The way people build niche sites has changed a lot over the past few years, and in the last 12 months, in particular, we've seen the trend towards "authority sites" getting stronger.
So when speaking to Nader recently, I proposed writing an update on how to structure affiliate sites for the foreseeable future
A lot of people are still using outdated site-building methods, even things like exact-match-domains won't go away.
With that in mind, it's easy to see why people get confused about what really makes an affiliate site successful.
Let's put that confusion to an end in today's post.
Here's What We're Going to Cover:
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Why You Should Listen To Me
Also, before we jump into it, you might be wondering why you should be listening to me.
Well, first of all, I wouldn't be here on the NicheHacks blog unless I had some experience, and that's exactly the case.
I'm the founder and CEO of HumanProofDesigns.com.
We teach affiliate marketing, build done-for-you affiliate websites for our customers, and offer a selection of other services as well, such as article creation, link building, all that jazz.
Now, what this means is that over the past 4 years, the HPD team and I have learned a thing or two about how to structure affiliate sites, and how to scale them up beyond that initial structure.
So I'm not basing today's post on one or two successful sites I've had only.
When I say there's a trend in what makes a successful site, I have first-hand experience witnessing that trend.
So now that we've got that out of the way, let's jump in.
Why Are There So Many Different Definitions Of Affiliate Sites?
You've probably heard a ton of different terms used to describe sites before.
Niche sites, affiliate sites, authority sites, even micro-niche sites.
The funny thing is, each of those terms has a different definition, depending on who you ask.
I think the main reason for this is down to changing trends and fads, information becoming outdated, and also each of us having our own interpretation of affiliate marketing.
Also, when it comes down to it, there is more than one way to go about building a site.
For me personally, I think the most confusing term is an "authority site" which is also one of the most popular ways to build a site now.
But the reason people get confused is that authority sites are often spoken about as opposed to "niche sites".
The problem with this is that niche sites and authority sites are essentially the same thing.
No matter how authoritative you want your site to be, and no matter how many articles you add to it over time, it still needs to be "niche".
You can't talk about skiing one day and then hiking in the desert the next day.
Some examples of niches…
These types of general-topic sites DO exist, but they're very difficult to succeed with, and they're not technically what most people who talk about authority sites are building anyway.
Essentially an authority site is just a larger niche site, and the term has grown and evolved from the years before where you could build and rank a 10 page website (or sometimes even 1 page) and make money from it without growing it out.
The content didn't need to be fantastic either, as long as it was good enough to convince people to buy whatever product(s) you were promoting.
Now, this type of mini-niche site (ooh there's another term), doesn't work anywhere as effectively as it used to, and that's partly because audiences these days prefer to follow higher quality content from larger sites, but mostly down to the fact Google doesn't really rank these smaller sites anymore.
Link building is harder now too, which is another reason you need to build a site to a much higher caliber.
So don't get too worried about whether the site you want to build is a niche site or an authority site or whatever.
Instead, just let me show you what an ideal site looks like, and you can call it whatever you want.
How Successful Sites Look Now
So we've already established that a niche site now needs to be larger than 10 pages, and needs to have more authoritative, high-quality content.
That doesn't mean you have to worry about creating the best content on the planet though.
It just needs to be well thought out and decent enough to help the person reading it.
So half-assed Fiverr content probably won't cut it.
It also doesn't mean that you have to think about producing this huge website that encompasses everything and grows a huge social media following and turns you into a guru.
That would probably end up making you decent money, but not everybody wants to do that.
And as I just said, you don't have to.
Instead, you want to make sure your site meets the following criteria:
So we've already covered the first two points, let's look into the next two.
NicheHacks is a good example of a site that has high-quality content…
Stay Niche, But Not Narrow
Yes, your site should stay niche and only focus on one topic or group of people, but don't just build a site around one single product.
You'll end up unable to scale the site.
Not only that, you'll also limit yourself way too much.
What's the point?
If you focus on just one product, and not as many people buy it as you think, then you will do a lot of work for nothing.
Plus, it's pretty hard to build an authority site around just one product.
You CAN still have a site that focuses on product reviews and informational articles though.
You don't have to try to reinvent the wheel and create some fancy new service or promote digital products in an authority site.
Look at it this way:
Instead of just dealing with one product in a niche, focus on multiple, and build out your site around those.
Then, add more and more.
For example, let's say you have a site about camping.
In the past people would find a good keyword like "Best hiking boots" or "Best camping tent" and just focus on that only.
Instead, you should go for all of them.
Write about tents, stoves, boots, bags, compasses, anything that you think is useful while still on the topic of camping.
You're still being niche, but you're also showing that you know a lot about camping, and you're giving yourself a much better chance of nailing one of these keywords and bringing in some commissions.
Now, while we're on the subject of covering multiple topics and sub-niches, let's finally talk about structure.
Below, you'll see an example of how we structure the sites we build for ourselves and customers:
What you're looking at here, is the page/post structure.
The "Niche – URL" box at the top is the homepage, and everything else is what we call a "topic cluster" (people often call these silos, but clusters allow them to be more fluid).
Here's a zoomed-in version of one of those clusters:
As you can see, each "Top-level product" is a post (which could also just be considered a topic or sub-niche rather than a product, depending on your niche) and is supported by various informational articles, using KGR keywords.
It doesn't have to be KGR keywords, but we like to give ourselves the best chance of ranking with these at HPD, so that's what we do.
We then have individual product reviews which we link to from the Top Level Product article.
All of this means that these clusters pass a lot of link juice and topical relevance to each other, which is great for on-page SEO. It also means that site visitors have natural paths to follow to become exposed to more of your affiliate links and to find the right offer for them.
I'm going to do an example below using real keywords so you can perhaps visualize it more.
Note: I haven't researched these keywords for their difficulty or search volume.
They're for illustrative purposes only:
Remember, the example above is just one cluster on a site, it's not the whole site.
What this means is that people have good opportunities to find our content either via an actual "Best keyword", a "review" keyword, or by searching for some information.
Whichever article they find, there's a good chance they'll click an affiliate link or click a link to an article that has affiliate links on it.
It also means that it's very easy to stay on topic and to say to Google "Hey, look how authoritative we are, we cover a lot of similar subjects and go into detail with them", and that will help your ranking.
It's also a great way for your users to spend more time on your site, which again, is good for ranking.
But I think most importantly, by doing it this way, if your "Camping tent" cluster never ranks, you've still got a good chance for your "Stove" or "Water bottle" cluster to rank.
It's never really possible to know for sure if you can get your site ranking for certain topics, so the more of these clusters you add, the better your chances of hitting a homerun become.
Finally, it helps you keep track of your site and helps you stay on topic without missing things or covering the same thing twice, or not knowing how to organize things.
When a site reached 50 articles, it can get messy quickly.
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How To Grow And Scale A Site Like This
So once you've got a solid understanding of how to actually structure a site, it will help you a lot with your keyword research.
Instead of digging around trying to find some "hidden gem" keyword and building an entire site around it, we're instead looking for clusters of keywords and niches that have multiple clusters.
This makes life so much easier because you just need to make sure that the niche you're looking at doesn't have a ton of eCommerce or huge magazine-type sites ranking for it – a sign that the niche may be too competitive.
Yes, you still need to do some manual analysis of the SERPs, but that's really beyond the point of this article, so I will save that for another time.
Once you've found a few clusters as I've shown above, how do you grow your site further and scale it even more?
Here are a few things you can do:
All of this points to the fact that you should make sure you select a niche with wide enough potential in the first place, in case you hadn't figured that out by now.
Also, with a site of this size, once you have a ton of content and some rankings, you'll be able to use tools like Semrush and Ahrefs to reverse engineer your competitors' rankings too.
So essentially, you just rinse and repeat, and do all the usual things you do to rank a site (add content, build backlinks), only by following a proper site architecture.
So what have we learned today?
Now, there is more to success with niche sites than just good structure, and I'd love to talk more about it, but this post is already 2,000+ words long. What's important is that many people struggle to properly visualize a site and figure out how to go about even starting to create it.
Hopefully, this post has shed a lot of light on this for you, so you have one less thing to worry about when starting your next site.
In the meantime, you can always subscribe to my blog over at Humanproofdesigns.com to get more updates and strategies.