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Why I Started (And Stopped) Building 'Authority Sites'

Discussion in 'White Hat SEO' started by lightningblitz, Jan 6, 2016.

  1. lightningblitz

    lightningblitz Elite Member

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    *Warning: Although this is a 'White Hat' discussion some points are 'Black Hat'. I spent some time deciding where to post this but after thought, I decided 'White Hat' was better suited for this.

    Why I started and stopped building authority sites is a simple journey I took in IM. I learned a lot of lessons from doing multiple types of sites and after giving everything a try, I can learn back, relax and observe what worked and what did not.

    First, where I started in IM...


    My first site I completed myself was a Blogger blog. Prior to this blog I worked for a well known gaming forum as a forum administrator and I wrote for the website itself. At the time I made about $25 per article, all expertly written (No, it was not) content which was very niche relevant.

    The blogger blog was written to promote a business in the dating niche I made. After we expanded and wanted a more professional look, I needed to create a website. It started as a landing page, then free ebooks, then links to my ebooks for sale on Amazon, and eventually I made it to an Authority Site.


    What is an Authority Site?


    An Authority Site is a website people know of as a brand or 'go to' in your niche. That is how I define it. A site with little content can be an 'Authority Website' because it is shared a lot and the website is synonymous with the niche. When you think of a search engine you think of Google. That is the best example of an 'Authority Website' you will ever get.

    My little website eventually had dozens of articles and was discussed in some forums in my niche. I earned links naturally and when I would go to events or post on forums my opinion was respected because of my website.

    Some people say an 'Authority Site' is a large website where you can eventually rank for KWs without link building. That may be true, but it is not causation. You can have a website which is an 'Authority Website' but not rank for any Keyword. People still go to your site because of word of mouth or social media sharing.

    The way I see an Authority Site is how the internet and SEO started. When the internet first came into fruition the only way to find a website was to be told about it through word of mouth.

    After a while 'Directory Sites' emerged. Search Engines were born to browse directory sites and pull up relevant results for what you searched. Then Google came along with a revolutionary algo which found a way to rank websites in terms of value and not how often your Keyword was used. (I am vastly over simplifying things).

    How does this relate to an 'Authority Site'? Well, think of your 'Authority Site' as the wild west days of the World Wide Web. Sure, you may rank for things but when people mention 'Youtube' you know what it is and go to the website. With or without Search Engines your website would thrive. That is a true 'Authority Website.'


    Why does that matter?



    People have the wrong assumption of what an Authority Site is. It is not about how big or small, but it is a special type of website most people will never reach. No matter how many links you build, you will never find a way to buy an Authority Site.

    Back to my first real website. It became a real Authority Site. Sure, I worked by butt off, learned and performed SEO, and all the good stuff in terms of social engagement and ranking. But when people discussed my niche locally my website was the first words out of there mouths.

    I tried to re-create such a website time and time again and for some sites it worked, others it did not. I still ranked some great KWs along the way, but this is where I ran into problems.

    I would rank some nice KWs, people would come to the website once, then never come back. My website was not the default 'go to' for my niche. Some niches can have more than one Authority Website but many niches only have room for one or two. Your competition is not other SEOs but an entire culture within your niche.

    This is why knowing what an Authority Site is would be important. You can't ever just throw up a bunch of articles and call a website an Authority Site. You are not building an Authority Website, but you are just building a large website.


    Why I started building Authority Sites


    The reason I started building my first Authority Website was out of need and passion. I needed to get people to know and trust my brand so I added a lot of content, gave a lot out for free and answered people questions.

    After this site I set out to make more like this. I captured lightning in a bottle and knew if could do it again I would make bank.

    The perks to an Authority Site are:

    1. Brand Recognition
    2. Diversified Traffic
    3. User Engagement
    4. Lower SEO cost and effort
    5. Potential Mailing List
    6. Easier to rank when structured properly
    7. Able to rank hundreds of long tail and regular KWs without any effort.

    These seven are the top reasons I had for trying to build more Authority Sites.

    People type your website address into there browser. You get a lot of direct and social media traffic. People come back to visit again. You do not need to do as mush link building due to proper silo structure filtering your natural link juice. You get a built in client base for mailing lists. Plus you will rank for KWs you were not directly targeting.


    Why I stopped building Authority Sites


    The reason I passed on all of these good things? No one can give you the steps to build a true Authority Site. I bet very few people on BHW actually have an Authority Site despite buying websites, selling websites, or posting journey threads.

    I have a rough idea because I did it before, but a lot of it was luck, knowing people in my niche, and engaging as much as possible. You normal webmasters will never put in enough work to make this happen. You need a combination of expert replies and feedback to make it to the eyes of people who want to know about your niche.

    After doing the work myself and the luck involved, you are not likely to make it happen.

    Even if you were, you will find some of these same issues when working with a website to large.

    1. Nearly impossible to have a PBN or Web 2.0 Network large enough to rank.

    Think about this logically. You build a site with 1,000 pages. 90% are easy competition KWs or long tails and by filtering link juice through your categories most get into top 100. The other ten percent are a combination of Medium and High competition KWs.

    You make a PBN to rank the 100 pages on your website. You build Web 2.0s as foundations and need about 10 PBN links to rank each Medium Competition KW and 25 for each High competition KW. After all is said and done you need at least a 1,000 site PBN. This is a low figure. To get number one for each KW is nearly impossible for higher competition KWs without a PBN.

    A network this massive is SUPER expensive, and very hard to manage. You can't over do it either or leave foot prints or your entire website is at risk.

    2. Lightning in a Bottle

    Lets face it. Becoming a website people refer to as a synonym for your niche is a daunting task. It is as much luck as it is dedication to make it work well.

    3. No Black Hat

    Black Hat SEO is far more risky with a Authority Site and your results are diminishing. For example, a 301 redirect method for Churn and Burn or for adding power to a domain. You redirect a good domain to your Authority Site and want to rank 10 High Competition KWs in multiple category pages. You now need to decide what anchors to use and how you should plan to rank.

    You can blast 301s to each category to rank, but the link juice is again filtered into other articles. The same properties which help the Authority Site makes it harder to rank some KWs. This is just one example, but the ability to redirect a domain to rank your site up quickly is an incredible ROI and having an 'Authority Site' complicates things.

    4. Weird and Random Ranking

    This is just an example, but it is a true example. I have an site in the beauty niche. I have an article about Acne. I then build an article about pimples. Guess what? I discover the articles about Acne is ranking for pimples than my article about pimples. I try to change KW density and ratios, change by back link anchor text, but sometimes Google values one piece of content higher than another.

    After a while I figured out way to prevent this, internal redirects, changing some on page and such. But the problem is, this happens all of the time. Some people may call this a good thing, but it can put a real wrench into things. I wasted a lot of money on content and created headaches which were not needed. This also greatly chipped into my ROI.

    5. I make more money with smaller sites.

    Believe it or not, with churn and burn and smaller properties I make more money, have lower overhead, and less stress. Why do I?

    I do a lot of 301 redirects and do a good amount of domain prepping for churn and burn. I need less content and never waste content expenses when articles rank for random things. I have a far small PBN and when being creative I can rank multiples site with it, rather than partially ranking one massive site.


    Should you build an 'Authority Site'?


    You can make a lot of money with an Authority Site. But if you try to build one you could waste a lot of resources that may not pan out. SEO does become easier because of link juice, interlinking and the size, but it raises expenses to rank harder KWs.

    Pros and Cons.

    Although it is easy for a newbie to think, "If I just KEEP writing this will work out!" Those newbies are the people who fail in IM. A true Authority Site is more work than a large site or many smaller sites and it has the quality you know when you see it, but can't explain what it is. This missing gap is trust in the website or brand.

    You may be able to make an Authority Site work. Then again, you may not. That is the point. By starting this kind of website you are embarking on a long term journey which may or may not pan out. It allows you to easily become discouraged. This alone makes it one of the worst ideas for a newbie because you may spend months before you make a penny. That is apart of the game with this kind of site.

    The quicker money is in smaller sites. The long term money is in creating a real authority website. The problem is, no matter how large your site becomes it may never be an 'Authority Site'.
     
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  2. TheFreshPrince

    TheFreshPrince Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    You raised some really good points lightning. I was thinking about that while I was building my "authority site", I just want people to think of my site when they think of my niche.
     
  3. wblteam

    wblteam Regular Member

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    Thanks for sharing. It will help to re-strategize site building
     
  4. PixelMathis

    PixelMathis Power Member

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    good article...but I guess most people in here consider authority sites to be ~100 articles and then promoting affiliate offers.
     
  5. davids355

    davids355 Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Makes total sense what your saying.
     
  6. asap1

    asap1 BANNED BANNED Jr. VIP

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    I agree, I have one website with about 40-50 pages and ranking that takes so much time.

    You cant just build a 20-30 site PBN and rank like you could with a smaller affiliate site where you only really try to rank 1 maybe 2 pages.
     
  7. Floopa75

    Floopa75 Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Cool idea, although I think most people on here an authority site when it has a)lots of daily visitors b)makes a solid income c)has a lot of pages. To be really honest it's not up to the site creator to determine whether or not it's an authority site, only up to the visitors.

    I guess it all depends on what the webmaster is trying to gain from building the site.
     
  8. therealgamer420

    therealgamer420 Junior Member

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    So can we now agree not to use the term authority site irresponsibly?
     
  9. Oz0102

    Oz0102 Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    I totally agree with you on this. It takes a lot of dedication and investments to build an authority site !
     
  10. accelerator_dd

    accelerator_dd Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Another great thread, mate - awesome!

    One thing I would like to jump in for here is - you don't need 1000 PBNs (at first) if you really want to hit high numbers. Almost half of that would be guest posts and sponsored articles over the span of a year at least. It's not great news because to use it as a means of branding as much as SEO, you'll end up spending more (and getting more) than you would on a PBN. However, as you build those out, you will be ranking and generating more revenue even after the 100 posts (50pbn/50other) mark and 10 KWs ranked. The biggest issue is getting to that sweet spot where you are generating enough revenue to keep reinvesting in both SEO and content for the site. If you have 10-20 medium/high keywords ranking (and by extension, a bunch of longtails from the silo structure) you will already be pulling in some revenue.

    The issue here is the risk factor. That's why people who put in this much effort usually stick with guest posts/featured pieces as long as possible. Once they are out of options, they build mini sites and PBNs to "occupy" the whole niche.
     
  11. LoftPower

    LoftPower Elite Member

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    Great share. Glad that I took the time to read it:)
     
  12. Aluminium

    Aluminium Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    I've seen (and worked on) a few PBN's that were most definitely large enough to rank.

    I'm talking 200 to 300 different articles, all on one subject - and I ate up a good portion of that.

    Nothing is easy, and while this was a good read; I still definitely believe that you can create your own authority site.
     
  13. Davidonucheyo

    Davidonucheyo Junior Member

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    True talk Lighning, I really enjoyed it, Points to note down:

    If You Need Quick money? Go for Churn and burn sites.

    If you need Long Term Income then Authority websites is the way to go.
     
  14. ZennoScripts

    ZennoScripts Junior Member

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    You really didn't read the entire thread did you? Smh

    Great thread OP, I agree with you on the "lightning in a bottle" reference you made in terms of which site will "become" an authority site VS what is "made" to be an authority site.
     
  15. VinceC

    VinceC Elite Member

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    Authority site does not need over 100s of pages or posts. And if one truely wants to build it in real "whitehat" method, also does not need any PBNs too. Look at backlinko, not much articles on it sites like any other seo related sites, yet it ranking so high on many keywords.
    To sum up, I believe what magnet visitors to your site again n again and share to their frds thru social media is the real useful value they get from your site and that largely has to do with how great and beneficial your contents are to them to come back again n again to your site.
    Still OP is not wrong at all, as being an authority site, it needs plenty of time, resources and money to keep it up there in big G.
     
  16. lightningblitz

    lightningblitz Elite Member

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    You are 100% right. I am glad that these couple threads got you to chime in as you know your stuff.

    Sure, you can make it if you put the work in, but I see newbies trying to emulate BassTrackerBoats who is an expert in his niche and has put the work in to make it happen before and getting frustrated mid way.

    I guess in my round about way this is me saying to pick your battles when you start out. I made this mistake more times than I can count. Resources are finite and at first, going after smaller fish may be better.


    You are right - you can.

    But a newbie who we know will quit after spending six months and getting no where?

    This thread was inspired by me helping several people in PM on a regular basis and some of those people trying to aim for 'Authority Sites' and others taking my advice and going after easy converting KWs and selling a product. Most people who took my advice are still working at it and make some money. The rest? Five cents a day with Adsense and convert nothing in terms of other options.

    I know your posts are always spot on (I read BHW too much it seems) and know if you wanted to build an Authority Site you could. Smart, good grasp on SEO and IM, and you have a good business mindset.

    New kid on the block? I hope that kid (Or adult) realizes that just because something is popular, it doesn't mean it is the best option.


    I am glad you got that. I see luck like any other skill. When you are good enough, luck can be manipulated in your favor. The people who make Authority Sites work put in the work and have the experience to make luck, or magic, happen.
     
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  17. MisterF

    MisterF Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Great info and inputs, thanks for sharing.
     
  18. accelerator_dd

    accelerator_dd Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Best advice a newbie can get. When I started I was so demotivated when I failed because I tried to go after big wins from the start.
     
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  19. nimdekvan

    nimdekvan Junior Member

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    OK, this explain why my "wanna be" authority site rank nowhere in serp for 6 months lol.
    Anyway, my strategy now is to use semrush and see what keywords my 40 posts ranked for. Then I build a PBN around that KWs.
    But this somehow make an unnatural link as a few of my posts has a lot more powerful links than others.
     
  20. HoneyHelper

    HoneyHelper Supreme Member

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    Great share man!
    everything makes sense!
    really good post for newbies try to make "authority site"!