Before I jump into my blog post today, I first want to point out my new site design! I started NichePursuits.com on a WordPress theme that cost me about $37 and a logo that I part paid for and part hacked together.
That theme and logo did very well for me for about 4 years, but I’ve finally updated the site last night. I’m very happy with the new look and some of the cool features that the site now offers.
I’ll dedicate a full post to the new design and how it impacts conversions, time on site, load time, traffic, and more. And of course if you are reading this a few months or years after November 2014, then this intro has been completely pointless for you…my bad 🙂
Overall, I have been making a lot of shifts in my business. The one that I have discussed the most is my shift from focusing on building lots of smaller niche sites to building just one larger niche site (authority site).
I’ve focused a lot of time and energy on this blog with the Niche Site Project 1 and 2. Now that I’m focusing on an authority site, is all that information from previous projects no longer valid? Absolutely not!
In fact, the huge majority of everything I’ve written on this blog is still very applicable. However, there are some key differences (with link building in particular) that I want to point out.
Overall, I want to discuss what tactics and techniques still apply for both small niche sites and authority sites. Let’s jump in…
What Still Works for Both Small Sites and Authority Sites?
When I look back at the old content I wrote for Niche Site Project 1 (my survival knife site), I was surprised to see that the content is still very applicable for the most part. Out of the 27 posts written for that project, I wouldn’t change anything written in 24. In other words, only 3 of the 27 posts have some information that needs to be updated.
In the second Niche Site Project (apennyshaved.com), 21 out of the 25 posts are still great information. Basically, the only posts that are out of date is the link building posts…and this recent post pretty much sums up why.
Overall, the strategy is actually quite similar between the two. However, there are some key differences that I will discuss below.
So, here’s a few things that have not changed.
Keyword research is still pretty much the same. Whether you are building a small niche site or a large authority site, you still want to be finding long tail keywords that are easy to rank for. I’ve harped on this pretty hard, and all my posts shared about keyword research are still great training ground.
For content creation, you still need to be creating valuable and original content. This remains unchanged. I’ve shared multiple posts on this subject in my previous projects.
You still want a brandable domain, not an exact match domain.
Believe it or not, I actually covered outreach and guest posting quite a bit in the 2nd niche site project. This type of link building still works.
So, in a nutshell nearly everything I covered in the past during the niche site projects about keyword research, content production, branding, and even some link building is still what you want to be doing for an authority site.
However, as you know, there are some key differences as well.
4 Differences Between Niche and Authority Sites
The 4 primary differences in an authority site strategy is thinking of the overall market, a couple of content changes, link building, and traffic sources.
1. Market Research
When you build an authority site, you want to make sure you are entering a market that is big enough. This usually is not an issue; however, it definitely needs to be considered.
For example, the niche site built for niche site project one about survival knives was maybe big enough, but a shift to the overall survival market instead of just knives would have been ideal. This shift could have been made with a simple domain change.
However, aPennyShaved.com is just fine as is for an authority site. We picked a great market, shaving, that has lots of related products and keywords. Don’t believe me that shaving is a big enough market to build an authority site on? Tell that to Eric Bandholdz of BeardBrand.com that is making over $100,000 a month.
He was just on Shark Tank last week and revealed those numbers.
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I’ll dive deeper in a future post about market research. However, in a nutshell, you just want to make sure there are lots of related keywords with good search volumes. What you don’t want to do is box your site into to only covering a topic like “best racoon bait” or some other narrow market.
2. Content Differences
I mentioned previously that keyword research for an authority site is exactly the same, and that’s true. However, as Gael Breton mentioned in my recent podcast, only about 50% of your content might be focused on keywords. The other 50% is likely going to be focused more on shareable topics.
Brian Dean has shared his skyscraper technique for how you can produce the other 50% of your content that is not as keyword focused. This is a fantastic was to not only produce great content, but to also garner great white hat links.
The other key focus with content is quality for an authority site. I have always stated this, even in my niche site projects, but its even more critical with authority sites. You need to be creating content that will stand the test of time, and truly is valuable to the readers.
This might entail writing longer articles (Perrin and I write 3,000 word articles for our authority site project), or it just might mean providing a better resource than is currently on the web. For an authority site, it’s not just about trying to rank in Google, its about trying to actually help people.
3. Link Building
This is a big change. The idea behind most smaller niche sites is to do whatever it takes to rank quickly in Google, and then move onto the next site. For me and many others, this often involved using Private Blog Networks, link building services, or other tactics that we clearly knew Google didn’t approve of.
The draw of these link building tactics is that sometimes they work…quite well. However, they can be short lived and have almost always ended with a penalty for me and others. I no longer recommend using Private Blog Networks for any site, and made that quite clear in this blog post.
The name of the game is now content marketing. Producing great content and shareable content can go a long way is getting great links. Perrin and I have been implementing this content plus outreach strategy, and it’s working quite well.
I will most certainly be diving deeper into this subject; but for now, here’s a few resources for link building for authority sites:
- Brian Dean’s Skyscraper technique and his guest post on Smart Passive Income
- Podcast Interview with Gael Breton
- Neil Patel Podcast Interview
The biggest change is the focus away from trying to trick Google to rank, to trying to create valuable and shareable content so that people want to link to you more naturally.
4. Traffic Sources
Another big shift with a niche site vs. an authority site is where the traffic comes from. With a smaller niche site most people get 90% plus of their traffic from Google. This is often the only focus: rank in Google and get that free traffic!
However, with an authority site you have the opportunity to diversify that traffic a bit. So, even if you don’t rank as well as you’d hoped in Google, you should still be able to have plenty of site visitors. At least that’s the goal.
Matt Paulson described his strategies in depth for getting traffic from places other than Google in our recent podcast interview. A few traffic sources that you can tap into outside of search engines include:
- Google News
- Yahoo News
- Referral Traffic
- Paid Traffic
- Direct Traffic
- Email list traffic
Perrin and I have seen some pretty nice results by just focusing a little bit on Reddit recently. This is a huge topic that I’ll try to discuss more and more as Perrin and I get further along in our authority site project.
Overall, it’s no longer just about ranking in Google for a couple of keywords and hoping they stick. Yes, you should still be doing keyword focused content perhaps 50% of the time, but there are so many other places you can get traffic from as well.
What’s Your Take?
I felt like it was important to compare some of the similarities and differences between a small niche site and authority site as I go forward with this project. By no means does an authority site mean you have to forget everything you knew about building niche sites.
In fact, if you have an existing niche site, it’s very possible to work on that site and apply some of these changes to turn it into more of an authority site. Overall, it’s time to just think a bit bigger with the market, think longer term with link building and content, and expand your traffic sources.
Perrin and I are still early on with this authority site project; however, we’ll begin sharing more specific tactics that are working for us in the near future. Now that we have our heads pointing in the same direction for how things have changed slightly we can move forward with confidence.
As always, I’d love to hear your take on the subject. Do you have any questions? Any other points you would like to bring up in regards to the differences between niche and authority sites?