Yesterday, I wrote about why I wanted to replicate the authority site model  on one of my new sites. After watching Google penalize websites that are playing the SEO game, I thought that building larger and more useful sites could be the best way to rank in search engines. Eventually, we will be able to let spiderbots determine what good content is and they won’t be far from the truth.
My quest to build an authority site is just starting and the official announcement will be done on August 31st along with other bloggers participating in this duel. I want to concentrate this week on my overall plan to build such a site. Being an authority is a big statement, if you are not prepared, you will definitely fail. I’ve actually been thinking about this project for the past 12 months and started to work on it just recently. Here’s what I’ve learned so far…
Lesson #1: Research In Depth
If you don’t know your topic inside out, you are obviously missing the point here! To become an authority, you must know a lot of things about and around your topic too. Sometimes, you are better off concentrating on a smaller niche and upgrading your knowledge in a very specific field. It’s not a secret for everyone that I love investing and that I know a lot about dividends. If I had to make a chart to identify all the fields that I must know (not be an expert, but understand), it would look like this:
As you can see, in order to become an authority in dividend investing, I must not only know this topic inside out but I must also understand several other concepts as well. One of the reasons why I’ve chosen the dividend investing niche is definitely because it requires a lot of knowledge to be able to talk about it. It makes this niche harder to copy than if I was talking about budgeting. Almost every PF blogger talks about their budget. Since budgeting touches several “general topics”, it’s harder to compete in this field. If I would draw the same chart for “budgeting”, here’s what it would look like:
As you can see, there are a lot of surrounding topics that are common to several personal finance bloggers. In fact, you don’t even have to be a PF blogger to know about those things. While most can write about budgeting, it becomes harder to write about dividend investing. If you can restrain your level of competition, then you will have a better chance to become an authority.
Lesson #2: Measure Yourself
Speaking of competition, this is definitely the second step: where are you right now compared to the current authorities in place? It’s important to determine who the current authorities are and to establish what you need to do in order to reach them and eventually surpass them. This is definitely not an easy task as we always think that we are better than most people in our niche. Reality check: unless you have a five digit RSS counter, you are not the authority in your niche ;-).
I use several techniques to determine who the authorities are in the niche I am aiming at. The first one is quite easy. I pull out a keyword search with Market Samurai and look at the top 10 sites coming out for the specific keywords (I suggest you read how to use Market Samurai ). Regardless of what people think, the top ranking site in search engines will have a better shot at being the top earning sites in that niche too. When you see how many backlinks these sites have, it gives you an idea of the competition you have.
Another great technique is to explore top ranking sites. Are they linking to other similar sites? Do they have a resource or blog roll section? Are they part of a group? If you want to determine who the authorities are in dividend investing, chances are that you will find them by looking at the Div-Net members . This is a small group of dividend bloggers who pretty much set the tone in the dividend investing world. One suggestion is to try to incorporate these groups if you want to establish your own site as an “elite” member. Using a smooth approach (such as commenting on their sites, linking to them from yours and sending “hello” emails is a good start!).
The last technique I’ve used in this case was to look at paid/premium sites. They are not direct competitors since my site will be free. However, it’s important to understand what a paid site will offer as compared to you. If you want to become an authority, you might want to offer a part of what is being offered by premium site. This will definitely make your site AWESOME!
Lesson #3: Find Your Own Angle
The easiest way to stand out from the crowd is probably to be yourself. By adding your tone, you become unique. In the dividend investing world, I’m one of the only bloggers to make jokes on a regular basis. This is not enough to become an authority, but it’s enough to stand out.
In the buying blogs business, I’ve found my own angle as I use leverage and have built a system where I don’t work many hours on my sites and still earn some decent money. This is my own angle, my own voice.
If you know your topic inside out, you will need to find a twist to present it a different way. This will bring more attention to your site and people will want to discover what you have to say. This lesson will enable you to get enough traction so you can prove to your new readers that you are worth reading on a regular basis.
Lesson #4: Write Tons of Content
Another way to prove yourself is to write tons of content. If you document every single angle there is about a topic, you will eventually be recognized as an authority. Being passionate about your topic will also help you write even more. For example, when I write on TFB, I never look at the time I spend typing or on the number of words my article will have. I just keep typing on my laptop until my hands hurt ;-).
The problem with a lot of content is that you don’t want your site being too cluttered. I always write down all my ideas before starting to write any content. Then I regroup my ideas into sub-topics that will eventually become my categories. I try to have a similar pattern for most of my sites so I feel comfortable when I start writing for any of them.
At that stage, I also have to do some further research. I’m always asking myself questions about what I’m writing in order to know more about the topic. It’s important to go even one step further. Everybody writes about what they know. Everybody will basically be able to write your first post, but if you go further and write 3-4 posts about the same topic covering all angles, then it becomes harder to copy your site!
Lesson #5: Become Extraordinary
Yeah… this part is easier said than done! Being extraordinary is not an easy task and I fail at it most of the time. You can be good, you can be great but being extraordinary is pretty tough. I guess you can reach it when you give so much that you can’t even believe your own eyes!
When I think of my eBook; Dividend Investing , I think I reached extraordinary. In 12 months, I hit 22,907 downloads! With this eBook, I was able to grow a huge investing newsletter and create a real community of dividend investors. I’ve received many thank you emails and questions regarding investing. When you achieve an extraordinary work, you can aim at extraordinary results. On the other hand, creating this eBook took a lot of time and I’ve also invested a few bucks in the process. The fact that I was offering it for free helped to get the book “viral” in a very small niche. This was also a great tool to be recognized as an authority in this field.
Lesson #6: Tweak Everything
Once you are done and happy with your site, it’s not over yet! If you reach the highest level of authority, other people (that read this post 😉 ) will have a look at what you do and will try to replicate it. Real authority sites are always one step ahead of everybody else. While others are copying their current methods, they are already working on something else.
Once in a while, it’s important to go back to your site and look at it. Browse the site and read some of your old articles. Eventually, you will find new areas to develop. You will be in a better position to tweak the design or add a few resources. A similar search through affiliate groups is also beneficial. You can get better products to advertise on your site and better ways to merchandise them.
Think of adding, videos, podcasts, a newsletter, forum, an eBook, online support, etc. There is always something to add to your site. You’re never done with tweaking and this is what will make your site the coolest site around!
One Last Lesson: Invest
In the end, I don’t think you can reach a high level of quality without investing a few bucks. Your site doesn’t have to cost $5,000 but investing in a good design and in a few pieces of crucial software to help you monetize it won’t hurt at all!
The more “little things” you add, the harder it will become to copy your site and the faster you will become an authority. This is one of the reasons why I’ve been working “in the dark” for so long with my new “authority-to-be” site; I wanted to improve it before it goes live. We have recently paid for a programmer in order to add a few features in addition to have a professional designer to work on the current layout. I want to start this challenge with a big bang ;-).
When it comes to the internet, most people make the same mistake of not investing money on their site. They think that everything can be run with a $10 monthly budget. It is possible and you will have a hard time standing out of the crowd if you do so!