Today I’d like to talk about how to create an authority site. Are you doing this in your niche? Look at the top sites in your niche (or any niche, for that matter). Most likely these sites all have at least one thing in common: their designs look very slick and professional.
I know, you might be on a budget as you start building your authority site. And you might be tempted to skimp on the design. But don’t do it.
You only have one shot to make a good first impression, so you need to make sure your site’s overall design leaves the impression that your site is:
- An authority/expert site
You might be tempted to just buy a web template, WordPress template or something of that nature. But I wouldn’t advise it. Ideally, you should get a custom design created by a professional web designer so you can integrate your brand into your site’s design.
Prepare Your Overall Plan
The next thing you need to do is plan your overall site. That is, what features will it have? How will you share content?
Perhaps you’ll share content via a blog. If so, will you enable comments? What categories will you have on your blog? Will you interact with your readers via any other means, such as on a forum?
If you’re not sure what all topics and categories to include on your site then you need to revisit the top sites in your niche (and the general market) to see what they include.
You want to cover the same angles, and see if you can’t come up with angles and topics that they’re not covering. In other words, you want to create a site that’s even better than the competitors’ sites.
While you’re visiting these top sites, take note of what makes them different from the other sites in the niche. You’ll need that bit of information to help you with the next step, which is to develop your USP.
Develop a USP
When visitors and prospects come to your authority site, somewhere in the back of their minds they’re going to be wondering what makes your site different from and better than all the other sites in the niche. And your visitors aren’t going to spend a whole lot of time figuring it out for themselves. This is why you need to tell them what makes you different.
This factor that makes you different is called your USP, or unique selling proposition. It’s what separates you from your competitors.
The interesting thing about a unique selling proposition is that it doesn’t actually have to be totally unique. Instead, you just need to be the first among your competitors to stake claim to the USP.
Example: Folgers states that their coffee is “mountain grown” coffee. But the thing is, virtually all coffee is mountain grown. However, Folgers was the first one to use this claim, so it became their unique selling proposition.
So let’s look at an example from an authority site: WebMD.com. Their USP (and slogan) is, “Better Information. Better Health.”
This accomplishes two things. First, it tells readers why the site is better than other similar sites (because it has better information). Then it shares with the reader the benefit (better health for the reader).
One of WebMD.com’s competitors is KidsHealth.org, which of course caters to the narrower niche market of those seeking health information for kids and teens. KidsHealth.org’s USP is, “The Web’s Most-Visited Site About Children’s Health.” That’s what sets them apart from the competition, but it also serves as a powerful form of social proof.
Yet another competitor is Health.com. Their USP is, “Vital Information With a Human Touch.” Thus they’re telling visitors that the information isn’t just being provided by nameless, faceless usernames online. It’s real information provided by real people.
Now it’s your turn. What USPs are your competitors using? And how can you set yourself apart from all of them? Is there:
- Something unique about your information?
- Something unique about your site?
- Something unique about you?
- Something unique about your visitors?
- Something unique about what your information does for visitors?
- Something you can claim to be the “first” in?
Whatever you decide, sum it up in one short sentence. Make sure it answers the question, “How is your site different than the competitors’ sites?” or “Why should your visitors seek out your site rather than going to your competitors?”
Now you’re ready to create a brand for your business.
Create a Brand
Earlier I mentioned that you want a custom, professional-looking site that incorporates your brand. In other words, you don’t want a “me too” site that looks like everyone else’s site. And so that your overall business doesn’t just blend into the abyss that is the World Wide Web, you need to create a brand that helps set you apart from your competitors.
A brand is NOT just limited to creating a logo or a slogan.
Rather, a brand is about creating a feeling. This is the feeling that you want your readers and prospects to have while they’re on your site. And everything on your site – from the colors to the overall design to the way you write your content – will help contribute to his feeling.
- A site about babies might want to convey a feeling of love and nurturing. (Indeed, run a search for baby sites, and you’ll see that the top sites use warm, soft colors and overall convey a nurturing, loving feeling.)
- A bodybuilding site might convey a feeling of power.
- A site about finding one’s soul mate might convey a feeling of romance.
- A spiritual site might convey a Zen-like feeling of peace.
- A site about wealth-building might convey a feeling of power or sophistication. Or if it was aimed at women, it might convey more of a feeling of security and family.
You get the idea.
Once you know the overall feeling that you’d like your site to convey, then you need to build your entire site around this feeling. This includes:
- Integrating the brand feeling into your site design (colors, graphics).
- Designing a logo and slogan which support your brand.
- Creating content that helps support this brand. This includes your articles as well as pages such as your “About” page.
- Making sure other facets of your business, such as the way you answer customer inquiries, also support your brand. For example, if your brand is all about revving people up and making them feel motivated, then make sure the way you answer emails conveys this same motivational feeling.
- Integrating your brand into your domain name, if possible. Ideally you should choose a .com domain name. You may also seek to choose a name which tells people what your site is about while also being brandable – like WebMD, for example.
In other words, it helps if your name isn’t too generic, like [NicheTopic].com (e.g., dogs.com).
At this point you have a niche picked out, and you’re designing and planning your site. You’ve scoped out your competitors to find out what they’re offering, so that you can offer something even better. You’ve even planned out the general categories of information that you’d like to share.
What do you think about this method of building your online business?