What is an Authority Site?
Before you go building an authority site, you should know what it is!
Basically, an authority site can be thought of as a site that is built on trust.
The authority site is a website that is trusted by Google, other websites, and more importantly, by its users! It’s the kind of place that people keep coming back to when they are looking for information.
However, this definition will need more clarity before we start telling you how to build one.
Here is a more comprehensive definition:
An authority site is a content-based website that is highly reputable in terms of search ranking and user trust. It typically has a large amount of content, firm content editorial standards, and multiple revenue streams.
Now, let’s go into the specifics of each part of this definition.
Many readers see the words “content-based” and immediately begin to confuse an authority site with a niche site.
As we have discussed in previous articles, niche sites are focused on growing by producing content for an under-competitive niche with monetization opportunities. A niche site could aspire to be an authority site further down the road, but only after a lot of content has been produced and high keyword rankings have been achieved!
But how exactly do we know when a niche site has crossed the threshold and can begin to be classified as an authority site? We can find the answers elsewhere in the definition.
Reputable Search Rankings and User Trust
A niche site can start to be considered an authority site once it holds a large number of top 5 rankings on Google. It is difficult to attach a specific number to this requirement, as there will be variations between different niches.
However, it is fair to say that if a site has 20+ top 5 Google rankings, it can be considered for “authority” status. The same can be said if they are receiving enough traffic to apply for display ad networks like Ezoic and Monumetric (10,000 monthly pageviews).
User trust is also difficult to quantify, but it can be determined by looking for indicators of user engagement. If users have visited a website enough to start trusting its value of information, then they will bookmark it, sign up for newsletters, and share the content on their own channels.
If less than 50% of your traffic is new users, and site visitors are sharing and commenting on your content, you can make the argument that you are building user trust.
Content Inventory and Editorial Standards
“Content inventory” basically means that a website has A LOT of content. While a niche site might have 30 articles on it covering a given niche, an authority site could have as many as 3000 or more.
An authority site’s content will cover the “essential” topics for a given niche, but will also start to branch into adjacent niches to continue to gain more organic traffic and achieve a stronger domain rating.
In addition, when a site produces this much content, it is also extremely important that there are editorial standards to be followed, especially because many different authors will be contributing to the site.
Editorial standards for content creation should include:
- A “tone” or “voice for the website
- Rigid SEO requirements
- Planned review of old content to ensure it adheres to standards
- A standard style for graphics and images
Ideally, there shouldn’t be too much difference between your 10th article and your 100th. Doing this correctly helps boost your SEO and user trust too, because users can tell when they stumble upon a professional-looking website.
Multiple Revenue Streams
The final requirement for a full-fledged authority site is a diverse portfolio of revenue streams.
Having several revenue streams also depends on these streams being robust and substantial enough to bring in sustainable earnings for your site.
Authority Hacker breaks down the main authority site revenue streams into three main categories:
- Affiliate revenue
- Ad revenue
- Products and services
There are plenty of ways to break down these categories further, but a typical authority site will have a diverse breakdown of revenues among these. This diversification ensures the site isn’t too dependent on just one income stream.
Authority Sites: A Business Model
Aside from the definitions that we have already discussed, there is one more important way that you can think about authority sites differently than niche sites.
Essentially, the authority site model is a full-fledged business (or brand), while a niche site is still in the earlier stages, where it is more of a hobby, without stable traffic or revenues.
The value of an authority site comes as a combination of its hard-earned domain authority, content inventory, and most importantly, the trust that users have in the quality of information on the site.
This trust is what pushes users to click through affiliate links and purchase recommended products, and even purchase products and services offered by the site (like ebooks, courses, or merchandise).
As an example, an authority site is like a successful bestselling book author. When they are releasing their newest work, they have a legion of fans already excited to buy it once it hits the shelf, the distribution network to get the book to retailers, and other books to refer new fans to once they have read the newest one.
In contrast, a niche site is an upstart writer in the same genre. Even if their storytelling and research are just as good, they will have to put in work to find places to sell their work and build trust from readers. And this won’t happen unless they write enough books on topics that people care about, otherwise, no one will pick them up off the shelf in the first place!
Now that you have a better idea of what an authority site really is, it’s time to talk about the process of building one from the ground up.
How to Build an Authority Site
A word to the wise: building an authority site is far from easy.
It requires motivation, enough money to make an initial investment, delegating skills, intermediate know-how in digital marketing and website development, and the ability to avoid pitfalls that can erase your progress and make you want to quit on the spot.
However, our goal at BrandBuilders is to create useful how-to guides that give you confidence in:
- Keeping your financial investment low
- How to educate yourself on key affiliate marketing and authority website skills
And most importantly:
- Avoiding the mistakes that other budding online marketers made
With so much information available in the online moneymaking niche, we want to get it across that persistence is extremely important. When starting anything new, you will face obstacles and need to deal with failure along the way.
We want to minimize the impact of these mistakes and give you as close to a “blueprint for success” as possible.
We recently wrote an article that walks through the entire process of niche selection. Without covering too much of the same ground, here are some important concepts to remember while selecting your niche.
Monetization vs. Personal Interest
Niche selection will often come down to a list of loosely-researched activities or products which are all related in that you have had some interest in them at some point in time. If your goal is to grow your niche idea into an authority website further down the road, you should really have one factor in mind: monetization.
Our free list of 1,452 profitable affiliate niches includes several different columns for traffic including Clicks Per Search and Return Rate. When it comes to measuring potential profitability, it will require some leg work on your end.
You will need to be able to definitively show that your suggested niche has the kind of monetization power to earn you money without having to bring in extremely large amounts of traffic.
What does this mean? We recommend choosing a niche where products are typically priced at over $100 each. If products are meant for the B2B market, that’s even better – this means that the average buyer will have much more of a willingness to spend.
As an example, I enjoy writing with high-end Japanese stationery. I know that a market exists for this because I have done keyword research using Ahrefs, and there are several keywords that I have a chance of ranking in after a few months of content and a decent link-building strategy.
However, I also know that the most that any individual pen, notebook, or desk organizer will sell for is around $80. The average product price is even lower, at around $20.
Even though I am passionate about this niche, it may be in my interest to choose a different niche if I want to make money.
Instead, I should explore the bicycle security niche, where “smart” bike locks start at around $300. Even if I don’t care about bike security as much, I will have to make far fewer sales through my smart bike locks affiliate links than I would for Japanese pens.
In this case, the ability to make money wins out over personal interest. Making the right decisions early with niche selection is extremely important in your ability to build authority later down the road.
Starting Your Site
We won’t go too much into detail about the specifics of starting your website, but if you have any concerns about how to get your website off the ground, you have a few options.
- Read the “Start Your Site” section in our article on How to Start Affiliate Marketing.
- Look into purchasing a pre-made or custom affiliate site from BrandBuilders.
If you are willing to make a larger initial investment, option two gives allows you to get started with your authority site much easier!
Our packages include tons of added value in the form of hosting, professionally written articles, and monthly coaching calls. We also have an authority package with even MORE benefits that save you time and energy that would normally be spent figuring out your authority site process the old-fashioned way!
Managing the content that will be published on your website is both the most important and the most time-consuming part of building authority.
You have to consider the trade-off between publishing high quality content and managing the resources that go into getting enough writing done for your site on a consistent basis.
Generally, there are three different ways that authority site owners view creating content:
- Writer/Content Creator: This person enjoys writing and wants to have complete control over what ends up on their site.
- Occasional Writer: This person doesn’t mind writing content, but they also want to focus on other aspects of growing their business online.
- Anti-Writer: Whether this person hates writing or is choosing to avoid it entirely for other reasons, they will try to hire one or more writers to do their content creation for them.
Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter which category you fit into – you WILL need to hire other people to create the majority of the content for your authority site. There is simply too much to create and still focus effectively on link building, niche research, and the many other aspects of the affiliate marketing business model.
However, a site owner from any of these categories will still need to understand what makes good content.
Even if you know how to find good writing talent on a freelancing network like Upwork, you will still need to be able to direct your writers to write blog posts that perform well for search engines and readers.
How to Create High Quality Content
Here are a few content marketing fundamentals that you should be able to confidently use to build your website.
Keyword Research on Ahrefs
- Check out an online tutorial for doing basic keyword research on Ahrefs. Later on, this task can be delegated to a Virtual Assistant (it is not complex, and can be time-consuming), but you still need to understand how to do it yourself.
Use Graphics, Video and Other Visuals
- If you have spent time researching marketing and online moneymaking, you probably notice what a lot of top-ranking sites have in common: great-looking graphics. If you don’t have the budget to hire an infographic designer, screenshots work well for how-to articles.
- If you can afford graphics, use them to display data in visually-pleasing ways. It makes it easier for readers to understand, and is an indicator of a trustworthy brand. Need inspiration? I love Authority Hacker’s informative and approachable graphics.
Creating Content with Surfer SEO
- Surfer SEO is a platform that makes it ridiculously easy to optimize content for search engines. All you need to do is plug in a keyword, and you will be given suggestions for keyword frequency and word count that are based on analysis of high ranking pages.
Understand Built-in WordPress SEO tools
- After Surfer SEO, plugins like Yoast and Rank Math are your last line of defense to make sure your content is optimized for Google. Set a minimum SEO score requirement for your content to hit, then ensure your Virtual Assistant achieves this with every content piece that is uploaded.
Diversify Traffic Streams
A key factor that allows authority sites to grow substantially is their ability to diversify traffic streams.
When you are starting off, there will be a heavy emphasis on growing through organic traffic by optimizing for search engines.
Later on, it becomes feasible to start investing in other traffic sources, but only if they are proven as effective for your niche.
For the full laundry list of traffic streams, check out our blog post on 19 affiliate link promotion strategies. However, some of these are better than others for building the authority of a website and pushing different revenue streams once a site is established.
Social media is a great option for building engagement within your site’s target audience. Once you have an established following on Facebook or Pinterest, you can start repurposing your content and promoting it, bringing in new users who are finding you for the first time on these platforms.
Later on, when you have your own products, you can also promote your own products through social ads. However, we wouldn’t recommend promoting content this way – these ads are far too expensive to use for a non-profit-driving aspect of your site.
In addition, if you start trying out social ads, it is probably also time to experiment with paid ads through search engines like Google. This works best for a well-established product – otherwise, you will need to spend a lot of money to make money!
Overall, as authority sites grow, you see their business model shift from attracting traffic organically to beginning to leverage paid traffic methods to promote their own product(s).
This is usually justified, because by this point, you’ve built up credibility and authority, and it will (almost) always be very profitable to sell your own product, compared to simply doing affiliate marketing or selling ad space on your site.
Link building is a strategy that some affiliate marketers consider essential, and others claim not to use it at all.
Regardless of which of these sides you find yourself on, it is important to arrive at your position by determining whether it is important for your niche.
Most authority websites see their best-performing links come naturally, which means that other people in your niche are recommending your content because they consider it to be of high quality!
If you are looking to get started with building an authority site, we recommend experimenting with a link building strategy and keeping track of whether it brings results.
To kickstart your link building strategy, look into the following options before you pay money to outsource your link building. They are simple to implement and can be completed by a virtual assistant if you do not want to spend the time.
Social Media Accounts
- Link to your website with your own social media profiles, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Submit to RSS Feeds
- Submit your WordPress RSS feed (which you can access at yourdomain.com/feed) to high-quality Do Follow RSS directories.
- Reach out to similar blogs in your niche with an offer to create content for their blog. Many blogs and authority sites will return the favor, which helps boost the authority for both sites and improves awareness within the target audience in the niche.
Ask A Friend
- If you have family, friends, or online acquaintances with a website, you can request that they add a link to your authority site on their website.
Once authority sites reach a certain size, it is not a good use of time to find one-off opportunities like these. At this point, you will need to switch to a more advanced natural outreach strategy and make deals with other large sites in your niche to promote each other.
Explore Monetization Opportunities
Once you achieve a critical mass with your authority site, your options for monetization open up significantly.
This happens when you hit 10,000-25,000 monthly pageviews territory. At this point, you can begin to experiment with display ads and more exclusive affiliate programs.
The goal here is to have your monthly site revenues split between 3-4 key revenue centers. Your goal is no longer only to build authority, as the work that you do in other areas of your site will grow your ability to make sustainable money.
Start out with display ads by applying for networks. Most of these use algorithms to eliminate the need for decision making on your part. This is arguably the easiest, lowest-involvement form of passive income for authority sites.
Look into how you can create informational products like courses, ebooks, or webinars in your niche. Find other site owners who have created similar products with a limited budget and time commitment. Remember that your goal is to optimize the authority site model, not become an educator.
To be clear, you should still be re-investing your earnings into creating more blogs, building links, and boosting your organic rankings.
By following these steps for the authority site model, you can build a revenue-generating vehicle and grow your skills to the point that you feel confident to start from scratch and do it all over again.
Most importantly, remember that your own time and resources are the key differentiators for success with building affiliate sites.
The thing that separates the Authority Hackers and Spencer Haws’s of the world from average affiliate marketers is their ability to create systems that ensure other people are able to work effectively for them and keep an ear to the ground to adjust to changes in SEO and website building trends.
Building an Authority Site Wrap-up
Well, that’s all for now! Keep an eye out for more content from the BrandBuilders Blog and plenty of resources to support you as an internet entrepreneur.
Brady from BrandBuilders also recently interviewed Doug Cunnington from NicheSiteProject.com for the BrandBuilders podcast. Doug is a true master of systems and project management, so his work dovetails nicely with this post.
Most importantly, we wish you the best on your authority site’s journey! If you ever need help, we also offer a totally FREE coaching call to point you in the right direction. Best of luck!