Authority Site - A site that may or may not have Google's trust but does have respect and trust from the peers within it's niche. (definition slightly altered by me)
So, how do you achieve Authority Site status? In other words, how do you gain the respect and trust from the peers within your niche?
I'm sure there are various ways of achieving this goal, but I'd like to point out one way that I am particularly familiar with.
Back in the day, when I was heavily focused on ColdFusion programming, I spent a lot of time at various ColdFusion forums, soaking up a large amount of knowledge. Once I became a ColdFusion expert, I continued frequenting those forums, and gave back to the community what I'd been given - knowledge. I spent enormous amounts of time helping others, answering questions, guiding newbies along in their quest for knowledge. A year or two into this process, I realized that I'd developed name recognition within the community and had gained respect and trust from my peers. I became inundated with requests for my services and my apps were selling better than ever. Now, I doubt any of the current CF programmers have any clue who I am, because I dropped out of that scene several years ago. But the lesson was still one that I learned and learned well.
Participate in your niche's community. If you are an expert in your field, give back to that community freely and often. Don't do it out of a self-serving desire to become respected. Do it because it's a good thing to do. The trust and respect will follow naturally. Once that trust and respect has been gained, your site will naturally become a trusted, respected authority site within its niche. People will link to it because they trust and respect you. People will want the services or products from that site because of the authority you hold within the community.
But let me further state that personality does play a role. Not only should you be participating in your community and giving freely of your knowledge, but you should be doing it in a personable way. Let me give you an example of someone who is currently well known in his community, participates often, and shares knowledge freely, but has the personality of an old, cantankerous curmudgeon.
This man makes others feel as though they are idiots. He spews his knowledge in great detail, but does so in an arrogant, annoying way. He is steadfast in his beliefs, and never backs down when new theories are presented. He is completely incapable of listening to another person's point of view. While his knowledge and experience are undeniably great, his personality puts off everyone else. He has succeeded in becoming well known within his niche, but he has not garnered respect or trust in the process. Because of this, his site may occasionally receive traffic due to link bait strategies, but his services will not be highly sought after. His site will never be an authority site.
Becoming an authority, regardless of how you achieve that goal, takes time. Generally, a site does not become an authority site overnight. Trust and respect in any venue requires time and effort. However, once that trust and respect is achieved, you would have to do something pretty stupid to lose it. And once your site has become an authority, your SEO goals become so much easier to achieve.