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What’s an “Authority Site”, Exactly?

May 9th, 2008 · 9 Comments

If you’ve been on my mailing list for any length of time, then you’ve already heard me drone on about “authority sites”, and why they’re a solid strategy for long-term success, strong search engine rankings, and so on.

But, as has been oft-reflected by the number of emails I get with this exact question…

“Chris – what do you mean by authority site?”

It’s a valid question.

Is it just a “big” mini-site? Is there a certain amount of articles required to become an “authority”? Who the hell decides what’s authoritative and what isn’t? What’s an authority site??!!

Some people might classify authority as being expert advice and experienced-based, unique content. They’re right, but the way I see it – there’s more to it than that…

My definition of “authority” is this:

A site that’s useful enough, memorable enough, meaningful enough or controversial enough that your visitor’s will actually tell others about it - involuntarily. 

It could be 100 pages. It could be 10,000 pages. It could be ONE page. It doesn’t matter – if it’s something genuinely interesting to your visitors, you’ve established web authority.

Here’s some examples of authoritative & useful content:

* Expert and/or effective, compelling content. Usually created by enthusiasts or talented people with effective writing/communication skills. (NOT just a site with PLR content and adsense, in other words…). Examples include sites like ShoeMoney.com, StevePavlina.com, Maddox.Xmission.com (funny & dry humor), and so on.

* A tool or script of some kind. Currency calculators, financial tools, meta-searches and otherwise some kind of helpful or compelling data. Examples include XE.com, Switchboard.com, and Digital Point’s keyword tool. Keep in mind that often, even the most popular sites like this are simply using legal API access to blend and “stack” free data from multiple sources – giving the visitor more data for their search. An example in our own niche here would be the keyword tool at SEOBook.com

* A Portal. This is kind of like a community/information site/review site/forum and so on all in one. Examples include Allan Gardyne’s AssociatePrograms.com, and one of my old favorites as a longboarder – SilverFishLongboarding.com. These take awhile to get going, but can often “evolve” over time out of a good content site or blog. The advantage is that eventually, your users can be providing a lot of your content for you, automatically.

* A Directory with a Purpose. Not just a “web directory” in a niche, but rather, something that truly helps to organize the market for your visitors. Examples include things like public records directories (like SearchEngineZ.com), industry directories like BoardFolio.com, and so on. Keep in mind that the long-tail traffic and exposure that this will earn you will be phenomenal in some markets, and if your site comes across as being well-structured and authoritative (ie. not just a scraper site), then you’ll get lots of incoming backlinks because it will be seen as a central resource.

Hint: This directory-with-a-purpose model is an example of something you can do in any niche regardless of knowledge or experience – all it takes is proper organizing. For instance, in our very own affiliate marketing niche, there’s a site like this at LifeTimeCommissions.com, which lists many affiliate programs that have residual payout structures. Whoever owns the site probably knows their stuff - but he wouldn’t have to.

You don’t have to be an expert to create something useful when you’re simply organizing information

And my last example,

* Authoritative Review Sites. Sites like TopTenReviews.com, RottenTomatoes.com and others like it are perceived as being more “trustworthy” because their content is objective and it’s more like “meta-reviews” – meaning that they’ve mostly just calculated an overall product rating based on the aggregate views of several expert reviewers/critics in each applicable product category.

You can do this on a smaller-scale in any niche, but it would be best to shoot for a larger overall genre so as to appear less biased. Again, this is an example of how to create very trustworthy content (using other people’s opinions to form an aggregate consensus in a nice, visual format) without having to “know” a damn thing yourself. 

There’s other examples of authority sites, to be sure – but can you see the difference here between an authority site and “yet another affiliate” site?

So perhaps there’s two overall qualifiers for the definition of an authority site:

————————————————-

1. A site that’s useful enough, memorable enough, meaningful enough or controversial enough that your visitor’s will actually tell others about it - involuntarily.

2. A site that the majority of your affiliate competition will be too lazy to build or even contend with… 

————————————————- 

Internet users aren’t stupid.

The majority of them know when they’re being sold to, and most affiliates (from what I’ve seen) absolutely suck at writing in an authoritative, believable tone. Hyping products and trying to hard-sell stuff is ineffective in almost every case. 

When people are researching a product decision or otherwise looking to buy something – by and large, what they want to base that decision on is FACTS.

So that’s the other half of it.

When you can “marry” the elements of authority function with authoritative communication – you have the skills necessary for building a sustainable (and genuinely helpful), six-figure business and beyond.

It’s when you don’t need to rely on Google for traffic due to word of mouth, press, other sites spreading exposure and so on that your search engine rankings will become solidified naturally. And those are the rankings that stand the test of time.

Ironic, but true.

Take care,

-Chris 

P.S. Yes, products are “authority sites” by my definition as well, but it’s a different kind of category altogether. For the purposes of clarification, this blog post is referring to sites that are monetized with affiliate offers.

Tags: General Marketing Stuff

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Neo // May 9, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Chris,
    Thanks for this post.

    Your definiton about authority site is true from the surfers point of view. But, how about google? I have seen google providing a site listing (more than one pages listed for top result. eg:http://www.google.com/search?q=about) for many sites, including some adult site.
    Do site linstings have any effect on SERPS? Say, if we get a link from such a site, can we call it as an authority link?

    Hope I have explained my question clearly.
    Regards,
    Neo

  • 2 admin // May 9, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    Neo,

    That would very likely be an indication that Google clearly recognizes an organized, well-structured website.

    It would be safe to assume that this would be considered authority content in terms of relevance to the query.

    Remember that authority links are only as good as the content they point to :-)

    -Chris

  • 3 Rich // May 10, 2008 at 4:44 am

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot and from reading this post by shoemoney: http://www.shoemoney.com/2008/05/07/seo-has-no-future/

    and Chris’s Google report – it appears that the Internet is no longer a “free ride” in terms of just doing the bare minimum to succeed.

    Take a look at this video from John Reese: http://www.income.com/blog/2007/06/25/its-all-about-authority/

    He talks about how it’s all focused around building up a central “pillar” in a niche which you focus NOT on “link building” or “getting to the top of the SERPS” because the way it’s going now – all you need to do is build a proper business, brand and all the rest of it and the serps will follow.

    The key here is that if people want to look at it – Google will want to promote it.

    An authority site is a business and just like in real life – a business provides a lot of what people want (I.E product, information, features, tools, etc). Think of the Internet as a new “World” of its own except because it’s now maturing, you can’t just put up some shitty content and a lame product offering and expect to make it big any more.

    The Internet is changing extremely fast – becoming more like the “real World” except it’s made up of people from all over the planet, which is what makes it so powerful.

    My latest site now (and I don’t expect to make money from this for a couple of months) is focused around providing the most amount of content for the niche. I’m not thinking “Well, I’ll write 13 articles and then build 10,000 links” because although that might work for a little while, at the end of the day – the key is in building an impression on your visitors so that you don’t need to rely on the SE’s.

    I once had a website called http://www.kinz-land.com which became very popular. It’s popularity when I had it was that the forum was growing at 70 users daily, the email list likewise and traffic was around 3,000 u/vs a day. And guess what? I didn’t build a single link to that site.

    I just posted quality content after quality content and hey presto – I got some killer serps, some of which sent me over 200 visitors daily. I was very surprised, after a couple of months, to see my site appearing in some FAN VIDEOS on YouTube – which obviously meant it was being passed around via WOM.

    I sold that site for a tidy sum however my main rival was trending at like 10 times the pace of my site (http://www.webkinzinsider.com) simply because of the content they provided.

  • 4 Jeremy Hier // May 10, 2008 at 11:52 am

    I just took a look at shoemoney.com and saw the huge adsense check, then took a look at the stats,
    wow less than 1% ctr for that month and a low ecpm, and he made $132,000+ in one month.

    Shoemoney said he did not monetize the site for a year and a half at first, I checked how many pages he has indexed over 10,000, wow.

    Many people have been mislead down the make
    100′s of mini adsense sites road, mean while I have found many gurus quietly making huge content sites, earning 6 figures a month.

  • 5 Angela // May 11, 2008 at 2:43 am

    Hi Chris,
    Really love your book… I started 1 minsite, didn’t get the full 20 pages done.. just about 4 pages and I made some sales though article marketing and link submissions. Now I’ve signed up for Linkvana and on the way to revamp the site. At the same time, I have a health site which I built a while ago. It is getting very small but steady traffic. I”m thinking to convert it to your minsite style. However, the domain name is “xxx symptoms.org” which I think is not relevant to “buyers”. Should I just register another domain or is this ok to use?

  • 6 admin // May 12, 2008 at 3:52 am

    Hi Angela,

    I wouldn’t worry about the domain name so much. That really only affects your branding anyway – not your rankings.

    I’ve seen ridiculous domain names rank highly for some very respectably competitive keywords.

    It’s just a fancy redirect for an IP address, anyway….

    -Chris

  • 7 Angela // May 13, 2008 at 4:35 am

    Chris, I know the strategy in your book is on review types of website. But what if the product from Click bank doesn’t have so many other similar products? Do you recommend to use only review style websites or is there other ways to promote the affiliate product? If there is, what would be another good way to do it? Thanks

    ps. I love this blog.. . seriously :)

  • 8 Mike // May 13, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Chris,

    I had an affiliate guru (really nice guy) literally set me up on a couple of review sites and a PPC campaign. He was very confident it would be profitable and to his surprise 3 different review sites (campaigns) failed. He was blown away as 2 of the sites promoted his products that he says he makes a ton of money on.

    How can review sites (landing pages) make money with a competitive niche where there are multiple review sites competing for the same product (and or niche)?

  • 9 examples of biased test question // Jun 4, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    [...] strategy for long-term success, strong search engine rankings, and so on. But, as has been oft-refhttp://www.thelazymarketer.com/blog/2008/05/09/whats-an-authority-site-exactly/Guidelines for Controlling Inadvertent Bias in Test Questions and …Example questions &middot [...]

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