If you visit webmaster forums or online marketer forums, you probably would hear the terms ‘niche site’ and ‘authority site’ thrown about pretty randomly. In fact, many people confuse the two together. The truth is that these are completely different things. Sure they are both created to make money online but that is pretty much the extent of the similarity. They are very different from each other because they have very different purposes.
Let us start with a niche site
A niche site is a site that is very focused on specific short collection of keywords that revolve around a certain niche. Basically, the owner of the niche site would use a keyword research tool such as Market Samurai and find a small set of keywords that get a decent amount of traffic. Advertisers will pay for clicks on ads for those keywords that don’t have much competition. It takes quite a bit of effort to get these small sets of keywords, but they are well worth it.
The next step is that they will build websites that don’t have much content, just based on these keywords. They would mix 5 pages based on one particular keyword of the collection and then they would tie it together through the homepage. It is fairly easy to make and short process. Before Google Panda and Google Penguin, niche sites were alder age. They were fairly easy to make, and many people automated their creation. The sad part of this whole experience though is that many people cut corners, and they just produce garbage niche sites. They don’t really care about the quality and the reader experience. As a result, you have all these niche sites littering the Internet. As Google Panda penalizes many of these sites, many of their owners started selling them on Flippa and other site-sale websites. It is a shame because there is a lot of potential for niche sites if they were positioned and designed to be authority sites. Niche sites just focus on a specific shortlist of keywords but you can also expand niche sites, e.g. if you have a niche site about training puppies, why don’t you add training older dogs? If you add more value (speaking about content) to your sites you’ll get a lot of searches from the search engines. Just be careful and don’t build a site around a product but around a topic.
About authority sites
An authority site, on the other hand, is a website that seeks to be an authority in a particular topic. They would take all the keywords of the niche sites and then assemble them under this one giant website with a lot of content and freshly updated materials. When you visit an authority site, you get the impression that this website tries to cover all topics related to a bigger theme. It really tries to get the cutting edge information regarding that subject matter.
As a result, search engines love authority websites because people get what they came for. They aren’t given a bum rush when they type in a keyword and end up on a page that doesn’t really give the information they were looking for which “spammy” niche sites do. Authority sites are the preferred websites of Google and other search engines. The down side to authority websites as you can probably already tell is that they cost a lot of time to build up and then also to maintain. It takes time to research and write. It takes time to compile all these pages together and build a community around them.
It takes time, effort and money to build an authority website from the ground up. That is why many people try to avoid building authority sites but Google is pretty much forcing their hand. It used to be that people can make a lot of money online with little to no investment thanks to niche sites. But today this will just work if your site still has a lot of good content to offer. So maybe today you no longer consider a 5 page site a niche site but a 50 page site. It answers all the questions around a specific topic which is really narrowed down. To give you an example: Living for Mondays wants to be an authority site for creating your own online business. This includes talking about video marketing, social media marketing and many further things. A niche site in this space most probably would talk about e.g. video marketing or even narrows that down.
Whatever you go for, just make sure your user gets what he is looking for. Just those people will stick around and use you as a resource even as a niche site.