What is an Authority Website?
An authority website is one which becomes the "go to" online resource for information, products, or services on a specific topic. This type of website builds trust in visitors because they know they can find professional and helpful content that answers their questions, even going as far as offering actionable advice.
The nature of a high-quality authority site is that visitors will want to share this valuable resource with their friends, co-workers, and, most importantly, on different social media platforms. Search engines also have a preference for authority sites because they give their users a positive experience in that they can find the information they're looking for on the first page of the search results.
The key to building a profitable authority site is to provide extensive, high-quality content focused on a specific topic or market. This content will engage users on a number of levels, allowing you to build a long-term relationship with them.
Before you spend your valuable time reading this entire article let me just make a quick disclaimer. While the Authority Site Model has the ability to make you a great deal of money, and is one of my favorite models on the list - it is also one of the hardest to pull off sucessfully. You should only choose this online business model if most of the following applies to you:
- You are able to add value to the niche you have chosen. The content on the Authority Site needs to feel authentic to the readers or they will just click off and go somewhere else. So, you will need to have a deep understanding of the topic, or work with someone else who knows the niche well.
- You are willing to keep working on the site for at least 6 months even if you are not seeing any immediate profits. This business model is more of a marathon than a sprint.
- Unless you are a prolific writer and can create all the site content yourself, you will need to have a budget to hire writers. Content is the mother's milk of an Authority Site and without a constant stream of fresh articles your site will never flourish.
- If you decide to hire writers you should have a general understanding of the niche you have choosen so you can tell when the content your writers are turning in is complete garbage!
How Authority Websites Work
The authority site business model has been around since the earliest days of the internet. The idea is simple: you build a website that contains all the information and resources a person would need on a given subject. From a search engine point of view the value of an authority site is that it's giving search engine users the experience they want in terms of finding the information they need.
Google, and other search engines then reward you for providing a positive user experience by placing your authority website higher in their search rankings. This higher placement can lead to thousands of extra website visitors each day.
The owners of authority sites can generate thousands of dollars per month by implementing contextual advertising programs like Google AdSense, or by passively promoting products from Amazon, or any of hundreds of different companies looking for new customers, or by generating leads for a given market.
How to Make Money from an Authority Site
One of the advantages of running an authority website is that there are so many different ways to make money from it.
One of the most popular ways of monetizing an authority website is placing Google AdSense ad blocks in key areas on the site. Although each AdSense click might only be worth $1.00-$2.00 dollars (less depending on the niche), if you're generating hundreds of clicks each day this can quickly replace the income you earn from your day job.
Other authority sites, depending on the niche they're targeting, will monetize their site by including affiliate offers. So, if you create a website all about Prepping, you could then place links on your site allowing your visitors to purchase their favorite survival knife from trusted online vendors.
Another popular monetization method is to use Native Ads on your authority site like the ones below from Menshealth.com, which is a great Authority site in the Health & Fitness niche...
Authority sites can also be used as a way of promoting digital products to their readers. In the example of the relationship niche you could create a site or blog offering tips and advice on keeping your relationship healthy, while also promoting (or creating) eBooks on the same subject. The relationship niche is a perfect example of offering value to visitors while also being able to profit from a multibillion dollar industry.
Another hallmark of an authority site is that they usually collect users email addresses and send out weekly or daily newsletters informing the users of new developments in the niche. Of course they also slip in some affiliate offers to make a little extra cash into these emails from time to time.
The last, and least often used option is to provide a certain amount of valuable content free of charge, but then charge users a recurring membership fee to access the rest of the content, which is stored in a "members area".
How Much Can I Make from an Authority Website?
The income potential of an authority site is almost unlimited, but it does depend on the market you're in, how many visitors you can attract, your search engine rankings and how "valuable" your given niche is. If you look at the recent loom band craze, for example, this was an easy niche to target, but very difficult to profit from because the retail value of the individual products was very low.
Golf, on the other hand, is a "raving fan" niche, with both new and seasoned golfers willing to spend hundreds of dollars on the latest golfing equipment, or golf training products. An authority website in the right market can quite easily generate $20,000 - $100,000 each month in net revenue from products.
The key to earning income from an authority site is that the content must be kept updated, engaging new visitors all the time. Even at the lower end of the scale, this type of online business model is capable of earning its owner at least $5,000 per month.
Examples of Authority Sites
This is a great authority site in the health niche. The reason I decided to feature it is that the site is owned by the guys from Authorityhacker.com These guys literally wrote the book on authority sites. They have one of the best courses on how to build and run an authority site and unlike most other "Internet Gurus" they are not shy about revealing their personal websites.
The site generates a nice income from various affiliate programs including Adsense and Amazon Associates. The guys who own the site have also created some of their own digitally downloadable ebook cources on health related subjects like Juicing which you can buy from the site. Here are some screenshot of the various ways they make money from this site.
1. Adsense Ads
Authoritative articles on health related subjects pull in traffic from search engines. When one of the viewers clicks on an ad the site makes anywhere from a few cents to $20 per click.
2. Various Affiliate Offers
Healthambition.com has dozens of review articles that compare various products - and of course they make it easy for viewers to buy the recommended products from their affiliate links like the ones below.
3. Building an Email List
Although it can be a great deal of extra work, email marketing can be one of the most lucrative aspects of running an authority site. You capture peoples emails then you can send them affiliate offers every week for years to come! You will of course need a good reason for people to give you their emails, like the free Juicing tips shown below.
4. Selling Their Own Digital eBooks
Selling other people's products is great, but once your Authority Site gains a good amount of traffic it can become VERY profitable to start selling your own products. Healthambition.com was getting alot of viewers interested in Juicing to their site, so they decided to create their own digital eBook to sell to these people. Now they get to keep 100% of the profits from the eBook instead of splitting the profits with an outside creator.
Here's an example of an authority website which has been around since the early days of online marketing. Growing from a website which just focused on reviewing computer software products, it has grown to be a dominant force in online shopping, with estimated revenues of $100 million per year.
This business now employs 350 people, and generates almost all of its income by reviewing the top ten products in a given niche, and then using affiliate links to passively promote these same products if visitors want to buy them from Amazon, etc.
We've mentioned elsewhere that the relationship niche can be insanely profitable if you can get established in it.
DatingAdvice.com has become an online hub for advice on a very popular topic, with tons of features and articles on the site offering free relationship tips and information. This then gives their "experts" the perfect platform to promote dating and relationship products from various affiliates.
Income estimates for this website are between US$50,000 and US$100,000 per month.
This is the ultimate example of a privately-run authority site focused on user generated content - the biggest of its type online. Wikipedia has millions of visitors each day, but because it's a non-profit project they don't generate any revenue from it. If Wikipedia does ever choose to monetize their traffic it would become a billion dollar business overnight.
Getting Started With Authority Sites
The first step to take in setting up your authority site is to carefully research the niche or market you plan on building the site around. Just because you think your niche is a good idea doesn't mean that it's profitable, and if it's not profitable there's no point in investing time and effort in it.
Costs of Starting an Authority Website
The only real costs involved in creating this type of online business is web hosting for the site itself, which can be purchased for as little as $40 per year, although we would recommend a dedicated hosting package and not shared hosting.
Besides a web hosting package you'll need a budget to hire writers to create content for you. You can purchase a 500-word piece of content for as little as $5, but it won't be content that your visitors will value, or that Google will love.
Instead set a budget where you pay at least $10 for each page of content, and plan out 20 - 50 pages in advance. This means a content budget of at least $200 to get started. You could, in theory, write all the content yourself, but this is a bigger challenge than most entrepreneurs realize.
You should also budget for a basic search engine optimization package for your new site. $200 is enough to ensure that your website gets found by Google and the other major search engines.
You will also need to create accounts with major affiliate networks such as Amazon, Commission Junction, ClickBank and LinkShare, as well as signing up for the Google AdSense program.
Best Authority Site Training Courses
Authority Site System
The best training program for learning to create an Authority Website is The Authority Site System by Authority Hackers. It is the most comprehensive and up to date course on the market - it is also the most expensive at $997 bucks.
Is it worth the money? Well, that all depends on your level of commitment. To spend that kind of money on a course you need to be pretty sure that it's something you're going to stick with until you make it work. If you are the type of person who jumps from one business model to another (you know who you are...) then you should start with something cheaper and less comprehensive like Niche Tycoon (see below).
But if you are the type of person who throws themselves at a project and sticks to it until you make it work, then this course is a must have. The 2 guys who put this course together, Gael and Mark are experts at this model and they don't leave any stone unturned. Yes, the course is expensive, but the amount of time and energy it will save you will pay off very quickly. You can spend alot off money very quickly with this business model and this course will keep you from spending on the wrong things.
If you want to sample the insanely high quality material these guys put out go check out the free posts on their blog, Authorityhackers.com - then imagine what you will get if you hand them nearly a thousand dollars.
Niche Tycoon teaches you, step by step, how to set up an Authority Site then monetizing it with various methods including: display ads, email, affiliate offers native ads and other lesser know methods.
This is a fantastic course for beginners as it really is a complete blueprint for setting up a profitable authority site. The course is 110 pages of pure content - you will not find any fluff or filler here. The course will teach you what themes and plugins to use, the best types of content to write for your site, how to set up your ads to maximum earnings and how to buy Facebook ads to speed up your time to profit.
The course is a bargain at just $47. And like most the training courses I list on my site it has a 60 day unconditional money back guarantee.
RankXL Niche Site Course
RankXL Niche Site Course is one of my favorite training programs that I promote on this site. This course contains so much fantastic, actionable information that I'm sure it will be the foundation of many future internet millionaire's success.
RankXL is a step-by-step system that the creator, Chris Lee, uses to build and grow niche sites to over $15,000 a month with Adsense. While the course is based around building Adsense sites, I think the core principles and SEO training could easily be applied to any kind of affiliate site. As a matter of fact, the strategies are so versatile that I list this course on 2 of the other business models on this site.
The main difference between the two courses listed here is that Niche Tycoon teaches you how to build a very specific type of authority site whereas RankXL's training is much broader and can be used to build many different types of sites. Also, Niche Tycoon concentrates more on using paid sources to drive traffic to your site and RankXL Niche Site Course is all about getting free traffic from search engines. They are both great courses and you could build a 6 figure business online using either method.
I have seen RankXL Niche Site Course selling for $297 and $197 - but at the time of this writing the course is currently priced at only $97, which is a killer deal. If the price has gone back up by the time you read this please don't send me nasty emails!
How Long Will it Take to Make Money with an Authority Site?
This depends on the niche you're creating the site in, but most large content sites can take 6 - 9 months to become profitable, once you take into account the money invested to create and promote the site. Authority sites in certain niches can start generating revenue within a week or two of going online, but this is the exception rather than the rule.
Pros of Authority Sites
- You can help others while generating income
- An authority website can be built and run by one person
- You can outsource the content writing, website design, site operation and marketing
- Targeting the right niche or market can generate a full-time income
- There's a minimal amount of market research involved
- You can run this business from anywhere in the world
- A hobby or specialty can become the topic for a profitable authority site
- You don't always need to optimize them for the major search engines because people will link to you naturally
- An authority site can go viral without any real effort on your part
Cons of Authority Sites
- You need to have professionally written content on your authority site - $5 articles won't cut it
- Authority sites require long-term thinking and planning - they're not suitable for "quick buck" thinkers
- Managing outsourcers can be a challenge
- An authority site spanning hundreds of pages will require significant investment
- If you stop managing your authority site your income will drop