Editor’s Note: If I had to point to the one thing which changed my life over the past decade, it would have to launching my own websites. The ancient Romans had a proverb: “The spoken words fly away, written words remain.” I’ve been doing marketing and strategy consulting for years – but it was only when I started writing stuff down and putting it on the internet that I truly gained some leverage over my ideas. Wrapping a website around a couple hundred line computer program that I wrote on impulse has turned into an immensely profitable side business. A single article I wrote in under an hour seven years ago quietly earns me over $500 a year of affilate commissions. A well designed website can be a steady source of new business and often costs less than the steak dinner that you would gladly buy for a new client or hot prospect….
Goals for A Professional Blog or Authority Website
While plenty of people are growing social media followings, there is still no substitute for a highly profitable, one-stop, content rich, authoritative blog website. Despite the mouthful of a description, this basically means a blog or resource site that is focused on a specific industry, niche, or sub-niche.
Besides the obvious financial reasons, there are two primary goals of any good authoritative resource website:
The first goal is to drive traffic to your website with SEO rich content. This means that you’re getting a lot of free organic traffic. While there are plenty of traffic generating methods that will help simply beyond SEO, it would be a mistake not to take full advantage of the SEO power that a site like this can generate.
The second goal is to keep people on your website for as long as possible and continue coming back for more. The longer your readers stay on your website consuming your content, the more opportunities you will have to make money through affiliate offers or other income generating methods.
Importance of Being the Expert
Whether you are the public figurehead or your website is just its own entity that you run from behind the scenes, it’s important to be perceived as an expert by your readers. You need to be the go-to authority within your niche or sub-niche. By being the expert authority within your niche, not only will readers continually come back to your website to see what new posts you have, but they will be much more likely to trust your recommendation when you are pitching affiliate offers. This trust they will have in your expertise is the key to making most of the money with your website.
While it may seem difficult to be perceived as the expert within a niche when your industry might already have huge, popular websites, it is a lot easier if you choose a sub-niche to start. By finding a specific sub-niche within your market, you are less likely to have direct competition, therefore you can dominate that space with your content.
After dominating a sub-niche as the go-to website, it becomes a lot easier to broaden your niche and compete with those larger websites within your industry. This is kind of a long term Trojan horse strategy. It’s pretty difficult to compete with those giant, more general information websites as one person or a small team operation. However, because they need to appeal to such a wide audience they have trouble competing with expert websites in a sub-niche like you will have. By the time you have become the authoritative expert within your sub-niche, you will likely have grown enough that broadening your niche and competing with the larger websites is much more attainable.
Positioning Yourself as an Expert
The first, and most important part of being seen as an expert, is to actually be an expert. This means you should be building a site around something that you already know a lot about, and something that you are interested in enough to continue learning. An expert never stops learning in their chosen field, and neither should you.
One of the easiest ways to show your expertise is to teach your readers useful things within your posts. Along with some quick tip blog posts, you should have some long, ultimate guides. The more in-depth, the better. These are the kinds of posts that will likely become some of the most popular on your website and therefore drive the most organic traffic. Creating a really good “ultimate guide to whatever” may even start being shared by other websites in the same space. You’d be surprised how often other websites will point their readers to your guide if it’s one of the niche’s best guides on the internet.
Another great way to show yourself as an expert is to write case studies about specific things you were involved in that had a successful outcome. Tell the story about how you used your expert skill to achieve a specific goal. Don’t be afraid to talk about the problems and obstacles along the way. Nobody expects an expert to be perfect right out of the gate. By talking about the problems you had and eventually overcame, you make yourself more relatable to your audience. Chronicling the journey of your case study like this humanizes you but also shows off your expertise when you eventually explain how you succeeded at your objective.
A great way to be seen as an expert is to be an expert guest on other people’s platforms. You can be a guest blogger on another person’s blog or be interviewed on their podcast or YouTube channel. You’d be surprised how many people are happy to have an expert such as yourself featured on their site because they are always needing fresh content. You’ll be able to make your own blog post linking to your guest spot, helping to further position yourself as an expert. As a little bonus, you’ll likely get a bump in your website traffic from new visitors that only heard of you from your guest spot.
Lastly, a really powerful way to be perceived as an expert is to write a book on your niche. This means a real, physical book that someone can hold in their hands and flip the pages. The truth is it’s not difficult to publish a book these days. Amazon let’s anyone publish their own book for people to buy both in e-book and as a print-on-demand book. There is no need to write a book proposal and pitch it to book companies. Just self publish it with print-on-demand methods and no upfront costs. The simple act of having an authoritative book that people can buy through Amazon and linking it on your website gives a lot of weight to your expert reputation.
Content Is King: Idea Generation
It’s no secret that you’re going to need a lot of content. Whether you’re creating all of the content yourself or outsourcing a lot of it, you’re going to need more ideas than you know what to do with. After you’ve written down as many ideas you can think of at the top of your head, it’s time to do a little bit of research to inspire more ideas.
The first stop should be Google. Google common keywords around your niche and start seeing what kind of stuff pops up. What are your direct competitors creating blog posts and other content about? If their sites have the option, sort by their most popular articles. The types of articles that are popular on your competitors are the same types of articles that will likely be popular on yours. There is already a clear indication of what your audience is interested in. Just be sure to make your content unique. What is this article getting wrong? What important details are they leaving out? How can you further enlighten readers about this topic? Can you talk about this topic in a more entertaining way?
Another great place is to visit Quora and see what kinds of questions are commonly asked around your niche. If people are regularly asking the same types of questions on Quora, then it is obviously a topic that will be useful to your readers.
Do YouTube searches in your niche. Are you seeing a lot of the same types of videos pop up by different YouTube channels? These are more topics you can cover. Just always be creative and figure out how you can make your content better, or put a new spin on it. You don’t want to simply be rehashing what others have done, you want to make it yours.
Follow influencers in your niche on social media sites like Instagram. What kind of stuff are they usually posting? What posts seem to be the most popular? Going a little bit further, are their followers asking followup questions in the comments? What kind of stuff are they asking about?
These are just a few simple research methods to generate a huge list of content ideas. Once you have a big enough list, begin creating your content. After you’ve started working on some articles, it’s likely more ideas will come out of the process.
Your Voice Is Your Brand
While many people here the buzzword branding and simply think logos and color schemes, your brand has a lot more to do with your voice than anything else when it comes to a professional resource website. Having a strong, unique voice, is what separates you from the voiceless masses of generic websites. It’s what your readers will relate to and keep them coming back for more.
Your voice isn’t just how you say things when it comes to a site like this. It also involves what your opinions and preferences are within the industry. It’s your personality. It’s what kind of content you create and how you put it out there.
By figuring out what your voice is, you’re solidifying your brand with an identity that makes it easy for people to remember you for the long term. Some public voices are family friendly, some are a little more crass and edgy. Some are incredibly serious and to the point while some are entertaining yet educational. Your voice is easy to find because it’s generally going to be a reflection of you. Your voice will speak to your specific niche and demographic, so whenever you do find a voice that suits you, make sure to use it consistently.
Don’t be afraid to be polarizing. You don’t need everyone to like your content and follow you. You just need the audience that your specific voice speaks to. It’s easier to be interesting and stand out by being polarizing. Being passive will make it easy for people to quickly lose interest. A passive voice makes you forgettable.
You need to have strong opinions about things in your niche and confidently share these opinions. The readers who also hold these opinions will resonate with you deeper and become some of your biggest fans. Some of the people on the fence about that issue will pay attention to you and give it serious thought due to your confidence and expert reputation. You’ll likely convince many of them and turn them into big fans as well. The people who strongly disagree with you don’t matter. They can go somewhere else. You don’t need everyone. You just need the right people.
If you start being passive about everything and create content with a passive voice, not only does it fail to captivate your reader, but it also makes you look like less of an expert in their eyes. Your readers will gravitate to polarizing personalities, therefore it’s important for you to be one.
For example, saying something like, “Some people seem to think that this is the best gizmo…” is passive and weak. Your readers get nothing from it. Instead, say “This is the best gizmo. Here is why.” Authorities and experts within a field have an active, authoritative voice. Dropping the passive voice is crucial to your success.
The best part is the engagement that being polarizing adds. Engagement in the form of comments and likes to posts both on your website and shared across social media are incredibly important. Sure, you’re going to get a few “haters” strongly disagreeing with you. Luckily, for the most part, you can ignore them. Your true fans will be arguing with them on your behalf. As long as the argument in the comment section remains civil, this is great for you. It is direct social proof to to your reputation as an expert. Your strong opinions will be emboldened by your fans.
Types of Content and Their Uses
There are several types of content and all have a purpose, sometimes multiple purposes. It’s important to be aware of the type of content you are creating and intentionally using it for the purpose it serves. Ideally, you’re going to want to have all of these types of content on your website so that a wide array of intended effects on your audience are covered.
The first major type of content you should have are massive guides. These are the large guides that teach your readers what they really want to know and prove that you are a solid expert that they can count on.
Product reviews are going to be an important type of article to write. They are going to be one of the best sources of affiliate income since people looking for a review of a product are already likely to buy. While it can be tempting to always write positive reviews to boost the affiliate commissions, don’t be afraid to write a negative review when it’s warranted. You’re not likely going to make a lot as an affiliate of a bad review, but by being honest when you don’t think a product or service is good for your audience, they will trust you even more.
Infotainment types of articles are the ones that simply help your audience warm up to you. They are usually going to have a bit of useful information, but for the most part they are just there to entertain your readers and keep them interested in your site. It does a great job of breaking up the pattern if you have a lot of serious, in-depth guides.
News coverage within the industry is important. People want to hear your take on some recent news that affects your niche. This helps inform your readers and adds to the legitimacy of your website as the one-stop resource. They also will trust your expertise even more, knowing that you are up-to-date on current events within the industry.
Strong opinion pieces are important. This is where you get to flex your polarizing voice. The goal here is to turn mild fans into true fans, spark your engagement, and set you apart from your competitors. While these can be articles of their own, it can also be incorporated into the other types of articles as well. This is especially true for the news articles and product reviews.
While this is not a specific type of content, don’t be afraid to include video. If you’re halfway decent at speaking, record yourself talking to the camera instead of writing a blog post. Upload it to YouTube and then embed the video directly into a blog post.
Infographics are great if a topic you’re covering benefits from a strong visual element. You can create a simple infographic with a basic write up and then your readers also have something useful to download.
Keeping Them Around
It’s vital to keep your readers on your site as often as possible. This gives you more opportunities to promote affiliate offers, increasing your income.
The easiest way to keep them on your site is to always have relevant, recommended articles at the bottom of every article you write.
Have a regular, featured article. This can be a weekly article of a specific type that people are aware always comes out on a specific day. It should be a type of content that is already wildly popular within your audience.
Make sure you have commenting available and encourage engagement. Make people feel like they are part of a community. Along with this, have social media that you are active on. Share posts on your social media and respond to people’s comments.
Make sure you have an email list opt-in form on your website. This not only allows you to update your readers when new posts are added, but it also makes it easy to directly promote additional affiliate offers to your audience.
Tailoring Content to Make Money
In the end, your goal is to make money. It is important to tailor your content to help increase your income generation. The obvious way we have already covered is to write product and service reviews. One cool little trick is to choose two or more similar items and review them against each other. Share the pros and cons of each, and give your pick for the best of the bunch.
You can write basic guides that prep readers for a more in-depth, paid guide that you are promoting. This both stirs their interests and makes sure they know the basics needed to take that next step.
Similar to product reviews, you can write a case study that involves a product or service and how it contributed directly to a project’s success. Don’t be afraid to talk about the obstacles that the product or service directly overcame. The focus should be on the problem and that the product is the solution. This isn’t an overt product review, much more subtle.
Additional Ways To Maximize Income
Beyond affiliate sales, there are several way to make additional money with your website. First, you can create your own product or service to sell to your audience and keep 100% of the profits instead of just being paid an affiliate commission.
Additionally, you can be paid directly by a product owner to write reviews. This tends to be common once you’ve grown popular enough within a certain space.
By positioning yourself as an expert, you are also positioning yourself for some high end consulting work. Companies in your industry are willing to pay a lot for your expert opinion on how to solve specific problems for them. You can also get paid for doing talks at events due to your expertise and popularity.
You can expand your site into a group of sites within the same industry, but all covering different niches. It’s easier to leverage an audience from your first site to grow these new sites than it is to start off from scratch.
Lastly, you can always sell your site to one of your larger competitors for a really big payday.