Building an authority site in 2014 is not substantially different from previous years—although the increased competition for high-traffic keywords does mean that you should do extra keyword research. Also, more and more greyhat or slightly-scammy techniques are being deprecated or banned by Google, so you’ll have to build your authority site in 2014 using good old fashioned on-site and off-site content creation.
Keyword Research In 2014—Niche Sites Still Provide The Best ROI
As more and more people start building websites—and as the acknowledged masters at website building start more and more spin-off sites—you’d think the Internet would be quickly running out of profitable things to write about. But that’s simply not the case—not in 2014 at least.
Highly profitable niches are still paying handsome dividends to their leading sites, but it’s requiring more and more up-front investment to be competitive in these established markets. For example, entering the general investment newsletter niche may now require at least a $100,000 website and expenditures of $100 or more per new paid subscriber.
On the other hand, small niche sites which target just a few hundred or few thousand visitors a month are still easy to create for less than $1,000 of investment (including compensation for your time) and can pay back their startup costs within months—even with recent anti-scammer updates to Google’s search algorithm.
That means niche sites still provide practically the lowest risk, lowest startup costs, and best Return On Investment (ROI). This has been true for nearly 10 years, it’s true in 2014, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon.
As long as people are typing words into the search engines, the keywords your content contains does matter.
Google Gets Smarter, Demands Higher Quality
A few years ago, I frequently had to explain what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) meant, even to experienced webmasters. These days, you can’t even read a newspaper without hearing about SEO.
But with increased exposure of SEO techniques has come increased scrutiny by search engines. When SEO techniques were a little-known secret, search engines could ignore them and deal with more important problems—but now that thousands of people are abusing SEO techniques to create scam websites, search engines have to deal with the problem or risk losing customers.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not SEO techniques which are at fault—it’s people who try to manipulate search engines into thinking they offer high-quality content when they don’t.
For two years now, with update after update, Google has been systematically undermining one blackhat or greyhat SEO technique after another. Increasingly the result has been that high-quality sites are ranking higher and low-quality sites are ranking lower. Some sites which lose rank complain that they are high-quality, but I have yet to see an example of a well-optimized site with high-quality content rank substantially lower than a low-quality site or a site without any optimization.
I personally have been hit by various Google updates which was always to do with errors on my site that caused my rankings to drop or just stupid mistakes I made. Trust me, I have committed them all.
If you want to build an authority site in 2014, you need to focus more on quality and less on the the latest way to hack Google’s results. Google now has an anti-SEO fraud team and they’re probably much, much smarter than that blackhat SEO guru you’ve been reading.
Building Great On-Site And Off-Site Content
To build an authority site in 2014—or any other year—you need just two things: authoritative quality content and incoming links implicitly verifying your authority.
What content you create depends on what you want to be an authority of. A video camera authority will probably need video reviews. A grammar authority will probably need sentence examples. The goal here is not weak, short content written by you over coffee or by a contractor for pennies per article but long, great content which answers questions and provides actionable follow-up steps.
When I’m writing authoritative content—or anything really—I try to put myself in the place of the audience and write what I would want to read. Here’s what I usually want:
- As many details as possible and answers my question.
- Content that’s easy to skim.
- Bolding, italicizing, highlighting, and other emphasis techniques only applied to important information.
I also follow these simple steps:
- Type the main keywords into the search engines to check out the competition.
- Read through their content and simply see if I can do better.
- Gather information from various sources and create the ultimate content, one stop shop.
- Always confirm or test the information you post. You will not last long if you publish content that is not correct.
But even if you have great authoritative content on your site, you still need incoming links. Worse, nobody will link to you until they hear about you. For that reason, the classic SEO technique of guest posting is still my favorite way to publicize websites both to Google and to other webmasters. Even though it is tougher to get guest posting links, it is not all about SEO anyway, it is about building your audience. See my article about ditching backlinking for relationship building.
If you have a genuine authority site and you offer to provide a quality blog post to any webmaster, you’re certain to not only get a single backlink but also someone else paying attention to your website, if only briefly. Often a good guest post exchange can turn into an online friendship and the opportunity for more links and more publicity.
Remember that publicity follows the snowball effect. It takes a long time to get a little bit of publicity but only a little bit more time to get a lot more publicity. You have to work hard for those first few 100 incoming links, but the next 1,000 will practically take care of themselves. People will start mentioning you because they know and trust you.
But remember, when all is said and done, you are still responsible for WHO links to your site. Always monitor incoming links to make sure they are natural and not harming your sites rankings.
Conclusion: Build Your Niche Authority Site Today
If you select your niche wisely, building an authority site can be relatively easy—it can take less than 20 hours of work (or $500 of contracting) to build your core content and only about 20 more hours of guest posting to establish your reputation as an authority. That’s a week of work (without even any overtime) or about $1,000 of investment for a site which can easily earn $10,000 or more a year. But even though the Internet doesn’t seem to be running out of niches, it is quickly running out of the most fun niches—so don’t wait too long to start your own authority site or you’ll be stuck building authority sites about rare gross medical conditions.