Before we get started on the more practical aspects of building an authority site, it does make sense to pause for a moment and just discuss exactly what an authority site is. After all, while some readers will be very well aware of how an authority site is defined, others may have less of an idea.
Here’s what we’re going to cover in this section:
- What is an authority site?
- How do authority sites work?
- What are the benefits of authority sites?
- The differences between authority sites and traditional blogs
- The personality traits of successful bloggers and authority site builders
If you’re an old hat that’s looking for a few new tips, feel free to move on to the next section. If you’re just started on your journey, let’s dive in a little deeper…
What is an Authority Site?
An authority site is defined as a website that offers a large volume of exceptionally-high quality content, most typically based around a specific topic or “niche”.
Almost any niche may be targeted with the authority site model – anything from keeping guinea pigs to becoming a published author.
The term “authority site” typically refers to a type of website that is “white hat” in every way. The site aims to provide high quality content to its visitors, while simultaneously working within the terms of service of major traffic providers – such as Google, Facebook and Pinterest.
In contrast to many other types of popular web properties, therefore, the authority site model is about providing exceptional value. The authority site model is about giving readers exactly what they want, while also meeting the guidelines of search engines, social media sites and so on.
Put another way, an authority site is one that you can be proud of. It’s something you can show your friends and family. It’s one you can show to potential employers (if you want to break into digital marketing).
Because the authority model revolves around quality, it tends to be far more long-term than many other types of websites. Unlike mini sites and other low quality “burner” styles of online marketing, authority sites are typically far less affected by changes to search engine algorithms etc.
There’s more. Authority sites also tend to benefit from a holistic approach to marketing – they don’t focus purely on SEO (though this is certainly an important element) but they also draw in visitors from social media, from mentions on other sites and so on.
Many authority sites then ethically “capture” as many of these visitors as possible – using email marketing and push notifications. These visitors can then be driven back to your site on a regular basis, as new high quality content is published.
The end result is an ongoing process involving the creation of high quality content, the effective promotion of that content to drive increased visitor numbers, plus a range of techniques to turn those “first time” visitors into dollars and/or ongoing traffic.
As a result, authority site revenues typically grow comfortably over time, increasing in value all the time.
How Do Authority Sites Work?
The very centre of an authority site is content. This typically comes in the form of written text, but may also include videos, podcasts, graphics and suchlike. The end result of this is that you’re going to need lots and lots of content. Content that you’ve either created yourself, or paid someone else to write for you.
This content has a number of crucial roles in the authority site model…
- It helps to attract visitors to your website from the search engines, social media and links from other sites.
- It encourages other sites to link to you if the content is of high-enough quality, which results in increased traffic over time.
- It can help you to grow your mailing list or social media followers, thus leading to further traffic increases.
- Lastly, it provides an opportunity to “monetize” those visitors, by providing advertising in one form or another.
Let’s take a closer look at each one of these in turn, to better explain the business model in question…
Content That Attracts Visitors
On the Internet, qualified visitors are the difference between success and failure. The more visitors you receive, overall, the more revenue you can generate. This is especially so if the visitors you’re attracting are in a “buying” frame of mind.
Think of each piece of content on your website as a fishing line you’ve thrown into the river. The more pieces of content you have, the more chance there are of someone “biting”. Get enough pieces of content out there, of a high-enough quality, and you’ll be drawing in people all day long.
We’ll cover traffic generation in depth later on, but for now let’s just summarize. We humans seem to naturally love big numbers; we’d rather read an article that describes 500 ways to attract visitors to our website, than one that lists just five.
Never mind if the five core traffic generation strategies are far and away the most successful. Never mind if 495 of the 500 are mediocre at best. Instead, the mind runs wild, assuming that 500 traffic-generation techniques must be one hundred times better than just five.
I’m here to tell you that this isn’t exactly so…
You can build an authority site from nothing to a full-time income by focusing on just a tiny handful of techniques. Primarily, these are search engines optimization (SEO), social media marketing and building your own email list. While there are a few other techniques that I have found to be effective, these three are the most important by far.
Search engines are working hard to surface the very best content on any subject. Over time their algorithms have got smarter and smarter; it’s now harder than ever before to “trick” them into sending visitors to your site.
Instead, the best solution now is to work with the algorithm, creating the very best content you can on any given subject. The higher the quality of your articles, the more search engine traffic you’ll receive. Furthermore, the more content you publish (and the more links you generate) the more keywords your site will rank for. And just like our fishing analogy, more rankings means more traffic.
The goal, here, should therefore be to produce genuinely helpful content; the type that really gets people talking, sharing and linking.
Content That Attracts Links
Have you ever shared a funny video or interesting article on Facebook, or by email? Most of us have. Of course, the flipside of this is that you helped that website to generate more traffic, simply because you were “impressed” (entertained, amused, educated etc.) enough to pass it on.
High quality content can also attract links from other websites.
Let’s imagine that you’ve written a huge article on repairing a burst bicycle tire. You’ve worked hard to address the topic in depth. You’ve discussed the tools and techniques, and have carefully taken photos of yourself changing a tire.
Quite frankly, it’s the most complete guide possible on the subject.
Isn’t it natural, therefore, that if someone on a cycling forum asks how to change a tire, they might just reference your article as a guide? Or might another cycling site mention you in one of their articles on bike maintenance, or on their “links” page all about bicycle maintenance?
Those links can not only drive high quality traffic directly to your website, but they will also help you to rank more highly in the search engines. In other words, a good link will work twice as hard for you.
Of course, we don’t just have to passively wait for people to link to our new article – we can also go out and proactively try to attract them.
We’ll discuss link building in much more depth later on, but wouldn’t be be perfectly natural to email a few other bicycle bloggers to tell them about our article, especially if they already have a page on their site dedicated to bike maintenance tips?
Assuming your article really is good enough, it should make a useful and welcome addition to their page.
And here lies the most crucial point. The content truly has to be fantastic. It has to be so good that another website owner is willing to spend their own time adding it to their website. It has to be so good that they’re willing to send their own hard-won visitors over to you, based on the quality of your article.
Once again, therefore, quality wins the day.
Content That Attracts Subscribers
Most traffic is temporary. Not only do search engines and social media sites change their algorithms regularly, but most visitors who arrive at your website will never return again.
This means that you’re “wasting” 90% of the visitors you worked so hard to attract, and that at any time your visitors numbers could be slashed – and that change is completely out of your control.
Trust me – I’ve had it happen. I had a “green living” blog many years ago that got absolutely pummelled in a Google algorithm update. Literally from 1,000+ unique visitors per day to less than 50. That hurt.
Your content can help you to mitigate this risk however, by turning browsers into subscribers. In essence, you’re looking to convert as many visitors into social media followers or, even better, email newsletter subscribers. When you start building your own email list, you can attract visitors to your website at any time, simply by writing them an email. That’s why the phrase “the money is in the list” has become so popular.
Fortunately there are all manner of ways to build an email list, but an increasing number of them revolve around your content. Possibly the most effective is to create a “content upgrade” – essentially an additional resource or piece of content that naturally follows on from, or bolts onto, an existing piece.
A visitor reads through the first article, then sees a small advert offering them the “upgraded” version with all the additional resources. The thing is – they need to join your newsletter to get it. Done right, these upgrades can be tremendously effective and help to drive long-term growth for your business.
Content That Generates Revenue
Lastly, we come to arguably the most important element of all – turning all these visitors into cold, hard cash!
There are a range of ways that we can do this, but they all really boil down to adverts. Perhaps they’re adverts from other companies, whereby you earn a small sum of money each time an advert is clicked. Adsense is possibly the best-known of these, though there are dozens of others.
Perhaps the “advert” is really an affiliate link. A link that takes the visitor to another website, but earns you a commission if and when they buy (rather than you getting paid just when they click).
Or maybe it’s even an advert for a product or service you sell yourself. Ever more authority site owners and bloggers are creating ebooks, software, courses and more – and then selling these to their visitors.
The key here is that it all starts with some kind of “advert” – whatever that may look like.
However just as with our content, we try to monetize our website in the most ethical, up-front and helpful way possible. We don’t slam our site with so many adverts that it’s unreadable. Instead we offer value first – in the form of our content – and gently slip in the odd advert here and there – as they make sense.
Remember – everything is about helping and respecting your visitors. We want them coming back again, and even sharing your article with their friends. And to do that, we need to put a lot of effort into creating the best possible site we can.
What Are the Benefits of Authority Sites?
One of the most common questions that I find myself being asked time and again relates to the benefits of building an authority site: why go to all this effort if there are (supposedly) easier alternatives, such as mini niche sites?
Pride in Your Work
The first benefit of building an authority site, over other types of revenue-generating websites, is simply that they allow you to build something that you can be proud of. A site filled with high quality content, designed to offer the very best possible experience to your visitors.
This not only allows you to feel good about what you’re creating (making the whole process more enjoyable) but also means that you can proudly show family and friends what you’ve been working on. What’s more, you can feel pretty confident that most reasonable people will be suitably impressed with all your efforts.
Fewer “Tricks”, More Skill
Many other models of creating revenue online rely on a variety of “tricks” – often backed up with expensive tools. Many of them are designed to try and “outwit” Google, yet offer very little value to genuine visitors.
Authority sites are different. You’re not trying to fight against Google and “trick” them into sending you traffic. Quite the opposite in fact; you’re working hard to produce a great site that the search engines should be proud to list.
In the authority site model, very little changes. You’re not constantly looking for new loopholes, you’re not constantly having to invest in new software because the old piece stopped working, nor spending your time on murky forums filled with spammers.
No, the authority model rewards those willing to put in real effort over an extended period of time and produce a great quality site.
One of the biggest issues with so-called “niche sites” is that these very same loopholes can be closed at any point in time. We’ve seen Google do it before, as websites using questionable link building or content production techniques have essentially been nuked.
This means that a niche site, promoted using blackhat link building techniques, is always at significant risk of penalties and loss of traffic. In other words, they’re not a reliable source of income. I certainly wouldn’t want to quit my job to travel the world if my sole source of income was a handful of niche sites that could be wiped out at any time.
Authority sites, however, aim to do things differently. They build their links slowly, using far more legitimate techniques. As a result, in my experience over the last 20-or-so years, they tend to weather the storm far better. I’d feel much safer relying on a couple of solid authority sites for my income than I would all those niche sites.
A profitable authority site is an asset; by which I mean that it has inherent value.
Such sites are regularly selling for 24 months of income, sometimes more. Build a site that brings in $5k a month, as quite a few people have done, and you’re looking at something worth upwards of $100,000 on the open market.
That’s a serious chunk of change to most people, and the more “secure” your site is (from a quality perspective) the higher this multiple goes.
So when you’re building an authority site don’t just think about the monthly income that you’re generating, but also consider the long-term value that you’re achieving through little more than your free time.
Interesting & Varied Topics
Unlike the very limited topic of a traditional niche site, authority sites are broad and varied in their topic choice. While a niche site might just focus on the best 4 person tent (exciting stuff, I think you’d agree!) the equivalent authority site would target “camping” or “outdoor living”.
This broader approach not only makes for a far greater range of potential link-building opportunities, but it also makes such a site a lot more fun to write for. Suddenly there’s a whole world of opportunity out there, and you’re going to find it pretty difficult to get bored writing on such a diverse array of subjects.
Range of Marketing Avenues
Authority sites are designed with genuine value in mind. They offer high quality content, attractive formatting, handy tools, resource lists and more. They’re a truly valuable destination for your readers.
This means that authority sites open themselves up to a whole host of new marketing opportunities that little Amazon niche site builders can only dream of. From running an email newsletter, to growing a social media following, the sky really is the limit here.
Such a broad range of marketing avenues brings with it benefits. Firstly, of course, the overall traffic potential is magnified significantly. Secondly, promoting your site becomes a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Lastly such a range of techniques also offers you security. By diversifying your traffic sources, you’re at far less risk from a change of algorithm at Google or Facebook.
Starting an authority website or blog takes time and effort. I would be lying if I told you that you’d be quitting your job in the first few months of work.
Most authority sites take 6 months or more to really start producing consistent traffic and income. However, this “slow start” has a flipside – once things get moving they’re almost impossible to stop…
Once your traffic starts to grow, so you typically find it ever easier to rank in the search engines and to receive social shares. Indeed, I own a few sites where every article I publish is almost guaranteed to land on the first page of Google within a couple of weeks.
When you own such an asset your job becomes ever easier over time, as your results scale so rapidly. At this point it is not unusual to even take on freelance writers to capitalize on the measure of authority that you’ve built up.
Low Cost of Entry
Despite all the benefits laid out so far you might be surprised to hear that the “cost of entry” is still reasonably low. We’ll discuss the tools you need in the forthcoming sections, but only a handful are truly critical; plenty of other tools are simply “nice to have” and can be purchased with your profits over time.
Indeed, an authority site or blog can easily be started from scratch for less than $100 and then bootstrapped over time as funds become available.
This makes it a business model that is within almost anyone’s grasp; indeed the critical resources needed for success are not a large bankroll, but your passion and a little specialist knowledge – which you’ll be learning here.
Residual Income Opportunities
The final benefit of authority sites is arguably the biggest of all; a well-built authority site, jammed with content and links, will continue to earn revenue for you whether you’re working on it directly or not.
Take the afternoon off when it’s sunny. Take the kids to the park. Heck, take a whole month off if you really want, once things are growing nicely. That revenue keeps on rolling in. And that means freedom, to work when you want, and from where you want.
Hopefully by now you can see why I’m so passionate about building authority affiliate websites and blogs. But before we move on, let’s take a little look at the different between an authority site and a blog…
The Difference Between Authority Sites and Blogs
Possibly one of the most common questions that I get is the difference between an “authority site” and a “blog”.
In truth, most authority sites are built using WordPress – the world’s most popular blogging software. The difference between the two is therefore quite small and subtle, and in truth I’ll be using the two words synonymously within the sections of this guide.
In many ways, building an authority site is similar to building a blog, but there can be a few minor differences here and there…
Most blogs are personal affairs, written by a single blogger, and giving their opinions, perspectives and experiences.
Depending on the niche, it is entirely possible to do this with your authority site. However some authority site owners instead opt to create a “persona” – an imaginary person – that is behind the site.
Why would someone do such a thing?
In many cases it makes the site more appealing to potential buyers in the future, as the site isn’t based squarely on a single person’s personality. After all, if a site is purely based around one person, it’s difficult for someone else to take over without reducing the impact of that site.
Personal Vs Keyword-Focused Articles
Many traditional bloggers create content based on nothing but gut instinct. The passion to communicate is so powerful that blog posts are written based purely on what the blogger wants to write about that day.
Authority site owners tend to be a little more structured in their approach to content. Article topics are chosen based on keyword research, especially when it comes to commercial content that they hope will drive revenue.
This isn’t always the case, but often it is.
While most bloggers create all of their content themselves, the authority site owner often outsources some of their content.
Going back to the fishing line analogy from earlier, the more content we have (of a suitable quality level) the more potential visitors we can receive. Once your site is established in the search engines – in other words we have some links coming to our site – one of the quickest ways to scale up and grow your income is to significantly increase the amount of content on a site.
Unless you’re lucky enough to have all the time in the world to sit and write – and also find that writing enjoyable – you may well end up getting outside help.
Just this week, as an example, I received 20 high quality pieces of content for one of my authority sites. In total I spent less than an hour on briefing my writers and monitoring the work. This helps my sites to grow without having to spend every waking minute sat at my computer.
The authority site owner typically utilizes a huge range of promotional strategies to drive more visitors to their site, and this aspect of content promotion is a key aspect of the authority site building process. There is no more “build it and they will come” – instead we actively promote our content for best results.
Again, the difference is subtle, as some bloggers also work hard to promote their content, though many admit that they don’t do as much as they should.
As a result, it’s fair to say that most authority sites could be referred to as blogs, while not all blogs are necessarily authority sites.
In many ways authority sites are best thought of as “blogging on steroids” – they entail higher quality content, a larger volume of content, a broader and more diverse range of promotional strategies and – possibly most importantly of all – they are designed from the beginning to drive as many visitors (and as much revenue) as possible.
This means that whether you’ve always dreamed of being a blogger, or you’re dead-set on the authority site model, you don’t need to see these two roles as mutually exclusive. In the same way, if you have an existing blog, it’s entirely possible to use the information on this website to “upgrade” your existing site and start scaling it for increased traffic and revenue.
Just remember that whether I mention the phrase “authority site” or “blog” here, I’m basically talking about the same concept, rather than trying to differentiate between the two.
Got it? Good, let’s move on…
The 10 Critical Personality Traits of Successful Bloggers
Each year, thousands of people start a new blog or authority website.
Just a few months later, most give up.
Sadly, as you might imagine, these people will never see success.
These days, building a successful online business takes time.
Creating large volumes of high quality content, establishing the links you need, growing a following on social media and so on all require months – even years – of hard work.
Only a tiny fraction of those website founders will keep on plugging away, making progress, until finally their goals are reached.
One of the most important elements is attitude. I’ve personally taught dozens of people to build an effective, long-term business and during that time I find that certain personality traits are far more likely to lead to success (with site building at least).
In this section we’re going to discuss what I believe to be the ten most important personality traits you should be cultivating if you want to success as a blogger, affiliate and/or authority site owner.
The more of these you already possess, the easier I think you’ll find it to reach success. And if you don’t possess these traits, now is probably a good time to get working on them, in order to maximize your chances of success…
It’s easy to work on a website that is earning you thousands of dollars each month. Who couldn’t be excited and motivated by such a situation?
But what about a site that isn’t producing results (at least, not yet)? This is a far harder ask. It’s far tougher to give up your weekends, your evenings and your vacation time to build a website when you’re seemingly getting nothing back in return.
And this is where passion comes in. If you’re truly passionate about building a successful future for yourself, and if you’re passionate about the topic of your authority site, then you’re going to find it a lot easier to keep on moving in the right direction.
So don’t just start a website or blog on a subject just because you think it will be profitable; instead start one on a subject that you’re fiercely passionate about, as it’ll make those first few months a lot easier to cope with.
Entrepreneurs, especially those building online businesses, talk about “shiny object syndrome”.
What this means is that the online marketing world is like a giant buffet of opportunities. Everywhere you look there’s a success story from someone who is earning crazy sums of money. If you’re not careful, you can spread yourself so thin trying out all the ideas you encounter that you never actually accomplish anything.
Success with blogging and authority site building therefore requires supreme focus. You must be willing to set one course of action and focus on it above all else. Ignore all the other temptations along the way, and instead apply yourself to building your site into the behemoth it can be.
Here’s a depressing thought: nobody else cares about your goal to become financially free. Certainly not your friends or family, who see you toiling away at the computer, and laugh at how much time you’re “wasting” (read:investing).
To them, dropping $100 on a piece of software is a complete waste of money, when it could be spent on more “consumer” pleasures like new clothes or a nice meal out.
Worse, there’ll always be something else to do besides working on your site. There’ll always be a chore that needs doing, or a party you’d like to go to, or a TV show you’d like to watch.
This means that the only person who can make your site successful is you. And the only way you can do that is to motivate yourself, ignore all the distractions, and focus on what really matters to you.
If you’re the kind of person who can’t motivate yourself to get down the gym, or hunker down when it really matters, then you may struggle to build your online empire.
Calmness / Stoicism
It’s a fact of life that things rarely go as well as we’d hoped. Even the most successful site owners have had issues to deal with, whether that’s a hacking attempt or a WordPress plugin that suddenly stops working or a ranking that suddenly drops for no reason. It happens.
One of the more common things I see in Facebook groups and on forums is that newbies massively overreact to such situations. If I had a dollar for every person who nearly lost their mind because their ranking dropped in Google I’d be long retired by now.
The key is not to get too over-excited. To roll with the punches.
Those rankings will more than likely rebound in a few days. There’ll be a plugin update that kicks your site back into action. And your web host will quickly fix your hacked website. Within days you’ll be wondering what all the fuss was about.
If you’re the kind of person who is going to lose the plot every time something goes wrong then this may not be the game for you. If, however, you’re able to keep your calm when under pressure, you may well succeed where others have failed.
Right now, I’m building a new Amazon authority site. I have high hopes for it in the future, and am confident that it could become one of my most profitable sites of all.
But it’ll take time.
And that’s OK.
When I launch a new site these days I don’t expect anything for the first six months. If I get a trickle of visitors, and make a few sales, then all the better. The key, however, is being patient with it. Slow and steady wins the race.
The people who get impatient either give up too early, or try to speed the process up by slamming their site with artificial links, and promptly nuking their site. Neither is ideal.
So get started, certainly, but appreciate that blogging and authority site building is a long game. Be patient, and the rewards will pay off.
We know that creating awesome content is an essential part of the whole authority site building process. But I find that all too often people can’t tell how good their content really is. They post on forums telling people how great their articles are, and when you click through you’re faced with a complete train-smash.
I don’t quite know why this is. I think many of us are naturally biased positively towards our own work, and can’t objectively measure whether our site is actually much good. Somehow, we have too much invested to see the (sometimes painful) truth.
Another key skill, therefore, is the ability to “disconnect” from this, and to see your site as a visitor would. When you can do this, it becomes much easier to audit your content, and take it to the next level of readability, value and usefulness.
“Can Do” Attitude
It’s so easy to look at established websites and think we could never build anything quite as good. It’s so tempting to be overwhelmed by the task ahead that we never get started, or to give up at the very first hurdle. But such an attitude rarely leads to online success.
The person with a “can do” attitude sees the glass half full. They observe the pleasure of creating great content. They look forward to the networking and content promotion. Little issues don’t phase them; if anything problems are merely a learning experience; some way to further expand their knowledge base and skillset.
Be that person. Approach your project with a “can do” attitude and very little will shake you from your mission.
Before you even start your authority site there are all sorts of things you can discover. You can find hopeful-looking keyword phrases. You can look at competitors to see how they’re building links, what monetization strategies they’re using and how their content be being structured.
Given enough time, you can rapidly build up a picture of a specific niche, and make an informed decision about whether this is a market you want to enter, and if so how you’ll do it. All this requires hours of research, powered by inquisitiveness, but can save a huge amount of heartache down the road.
Once your authority site starts to get established; it has a decent number of links and a healthy back catalogue of content, patterns will start to appear. You’ll find that certain types of posts work best for your social media followers. Certain articles will suddenly become runaway successes, while others fail. Certain types and sources of links will work well, others less so.
The inquisitive mind pays attention to these hints. Over time, using these discoveries as guides, you can slowly test and tweak your site for maximum impact. You’ll get to know your audience, and what content works for them. You’ll understand how to promote your content most efficiently, and you’ll discover how to make the most money possible from your visitors.
Willingness to Invest
Building a successful authority site doesn’t just take time – it takes money too. Not initially, necessarily, but over time you’re going to want to invest in a variety of tools and services.
I would suggest, therefore, that the final critical element for success is a willingness to invest in your business as it grows. Trying to do everything on a budget – or for free – is likely to severely slow down your results.