother who is dealing with this issue today, as opposed to a pediatrician who simply gives generic advice. An active and popular lifestyle blogger who writes about motherhood is also going to give you fun, easy-to-digest information that might better appeal to your target audience.
Dos and Don’ts
Do pick more experts than you need. If the project requires interviewing two experts, reach out to five or ten. You never know who will respond and it’s always a good idea to have backups in case someone flakes, gets sick or simply has to cancel last minute. Another reason to reach out to more experts than you will need is because not everyone is going to give you the best information, and you’ll have a few options to choose from.
Do create a spreadsheet. Keep a list of experts you want to interview. Include the proper spelling of their name, company name, and contact information, including email, phone number and website. Add a column for the date you reached out, the date they responded, if they agree to an interview, and if they agree to be interviewed regularly.
How to Reach Out to Experts
It’s time to say hello. The way you reach out to busy industry experts matters, as does what and how much you say when you have their attention. You can use the telephone, but here’s why I prefer email along with the process that was most successful for me.
Send a brief but enticing email. Why email? When was the last time you picked up your office phone? It’s simply annoying to cold call someone and even more annoying to be the recipient of that call. Also, people don’t check their voicemails throughout the day, but they do check their emails several times a day. This means that an expert can read and reply on their own time, which makes it convenient for them, and you.
With one email, you can introduce yourself (your title and the company you work for), explain the reason for the interview (talk about the project, client, and benefits of being featured in the content), and let them know you’re reaching out to them specifically because they are an expert in their field. Include your deadline, and keep it open for a phone or email interview.
Personalize the email. You have time to personalize your emails and there is an important reason to do so: you’re making a real relationship. You want them to feel as though they are your top choice. A generic email without the recipient’s name is insulting and exhibits lazy behavior on your part, not a good start to a relationship.
Create a template. What can save you time is creating a template, but be careful to highlight the dynamic areas of the email so that you don’t use the wrong name, which is also very insulting.
Here’s an example of the template I used to contact a luxury wedding planner.
Dear [the expert’s name] and the team at [the business name],
[The client’s name] is building its resource library for brides.
We’re looking for wedding and events experts to provide background on wedding invitation wording and etiquette. Are you interested in being a named expert in our series? The name of [the expert’s name and business name] will be featured in the piece in front of researching brides.
If you’re interested, I would like to set up some time to talk. Both phone and email will work for the interview. My deadline is [a date], so please let me know as soon as convenient.
[Your phone number]
Tips on Conducting Interviews
These tips will help you conduct thorough interviews that will provide you with the unique, expert-level information you need to write quality content.
Here’s the prep work:
Research competitor content. Before I begin any SEO content optimization project, I want to know what my competitors are already writing about the topic or industry. Above, I mentioned competitor research is an important step to find the type of expert you need, but if you want to beat your competitors you will need to write content that’s more valuable and useful, which means you will have the basics covered and then some. While reading competitor content, you’ll find content gaps and weaknesses, which can be the areas you can focus and expand on to capture your target audience.
Research past interviews or online content featuring your expert. If your experts have been interviewed before, read every single interview as well as the content they’ve contributed to. This is because the expert might give you a similar quote, and you don’t want to run into duplicate content issues or repeat what’s already available online.
Write down your questions. Even if the conversation flows out of order, a written list will keep you on topic and ensure you get all the information you need at one time. It also shows that you did your homework. Ask the who, what, where, when, why, and how, and then dig deeper with questions that will give you the unique information your target audience needs and wants.
When it’s time for the interview:
Email questions ahead of time. Whether it’s in person, by phone or via email, the interview will go much smoother if the expert receives your questions ahead of time. In my experience, this extra step gives them time to think about the questions and produce better, more thoughtful answers. If you’re conducting an email interview, then send your questions along with a reminder of the due date. If you’ve scheduled a phone interview, remind them of the date and time of the interview and make sure you confirm time zone differences, and that have the right phone number.
Get personal. I love to open my interviews with a discussion on the expert’s recent contributions to the industry. There are many benefits to this approach, including possibly bonding over a common interest, breaking the ice with someone who’ve just met, and opening the door for the expert to freely chat about their passions and work, a technique that’s provided me with tons of unexpected information I can then incorporate into the content.
Confirm the name and title of the expert. Don’t assume the owner of the company is the CEO, even if the website says she is. Always confirm the expert’s title as well as any qualifiers. Some wedding planners preferred “celebrity wedding planner,” while others requested “luxury wedding planner,” “event designer,” etc.
Thank them for the interview. Whether you conducted a phone or email interview, send a follow-up email thanking them for the interview, with a sentence about how you will inform them once the piece goes live.
Tips on How to Maintain Relationships
So far so good. You’ve interviewed the right people, got some great information, and now it’s time to honor these relationships. Here are few tips to help you foster and keep these relationships.
Stay consistent with tone and formality. Remain formal, even if the expert breaks out into casual communication. I’ve had experts write back in fragments and without punctuation, yet I remain formal because my goal is to be respectful, consistent and earn their trust as a professional. At the end of the day, this relationship is a formal business relationship and you want to earn their trust by being reliable and consistent with your communication style.
Follow up. If you don’t hear back within a few days, go ahead and send out a second email to follow up. With a few experts, I sent out more than one follow up and it proved to be fruitful because my emails went into their spam folders and they were so happy when they found out I was still interested in an interview.
Make notes. Consider this as being a good listener. With every reply and conversation, update your spreadsheet with information that helps your relationship. Identify the experts who’ve agreed to be interviewed and those who would like to be interviewed regularly.
You also want to add any new or specific contact information. For instance, 75 percent of the experts I reach out to refer me to their assistants and request to be CCd by all the correspondence; I record that in my notes.
As time goes by, you will also get to know how reliable and prompt your experts are. Those who continue to miss deadlines can be dropped off the list. Those who respond immediately and seem super eager about helping can be relied upon for last-minute deadlines and special cases. I had one expert who would always fill in the gaps when others flaked.
Follow through. Once the piece is published or live on the web, email the link and thank them a second time. This is also a great time to ask them for a second interview if you need more information from them to clarify the first interview or for a different project. Let them know if you plan to interview them again in the future and ask if they have any favorite topics or ideas they want to contribute; this makes them feel a part of the project. I kept this process going with 10 experts, and interviewed each expert every other month.
Follow them on social media. Following experts on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook not only shows support, but also keeps you up-to-date on future projects that might benefit your content.
SEO Content Solutions and Takeaways
As an SEO copywriter, you never go into a project hoping to produce mediocre content. Yet even the best writers find it challenging to write that high-quality copy that satisfies both search engines and consumers. Why? Because high-quality content has many characteristics, and without a clear SEO content strategy, it’s easy to forget some of the ingredients that set copy apart from the competition.
Consider expert information as the solid research behind a good essay; by featuring original research and citing reliable sources, you can build trust with your readers and prove to be an authority on the subject.
Are you interested in learning more SEO content writing tips including how to optimize that content for search and set your copywriting apart? Our SEO training program will teach you SEO best practices to boost your content’s search rankings.
Editor’s note: This page was originally penned by content writer Melanie Saxe, now updated and republished.