#93 – The Authority Site Model in 2018

What you will learn

  • What actually is an authority site?
  • What makes authority sites such an attractive business model?
  • What types of authority sites tend to make the most money?
  • What is changing in 2018?
  • How much does it cost to set up an authority site?

In this week’s episode, Gael and I look at the authority site model and how it will work in 2018.

We will go into detail about what makes an authority site, how the model has worked in the past and how we are going to adapt things in 2018 based upon changes in the industry.

What Is An Authority Site?

An authority site is an extension of what used to be referred to as a niche site. Basically, you would throw up a site on a very narrow topic with, maybe, 10 pages.

With a bit of gray hat trickery, you can have your pages ranking for money keywords and you are making money almost straight away.

It was not unusual for people to own dozens or hundreds of these low quality sites. Very quickly, Google began to clamp down on these sites, the quality of these sites dropped and now it is very difficult to rank with niche sites.

This is when the authority site model was born.

To establish authority, you need:

  • High quality content
  • To cover the topic in-depth
  • Stand out from everyone else
  • A site that looks trustworthy on desktop and mobile

When you think about it, what we are doing is simply building a business backwards.

What most people do is build a product or develop a service, create a business around that and find customers for it.

What we are doing is choosing a niche or a topic, build an audience through our content and then monetize the audience based upon what suits them.

For example, on Authority Hacker we do:

Once you have an audience, you have a level of recognition and trust that is more difficult for a new company to achieve.

Why Are Authority Sites So Attractive?

The great attraction of an authority site is that it can provide you with an income.

There have been a number examples in our Facebook group of people quitting their jobs and earning their income from their site.

This isn’t an instant thing, however. Authority sites are not a get rich quick scheme. While you can make a lot of money, the chances are it will be at least a year before you can quit your job.

The attractive thing is that a lot of the processes can be automated and you are not actually trading your time for money. Instead, you can make money round the clock.

For example, on Health Ambition, we will review a product, someone can click our link through to Amazon, make a purchase and then we will be paid commission on that purchase.

After this page is ranking on Google, it takes little effort from us for this outcome to occur repeatedly.

So, instead of trading your time for money, you can spend your time on activities that will grow the site’s revenue.

The exciting part of building a site is that you do not have to focus on one single process like you do in your day job. Instead, you have to do a little bit of everything.

However, if you don’t like tasks or they are taking up too much time, you can hire people to take care of the tasks.

Usually, it’s a lot of fun. You’re in control of everything and there are not a lot of downsides.

The main factor in being successful is the ability to keep working, learning and not give up. There is nothing particularly complicated about what we do but it can take a long time before you see the results from the work you do. You need to have staying power.

Stages of Authority Sites

Stage 1

  • Keep things simple
  • Focus on one traffic source – SEO
  • Focus on one monetization method – Affiliate marketing with Amazon

Stage 1 sites are simple and focus on ranking articles in Google that suggest the best products for a certain scenario – e.g. ‘best sunglasses for a Sahara trek’.

Stage 2

  • Build an audience
  • Focus on more traffic sources – social media, retargeting, email lists, push notifications
  • Focus on more monetization methods – Monetize with ads

Stage 2 sites are about getting return traffic from your audience. This means collecting email addresses and building a community on social media.

You can promote products (such as online courses) with higher commision to your email lists. You can also focus on informational content that answer people’s questions and monetize it with ads (as Perrin has done in this article on HerePup).

Stage 3

  • Swap affiliate offers for products

In Stage 3, you can simply look at the products that you are earning a lot of commission from, replicate the product and link to it from your Stage 1 articles. This way, you are making the sale and will make more profit rather than just the commission.

Note that you do not have to go through all these stages to be successful. There are a lot of Stage 1 sites that are making a lot of money. However, the sites that are making the most money (7 or 8 figures per year), tend to be Stage 3 sites.

How Do You Choose a Topic/ Niche?

The short answer here is, there is no defined answer.

There are a few things you should be aware of though.

How broad you want to go? Your site should be narrow enough so you can specialize on a topic but not so narrow that you will not be able to grow your site.

For example, spatulas may be too narrow and household items may be too broad but kitchen utensils may be just the right size.

You do not have to come up with an idea that no-one else has ever done before. In fact, we recommend against it. The fact that there is a site in a certain niche would indicate that it is possible to make money in that niche.

What Tech Do You Need To Set Up An Authority Site?

I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear that you don’t need to know how to code.

In fact, we have a new post that outlines exactly what you need to build your own authority site but we will give a quick overview here:

  • Hosting – we recommend Siteground for new sites
  • Wordpress – this is free and Siteground has a 1-click install option
  • Themes – we recommend Generatepress

For the rest of the tech, you can find it here.


Content is how you communicate your authority to your visitors. This may be:

  • Blog post
  • Video
  • Email
  • Podcast

For Stage 1, there are two types of content:

  • Info Content – the goal of this is to build links to help you rank in Google
  • Affiliate Content – to target keywords that allow you to promote products your readership is interesting in buying

How Much Does It Cost To Start An Affiliate Site?

In reality, you can almost spend as much or as little as you want.

The least amount of money we recommend you spend on a site is around $150 for hosting and a keyword research tool.

There are obviously higher end and lower end options. You can get a free theme from Generatepress, Wordpress is free, Elementor page builder is free and there is a litany of free plugins in the Wordpress repository that do almost everything you could imagine.

When it comes to outsourcing content, you can expect to pay $30-75+ per article. We recommend that Stage 1 sites have at least 50 articles before even considering Stage 2 so that could quickly run up to a minimum of $1,500 if you are not doing the writing yourself.

However, before you do think about outsourcing content. We do recommend that you write at least the first 20 articles yourself.

What is Changing In 2018?

For us, the goal is to level up the quality of our sites and out content.

We are working with a UX designer to improve Health Ambition, then Authority Hacker and all of our other sites will follow.

This has also forced us to improve our editorial process.

Basically, in all fields we are seeing our competition continuously progressing. This means that if we don’t do the same, we will fall behind.

In tech, Google have announced that there will be a pagespeed update on mobile. This means we need to clean up our Wordpress, make sure our sites all work properly and quickly on mobile otherwise you will be hit in the rankings.

We are also moving away from the concept of personas (which we will touch upon in a future podcast) towards being more brand oriented.

We may also look at ways of diversifying our traffic from being overly dependant on Amazon. Thay have reduced commissions and may do so again in the future. It makes sense to have more options. This may be in the form of Ads rather than affiliate as these have been performing well recently on Health Ambition, thanks to AdThrive.

This would allow us to create and monetize more informational content.

There is also a market for selling retargeting pixels on your site. The concept is placing other people’s retargeting pixels on specific pages of your site for a fee. This could be very useful for other sites and very profitable for authority sites with defined audiences.

In 2018, we are looking to work on:

  • Mastering Facebook ads
  • Funnels
  • Automation of people
  • SOPs
  • Better audience engagement on Facebook and email

Last year, we talked a lot about SEO but we expect to focus less on that over the next year as we have covered most things there. Instead, in 2018, we will be talking more about monetization and monetization methods.

While this is a very general podcast, scattered throughout these notes are links to more detailed podcasts and blog posts on some of the topics we have touched upon today.

Finally, if your interest in authority sites was peaked by this episode, join our webinar where we discuss how Perrin built an authority site that he sold for $200k.