There are a LOT of different ways to be an affiliate marketer!
Many ClickBank affiliates, for example, rely on paid ads to get new visitors in front of a specific offer they want to promote. We also see email marketers with huge lists, successful social media influencers, and of course, content publishers with a blog or website.
(If you want to know more about the different approaches to affiliate marketing, we have a whole guide to the 5 primary types of affiliates.)
But assuming you’re focused on becoming a content publisher, I wanted to dive into the important concept of an “authority site.”
In this guide, I’ll answer the question, “What is an authority site?” Then, I’ll give you some key pointers on how to build your own authority site to make money as an affiliate!
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What Is an Authority Site?
First of all, what is an authority site, specifically?
An authority site is a niche-specific or audience-based site that industry experts and search engines consider to be a credible source of information. The main feature of authority sites is high-quality content and a significant volume of incoming links achieved by publishing expert content and following excellent editorial standards.
An authority site usually has many traffic channels and revenue streams – in effect, it’s a media business in the form of a branded website. You can build an authority site even without selling any product, with your main commodity being information!
Authority Site Model vs Niche Site vs Affiliate Site
Now, before we delve into authority sites too deeply, let’s clear up some confusion on how an authority site compares to a few similar terms: the niche site and the affiliate site.
A niche site is a site that is typically focused on a very small sub-niche. Most niche sites make money by focusing on ranking for commercial keywords and publishing product reviews, buying guides, and comparison content to make money from affiliate commissions. Many niche sites use keyword-specific names such as “bestelectricshaversformen.com.”
An authority site also focuses on a well-defined niche, but it’s typically much broader than a specific niche (the difference between general personal finance and reverse mortgages). In addition, the content on an authority site is much more informational. Examples of content you’ll find on quality authority sites include in-depth guides, tips, and instructions that answer the target audience’s questions.
Building authority sites takes time and effort, but you can grow it into a full-time business that will earn you income for years! It’s also possible to turn a niche site into an authority site, if you focus on creating educational content and expanding the topic categories you cover as you grow.
Lastly, an affiliate site can refer to either a niche site or an authority site – the distinction here is that the affiliate website is primarily monetized through affiliate marketing.
Authority Site Example: Nerd Fitness
Nerd Fitness is an authority site in the fitness niche that began in 2009 and has since scaled to become the biggest fitness education platform for nerds.
The site’s founder, Steve Kamb, managed to build the authority site without being an expert or trainer in the fitness niche and turned his blog into a 6-figure empire. Steve began to monetize his site after he had gained the trust of his audience.
He started out with an eBook and moved to a book, online courses through the Nerd Fitness academy where students pay a flat fee of $99, and then to a fitness camp where people pay between $829 to $1049 to attend.
Here are some of the things that Steve did right that turned the Nerd Fitness blog into an authority site:
- Choosing a niche that addressed the needs of a left-out group in fitness — the nerds and geeks
- Sticking to the niche despite pressures to be more accommodative to other audiences
- Focusing on creating educational and interesting content for beginners in fitness and consistently publishing two articles every week
- Choosing a niche that he was genuinely interested in, which was helping nerds learn about health and fitness
- Unique website branding that captured the feelings of his target audience
- Getting people to interact with each other by building an active community
- He keeps expanding the scope of his blog to introduce new workouts, including his most recent, Nerd Fitness Yoga
(Also, here’s a quick fun fact: I wrote this article for Nerd Fitness back in the day!)
Other examples of sites that have authority in their industry include:
- The New York Times
- The Guardian
All these sites have built trust with their readers and are considered the go-to for people looking for information on the topics they cover. They attract a lot of traffic from different channels, and they can be very profitable because of the various opportunities for monetizing their traffic.
How to Build an Authority Site
Feeling inspired and ready to take on the project of building your own authority site?
Good news – it’s totally doable! You just need to know the rules of the game. Here are some of the tips you need to create a successful authority site today!
1. Choose Your Niche
First, it’s essential that you decide what your site will be about – and that requires selecting a niche.
I’ve written about this before when discussing affiliate sites, but authority sites are a little broader. Here are the factors you need to consider when choosing a niche:
Choose a topic that you know about. If authority is your goal, it’s hard to fake that – so my suggestion is that you DON’T fake it!
Please pick something you actually know a lot about. Then, you can write about it yourself and build your own brand authority, or at least edit content if you outsource the work to freelancers or agencies.
Having interest in the topic area or at least the willingness to learn and grow will help you sustain your business in the long run. This is nearly as important as knowledge, because a passion for the subject will shine through in your work and help draw readers and fans to you.
For example, I primarily write about the topics of marketing and business for a living, which are a good fit for me because I’m endlessly fascinated by both! (And hopefully, that excitement comes through in my writing!)
The idea here is to avoid niching down too much, which may limit the growth of your site. An example of a micro-niche would be “dog collars” – you’re really boxing yourself in with such a narrow topic for a site. By comparison, an authority site about dogs would probably cover everything to do with dogs, including training, feeding, taking care of them, and other informational content.
In this niche selection stage, play close attention to your potential domain name. Don’t choose domain names that force you to stay limited to just one niche. For example “Bestsafetyrazor.com” isn’t a good domain name for an authority site, compared to “sharpology” or “thebearddudes.com,” which gives you room to expand your content!
An evergreen niche will last longer than a seasonal one. Niches like finance and fitness are evergreen and can earn you profits all year round, compared to sites that deal with trendy or seasonal content.
For example, a Christmas-focused authority site would mostly make sales during the last few months of each year. It’s hard to grow a sustainable, profitable authority site on a seasonal niche alone.
The niche should be able to earn you money in at least a few different ways. Ideally, this would include affiliate marketing, display ads, sponsorships, and selling your own products.
Want to know whether your idea is profitable? See how many other sites are out there in that same niche. If there’s a decent amount of competition, chances are good there are profits to be found!
Ease of Entry
A good niche has lots of keyword opportunities you can take on, so you can have a decent chance to rank in search. Trying to rank for very competitive keywords may leave you stuck for a long time before you finally start to get some traction.
Let me be clear about this: some niches are probably too saturated for a small player to enter the space. One of my favorite examples is Nerdwallet, which is just an insanely massive authority site covering personal finance. To compete with them in search, here’s what you’d be dealing with (according to Ahrefs):
In a nutshell, you’d need to produce content that’s better than one of the 1,750 biggest websites in the world, with hundreds of thousands of incoming backlinks and nearly 3 million keywords in search.
This is the kind of research that will tell you how stiff the competition is and help you pick the right course of action!
Don’t let this discourage you, but be aware of the difficulty of your chosen topic or niche and make sure you have the resources to compete.
2. Website Design and Branding
Your website design doesn’t have to be fancy, but it shouldn’t be unprofessional either. Investing in one of these premium WordPress themes for affiliates will ensure your site is responsive, easy to use, and nice to look at.
A lot of thought should also go into your logo design, color schemes, and font choices to ensure you stand out from the crowd and appeal to your visitors. Think in terms of your niche and the brand you want to go for.
As I mentioned before, an authority site is a media business. Here’s the step where you can establish the professionalism of your site!
3. SEO and Keyword Research
Your choice of keywords will determine how well you rank on search engines. We have a whole article on affiliate marketing keyword research that I recommend you read through!
But to summarize, I would start out your SEO approach by choosing low-difficulty, low-competition keywords that you have a decent chance to rank for. These are often informational keywords – and that’s because most affiliates’ are interested in high-volume keywords with a commercial intent.
One simple strategy to find target keywords is by researching competitor keywords. That way, you’ll know what other people are covering and be able to uncover any gaps that your site has a chance to fill.
Here’s how to do your competitor research:
- Search “top”, “best, or “list of” + “your niche” blogs
- Check the authority of the sites that show up
- Plug high authority seed sites into SEO tools like Ahrefs and Semrush to see the keywords they rank for. You can also opt for free competitor research tools, although these limit your search options.
- Filter keywords as per organic position, volume, buyer intent, and difficulty.
Search volume is important, especially if you’re promoting or selling lower-ticket items that should sell in their numbers for you to make a profit.
Considering buyer intent for each keyword will help you determine the commercial value of a keyword, particularly if you plan to monetize the article through affiliate links. You can also go for keywords with lower commercial value but high volume and monetize them through display ads.
4. Creating Content
The content you create will contribute toward your ranking goals. Ensure that your content:
- Matches user intent – Find out a keyword’s search intent by studying the top 10 search results for that keyword.
- Is of exceptional quality – Content should also be informational, tackling your audience’s problems and questions. The best content is comprehensive and loaded with detailed and well-researched information. Articles that include visuals such as videos, images, and infographics tend to perform better in terms of both views and engagement. Research shows that articles with images get over 90% more views!
- Includes strategic linking – This includes internal linking as well as outbound links to credible sites. Internal linking connects your content pieces to each another, and signals more topical relevance to search engines. Internal linking also increases the time spent on your site as people move between your web pages.
Backlinks increase the authority of your site in the eyes of search engines, while external links to authority sites show that you focus on providing credible content, which boosts the authoritativeness of your site to users and Google!
One other point: Create content clusters that help you cover topics fully and link them to each other for more topical relevance, instead of having a bunch of standalone, siloed articles.
5. Getting Traffic
Another key piece of the authority site puzzle is getting traffic to your site – otherwise, no one reads your content and you can’t make any money!
Unlike with a niche site, you probably shouldn’t rely on SEO alone to bring traffic to your site. The whole idea is to build your authority, which doesn’t just happen by chance.
So, consider these ways to get people to your site:
- Networking and outreach – Contact people in your niche who have an audience and partner with them to share your resources with their audience. This can include formats like guest blogging, email swaps, social posts, podcast interviews, and video collabs.
- Link building – Publishing high-quality content will eventually get you backlinks, but you can speed up the process by actively seeking out backlinks through various methods, include guest posting, link swaps, broken link building, and more.
- Social media – Share your content on relevant forums or social platforms like Reddit and Quora to get traffic and backlinks. And consider building up your own social media presence for affiliate marketing so you have a ready audience on each major platform to go visit your site!
- Events – If you’re really serious about your authority site, one of the absolute best ways to get eyeballs on it is to network and speak at live events, conferences, and trade shows. This also helps build your authority in the space!
- Email marketing – One of the most reliable sources of traffic for your site is the people who already know, like, and trust you! These are the subscribers to your email list – don’t be afraid to share new content with them as you publish it.
6. Build an Email List
Speaking of email marketing, remember that old marketing saying: the money is in the list?
Well, it’s definitely true if you manage an authority site!
One key measure of your authority site’s success could be in the number of relevant email addresses you’ve collected, since those people will be your potential customers. You should also use email verification tools to check whether an email is still legit or outdated.
Some of the common tactics to build and grow a solid email list include:
- Having an email opt-in or sign-up form on your site
- Using a pop-up form with a strong call to action
- Offering a free resource such as a PDF guide or e-book in exchange for email addresses
- Meeting people at events and encouraging them to stay connected through your list
- Building a community like a Facebook Group or Discord
It’s a long-term process to grow an email list, but it’s the best way you have to get returning visitors to your authority site – and it’s an asset you control!
7. Monetizing Your Site
The final step is deciding how you’ll monetize your authority site. I mentioned a few earlier, but here are some of the best ways to monetize an authority site:
- Affiliate marketing
- Sales of your own product(s)
- Display advertising
- Publishing sponsored posts
- Publishing premium articles
- Creating a membership site or forum
- Asking for donations
- Coaching or consulting services
The best thing about an authority site is that you’re building an audience. This gives you the flexibility to monetize the site whichever way works best for you!
Learn More About Building Your Authority Site Business
Building a successful authority site requires you to have the right skills. Sometimes you need someone to walk you through the process for success.
Our affiliate marketing education platform, Spark by ClickBank, has courses on a range of essential affiliate marketing topics, including Free Traffic Academy and its step-by-step guide to building your website.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do you measure the authority of a website?
Domain authority is scored on a scale from 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest score that a site can get. Authority is mostly determined by the number and quality of a website’s backlinks.
Quality authority sites have a domain authority of between 50 and 60, and those with higher scores are considered sites with excellent authority and can rank for the most competitive keywords.
2. Why is authority important in websites?
The authority of a site is a measure of how credible search engines consider your site to be, determining its SEO rankings. An authority site can rank on the first page of Google and get more organic visitors.
Once you know your site’s ranking, you can compare yourself to your competition and note down areas that need improvement.
3. What are some of the factors that determine website authority?
Several factors determine the authority of a website, including the number of backlinks, content quality, social signals, and level of engagement. Websites with lots of audience interactions have better authority than those with minimal engagement.
4. How do authority sites make money?
Authority sites primarily make money through a combination of affiliate marketing, selling their own products, and advertisements.
5. How long does it take to build domain authority?
It takes anywhere from six months to a few years to see a strong domain authority of 50 or higher.
Affiliate marketing takes many forms, but content publishing remains an effective and popular way to succeed as an affiliate. You can build a profitable and sustainable business using the mighty authority website.
However, building an authority website is very complex – far more than what we can cover in a single article. Learn more about building your authority website inside Spark by ClickBank, the official affiliate education platform from ClickBank.
Again, there’s a quality course from instructors Paul Counts and Shreya Banerjee called Free Traffic Academy that dives into authority sites, social media, and more – and another one website-focused course on the way. Check it out!