In 2017, the debate still rages on -- which is better, larger authority sites, or smaller niche sites.
There’s no denying that both types of sites are capable of producing a huge income for you, when done right, but many beginners are still stuck wondering which type of site they should focus on building when they’re just getting started.
The short answer is that it is really up to you, your comfort levels, what you want to achieve, and whether you prefer to work on a single project or on multiple projects at the same time.
While that may not be very helpful to most of you trying to find answers to your problems, there really is no way to tell which type of site is better because every person reading this may have different preferences.
What we can do to help you, though, is realize the similarities and differences between each type of site so you’re better equipped to make the final decision for yourself.
Major Similarities Between Niche & Authority Sites
We’re not trying to make your decision harder.
In fact, we’re actually trying to make your decision easier. When you’re able to figure out how both sites are so similar, you’ll have an easier time spotting the differences, so you can figure out exactly what you want to do with your business.
As it stands, building out a niche site and building out an authority site has 4 specific similarities.
The work you perform on one type of site is going to be the same work you perform on the other.
Similarity #1 - Initial Research
With any site that you are planning to build, especially those that rely on the search engines to deliver traffic, you’re going to need to perform keyword research and sort the keywords you’ve found into different groups to help with your content creation down the road.
You’re going to look for signs in the market to ensure that you will be able to make money, like traffic numbers, products, services, and advertisers available, and whether you can create enough content to keep your visitors happy.
Your initial research isn’t going to differ much, regardless the type and size of the site you’re planning on building. The only goal with market research is to ensure that you can drive traffic to the site, and that the traffic you do drive to the site is going to help you make money in some way.
Similarity #2 - Content Creation
Every site needs content, and most of the content you create is going to be focused around the keywords that you’ve researched during the initial phase of building out your site.
The types of content you create are generally going to be the same, and the goals for your content will remain the same between both types of sites.
The goal for your content should be to capture your visitor’s attention, and persuade them into taking an action. What that action is depends on how you’re making money from the site, but the general purpose is exactly the same.
Similarity #3 - Building Links
Both types of sites are going to need links pointing towards them.
There are some differences between the types of links you will be building and the link building strategies you’ll implement, which we’ll get into later, but you’re going to need to build links for both traffic and increased rankings.
In general, guest posting is going to be the foundation of link building campaigns for both niche sites, and authority sites.
Whether those guest posting links are whitehat or blackhat depends on the level of risk you can handle, but obtaining links from other websites through guest posting is going to be your general focus.
Similarity #4 - Driving Traffic
Both types of sites are also going to require you to devise a strategy for driving traffic to them. Without traffic, you’re going to have a hard time making money — and developing a sustainable business around your site.
Both types of sites are going to focus on traffic from the major search engines which means that you’re going to need to keep up with the times, in terms of changes that each search engine makes to their algorithms and the criteria that they use to rank sites in their search results.
That sums up the similarities between the two sites. Building a business around them, especially when you’re focusing solely on affiliate marketing to make money, means that the foundation is essentially the same.
Once you start getting into the details of building out each type of site, though, things start to take a drastic turn and the differences, pros, and cons of each site begin to show through.
Niche Sites - Pros & Cons
Building niche sites is where most entrepreneurs and internet marketers are going to get their start, so it’s only fair that we start by addressing the pros and cons of building them.
While we’re talking about beginners, it’s worth noting that niche websites aren’t only for beginners -- they’re just the place most people get started.
Some entrepreneurs have used the niche website model to make a ton of money and, as a result, only focus on building them throughout their entire career.
There’s nothing wrong with focusing solely on niche sites to make money, and some people are more aligned to managing multiple smaller projects than they are one or two larger projects -- like authority sites.
Niche sites can also evolve into larger authority sites, so even if you’re not comfortable managing a large site, you may eventually find yourself evolving one of your smaller sites into a larger project that has higher earnings potential.
With all of that said, here are a few pros and cons of niche sites.
Niche Sites Are Easier To Build, And Perfect For Beginners
- In general, niche sites require less skill and a smaller learning curve than authority sites do. For people just getting started in the industry, very few strategies offer the same chances of success that building niche sites do.
- One of the biggest reasons that people fail at making money online is because of a steep learning curve. Niche sites are the exact opposite.
- When you learn how to choose a niche that people spend money in, research keywords, create content, and start promoting the site, most niche sites are going to earn at least a little bit of money -- with many earning substantially more.
- Compared to other business models, like eCommerce, product development, and service based businesses, building niche websites requires the least amount of risk and skills to learn before you can start making money.
Niche Sites Require A Smaller Investment And Budget
- Building a niche website also requires very little in the way of a budget or financial requirement from you when you’re just getting started. All you really need to buy is a domain name and a hosting account, which costs around $20 up front and less than $10 per month.
- You can get away with using the free WordPress theme that comes preinstalled, and free plugins to help give you the functionality you’re looking for and then upgrade each of them as your site starts making money.
- The amount of content you need to create for a niche website is also smaller, so it gives beginners the perfect opportunity to learn how to write without outsourcing the process to a freelancer.
They’re Easier To Rank In Google, In Most Cases
- Since niche websites focus on solving problems of a much smaller market, or even promoting a single product, they tend to rank in Google much faster than an authority site will.
- In most cases, you can rank a niche website near the top of Google’s search results with as little as 30 to 40 quality links pointing at the site. When compared to authority sites, the upfront workload is significantly smaller and more manageable for beginners.
- Now, this isn’t always the case, because some niches may be more competitive than what your initial research leads you to believe, which can make it harder to rank the site. In most instances, though, narrowing down into a tight niche makes it easier to rank and reduces the amount of competition you’re up against.
They’re Easier To Move To A “Completed” Point
- One of the biggest issues that people face when they’re building a website is getting it to a point where they can consider it “completed”.
- Seeing a point of completion in the site’s future makes it easier for people to manage building the site and the amount of work they need to complete to get it to that point.
- Since authority sites tend to be moving objects that breathe and evolve as time goes on, it’s harder for people to wrap their heads around the idea of building one, and then managing it as it grows in size and revenue.
They Generally Earn Less Than Authority Sites
- Niche websites are so easy to build and manage because they generally focus on one, two, or three different primary keywords and a very limited number of products.
- They also tend to rely on keyword rich domain names, which makes it hard to scale them away from the niche that you’ve initially targeted when you were building it.
- Many of the perks of niche websites also mean that the earnings potential of the sites are dramatically limited.
- Once you rank for the keywords you’re targeting, you usually won’t be able to scale into different niches or keywords unless they’re very closely related to the domain name you’ve used. When this happens, you may be forced to start new sites and begin the process from scratch.
They Tend To Rely On Google For Their Traffic
- Google is great in that they provide some of the most targeted traffic you can bring into a site. When your visitors type in the keywords you’re ranking for, they are looking specifically for what you’re providing on the site.
- However, Google can also be a fickle beast. The algorithms that they use to rank your websites can be changed at any time, causing your websites to instantly lose rankings -- and your income to suddenly drop.
- When you’re putting your business in the hands of another company (by relying on them for traffic), your business can be wiped out overnight. This isn’t speculation, either. Google has updated their algorithms multiple different times and wiped out people’s entire portfolio of websites in the process.
Authority Sites - Pros & Cons
Authority sites have quickly grown in popularity over the last couple years, and for quite a few good reasons.
Even with the many perks of growing an authority site, though, there are still a few downsides that you’re going to need to consider before you jump in, both feet first.
Take Longer To Grow, But Have More Potential
- Since you’re not targeting a small, very specific set of keywords with your authority site, you are typically going to need to wait longer to start seeing results from your efforts. However, while that sounds like a negative, targeting more than a couple different keywords is a major perk.
- One of the biggest upsides to building an authority website or blog is that you have nearly unlimited growth potential and can easily expand into other niches inside of the industry that you’ve chosen to target.
- Authority sites tend to focus more on a market of consumers or an industry than they do on specific keywords. That means you have a much broader spectrum you can cover with the content, and more opportunities to promote different products, services, and advertisements.
Easier To Scale Into Higher Earnings Levels
- With an authority site, you’re going to end up with more than a couple pages on your site that are bringing in a large portion of your revenue. That means you have more opportunities to promote the pages so you can increase their income.
- With a niche site, you are usually only going to have a few pages that bring in an income and once they’re ranking at the top of the search results, the income levels will plateau.
- With an authority site, however, you could have anywhere from 20 to 100 different pages that make money. When you send more traffic to each of those pages your income is going to exponentially increase.
- It’s a lot easier to build an authority site or blog to a point where it’s earning $10,000 per month than it is to build a niche site to that same income level.
Easier To Drive Traffic To
- Niche websites tend to rely on Google for the lion’s share of their traffic and visitors. Authority sites, though, can use multiple different traffic strategies to make money, which means it’s actually easier to drive traffic to them than it is to niche sites.
- When you’re building an authority site you are usually going to focus on a market of customers and spend your time focusing on where you can find them at online.
- That means you’re going to be getting traffic from the search engines, but you’re also going to be perusing forums, social media platforms and groups, other blogs, and even have room to pay for advertising to drive more visitors to your site.
- Not only will building an authority site give you more avenues to use to drive traffic, but it’s also a lot more interesting. When you get bored building links, you can actually get involved in the community and directly help people solve their problems.
Have A Higher Return On Your Investment
- Getting an authority site started doesn’t cost much more than building a niche site. You’ve gotta pay for your domain and hosting costs, but can complete the rest of the work yourself.
- However, when you want to invest in your site and ensure that you see a return on that investment, the best way to put money into your business is by devoting it to a site that is larger and has more long term potential.
- Investing into an authority site usually means more content, a better design, custom graphics and, most importantly, help to grow the project so you don’t have to manage the entire workload yourself.
- Unless you have a few successful niche sites (or more), you’re going to have a hard time sustaining a team of freelancers that can pay for themselves and still leave some of the income for you at the end of the month.
- With the higher earning potential of authority sites, though, reinvesting your profits is easy and, when you do, you’re usually growing your income exponentially instead of starting from scratch and risking not seeing a return on the investment you’ve made.
Require More Resources To Start
- A niche site can be built on a free WordPress theme, free plugins, and a few blog posts. In general, you may never need more than 5 to 10 pages of content to rank a niche site at the top of Google’s search results and start making money.
- An authority site, on the other hand, could have anywhere between 50 to 500 posts, or even more in some cases, which requires a huge time or money investment when you’re building one out.
- Building an authority site also means you need a way to stand out from the competition. That means having custom graphics for each of your posts, a custom design instead of a free WordPress theme, maybe some premium plugins, and other things that cost money.
- As the site grows, you’re also likely to need to invest in having additional content created, which is an expense that most niche sites do not require. Once the content is created on a niche site, it’s fairly rare for the site to need new blog posts.
Require Substantially More Effort To Maintain
- An authority site is a growing entity. That means, over time, you’re going to need to devote more, and more effort to properly growing the traffic and content on the site.
- Niche sites allow you to reach a certain point and stop working on them. Once they have enough content to rank for the keywords you’re targeting, and you’re ranked at the top of the search results for those keywords, you don’t have to put much more work into the site.
- With an authority site, though, you’re always going to be adding new content, targeting new keywords, optimizing old posts, and sending new links to the site to get all of your content to not only rank higher in the search engines, but to diversify your traffic away from the search engines themselves.
- Building and managing an authority site is a constant juggling act, which can turn some entrepreneurs off to the thought. If you prefer being able to stop working on the project and move onto new adventures after a certain point in time, a niche site is probably a better business for you to work on.
Sometimes Require A Team Effort
- Many successful entrepreneurs have started and managed building an authority site by themselves. However, most sites grow large enough that they are going to require a team effort.
- One aspect that scares many people away from building an authority site is the fact that they may need to hire people to help them grow the business as the business grows. Putting their trust into other people, and potentially risking their money on hiring the wrong person can be a nerve-wracking experience if you’ve never done it before.
- If you want to be able to step back from the business when you’re building a larger authority site, though, you’re going to need to learn to trust other people and how to reinvest some of your profits back into the business to keep growing it.
Pro & Con: Designed For Long-Term Success
This could be considered both a pro and a con.
On one hand, long term success is exactly what most entrepreneurs are looking for. On the other hand, though, long term strategies require less risk on your part.
When you’re building a niche site, you can take risks without them having the same impact that they would if you were building an authority site.
Let’s take a look at building links for a niche site.
Most people rely on private blog networks and other spammy methods for generating links. If something happens, or an algorithm gets updated and specifically targets the types of links you built, your niche site could lose rankings.
With an authority site, though, you’re going to need to focus more on building links that can deliver traffic themselves, and that the search engine algorithms aren’t going to negatively target.
Losing the income from a single niche site is far more substantial than losing the income on a site that you’ve spent a year or two building. It’s a lot harder to rebuild your authority site than it is to launch a new niche site, or even mirror the site that you lose due to aggressive link building.
Focusing on building high quality links, though, will practically guarantee that your authority site is around for the long-haul, giving you a much less stressful life than when you’re constantly worrying about losing your rankings (and income) like you can when building links using less-than-approved methods of building links.
Authority sites also do not depend entirely on the search engines for their traffic, so even if you happen to fall out of Google’s good graces, you will still have traffic coming into the site from other sources -- so your income isn’t going to completely plummet overnight.
So Which Is Better
At the end of the day, nobody can answer this question but you.
Depending on your current skillset, how well you’re able to manage either a large project or multiple smaller projects at the same time, your budget, and your ability to manage a team as your business evolves will determine which type of site is best for you to build.
Niche Sites Are…
- Easier to build and perfect for beginners.
- Easier on your wallet when you’re just getting started.
- Easier to rank in Google, in most cases.
- Easier to get to a “completed” point.
- Their earnings are typically capped.
- They tend to rely on Google for traffic.
Authority Sites Are…
- Longer term projects with higher potential.
- Easier to scale into higher earnings levels.
- Easier to drive traffic to.
- Provide a higher return on your investment.
- Designed for long-term success.
- They do require more resources to start and grow.
- They require more effort to maintain and stay organized.
- They can require a team effort as time goes on.
- They take longer to see results from your efforts.
If you prefer working on smaller projects that let you easily move from site to site, building niche sites may be a better business for you.
However, if you prefer working on the same project for long periods of time, and think working with other people to help grow the business would be fun, building out authority sites may prove more fruitful for you.