3 Easy Steps to Building a Life Changing Authority Site (And Other Ramblings)
I’ll immediately point out that the title of this blog post is pure satire. Contrary to what a lot of people would like you to believe, and what you know to be true deep down inside, creating a true authority site is not easy. It requires a lot of hard work and patience. It’s great to “follow your passion”, but the truth is, doing so is not some magical one way path to a proverbial pot of gold.
We all know this to be true, but it’s something I’ve recently experienced up close and personal. You probably read a lot of blogs about people who have quit their jobs (or been fired) and have subsequently made an amazing living by starting a business online.
Unfortunately, that isn’t my story (and if you’re like most people, it’s not your story either). This isn’t intended to be a “how to” post – it’s more a collection of thoughts I’ve been meaning to write about, so take from them whatever you want.
The “Get Rich Quick” Mindset
Even though we all inherently understand that “get rich quick” schemes are not real, we often try to find ways around that reality. We may not outright fall for these schemes, but we’re still attracted to this way of thinking. We understand that there is hard work involved, but where we fail is when we equate hard work with (relatively) quick success.
That’s one reason I think mini niche sites have become so popular. Yes, you still need to invest your time and put in a solid effort, but the “set it and forget it” model is so attractive. And there’s a simple formula to follow, that goes something like this:
1) Do your keyword research and evaluate potential competition.
2) Buy a domain and build a website.
3) Add content to the website.
4) Perform (and even somewhat automate) SEO tasks, primarily link building.
Those who could perform those four steps well and efficiently could somewhat easily create an income-producing asset that requires little maintenance.
It feeds perfectly into the “get rich quick” mindset. It’s not that you’re actually getting rich quickly, but you’re taking what you perceive to be a small step in that direction. Even though one niche site might only earn $30/month, we all understand scale. We can all do the math and figure out that if we could make 200 of these sites, we would earn $6,000/month – an income that could easily replace a “real job.”
Niche Sites Aren’t Dead, But…
Clearly, niche sites aren’t dead. There are several public examples (Spencer from NichePursuits and the guys from AdSense Flippers come to mind), and probably many more private examples that prove this business model is still viable.
The problem with this logic (and pointing at these examples) is that you’re highlighting those who stand out. You might even call them exceptions to the rule (and they are exceptional – I have high respect for the two sites I linked to above).
This is somewhat of an extreme analogy, but it’s almost like pointing at the leading manufacturer of paper and saying, “Look – that business is wildly successful, so it must be a good business model to try and emulate.” The fact of the matter is, our world is becoming more and more paperless, and the only reason these paper companies are successful is because they have learned to adapt and stay on top of the industry while many other similar companies have probably crumbled.
This isn’t exactly the same as creating niche sites, because the challenge isn’t staying ahead of your competition. The challenge is overcoming whatever changes Google throws your way. Niche site “X” generally doesn’t compete with niche site “Y”.
And while you might like to say “don’t rely on Google”, those who are massively successful with mini niche sites rely on Google for both traffic and earnings (via AdSense). Maybe they diversify with other businesses (which is great), but their mini niche site business on its own is very Google-centric.
Here’s what I’m getting at: The landscape is changing, and it isn’t as easy to create a profitable niche site today as it was a year or two ago. Although people still do it, and will continue to do it, I strongly believe it will become more and more difficult.
The very best will adapt and continue to succeed, while others may find mediocre results at best. As I mentioned above, this situation isn’t unique to this type of business model.
The Solution is Simple but the Path Isn’t
If you really want to build a more sustainable (content-driven) online business, it’s becoming more and more apparent that “authority” sites are the way to go.
The biggest challenge with this type of site is that you can’t fall into the trap of assuming that more content = more authority. Many would like to believe that adding 10 pages per month to their mini niche site will definitely turn it into an “authority site” (and I’m guilty of thinking this in the past), but that still doesn’t seem to be a bullet-proof strategy. It’ll probably help a lot, and if the writing is good, it could work well for you in the long term.
Unfortunately, I worry that most people treat the process no differently than creating a thin niche site: Outsource lots of articles to subpar writers and slap them onto the site without much thought. Then, get some more long tail keyword traffic and hope people click on your ads and move on.
After all, wouldn’t that be easy? You could take the process you use for mini niche sites and simply do it on a larger scale, without having to buy many domains and build many links to different domains.
So What Then is a Real Authority Site?
I envision a real authority site as one where, when I land on it, I feel confident that I’m reading good information or otherwise receiving value. I see authors who I can read about, or Facebook and Twitter pages with real activity and conversations. Blog posts with real comments. A site that I would return to in the future.
Ironically, it would probably also be a site where I wouldn’t be as tempted to click on the ads, because I’ve found a wealth of interesting or helpful information.
Must a successful authority site have all of this? No, probably not. Ideally, it would, but it’s probably not a requirement for success.
Is it easy to scale this? To have multiple sites like these? I don’t think it’s easy (most truly valuable things aren’t easily attainable), but I’m sure it’s doable. You can hire real writers and social media managers, or invest the extra time to do a lot of it yourself. It’ll cost more, but I’m willing to bet that you make more in the long run.
The Pressure to Succeed and Why It Can Hurt You
The fast success of mini niche sites (in the past) and other similar ventures have created a certain pressure to succeed (quickly). This is something I’ve experienced first hand. While I’m still tinkering with my mini niche sites, I’ve stopped creating new ones, and have no plans to do so in the near future.
What I’m left with, and what I’m focused on now, is the desire to create true authority sites. There are two I’m working on – one I’ve had for awhile and am slowly building up the content (with the help of some free guest posts), and one that is more based on a hobby of mine.
But the pressure to succeed is still there. I look at past income reports from less than 6 months ago where I was nearing $1,000/month in passive income and I compare it to now, where I might barely crack $100 for the month of June (we’ll see).
It’s discouraging to feel like you’ve taken several steps backward. And when you’re still putting in the work (on a different type of site) but not seeing the quick results you’re used to, you sometimes feel like giving up on it.
Real authority sites require more work and more time before they begin earning reasonable money. Some people will find success more quickly than others, but most of us need to learn to be patient and stick with it. In my opinion, most people will give up before they’ve given themselves a true shot at it, especially those who previously made money with mini niche sites. Don’t be that person (and I’ll try not to be as well).
What Do You Think?
I know I’ve rambled on about a few different topics here, but I’m curious to hear about what you think, and get a good discussion going in the comments. If you found this post interesting or want to get more people involved in the discussion, please do share it on Facebook or Twitter (or wherever else you like to share things). Thanks!