What you will learn
In this Episode, Mark & Gael look back at their last three years running authority sites for a living and talk about their experiences, good or bad with the business model.
They first get back to the basics and explain what, according to them is an authority site.
What is an Authority Site?
For Mark, it’s clearly a website that is meant to be a bridge between an informational query a browser searched for and a commercial solution.
He considers you can use content to both sell and establish yourself as an “authority” in your niche.
The content has to be so good according to him that the readers will trust your upcoming advice and you can capitalise on it by either selling your products & services or recommending other companies who compensate you (affiliate marketing).
The Difference Between Authority Sites & Niche Sites
Both Gael & Mark agree that there is a lot of overlap, especially when starting out.
Most authority sites mostly start as niche sites.
The main difference being that niche sites tend just to be a gateway towards a solution (affiliate offer) while Authority sites also strike to build a relationship with their readers and have them come back.
Authority sites also do not just rely on SEO to generate traffic.
Good niches for Authority Sites
Both Mark and Gael agree that a great niche is a niche where you can add value and produce something different from what is out there already.
This is what they did with Authority Hacker with great success.
Regarding particular niches, lifestyle choices and passions are niches they highly recommend.
Here are a few examples:
Mark and Gael both come from an SEO background and to this day search generates most of the traffic they have to their websites.
However, they admit slowly getting into social media and building up referral traffic is an increasing part of the way they get new visitors to their sites.
Mark and Gael use four main ways of monetising traffic:
- Advertising (Adsense, Media.net, Buysellads)
- Affiliate Marketing (Amazon, Clickbank)
- Selling informational products like ebooks
Main takeaways after running authority sites for three years:
- Stacking business models are when you start making good money, don’t focus on a single income stream.
- Despite being hardly measurable, branding plays a huge role when it comes to growing a site faster so take the time to make you site look good.
- You can sell way more to your audience than you think you can. Don’t shy away from pushing a relevant product to them.
- Keep your sites simple at first and execute fast
- Starting websites is easy, scaling content production and promotion is the real hard part so get started quickly.
- The money you earn is the only metric that counts.
- Focus on doing a few things well than many things badly.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode
Welcome to the Authority Hacker podcast, the place to learn field tested, no BS tactics to grow hack your online business, and finally, live life on your own terms. Now, your hosts, Gael and Mark.
Gael: Hey guys, welcome to the Authority Hacker podcast, the place where we talk about no BS online marketing strategies and tips. In today’s episode, Mark and I sat down and talked about our updated version of the authority website model for 2016. Authority websites are what Mark and I do for living, the model is still very much a work in progress but already is making a fairly decent six-figure amount a year in dollars and we make a living running our websites right now doing a mixture of advertising, affiliate marketing and information product selling. And the main points of the discussion today are: the first is the main difference between niche and authority site and how they are different in a way you are going to be running them. The next one is the best niches that you can pick for your authority site and the niches that tend to work better if you are thinking of starting one. Then, we are going to talk about the ways to get traffic and how we monetize the traffic. And finally we’ll jump into the pros and cons of running sites and what we learned running authority site for now a little bit over three years. I hope you’ll enjoy this discussion, have fun.
Gael: All right, so today I have Mark with me, how is it going Mark?
Mark: It’s going great.
Gael: Cool. The first thing that we need to go over for this topic is explain to people what an authority site actually is, because it is a pretty broad definition and a lot of people use it for a lot of different things actually. So for us, what is it?
Mark: Ok, so you are right in saying that it is a very broad definition and it will mean different things to different people. From my perspective, it’s essentially a website which is intended to make money, so it’s like a commercial venture by selling products or generating money through affiliate income. Now, the key thing is that the use of content, particularly the use of like really good content to establish yourself either you as the individual, you as the brand as sort of like a knowledge leader in whatever niche it is you are in or whatever industry it is you are in. So you are subconsciously trying to provide value to earn the trust of your readers not just like sell them something and then forget about them kind of thing, but you are trying to build more of like a long term relationship, get into emailing these people, build a list, and through providing value, building trust, and building their relationship, it then makes it easier to either sell your own products, recommend other people’s products etc. That’s like the short version.
Gael: Yeah. I think earning trust also can be like all those single pieces of content via email so, like for example, we do a lot of product reviews, for example for affiliate marketing and the trust is earned because the reviews are good usually and people just buy at the end.
Mark: Yeah, and it also when you are writing a review for example, it also refers to other parts of the site so they can see it’s not just someone sticking up a few reviews about the product and like hoping to rank for the keyword, it’s someone who knows what they are talking about and there is like other information on the site.
Gael: Yeah, I think this is a good intro to basically explain the difference that this has like this kind of site has between authority sites and niche sites, and I think they usually start kind of the same. Anyway, it’s like a big site with a lot of content, starts with one piece of content. And I don’t think it’s worth waiting to have hundreds of pieces of content to actually release your site, you can definitely release with very little content and we did that for all our sites it was ok. But the niche site is definitely here to rank for commercial keywords, for example “best microphone for podcast”, or something and then it will just try to rank just for that, and then it’s going to release a bunch of products and hope people click through and never come back. It never builds a relationship, whereas an authority site rather is definitely do the sale and make the sale and compete for these keywords as well and they actually have better chances for ranking but they also place a lot of empathy on like getting people coming back and-
Mark: You want to sell something to them but you want to keep selling something to them, again and again and again, over time, that’s the key difference.
Gael: It’s way more branded because of that. So that’s really the main difference. Essentially, a niche you build like 20 pages, 30 pages, 50 pages maybe and you stop working on it and you kind of do something else is very passive; While these authority sites you can keep producing content and keep growing the monthly income which is not so common for the niche sites, you know. It’s basically the main difference, I would say.
Mark: Yeah. I think as well, and this doesn’t have to be the case, but they can be a bit more broader in scope, so like when I look at our own ones I look at Health Ambition that is ok, it’s not just health but it’s like more nutrition based health but that’s still very broad topic, if we were doing a niche site, we would focus on one specific area of health, like making smoothies or something.
Gael: I mean, the thing is like you are treating your site like a hub of websites, so back in the day people would create a different website with an exact match domain for each of them to try to rank higher for their keywords, and now it’s really more about domain authority in terms of SEO, so you are better off with just having like one big broad site and then just creating many categories that expand your brand. So, rather than starting a new site you just create a new category on your big authority site. It’s just you get more results and you don’t need to rebuild the domain authority every time and so on, and it’s like on many on our sites now we just press “publish” and a couple of days later we are just ranking in Google, we haven’t done any link building, we haven’t done anything, just because we have done that before then now all it takes is to publish basically, and that’s really a good place to be at actually.
Mark: Yeah, and it also allows certain tactics like the sky scrapping model and- ok, yes, you can use that in the niche sites to an extent, but it becomes like an intrinsic part of an authority site you have these high value articles, which aren’t necessarily being like super monetized but can attract a lot of links.
Gael: Yes, plus because you are building it makes more sense to invest a lot more in this link building because you know that every single category in the future is going to benefit from that, you know.
Mark: Yeah. Key thing as well with regards to link building is we would never do any kind of like gray hat PBN stuff to our authority sites just because they can take a bit of time to get going sometimes, depending on the niche and how you are focused on it, but we are not trying to cash out in the next 18 months before the next Google update, that’s a big thing as well. I feel that like from the creator’s point of view, from our point of view, when we are building new authority site, it’s like a different mindset that you need to approach it, so we are not quite as much just trying to make as much money off of people initially as possible although you can push the sale and sell hard and what not. I feel that we are also trying really to deliver the valuable stuff, and not just fluffy valuable stuff but genuine good content which will make a difference and help people in whatever goal or area it is we are talking about. And I think just by doing that, that’s like the process of helping us to establish like a proper brand behind what it is we are doing.
Gael: Yeah, I mean, if people are listening to this podcast they know what we are talking about.
Mark: Yeah, that’s true.
Gael: That’s kind of within that concept, it’s like we sell stuff on Authority Hacker but you don’t have to pay anything to consume this podcast, and it hopefully can help you whether you are a customer or not. Now, let’s talk about niches for authority sites, because so many people get stuck, they want to do that stuff, they like the idea but they are like, “Oh my God, every niche is taken, it’s so competitive, I cannot get into anything. So how do I pick a good niche for this kind of site?”
Mark: Ok, so we are going to talk about some actual specific niches that you can choose in a second. But like, I agree this is one of the most popular questions to anyone in internet marketing, not just starting an authority site but- what niche should I go for. My experience of this is, when I first started I wanted to find a niche that nobody was doing, and because I thought that’s the way to go, to discover something new and you won’t have many competition and you can make some money off of. And so, actually, the first ever website created was- I wouldn’t even call it the authority site, was an affiliate site and it just had a bunch of mini reviews, we weren’t very good. I don’t know if you remember these netbooks, these EPCs they were like way before MacBook, around like 2008, something like that, 2007 even. I made this site about these and no one else was doing it, they were brand new. But, it turns out they were never that popular, and that’s probably why you never heard of them. But that was the wrong way to approach it, the right way to approach is- you should look for competition, and if there is no competition, you should be worried. Because why is there no competition- well, chances are someone has tried it and they didn’t make any money off of it, so there is nothing really out there. So, actually looking for industries, niches where there is lots of competition and you can see people creating their own products, promoting other people, there is lots of affiliate products, that kind of stuff, there is like a gravity around it-
Gael: There is way more money in general I think.
Mark: Yeah, then that’s a good indicator, you should go for that kind of niche. Now, it doesn’t mean that you need to go, “Ok, I’m going to start a health site,” or, “I’m going to start a site about how to make money online”. There is loads of sites out there that do that. You absolutely can get into that industry, but a way to do it would be to focus on a specific area of that or, come at it from like a different angle.
Gael: Or having an amazing brand I would say.
Mark: Or a mixture of all 3. So in general, when I come into something I’m looking for a way in which I can add value to that niche. So, whether that’s some kind of new insight or new idea, which is unlikely to be honest, because unless you have a specific expertise on certain area which happens sometimes but- when we got into health I didn’t really know too much about it, so that was like an idea, but rather what we did was arrange content in a different way, or at least that was the theory behind it. So, what I mean by that is that rather than “ok, we’ll find a keyword and just write a random 500 word article about it”, it’s like, “ok so, we want to make this site about actually getting people to take action on it because people read a lot about health and make some feel happy”. But they never actually do the things which make the difference in their life, so we are like, “ok, let’s start a site where it’s more kind of- it’s health but there is a bit of productivity in getting things done angle in there as well, so I’m sure other people have done that as well but it’s kind of like a slightly different angle in an established niche. That can make a big difference when you are selecting a niche. And yeah, as you said, when there is stuff to sell, you want to make sure there are products to promote because that’s probably the biggest indicator of a niche you can choose.
Gael: Yeah, I would say as well this quote unquote competitive niche, like they are not that hard in the 12:08 SEO anymore. I’d only figured better or if things got worse but since the crazy spamming backlinks stuff doesn’t work anymore since 12:18 it’s not that difficult to actually show up for pretty interesting keywords and even the most competitive niches such as like weight loss and all that stuff, you know?
Mark: Yeah, if you focus on, if you find a keyword or a cluster of keywords that you are interested in ranking for, just look at what the top sites are doing and write something better than that.
Gael: Yeah, the perfect example I think is actually Authority Hacker. When the site was like a year old and I wrote this massive post on like how 23 bloggers make money blogging and that optimized it for how to make money blogging and without any link building, it’s like number 2 or 3 on Google on “how to make money blogging”. Which is one of the most competitive keywords in the industry. Now, it’s a really good piece of content but when I wrote that piece it was like we were less than the main authority 30 you know, we were not very strong, and yeah, it rank in like 3 weeks I think. And it got us a lot of email subscribers, if you listen to that podcast you might be coming from this blog post so that’s a good example of how it’s not that competitive anymore. Anyone can compete for some very competitive keywords now.
Mark: You have to write some pretty damn good content on the keywords you are targeting. Like these big sites, sure, they can just turn out 1500 good articles, they are quite generic and they’ll do all right in that case, you wrote something which was pretty epic, better than everyone else, and it worked.
Gael: If you really want it you can get any keyword, you know, that’s all I am saying. About the niches, so what do you say this is something where you can add value and what you can arrange the content slightly differently, it’s not very practical. What niches are good?
Mark: Ok, so the way I would generally think of it is think of the customer or the user at the end of the day and what motivates them to buy stuff. And generally, people are motivated by their emotions. Every couple of years people need to buy a new smart phone for example, but in this day and age, it’s not really that much of an emotional decision, it’s like a necessity almost. With emotional things- people can be a little bit more irrational about them, and they affect their lives in very strong ways so things like losing weight, fixing some kind of problem, making money, something to do with kids or pets, like all of these areas are very, very emotional and people would go a lot further than they would if they needed to buy a new kitchen table or something. They would go a lot further with the emotional areas that I just mentioned in order to achieve whatever it is they are looking to achieve. So, you know, like weight loss is a really good example, it’s one of the most popular niches as well and I can tell you that people really want to lose weight, it’s a huge problem, especially in the US right now. I think something like 60% of the population is overweight or some crazy figure like that. So, yeah I mean, people want to be thin, people want to lose weight. So, that’s a perfect example.
Gael: Yeah, Mark is talking about losing weight and making money and all that stuff, these are you know big emotional needs etc, I think they are big, and also another one I see we have on the notes here is pets, and because people just care about their pets as much as they care about their kids. And so you can sell stuff to people. But the problem is- I walk to and I say, “Hey I have a weight loss product”, and people are not interested. You are more thinking of like probably a 50 years old woman that has had 3 kids and is trying to lose weight and she won’t be interested. However, if I say, “Hey I have a weight loss thing for people that are between 30 and 35, and had a lot of fun in their twenties, and now they want to be healthy”, now you they are going to be more interested. And the reason why is because it feels like you can identify more and that’s one thing that you need to do with your site- like there is the broad niche you can pick, but then you can pick a different angle to it while aligning it to still covers the most topics in your niche. For example, Authority Hacker is a good example of that, it’s like Authority Hacker is basically online marketing, it’s making money online, but we have a business model that we follow, that we are talking about in this podcast; we take everything in online marketing and we put it through that scope of that angle and that business model. And we talk about it in these terms, so when we talk about affiliate marketing we are not talking about making a random PPC campaign, to an offer and trying to buy some kind of like banner traffic etc, it’s not what we do. What we do is like we create a value and then we attract traffic and we attract links then we sometimes boost it with paid, but we don’t buy a lot of paid traffic directly and so on, and then because people recognize that model and they like it- that’s what makes them follow Authority Hacker above Quicksproput or Search Engine Journal, or any of these big sites, or Moz for that case which are much bigger sites with much more content. And this angle is essentially building that kind of audience around you, it makes it much easier to build an audience, and then- then you can use the emotional stuff etc to sell stuff to them, so I think it’s quite important to talk about the angling actually.
Mark: Yeah, and I think it’s also important to think about how you break down a big topic like let’s take pets for example, because it’s probably quite easy one figure out. So within pets, you have obviously different kinds of pets, maybe if we look at dogs, so you could potentially start a site for dogs that’s pretty broad, could work, but you could actually break that down much further and in many different ways, not just by different breeds, you could start a site about west highland terriers, for example, that would probably do all right. Or you can focus like across all kind of dogs but like certain aspects of it, so maybe like dog training or dog products, I’ve been seeing one where like dog jackets, these are different ways that you can approach a niche and we essentially did that with Authority Hacker, as well, make money online is so broad. Ok, use this model that we sort of like defined in this way-
Gael: We kind of put it together from different pieces you know.
Mark: Yeah. And, it’s a much easier way to break down like a complex niche, complex area and actually start providing some information which is consistent and will attract like a specific audience.
Gael: Yeah, I think a good example of that is like bullymake.com which is a company that sells toys for like heavy chewing dogs, that would destroy toys so they make like super strong chewing toys for dogs. And they just do for these breads and they just have a blog and they promote it on Facebook, and this is actually just a guy in his garage that started there and now the company is like well into 5 figures a month, just because he angled it and it was very easy for him to them target people that like these specific breads of dogs on Facebook, and yeah, he makes really good money actually. So-
Mark: People love their dogs so they spend a lot of money on them.
Gael: So that’s why the niche is like basically take something emotional, something that has a lot of competition but then take an angle that makes you unique and kind of kills away all the competition because a certain segment of the population is going to identify more with your vision of things, you know. I think that’s basically it.
Mark: Yeah, the other thing is, I would just say like tech stuff in general, I mean there are certain smaller areas within tech which is good, but tech in general is now good because what I find is there is a lot of people out there providing free information about iPhone reviews and various other things as well-
Gael: And they are really good, usually.
Mark: Yeah. And anything to do with gaming as well, people provide free content for the most of this, if you are looking for the World of Warcraft leveling guide, I don’t play the game but I’m sure there is loads of information on forums and people provide this stuff for free, so to that extent, you might think of targeting something which there is not so many internet savvy people in the area like something that alder people like, like gardening or home crafts or that kind of stuff as well. And you might find that you get more success with those kind of niches.
Gael: Another way we monetize is like advertising and sponsorship. And in tech and gaming, most people run adblock, which completely destroys your advertising revenue. So, yeah it’s another reason not to go for that. But basically, the two kinds of niches you should go for is like lifestyle and passion. Like any kind of sports, any kind of activities like hunting, and fishing, like cricket, and tennis, whatever, it works. And passions as well, so like any craft like if you like doing pottery, of if you like doing sculptures, that kind of stuff works really well, and usually the sites in these niches are absolutely terrible, so it’s very easy to come in and not even be amazing at creating websites but still have something ten times better than what’s out there. And there is very little free content as well about these things online. So the internet is waiting to be built and if you build it first you can do pretty well and what’s interesting with passion and hobbies is it’s actually very easy to target people with Facebook ads so if you want to build an audience quickly, it’s pretty cool actually. Now, if we talk about have a good traffic, w e actually get traffic in different ways, a lot of people ask us. We come an SEO background so we create the content that ranks for certain keywords and because we build domain authority now and we know how to build links, we have been getting quite a bit of traffic from SEO on out sites so I would say like on Health Ambition, our site, over 80%. And on Authority Hacker, it’s over 50% now actually. So it’s quite a lot, but it’s quite important to actually not just do SEO for your traffic, and most importantly, when you do SEO properly, you are going to be generating other kinds of traffic, so transsocial. For example, when people subscribe to our email, we invite them to join a bunch of social profiles we have like You Tube Channel for Authority Hacker, iTunes as well, Facebook page etc, and so well you should be kind of posting regularly, and we are not doing it right now on Authority Hacker but we do it on Health Ambition quite a lot, and kind of like driving traffic back, and also building relationships, I know we do a lot of Pinterest on Health Ambition for example. And so, by building you should definitely focus on one source of traffic initially because it’s impossible to build everything at once. For us, it’s SEO because we are good at it, if you are good at social media focus on social media. But then, then kind of like build up the other ones using the strength of the first one so because we have the SEO traffic, we just get people to follow us on social media, then we update, then they share, then we get traffic on social etc, and as we do our link building we get quite a bit of traffic from referral as well from guest posts, from people linking to us etc. So, that’s basically how we get traffic, we use a little bit of Facebook, Facebook paid traffic and we use that mostly for retargeting actually so if you visited the website but you didn’t opt in for example we are going to follow you for I think like 60 days or something to offer you the download, if the downloaded but didn’t buy like the offer then we may follow you with that etc. So we use paid traffic but more like what is closer to monetization, not to just generate cold traffic at this point. So it’s basically how we get traffic and not a lot of people ask us that. Do you want to talk about the ways we can monetize the sites?
Mark: Yeah. So there is 4 kind of broad ways, I mean there is a n infinite number of ways you can monetize, but the 4 main ways I say are like, fist one is advertising and sponsorship, so advertising is kind of running Google AdSense, buy/sell ads is another one we use in Health Ambition, they are kind of like monetizing space on your page to have banners and stuff, and while it’s good, and it’s somewhat predictable, and it’s very easy to set up, and also you can actually monetize content, you know, if that wouldn’t otherwise be monetized, by products and stuff, so it has its place, I wouldn’t necessarily rely on this a s like a primary source of income, it’s more kind of a secondary source but certainly one you should start playing around with from day 1.
Gael: It depends, if you create really viral content, it can be pretty good, I know Jon from FuzTax 25:35 world.com, he mostly just creates like these kind of buzz feed type posts he just does advertising. But like-
Mark: If you buzz feed- you’ll make a fortune off of advertising like this but the average person starting an authority site you are not going to have millions of visitors a week or anything, at least not initially. So, it can be all right and you can really make a decent income from it, fairly easily but- do focus on other options, as well. Another thing which kind of comes under advertising is like sponsorship, so it’s something where I should think for this podcast, like should we accept like a sponsor like some company in the IM niche would like pay us to feature their brand or their message, whatever, at start or the end of podcast. It happens quite a lot with podcasting specifically and other sort of twitch live streamers do it a lot this kind of thing. Be a little careful with those because you’ve got to be careful, a lot of people will say that they are doing that but actually all they are doing is try to buy links from you, so. No follow those links. So the next one would be affiliate marketing. This is probably the thing you should consider first actually when you are choosing your niche and it’s affiliate marketing is when you link to someone else’s product and you track it usually by a cookie on their computer and you get paid a commission for everything they buy for every product they buy within x amount of time. There is millions of websites offer affiliate programs, the biggest one is probably Amazon, we use that a lot on Health Ambition where we are talking about some kind of like organic chocolate say and then we could link to a page in Amazon and if people buy it, within 24 hours, the cookie time for Amazon which is quite low actually, then we- it varies, but it’s something around, 6 or 7, or 8%-
Gael: Around 7% I think.
Mark: Which, when you have a lot of traffic it really can be quite a lot, especially for Christmas.
Gael: You get paid for everything they buy for during that time as well so a lot of the money we make is from stuff that actually we didn’t link to, you know.
Mark: Yeah. A lot of our affiliate income comes from recommending information products and there is various networks where product sellers and affiliates kind of like meet and interact. Click Bank is probably the most famous one and you actually wrote a pretty detailed post about how to make money with Click Bank if I remember. So maybe link to that in the show notes, but that is an obvious place to start, you can search their market place, figure out which information products in your category, in your niche are selling the best or have the most other people selling them, and then you can really quickly create a link, a special link with a code in it and use that to link on your site or on your emails to link to-
Gael: I just want to one thing about Amazon, one thing that is cool about Amazon is like, especially when you talk about health even when you do any kind of story it’s very easy for us to make like a list post, like 5 healthy or natural remedies for headaches, or something like that, and then we’ll mention some random stuff, we’ll mention some random supplement or oil that people can use and it’s very easy to just link to it casually, it doesn’t feel like it’s monetize even, it’s just like linking to it.
Mark: Yeah, or if you make a recipes you could put it in the list of ingredients, but with Click Bank the affiliate products or the products in there, they are all information products like e books, courses and this kind of stuff-
Gael: Actually, they started selling physical stuff now.
Mark: Ok, I didn’t know. But they tend to be much higher value and you can earn much higher percentage commission usually up to like 75% sometimes, even more, and they have also like smart upsells and that so, certain products, you can earn like $70, $80, if people buy them and take the upsells like quite consistently. It takes a lot, you really have to shift a lot of products on Amazon to sell that so there is definitely much more opportunity with like sort of info products and this also applies in, like with Authority Hacker to software products they tend to have their own affiliate programs, is software companies so like 30:18 trefs is a big one that we have a review of that up I think and we refer people to that we have like a video of how to use-
Gael: We have 4 videos actually, there is over an hour of video training.
Mark: Yes, so Gael made an hour of video on how to use it and like how to do specific techniques that will- what to do?
Gael: It’s just like to analyze the backlinks, find link opportunities. My videos literally teach people how to build backlinks. I wanted to say about that actually, these higher ticket items it’s a way how to sell to Amazon products, so you get paid more, it’s more like you need to take the product and you need to brainstorm what it does for people and why people buy it, so for example, in the case 31:08 don’t buy 31:08 because they want to see the links, they buy 31:10 because they want to build links themselves, they want to rank high in Google. So you need to take the product, and you need to make kind of you need to brainstorm what it does for people in that case rank high in Google, then you need to create content that is related to that problem and present the product as solution. That’s how you sell essentially.
Mark: Yeah. And there are various ways how you can do that, but just consider skills that had to add value to it. Another popular thing I’ve seen is like if there is not a software tool but like a course, like how to make money online kind of thing that someone has recommended, they will do kind of like walk through so like the affiliate and his users or people he is recommending will all go through the course at the same time and they will share tips and Facebook groups and so on, there is lots of stuff like that you can do. But yeah, that’s just affiliate marketing.
Gael: We’ll get a bit deeper into that.
Mark: So, the evolution of affiliate marketing is creating your own products so it’s basically the same stuff rather than selling other people’s ebooks or software you create your own and sell that. Generally, it’s best to be an affiliate first and you get much bigger idea of what works, what doesn’t work, and you also build your audience and then release your own product.
Gael: Most importantly, if you can sell- most of the time, you will find a product as an affiliate, you will promote it as an affiliate, you will build everything to sell this product, and all you have to do is swap the affiliate offer with your own offer and like double the money you make or something.
Mark: Yeah, although you do need to be careful, because a lot of these people with affiliate products have optimized your sales pages over time and like really, they know their stuff so we find for example switch products it was like a big decrease in sales, but we know why, I mean there is issues with our funnel, with like the check out card design and stuff like that, so be cautious with that but it’s kind of like a step after the affiliate marketing, for most people at least. The final one as well is e-commerce, physical products and that could be anything from these dog chews which you mentioned to your own kind of chocolate or really it can be almost anything. It’s not something I have too much experience doing myself, and it can even be more tricky to setup but there is a lot of really cool companies out there like Amazon for example offer this like fulfillment service where you can like ship a bunch of products from the supplier to Amazon, Amazon will package it for you and sell it to your customers, obviously they charge you for the sponsorship. But yeah, I mean, it’s quite easy in this day and age to start selling stuff online, you need to find a supplier though which is probably the most tricky part.
Gael: Yeah, I mean, the real ninja trick with the e commerce is to start as an Amazon affiliate kind of like start shipping a lot of the same products so say you want to sell like dog shirts for example. Then you are going to do your SEO, you are going to find like whatever people search to buy dog shirts, and then you are going to be producing a lot of content, and you are going to just affiliate it on Amazon, you are going to sell someone else’s product on Amazon, take your 7% and be happy with it for a while, but then you are going to look at your report and when you start selling like 20 or 50 a month of the product, you can literally buy the stock yourself, like find someone in China on Alibaba or something and then have it shipped to Amazon and instead of linking to that other person’s listing on Amazon, you list to your own listing inside your content, you already have the sales ready, your website is making your sales and then as you make sales on Amazon, because you are directing traffic to it, well first of all you take way more money, you are taking like 50% instead of 7% or something. And most importantly, you can get reviews and stuff and eventually rank organically on Amazon and generate even more sales. That is the real ninja trick with e commerce and authority sites. Which is somewhere we want to get, eventually, we haven’t done that yet, I know some people doing it, and they are doing very well. Are we done with monetization?
Gael: Ok, cool. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of authority sites. I’m sure a lot of people after we talked about monetization are getting really excited and they are like oh my God, why am I not doing this, why is nobody talking about this, this is amazing- well, there is a lot of pros and I’m going to talk about these, but we are going to talk about the cons first. And the con is- it takes a lot of time to get going, I mean, especially if you do it the way we do, mostly with SEO then SEO itself, if you buy a fresh domain for the first six to eight months you don’t get a lot of action usually no matter how much content you do, how much link building you do etc, it is pretty slow. So, you need to have your time and both of domain sites we work on now are turning, I mean Authority Hacker is going to turn 3 years old in six month actually and Health Ambition is going to turn 3 or 4 years old. So it’s great from where we are at, but in your first six month do not expect to get a lot of action, there is a lot of other ways to build an audience, but it’s going to cost you money, usually, so that’s basically it. And the other thing is, if you were dreaming to just sit on the beach after six months and do nothing, you are going to be disappointed, it’s actually quite a bit of work to run these sites. So it’s something that you need to be conscious of, it’s like, yeah, you can live from it, you can live very well from it, but for the first few years at least it’s going to be more of a job replacement than a quit-your-job-and-do-nothing thing. So, and you are going to have to figure out a lot of stuff out, like creating quality content and so on. So it’s pretty difficult. On the other hand, there is quite a few pros as well. The first pro is it’s long term, so like what I really like is for example we just came back from the Christmas break, when we are recording this and the truth is we haven’t worked on our sites so much for the past two weeks or something and I actually did the numbers, today it’s 31st of December 2015, and this morning I did the numbers for the site, and actually in the case of Authority Hacker, that was actually one of the best months we had except when we did the launch essentially. And that was despite the fact that we took a break that was basically half the month and we actually didn’t even post on the blog this month, we didn’t do anything. So one thing that’s great is like it’s slow to get going but there is that kind of inertia that makes your sites keep going for a long time, even if you do nothing on them, and that’s pretty cool. Another pro is you can get started with basically no budget provided you have time and talent. Basically, to be successful you need 2 out of 3 things, you need 2 out of time, talent and money. So if you have no money, you can just well with time and talent; money but no time you can do ok by hiring people and spending your money and finding the talent essentially, and that’s basically it. So you can start with basically no money. And finally, it’s pretty stable, as I said I don’t think it would be very easy to for us to actually completely tank the revenue and like many other kinds of business and like even though we rely on SEO because of the fact that we do everything white hat, I don’t see why the things would change, you know. So, do you have any other pros and cons Mark?
Mark: No, just to reiterate that it feels to me at least much more like establishing a proper business, and it’s like, it’s a real asset that other people will value, it’s sellable, it’s like something solid, I feel with a lot of these kind of thin affiliate sites that they can kind of fall apart at any moment whereas an authority site feels much more stable as you said.
Gael: Yeah, I mean it’s like a brand, it’s like even if we got the index from Google I think people would still read our sites you know, and link to it etc so it would really suck if we got the index from Google, don’t get me wrong, but first of all there is a reason for this to happen, because we haven’t done anything for it. And, second of all, yeah, we could probably still figure it out. Cool, let’s just jump on like, basically Mark and I- let’s just put some context around that- Mark and I have been running these sites for- how old is Health Ambition? Health Ambition is turning 3 years old, that’s our oldest authority site, and we had no idea what we were doing when we started but throughout doing this and building a 5 figures a month businesses we learned quite a few things. The first one is that stacking business model- so if you just try to make money with Amazon or just try to make money with AdSense, or just try to make money with Clickbank, chances are you would make some money and you can make several thousand dollars a month, but get into like a good 5 figure a month is going to be quite difficult. However, if you build that site and then you try to run in parallel a little bit of advertising, on the articles that aren’t necessarily monetizable, you run a bit of effort in marketing here and there like a light affiliate marketing I would call it with Amazon, then you are running a bit of info marketing, via email marketing, then you promote some e commerce stuff etc, if you add these things up, on top of each other it’s actually much easier to get to pretty decent income rather than like trying to focus on one. So it’s really about running these in parallel. The second one is- branding is super important. It’s something we didn’t realize initially we always wanted to have sites that look clean and so on and trust me, when you run quite a bit of advertising, it’s hard to keep your site clean, it’s like even now Health Ambition I think we can do a little bit better. Branding is- once you start getting some traffic, it’s what is going to determine the rate at which people share and link to you which essentially determines your passive growth, the growth that happens when you don’t do anything, which does happen, but your branding is going to decide how fast this happens. Another thing that we’ve learned is when you start, you are very afraid to sell to the audience, you are like oh my God, I need to give them free stuff, and the truth is, I was like that with Authority Hacker initially, a little bit less so right now, but it’s true, and what we’ve learned is you can get away with selling, way more than you can, and if people get pissed off essentially at what you are selling, tell them that they got all these amazing free stuff without like spending a dollar, and most of the time, they would actually have to pay to get similar stuff to get that kind of value so it’s ok, and we’ve gone away with like selling a lot without providing value sometimes. Another one that we learn, another point is keep it simple and execute fast so it’s something that Mark and I are pretty bad at, in general, it’s like there are simple business models that you can take and replicate so for example if you do let’s say you do these articles, “best microphone for podcast” you could literally find hundreds and hundreds of keywords around that and once you have something that works, it’s just like scale it up rather than trying to complexify everything and once you have it scaled up and automate than start complexifying stuff.
Mark: Complexify is not a word.
Gael: i think that illustrates the purpose, you know.
Gael: Did you have any other points?
Mark: Yeah, focus on making money, that sounds pretty obvious, but I read this book called “The Goal” in university and it was about how so many businesses like proper bricks and motor business they spend a lot of time doing stuff which doesn’t really make the money and they lose track of that. So your goal remember isn’t to have lots of traffic your goal is not to have lots of emails on your list, your goal is not to look cool and have lots of people liking you on Facebook and saying how awesome you are- those things are all good to have, don’t get me wrong, but your goals to make money, and at the end of the day, as a business, that’s all that matters. So everything you do needs to be with that in mind. Now that’s not to say that you should just not worry about traffic, and not worry about making people happy, or anything because all these other things contribute to you making money but those things alone should not be the goal, so don’t spend, and this is something we did, we spent the first six months of Health Ambition trying to grow traffic, didn’t even spend one second trying to make any money off of it. We were like, we’ll figure that alter, don’t do that, you should be figuring out how to make money off of it before you even launch the site. So that’s one thing and you need to write this down on a like a posted note stick it on the side of your monitor, what is the goal- write it down and every time you look at it think- Am I doing stuff which is going to help me make money, and if you find you are spending too much time on the stuff answering comments or doing stuff which isn’t helping directly and there is other more important things which will help you to make money, then do those instead and come back to the other stuff later. It’s kind of just like extension of the point like don’t try and do everything, keep it simple. But the simple stuff should be the money making bits. So yeah, that’s pretty much it, the other thing that kind of overlaps with this is like don’t try and do everything, at once, so when you are running these kinds of sites if you are an authority hacker pro member, you can go in and find like all of these different blueprints of things to do which will get you more emails, get you more traffic, get you more sales. The fact is it takes you a long time to implement all of these, so just focus on doing a few things and do them well, and get them done it’s much better to have a few things done and implemented rather than a lot of things half finished that all serve you much better in the long run I think.
Gael: Yep. Anything else we need to add to this podcast?
Mark: No, I think that kind of covers the basics.
Gael: Cool, well that was a pretty long one but I knew it would be. That was our 2016 version of the authority site model I hope you guys got inspired from that and if you have any questions feel free to tweet us, go on Facebook and send us a message, and you can also subscribe to this podcast on authorityhacker.com/podcast, you can subscribe on iTunes, you can subscribe on SoundCloud, you can subscribe on Stitcher so go on check it out and we’ll see you guys in the next episode.