But what exactly are niche or authority sites?
How do they differ?
And importantly, if you’re considering creating a new site, which one is right for you?
First, let’s consider authority websites.
What is an Authority Site?
What are authority sites?
Authority Site Definition: An authority website is a high-quality, trust-inducing website recognized by both readers and search engines as a leading source of knowledge and insight within its community, market, or topic.
There are two ways of understanding authority sites, one way is to think in terms of what I say when I talk about authority blogging, that is becoming the go-to person or business in your niche.
The second way we talk about authority sites is Google Authority. That is when Google learns to pay special attention to your website because it is trustworthy and produces high-quality, valuable content.
Thankfully, both meanings of what is an authority site are highly, highly correlated!
What does this mean in practice? Picture Darren’s Digital Photography School – it is a highly-reputable source of camera and technique information that’s universally acknowledged for its integrity and quality content. DPS is a recognized authority website in the photography space.
Authority websites thrive on providing a variety of high-quality content, ranging from informational articles to case studies and step-by-step “how-to” guides. They’re the digital equivalents of industry experts, providing a wealth of knowledge on a broad range of topics. Their optimization doesn’t hinge solely on keyword research and competitiveness, as they also emphasize first-hand Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T in Google parlance).
These websites will for sure have a robust backlink profile, but due to their reputation and high profile they will have an edge in obtaining quality backlinks from other authority sites. Tools like Moz and Ahrefs are great for analyzing such metrics and assessing a site’s “SEO authority”, known as Domain Authority. High Domain Authority can significantly increase organic traffic referrals and search engine results page (SERPs) ranking.
When it comes to link building, guest posting is still a common strategy for authority websites, again because of that positive reputation and personal connection as opposed to a complete stranger begging in contact forms.
By offering high-quality content to other reputable sites, they not only secure backlinks but also enhance their familiarity, reputation, and visibility within their community.
Content creation for these sites often extends to podcasts, videos (YouTube, Twitch, and so on), and powerful social media profiles, enhancing their reach and impact even further.
On the flip side, we have niche websites.
What Are Niche Sites?
What are niche websites? What is a content website?
Niche Websites Definition: Niche sites are websites that are designed to be narrowly focused on a specific topic or part of an industry.
What do niche sites look like in practice? Imagine a blogger creating a site intended to review all products related to repairing Canon cameras. Or it could be a site that compares different aquarium fish tanks.
What is a content or niche website going to do that a traditional blog will not? Usually, the main difference will be a blog is designed to answer questions over time but the content site or niche website might be built as a project and then sold or lightly maintained afterward.
Niche websites tend to be profit-driven and can be hugely financially successful, usually via display ads and affiliate commissions, and they can be quick and cheap to get started too.
Unlike authority sites, they focus on answering the needs of a carefully defined audience who are interested in a very specific topic. They rely on rigorous keyword research, content created specifically for those keywords, and expert search engine optimization (SEO) to generate lots of traffic.
Some niche sites are fully or partially automated, either using the latest “AI” tools or “Programmatic SEO”.
Programmatic SEO Definition: Programmatic SEO uses the power of automation and data analysis to identify keyword opportunities and create a massive quantity of highly optimized content.
Combining a large amount of focused traffic with content that directly answers what the reader is searching for can achieve impressive conversion rates, driving high profitability.
However, these visitors often do not return after getting their answers, and the trustworthiness and memorability of niche sites may be less than authority sites due to their limited, tactical focus and lack of stickiness.
Authority Site or Niche Site, Which Should You Start Today?
Here is the great news – Niche sites can become authority sites over time!
One common strategy is to start niched down, targeting a specific, narrow, and under-served audience, then gradually build up a brand, growing it into an authority site.
As the site’s authority grows, so too does its ability to rank for a wider range of competitive keywords. Plus you can encourage your visitors to sign up for your newsletter, create your own products, and so on.
Comparison Table: Niche Sites and Authority Sites
|Very specific, highly focused topic
|A broad range of topics of interest to an audience or an entire industry
|Content highly optimized and targeted to quickly answer a specific audience question
|Variety of content types for a wider audience intended to nurture readers over time
|May have fewer powerful backlinks, but they are highly relevant
|Robust backlink profile with links from other authority sites
|Can have good authority in a specific sub-niche
|High domain authority, a brand recognized by users and search engines alike
|Usually through affiliate marketing or advertising networks
|Various methods including those of niche sites plus digital products, services, speaking, membership subscriptions, and online courses
|Rely heavily on finding untapped keywords through research and on-page SEO
|Emphasize first-hand experience (E-E-A-T), and domain authority for SEO
|Mostly focused on evergreen web pages and sometimes blog articles
|Extend beyond web pages and blogging to podcasts, videos, PDF downloads, social media profiles, etc
|Tailored to a highly specific information-seeking audience’s immediate needs
|Aimed at providing long-term value to a broad audience who grow to become a community
|Can be highly trusted but within a specific niche
|Recognized as trustworthy across the community or industry
|Outreach and passive
|Guest posting on various high-quality sites, natural attraction of links through reputation, and valuable tools or resources
|Narrow, specifically defined
|Wide, covering various demographics and levels of topical sophistication
|Social Media Presence
|Usually extensive, engaging, and inextricably tied to identifiable personalities
|Known as a convenient resource for a specific topic
|Known as a leading go-to source in the community, topic, or industry
What is Your End Goal?
The most important question when you’re deciding which type of site to build is to consider your end goal.
Do you want to become a recognized industry expert?
Are you ready to build an expansive website with a broad audience, or are you more comfortable focusing on a specific topic and driving profits from SEO and affiliate marketing?
Do you want your site to have the authority of a ‘New York Times Best-Seller’ or the niche charm of a successful Star Wars LEGO blogger?
How to Monetize an Authority Site
Unlike niche sites or made-for-advertising websites, you can monetize an authority website in many ways, with a flexible combination of all the options:
- With enough traffic you can by all means join an advertising network and show ads or you can reach out to companies who might want to advertise or sponsor. If you have branched out into podcasting, YouTube, or a newsletter those all make it extra appealing for advertisers as part of a sponsorship package.
- Affiliate marketing works very well on authority sites because of the ability to show the affiliate offer multiple times to repeat readers, the ability to create an email list or newsletter which offers another way to show the offer, and because authority sites engender more trust from readers over time versus the one-time visits that niche sites tend to get.
- If you can have profitable advertising on your site or make money from affiliate offers that probably means that you have a market for selling your own products and services! Ebooks, consulting and coaching, online courses …
- Authority leads to community, so perhaps you can grow a paid membership or content subscription (even if you don’t have the technology on your own site yet, for example, Patreon).
Word of Warning
While the primary motivation of most people reading this will be to find a good route to earning an income, remember the goal is never only about making money if you want to last.
Niche sites especially can be quicker to build and be successful, but even then it is certainly not about tricks and baiting your audience. Those sites might work temporarily but most get caught out soon enough.
Success with niche sites or authority sites is about contributing value to your community. Whether it’s an authority or a niche site, the key lies in delivering high-quality articles that fulfill your users’ needs, answers their question completely and provides a superior user experience over your competition.
Build Your Authority Website – Get Started Now
Regardless of which type of site you want to build, building an authority website always starts with identifying an audience who you can serve, and serve well.
A tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush can assist you with keyword research and SEO but don’t start out too ambitious. Find the under-served topics where the competition is lower and less advanced. In the beginning, it is not a bad thing to be in a small niche, quite the opposite, so long as there is enough potential there to make it worthwhile and you don’t paint yourself into a corner with your domain name purchase.
If you are building a brand remember to keep an eye on your bounce rate. It’s not just about getting visitors to your site, but also about keeping them there, and hopefully getting them to come back with friends.
Build on a solid foundation, which means using a highly customizable but SEO friendly WordPress theme.
After all, with digital marketing, it’s the user experience that separates the remarkable from the ordinary.
Happy site building! Remember, whether you choose to create an authority website or a niche website, your journey begins with the first step – finding your people and learning about them. I will be cheering for you!