As Web 2.0 becomes less of just a buzz word and more of a reality, the types of sites webmasters need to publish will increasingly become more important. In other words, mini-sites are slowly dying and cookie-cutter article sites are on the way out as well. Web surfers will become more value-focused and web companies will become larger.
Over the next few years expect larger conglomerates to be buying up profitable websites in their chosen markets. Expect smaller sites to either be bought or driven out of business. My intention is not to scare you but this outcome is inevitable.
Large businesses have always taken two approaches to their desired markets. They either buy their competition or they push them out of business. You want to be prepared when this trend begins on the internet.
Being a webmaster and online marketer you should be preparing for one of two scenarios. To position yourself for a buyout to a larger company or to become the larger company that dominates your chosen market.
Whichever route you chose is entirely up to you, but I would suggest that it would be in your best interest to begin focusing on authority sites. You can either start building them or turning your current sites into them. Whatever your approach may be, I assure you it will help you sleep better at night.
What Is the Definition of an Authority Site?
A fairly comprehensible authority site definition was put forward by Jason Dowdell of Global Promoter. Jason defined it this way: "authority sites are sites that have been linked to and referenced on other web sites covering the same subject matter and they also will have hundreds if not thousands of pages covering that subject matter and nearly every facet of it."
That definition is one man's opinion, albeit a good one, but let us go directly to the source. Many search engine optimization and search engine marketing experts believe Google has derived their primary algorithm from a document titled, "Hilltop: A Search Engine based on Expert Documents".
The PageRank formula as we know it today was derived from this paper and the authors, Bharat and Mihaila, define an authority site in the text below:
"We believe a page is an authority on the query topic if and only if some of the best experts on the query topic point to it. Of course in practice some expert pages may be experts on a broader or related topic. If so, only a subset of the hyperlinks on the expert page may be relevant."
"In such cases the links being considered have to be carefully chosen to ensure that their qualifying text matches the query. By combining relevant out-links from many experts on the query topic we can find the pages that are most highly regarded by the community of pages related to the query topic. This is the basis of the high relevance that our algorithm delivers."
What we have reprinted above is the foundation of the PageRank system and the determination for deciding which sites will be authorities. I highly recommend you read and re-read the full document until you understand every aspect of it.
What Are the Components of an Authority Site?
Allow me to present you with a diagram that dissects your typical authority site. As you can tell from the diagram a considerable number of components and systems must be in place for the authority site to function profitably and reap the benefits of the "Authority Site Formula".
The Authority Site Formula = Visitor Optimization (VO) + Content Optimization (CO) * Creative Marketing (CM)
A simple question must be asked. What do 99.9% of authority sites provide? In a sentence, an incredible amount of original content and a superb visitor experience. The search engines want you to succeed and they want you to make money, but you have to play by their rules. In the future, focus your efforts on visitor optimization and content optimization instead of search engine optimization.
What Is the Anatomy of an Authority Site?
About.com is the definition and was the original authority site. Their site has a generic domain name and hundreds of subdomains on different topics.
Your authority site should take the same approach, but not on such a general level. If you launch an authority site, it should be geared towards a well-defined and large market. After you launch the site and generate some traffic, you should create subdomains that cover specific areas inside that larger market.
For example, Diabetic-Resources.Com is not an active site, but if it was then a typical authority site setup would be something like:
Using this approach, you are able target your general market while generating more targeted traffic pertaining to related sub-markets.
As a rule of thumb, the index pages on your domains and subdomains should be more focused on content, but the article and commentary pages should be more focused on advertising. Just do not ever lose sight of the most important aspect of your site which is visitor experience otherwise known as visitor optimization.
What Does It Take To Create an Authority Site?
You want to create a site that generates thousands of visitors a day mainly through the major search engines, and would ultimately be the one-stop source for information in that particular market.
Your site must employ three traits to become an authority site. Lets discuss all three necessary aspects:
Dynamic: You should have as many RSS feeds as you can muster to incorporate throughout your site. Your visitors need to be able to receive RSS feeds for any keyword, category or archive as well as create their own. One feed is no longer enough to satisfy your visitors.
Interactive: You should be engaging the minds of your visitors at all times using surveys, commenting and feedback. Make these features easy for your visitors and your site will grow exponentially. Why? Because they feel like you actually care about them. Interaction is a powerful tool and creates a sense of community on your site.
Consistent: You should post to your blog often and you should always provide quality and original content. That doesn't mean you need to produce 800 word articles three times a week. You goal should be to become a news master. You need to be an "authority" on the news happening in your niche.
Creating a true authority site will take time, effort and patience. What Ive laid out above is the foundation. You need to be actively marketing your site, generating new partnerships and constantly enhancing your website for your site to become an authority.