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Why Authority Blogs Are the Hardest But Most Worthwhile

I realise the title of this post might be contraversial but I do stand by it.

Todays post was going to be one of my famous and much sought-after critiques (you lucky people) but then I got an email from Laura that I just had to answer (with permission).

You said you don’t do adsense and make money online articles like Darren Rowse and Yaro Stark, why is that when you have traffic to make money doing that?

It’s an interesting question. I have had blogs where I did the adsense thing. I still have one in fact though it is very neglected. There is nothing really stopping me monetizing this blog. My reasons are

  • I chose my niche and it is “authority blogs“, blogs built for stronger relationships, sharing expertise and to build a professional profile. It’s important to choose a niche and stick to it, at least 80% of the time.
  • This is what I enjoy and am good at, why try to go up against established and dominant players with less than 100% enthusiasm?
  • Authority blogs are tough but the best over a longer term

What do I mean by that last one?

An authority blog can have advertising and such, this is a spectrum not a either/or, but the best performing directly monetized blogs and sites will have aspects about them that reduce their authority appeal. By the same reasoning an authority blog will perform less well at driving adsense clicks. That said, if you are hoping to monetize your blog with banner advertising, text links, reviews and affiliate commissions, done delicately an authority blog is perfect.

With a made for adsense blog the goal is to get a torrent of traffic with the majority of visitors leaving right away via your highest paying adsense ads. At the other end of the continuum is a pure authority blog, for example Seth Godin, where the goal is to build up a loyal following who are motivated to buy books and hear him speak. Fast-food stand versus four-course banquet. One wants as many people as possible to leave quickly, the other wants a more concentrated and targeted group to stick around.

With an adsense blog it doesn’t really matter where the traffic comes from, you don’t actually have to serve them, just get the ads in their faces. If they don’t want to click your ads then you can use whatever low-down and dirty evil tricks to milk them all you like. You only have your concience in your way as they are never coming back and you don’t have to listen to their complaints. Spam away. Outsource your “content”. Who cares?

It’s much slower and harder with an authority blog to develop traffic as you have to be more choosy. It’s not enough just to do linkbait or SEO tricks, you have to attract the right people and delight them with your content so they subscribe and come back. Here you actually need to get to know your audience and what they like. You have to treat them as individuals rather than a herd of potential ad-clickers.

I can see how the “throw it up and don’t care but make a stack of cash” idea has appeal, particularly to anyone who wants to make their money fast and with little effort. But consider long term value. Which is going to be safer from the ups and downs of search engine changes? Who has to keep attracting new victims visitors and who has a loyal readership who actually wants to see you succeed?

Anyone who has actually tried any get rich quick scheme will know how unsatisfying it is. Even when you do make money. I would much rather build something of lasting value, something you can be proud of, yes that makes money but by providing something people actually want and need.

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Comments

  1. Hi Chris,

    Totally agree that balancing the cultivation of authority with the need to respect you readers’ sensibilities and desire for a “cleaner” experience is a tough challenge , but I don’t necessarily believe they are mutually exclusive goals.

    A great example of this is personal development guru, Steve Pavlina’s blog. He is, hands down, the dominant player in self-development blogging with a massive, loyal audience that he built with exceedingly long (2-5,000 word), highly-authoritative articles. But, he aslo includes a healthy mix of Adsense and affiliate links and ads throughout the site that reportedly generate somewhere in the neighborhood of $40K a month.

    Steve monetized his site after about 5-months of clean traffic building and reported that he took a little flack, but his content was so authoritative (and isanely long from blogging standards) and delivered so much value, the shakeout was little more than a blip on his traffic radar.

    So, totally agree that it is hard and may even require a level of uniqueness, knowledge and writing abilities that is rare, but I believe building an authority-based blog that also integrates substantial monetization is doable.

    Thanks, again, for the great, thought-provoking post!

    Jonathan Fields

  2. Hi Chris,

    Totally agree that balancing the cultivation of authority with the need to respect you readers’ sensibilities and desire for a “cleaner” experience is a tough challenge , but I don’t necessarily believe they are mutually exclusive goals.

    A great example of this is personal development guru, Steve Pavlina’s blog. He is, hands down, the dominant player in self-development blogging with a massive, loyal audience that he built with exceedingly long (2-5,000 word), highly-authoritative articles. But, he aslo includes a healthy mix of Adsense and affiliate links and ads throughout the site that reportedly generate somewhere in the neighborhood of $40K a month.

    Steve monetized his site after about 5-months of clean traffic building and reported that he took a little flack, but his content was so authoritative (and isanely long from blogging standards) and delivered so much value, the shakeout was little more than a blip on his traffic radar.

    So, totally agree that it is hard and may even require a level of uniqueness, knowledge and writing abilities that is rare, but I believe building an authority-based blog that also integrates substantial monetization is doable.

    Thanks, again, for the great, thought-provoking post!

    Jonathan Fields

  3. Chris,

    Thanks for the term “authority” blog.

    I benefit from a similar, full-time, but definitely indirect income from my blogging. I’ve been calling it a “Subscriber-based” Marketing Plan, adapted from more old-school email newsletter list-building tactics.

    Site Stickiness and Reader Loyalty are basically incompatible with “high-traffic / adblock” blog business models.

    Thanks again for naming this — “authority” blogging — or at least exposing me to the label.

  4. Chris,

    Thanks for the term “authority” blog.

    I benefit from a similar, full-time, but definitely indirect income from my blogging. I’ve been calling it a “Subscriber-based” Marketing Plan, adapted from more old-school email newsletter list-building tactics.

    Site Stickiness and Reader Loyalty are basically incompatible with “high-traffic / adblock” blog business models.

    Thanks again for naming this — “authority” blogging — or at least exposing me to the label.

  5. I wondered why and at the same time enjoy the fact that there are not blinking banner ads and google ads on both sidebars. Now I know why there are no ads on your site.

    I personally don’t mind the ads unless the site is cluttered with them to the point you don’t know what the site does or you don’t know where the ads stop and the site begins.

    After reading your post I made an “executive decision” to not put ads on my blog site. Just a simple text link to my ebook site.

  6. I wondered why and at the same time enjoy the fact that there are not blinking banner ads and google ads on both sidebars. Now I know why there are no ads on your site.

    I personally don’t mind the ads unless the site is cluttered with them to the point you don’t know what the site does or you don’t know where the ads stop and the site begins.

    After reading your post I made an “executive decision” to not put ads on my blog site. Just a simple text link to my ebook site.

  7. I totally agree and respect your authority blog concept. I love reading Problogger, but I can’t help but feel that the purpose of many of the posts are driven by a desire to earn commissions. The blog is still incredibly useful, but I take all of Darren’s advice with a grain of salt. “Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.”

  8. I totally agree and respect your authority blog concept. I love reading Problogger, but I can’t help but feel that the purpose of many of the posts are driven by a desire to earn commissions. The blog is still incredibly useful, but I take all of Darren’s advice with a grain of salt. “Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.”

  9. @Jonathan – Oh I agree, Steve has done a fantastic job. I Think though unlike many he has managed to not bow to the almighty Google rather got adsense working for *him*. Not an act many can follow I think :) I don’t think those big square ugly adsense blocks have any place on an authority blog though, even if they do bring him so much cash. I wonder how much more credible on a first visit he would be without? He does have the rankings, loyal audience and traffic to not care what I think though :D

    @Slade – I might have coined the phrase, although someone has also likely used it before me. I think it works though right? :)

    @Steve – Ads I don’t mind, in fact ads can be quite attractive such as those on copyblogger and techcrunch. Adsense just winds me up the wrong way though. It makes bloggers choose between what is good for coin and good for readers. Many come down on the side of coin :(

    @Bill – Darren is one of the best bloggers at not letting the dollar signs distort his work. Without mentioning names I can think of some *far* worse :)

  10. @Jonathan – Oh I agree, Steve has done a fantastic job. I Think though unlike many he has managed to not bow to the almighty Google rather got adsense working for *him*. Not an act many can follow I think :) I don’t think those big square ugly adsense blocks have any place on an authority blog though, even if they do bring him so much cash. I wonder how much more credible on a first visit he would be without? He does have the rankings, loyal audience and traffic to not care what I think though :D

    @Slade – I might have coined the phrase, although someone has also likely used it before me. I think it works though right? :)

    @Steve – Ads I don’t mind, in fact ads can be quite attractive such as those on copyblogger and techcrunch. Adsense just winds me up the wrong way though. It makes bloggers choose between what is good for coin and good for readers. Many come down on the side of coin :(

    @Bill – Darren is one of the best bloggers at not letting the dollar signs distort his work. Without mentioning names I can think of some *far* worse :)

  11. Chris,
    I investigated blogging for almost a year. I looked at blogs like John Chow’s and at blogs done by Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki. The temptation to believe that you can make a living is real but the chances that you will are not. In all actuality it would be a lot of work and there are so many going at it that it is hard to see it work for most. If you just want ad sense money go find lots of misspelled domain names and use them.

    On another point – I was just over at Technorati – and I noticed your picture seems a little … how shall we say…squished? That or you have changed quite a bit since that picture or the one you have here was taken. :)

  12. Chris,
    I investigated blogging for almost a year. I looked at blogs like John Chow’s and at blogs done by Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki. The temptation to believe that you can make a living is real but the chances that you will are not. In all actuality it would be a lot of work and there are so many going at it that it is hard to see it work for most. If you just want ad sense money go find lots of misspelled domain names and use them.

    On another point – I was just over at Technorati – and I noticed your picture seems a little … how shall we say…squished? That or you have changed quite a bit since that picture or the one you have here was taken. :)

  13. Chris-

    I totally agree with what you are saying. I am like many people, that when I go to a site to learn about things…the more ads I see, the less authority I give to that blog. I think that it does take time & a lot of effort to build your traffic…but you have created a great place to do that. Thanx for doing what you do. Great area to learn.

  14. Chris-

    I totally agree with what you are saying. I am like many people, that when I go to a site to learn about things…the more ads I see, the less authority I give to that blog. I think that it does take time & a lot of effort to build your traffic…but you have created a great place to do that. Thanx for doing what you do. Great area to learn.

  15. Thanks for this. I also found the concept of authority blogs helpful, and a useful reminder to hold on to what you’re blogging for, rather than chasing readers or links or clicks just for the sake of it.

    I’m still finding my way round all this but I’d say some of the machinery of blogging clouds the picture – like technorati references to ‘authority’ which only in fact only derives from the numbers of links, however they might have been earned.

    Joanna

  16. Thanks for this. I also found the concept of authority blogs helpful, and a useful reminder to hold on to what you’re blogging for, rather than chasing readers or links or clicks just for the sake of it.

    I’m still finding my way round all this but I’d say some of the machinery of blogging clouds the picture – like technorati references to ‘authority’ which only in fact only derives from the numbers of links, however they might have been earned.

    Joanna

  17. Very interesting article. Speaking of ads, I really don’t mind reading a blog full of them, if I find the content valuable. It was also the case with Steve Pavlina’s blog. It was so captivating, that I was not bothered at all by the ads. Besides, it was my first contact with a blog and with AdSense, so I had the chance to see how such an advertising block looks like, on the spot.

  18. Very interesting article. Speaking of ads, I really don’t mind reading a blog full of them, if I find the content valuable. It was also the case with Steve Pavlina’s blog. It was so captivating, that I was not bothered at all by the ads. Besides, it was my first contact with a blog and with AdSense, so I had the chance to see how such an advertising block looks like, on the spot.

  19. While I don’t aspire to creating an authority blog, I do certainly appreciate reading one.

  20. While I don’t aspire to creating an authority blog, I do certainly appreciate reading one.

  21. People say it’s getting harder to create a successful ‘authority’ blog, but I think it’s getting easier. Now that we are forced into chooseing a more focues niche, we have to learn and become experts in a far narrower field, which is easier in many respects.

  22. People say it’s getting harder to create a successful ‘authority’ blog, but I think it’s getting easier. Now that we are forced into chooseing a more focues niche, we have to learn and become experts in a far narrower field, which is easier in many respects.

  23. I have a blog that does not sell ads but places direct links to my product site. Is it still an authorative site if you are selling anything at all? like a book?

  24. I have a blog that does not sell ads but places direct links to my product site. Is it still an authorative site if you are selling anything at all? like a book?

  25. @Roger – Yeah it is both squished AND I have put on weight, double-whammy ;)

    @Janna – Thanks :)

    @Joanna – Yeah, links might be a *symptom* of authority but it is a bit unhelpful naming convention on their part :)

    @Simonne – If you read through RSS you don’t see them but on the other hand how many blogs have the scale he has? Sure you can have whatever advertising you like but every small element adds up to create or damage your result. Too many blogs go overboard with the ugly in your face adsense and such and though I love his content I think his is one of them.

    @Jen – I think we all prefer reading authority blogs ;)

    @Matt – Just think how much easier it would have been when you could have chosen *any* niche ;) But yes, smaller niches have traffic they never had years ago and focus is always preferable

    @Colbs – Authority Blogs are perfect for business, which involves selling via a strong and valuable relationship. You can sell, have ads, all of that, just put the audience and relationship over ad clicks.

  26. @Roger – Yeah it is both squished AND I have put on weight, double-whammy ;)

    @Janna – Thanks :)

    @Joanna – Yeah, links might be a *symptom* of authority but it is a bit unhelpful naming convention on their part :)

    @Simonne – If you read through RSS you don’t see them but on the other hand how many blogs have the scale he has? Sure you can have whatever advertising you like but every small element adds up to create or damage your result. Too many blogs go overboard with the ugly in your face adsense and such and though I love his content I think his is one of them.

    @Jen – I think we all prefer reading authority blogs ;)

    @Matt – Just think how much easier it would have been when you could have chosen *any* niche ;) But yes, smaller niches have traffic they never had years ago and focus is always preferable

    @Colbs – Authority Blogs are perfect for business, which involves selling via a strong and valuable relationship. You can sell, have ads, all of that, just put the audience and relationship over ad clicks.

  27. Hi Chris, I agree with you that establishing authority (well, of some sort) focuses on bringing value to readers. The true match is to have truly beneficial content marry with sensible advertising to produce loyal and returning readers. :-)

  28. Hi Chris, I agree with you that establishing authority (well, of some sort) focuses on bringing value to readers. The true match is to have truly beneficial content marry with sensible advertising to produce loyal and returning readers. :-)

  29. Establishing authority is just a more sound business model in the long run. If you have an “adsense blog”, one change in Google policy could crash the whole income stream.

    If you establish a brand of authority and gather a loyal following, you could lose all your other business assets and still pick back up tomorrow and make money by giving your following what they want. That kind of business equity is truly lasting.

    Jay
    Co-Host, Internet Business Mastery Podcast

  30. Establishing authority is just a more sound business model in the long run. If you have an “adsense blog”, one change in Google policy could crash the whole income stream.

    If you establish a brand of authority and gather a loyal following, you could lose all your other business assets and still pick back up tomorrow and make money by giving your following what they want. That kind of business equity is truly lasting.

    Jay
    Co-Host, Internet Business Mastery Podcast

  31. I don’t put advertising on my blog much any more. I sometimes will stick a block of adsense or an affiliate ad becasue I see that a certain page is getting a lot of traffic from some search term. Check your logs and make a little money from some old posts. There is a neat wordpress plugin that lets you put adsense or affiliate code right into a specific post.

  32. I don’t put advertising on my blog much any more. I sometimes will stick a block of adsense or an affiliate ad becasue I see that a certain page is getting a lot of traffic from some search term. Check your logs and make a little money from some old posts. There is a neat wordpress plugin that lets you put adsense or affiliate code right into a specific post.