Since a couple of weeks, I call myself a freelance writer and niche blogger. This is not without reason: I had made some serious mistakes so it was time to remedy the situation. I started with reading a lot about freelance writing and niche blogging and setting a few targets. One of the things I learned quickly is that it is very important to take myself seriously. So I am putting myself out there and calling myself ‘freelance writer and niche blogger’ since that’s what I want to be.
But then I read some of Sharon’s blog posts on her website Digital Nomad Wannabe. I am a huge fan of hers and she’s inspired me so much! The last couple of years she’s build up a successful business as a digital nomad and traveled the world with her family of 4 (now 5). On her blog, she informs readers repeatedly about how to start a niche blog. In one of her blog posts about her niche sites, she asks the question ‘should you build a niche site?’. In her answer, she explains the difference between a niche blog and an authority blog. I was a bit taken back. Oh my… I call myself a niche blogger, but according to this definition, I’m definitely not a niche blogger.
Difference between a niche and an authority blog
Sharon explains it like this:
- An authority site is a bigger, more legit site, like my travel blog (red. Where’s Sharon). It’s one where you are proud to put your name, where you would have social media accounts and would hope to earn natural links.
- A niche site is smaller and generally only of interest to a small subset of people. It is not something that is likely to gain subscribers or many social media followers.
As I noticed in Sharon’s blog posts about building a niche site, she advises to pick a niche that can rank well. It’s no wonder she also calls it ‘Amazon niche sites’. If you have an interest in your chosen niche, that’s a bonus, but not a prerequisite. I think that’s also an important difference between a niche site and an authority site: your authority blog should be build completely on your interest.
It’s all about link building
There are more differences between a niche site and an authority site. To make your websites rank higher in Google, you need a link building strategy. As Sharon explains, it is generally harder to link build to a niche site than an authority site. And if you do it the wrong way, you receive a penalty from Google and all your work is done for nothing. With an authority site, you can easily get more natural links through friend’s blogs, guest posting, and the like. It may see more work, but in practice it is far easier to get back links for an authority blog than for a niche site. As Sharon explains it: “Given how long it took me to start earning decent money from my niche sites, shady link building could get your site penalised faster than you see profits.”
With an authority site, you can easily get more natural links through friend’s blogs, guest posting, and the like. It may see more work, but in practice, it is far easier to get backlinks for an authority blog than for a niche site. As Sharon explains it: “Given how long it took me to start earning decent money from my niche sites, shady link building could get your site penalized faster than you see profits.”
Sharon’s advice: start an authority blog
Although Sharon is very pro niche blogging, she advises her readers to start an authority blog, especially because of this link building issue. And if you already have an authority blog, you should try to monetize this with affiliate commissions.
OK, according to all this, I’m more of an ‘authority blogger’. Or at least, I want to become one. Just when I thought to have this clear, I opened another article.
Niche sites are built around a certain topic
In this article, Sharon writes: “Niche sites are basically sites built around a certain topic.” This is a more broad definition and includes all websites with a certain (narrow) topic. As my four websites all have narrow topics, I can assume these are niche sites. So am I a niche blogger after all?!
I started googling on niche site vs authority site and found some more definitions and helpful info. For example, Screw the 9 to 5 says that:
- an authority site has a large amount of blog posts, where you are socially active and are looking for ways to brand your site.
- a niche site is the “said it and forget it” type. They state that a niche site is a perfect way to develop the necessary online skills. When you’ve mastered those skills, you can let it grow into an authority blog (or start a new one).
Make money vs passion
I also found a very interesting debate on Empire Flippers. It’s between Steve Scott (from SteveScottSite.com) and Mike Thomas (from MikeFromMaine.com). Steve is pro authority sites while Mike is pro niche sites.
Steve explains the difference like this:
- A niche site targets a topic based on a set of keywords. These web properties rely on a single income model like Google Adsense, Clickbank products, or physical products from Amazon. Most niche sites provide a small amount of content that’s designed to get an instant “sale” from the user.
- An authority site targets a specific market or group of like-minded individuals. It differs from a niche site because it’s designed to be the ultimate resource for that topic. Its primary goal isn’t to make an instant sale. Instead, the site is used to educate the user in order to establish a long-term (but profitable) relationship.
Steve summarizes that the goal of a niche site is to make money, while an authority site comes from passion about a particular topic. Although setting up an authority website is very time-consuming and it takes often years to monetize it, authority sites are the better long-term strategy. And he has a serious warning about niche blogs: “There are countless examples of Google demolishing entire businesses with ONE algorithm change.”
Third type of website: spam sites
Mike is pro-niche sites (although he is not against authority blogs). He wants to make a distinction between:
- niche sites with quality content focused on a single product and
- spam sites with copied or poorly written content solely for the purpose of making money.
Mike thinks that lately niche sites are falsely seen as a synonym for spam sites. But if a niche site answers the searcher’s query, then the niche site has fulfilled his purpose and has, therefore, value.
He adds to this that niche site and authority site builders should work together, so they can make a niche site into a more valuable authority site.
Mike and Steve continue swapping arguments after that. If you’re interested in this topic you should definitely read the whole blog post! Although it is relatively old (from 2012), it is still very informative!
Interest vs profitability
But one thing kinda sticks to me… Making a true niche site, based on a product, is apparently not about interest but about being profitable. To set up such a niche site (or dozens, as Mike recommends), you have to write an average of 10 to 15 pages about a product you’re not really interested in. Why would you put so much effort in something you don’t really like?
As Steve explains, one of the advantages of an authority blog is more enjoyment because you care about your topic. Well, I might be a non-commercial wimp, but this sounds great to me! I quitted my job as an editor because I wanted to write about a topic I like and I am currently heading into a new direction in freelance writing because I want to write about a topic I’m interested in. So it seems that building niche sites like these definitions is not my cup of tea.
Am I not a niche blogger then?
But then I remembered the book I’ve read about niche blogging: ‘Small blog, Big income’. The author, Carol Tice, doesn’t give a definition of what a niche blog is, but from everything she writes, I can safely conclude that she means ‘authority site’ when she says ‘niche blogging’.
For example, in her book, she mentions a few essential elements for niche blogging success, of which number 1 is passion. “You need to be happy to create hundreds of blog posts on your topic”, she writes. Well, passion and hundreds of blog posts, that’s definitely key of an authority site.
Difference between niche blog and niche site
Maybe there is a difference between a niche blog (the one Carol Tice writes about, or authority site) and a niche site (the one where earning money is key)? After googling it, I noticed that the terms are being used interchangeably, but that the common opinion is this:
- a niche site is a more static website and not regularly updated
- while a niche blog is updated constantly with new content
Both focus on a certain (narrow) topic, a.k.a. its niche.
Oh god, it’s just a label. Get over it.
I am a nerd about words, I think I have proven that by now. But the question is: can I call myself a (newbie) niche blogger or not? Apparently, YES.
Does it matter? Not really. In the end, it is all just a label. Back to work now!
Are you a niche blogger? What do you think of the distinction between niche sites and authority sites?
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