Getting good information on the Internet is tricky. Anyone can publish anything with a cheap hosting account and a domain name. An authority website stands above the noise by providing detailed, honest, and trustworthy information about a specific topic.
It makes money through affiliate products and promotions and by advertisements on the site. A model authority site, such as Dr. Axe, provides people looking for health advice with articles, workout routines, healthy recipes, and more. This is not to be confused with a niche website, which has much less content, and may or may not have the same level of quality.
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Learn how to start your own Authority Website and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start an authority website by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Authority Website
- Form your Authority Website into a Legal Entity
- Register your Authority Website for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Authority Website
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Authority Website
- Get Authority Website Insurance
- Define your Authority Website Brand
- Create your Authority Website Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your authority website. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
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STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening an authority website?
Costs are minimal. An authority website can be started for the cost of hosting and a domain name. This will set you back about $100-$200, depending on the hosting company you choose. If you plan on ramping up your content quickly, you will also spend several thousand dollars every month on content creation.
What are the ongoing expenses for an authority website?
Ongoing expenses include hosting charges, domain renewal, and any marketing costs you incur for content creation, distribution, and promotion. These costs could range from just a few hundred dollars per year to hundreds of thousands of dollars for large scale content creation and promotion.
Who is the target market?
The target market is the general population and specifically Internet users. Since authority websites make money primarily through ad revenue and affiliate sales, it's doubtful you'll ever have to speak to any of your site visitors or "customers."
How does an authority website make money?
Authority websites make money through a combination of selling affiliate products, in-house products, and direct-placement advertisements or media placements.
Affiliate products and online media ads are the most common.
An authority site owner signs up to become an affiliate with a major brand or website so that it can resell its products or services. The authority website never handles customer information. Instead, it simply refers business to its partner business.
The authority site receives a credit for every purchase made by a referral. Affiliates typically earn money as a commission or percentage of the total sales price of products or services they're reselling. Commissions vary by company and industry.
For example, a product that sells for $100 may have a commission rate of 10%. This means whenever the authority site refers business to a partner business, and that referral buys something from the partner business, the authority site receives a commission in the amount of $10.
Another way authority sites make money is by selling their own products. Usually, a product will be an online product, like an ebook or ecourse that can be easily downloaded from the website. In some instances, the authority website will sell services, however, this is rare.
A third way authority websites make money is by hosting ads on the site. These ads can be in the form of pay-per-click ads (e.g. Google AdSense) or in the form of direct media placements. A media placement is when an authority website negotiates for the placement of an ad either directly with an advertiser, bypassing third-party promoters, or with an established media ad agency that works directly with a company or advertiser. Direct media placements can be very lucrative for authority sites. However, most ad agencies and companies will only consider direct media placements on sites with established high-volume traffic patterns.
How much can you charge customers?
Since authority websites make money through ad revenue and affiliate sales, you don't have to worry about setting prices for customers. The "product" is free content.
How much profit can an authority website make?
Authority websites can bring in a few thousand dollars per month or several million dollars per year. It all depends on how large the site is, how much you're making from ad revenue and affiliate sales, and what your traffic numbers and traffic patterns are.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Make your business more profitable by selling high-commission affiliate products or services, negotiating for direct placement media, and selling ebooks or other online products that have a high value and low distribution cost.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Authority Website Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your authority website is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an authority website. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Trademark & Copyright Protection
If you are developing a unique product, concept, brand, or design, it is prudent to protect your rights by registering for the appropriate trademarks and copyrights.
The nature of legal requirements in distance education is ever changing, especially in regards to copyright laws. Here is a frequently updated resource, which can help keep you aware of the legal requirements.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market an authority website
Promote your site in forums, on other blogs and authority websites, in the media, and on social media.
How to keep customers coming back
Keep growing your backlinks. Publish valuable content. Maintain an email list and send emails regularly. Entertain and engage your site visitors to keep them coming back for more.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2022 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Authority Website in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Is this Business Right For You?
This kind of business is ideal for individuals who are passionate about a subject, love writing and reading about it, and have good managerial skills. Since authority sites are so large, they are rarely run by just one person. Usually, the owner delegates a variety of tasks to other people, with many of the tasks outsourced to independent contractors and content creators.
This business is very flexible due to the fact that content scheduling, and all business-related activities, can be done on a flexible schedule. Most authority site owners don't have to meet face-to-face with clients or customers on a daily basis, if ever.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at an authority website?
A typical business day is spent creating content and managing the editorial calendar. When the site is just starting, the owner may be directly involved in creating the content. As the site grows, however, the owner will become less involved in the day-to-day operations and will instead oversee an operations manager.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful authority website?
There's no formal experience needed to start and run an authority website, however, it helps to have business experience. You should know basic HTML and have a rudimentary understanding of website development and how hosting platforms work.
What is the growth potential for an authority website?
Growth potential for an authority site is good, provided the site can secure the content, revenue streams, and affiliate products to make the site work. Since everything is hosted and handled online, the theoretical upper limit for growth is infinite.
Authority sites, by definition, are large websites. They cover a wide range of topics in an industry. For example, an authority site may cover a variety of topics on health and fitness. Or, it may cover topics on personal finance. Or, it may cover travel topics.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting an authority website?
Start with content. Hire content creators on popular freelance websites and ramp up your on-site content. Contact major media outlets and other authority site owners (in non-competing industries) and tell them about your "grand opening." Form partnerships with other blog owners and see if you can write a few guest blog posts about your new website.
How and when to build a team
It's not necessary to build a team, unless you need or want rapid content creation and distribution in the early phases of your site development. A minimum of two content writers will probably be necessary.