Richard Patey

@richardpatey

How to Build an Authority Site ‘Muse’ in 2019

June 5th 2018

I first read the Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss back in 2012 and six months later I set up my first FHWW muse attempt iPanorama Prints.

Yup that’s me

At the time the thing that held me back six months was the emphasis on creating your own product along with spending the $500 or so that Tim recommended on ads. This was to see whether ad spend would be profitable sending traffic to a sales page you created for the product you are testing (for the audience you understand and belong to).

That $500 was just too much of a psychological barrier at the time as a new entrepreneur in the freemium only mindset.

However, the book changed my perspective on what was possible online more than any other I’ve read and this post is therefore no criticism (I am a big fan of Tim), however I think it’s hard for new entrepreneurs to:

  • Create a product (even an info / digital product)
  • Build a sales page
  • Learn paid ads (such as Google Adwords or now Facebook)

What I think is easier for new entrepreneurs is to simply sell other people’s products as an affiliate; businesses who have already created their own converting sales pages or product pages for you to send your traffic to.

This way you don’t need to have a paid ad budget. You can simply generate traffic by creating your own content, in whatever medium you are comfortable with, getting it to rank in Google and promoting on platforms you are familiar with whether that’s Twitter or forums.

Tim actually mentioned in the tools and tricks section of ‘Income Autopilot I Finding A Muse’ experimenting with products through affiliate networks such as Clickbank and Commission Junction as a proof of concept to find your own products to create.

In this post I argue that it’s easier and better to simply market other people’s products as an affiliate without the intention to create your own.

In this article you will learn:

  1. Why I believe building a content “authority site” is the best strategy for generating enough monthly passive income to replace a full time salary.
  2. The three best business models / monetization methods I know for achieving this.
  3. How to set up marketing funnels to generate leads and convert into customers.

Muse Math — Defining The Challenge

Our goal is to build a web based business that generates the average US personal income as quickly as possible with less than 4 hours of the owners time involved per week.

According to wikipedia, the average US personal income is $44,510 which works out at $3709/m. Let’s round that figure up to a target of $4k/m (or Total Monthly Income as Tim states).

As mentioned I feel that a $500 ad budget is mentally too much for new entrepreneurs to throw at something. To make this challenge interesting to experienced online entrepreneurs as well I’m going to say we only have an initial budget of $50/m to invest in generating that $4k/m.

So what is the best option in 2019 for achieving $4k/m passively month on month as soon as possible with a starting budget of only $50/m?

As Tim mentioned in the book, when building a muse online business you want to make sure you are entering a market that is big enough.

With my first muse attempt I failed to do this.

I bought a domain focussed purely on printing panorama photos that people took on their iPhone rather than a larger site focussed on say iPhone photography. I was limited to the type of content I could create, the types of products I could offer and therefore the amount of keywords (search phrases people were using) I could focus on.

I had built a niche site rather than an authority site, and just couldn’t get revenue above $1500/m. To better understand the difference between niche sites and what is authority sites there’s a great post on nichepursuits.com, a discussion on authorityhacker.com and an argument on empireflippers.com. For example a niche site would be Family Tent Center however an authority site would be Outdoor Gear Lab.

The income from the print business wasn’t enough to live on but I did end up selling it in 2016 on Empire Flippers for a couple of years of profit (nowadays you would get closer to 3 years of profit).

Engineering a Muse in 2019

Back when Tim wrote the book, clicks on Adwords for buying intent keywords were typically 5–15 cents and you could generate a 3–4x return on ad spend right off the bat by sending cold traffic to a sales page. Tim mentions doing this with his BrainQuicken supplement in his muse math addition to the book.

The thing is in 2019, clicks are typically at least 10x more expensive and making buying intent clicks instantly profitable for anyone who isn’t an Adwords expert is incredibly hard. Instead you need to extract more money out of every visitor using methods such popups, email marketing automation and marketing funnels to cover your acquisition costs.

Fortunately Facebook ads and funnel software have filled this gap but require a different strategy to what was in the book.

Cost per click on Facebook is in my experience less than half that of Adwords and you can target niche audiences with their audience insights tool in ways which are impossible on Google.

However, people are not in a buying state on Facebook and you have to attract their interest through great informative content that then leads to product review style content.

How to Build An Authority Site

For those new to building content sites, here’s a quick top 10 list of how to get started.

  1. Pick a niche, one you understand and can write at least 50 pages of content on (even if you are not the one who ends up writing it). This niche should be a two or three word phrase such as “women’s snowboarding”.
  2. Buy a brandable domain for your niche that does not limit you. You want to start focussed on a sub niche but be able to add additional sub-niches to become the authority — I use 123 Reg as I’m a Brit but also Godaddy.
  3. Then do keyword research to find a sub-niche within the niche that is ideally a three or four word phrase. Use a tool such as Ahrefs Keyword Explorer to look for “best” keywords such as “best women’s snowboard”. These phrases should be relatively uncompetitive but should have at least a few hundred search phrases.
  4. Buy hosting — I use a shared Dreamhost account to get going then spin out profitable websites to their own managed hosting.
  5. Install Wordpress and pick a theme, free is fine to start, I tend to use Thrive Themes for my sites.
  6. Create a Google Analytics account and grab the code and install a tracking code wordpress plugin to add the code
  7. Install the Yoast SEO Plugin to optimise your content for the keywords (search phrases) people are searching for who could purchase the products you want to promote as an affiliate
  8. Write individual product review content for the top products in your sub-niche and also a comparison post that compares them to each other.
  9. Find the best informational content for your sub-niche keywords using buzzsumo.com or Ahrefs Content Explorer.
  10. Write better content and promote on social channels and through email outreach to websites that linked to the existing content.

How to Make Money From Authority Sites

For me it comes down to one of three options.

1) Amazon Affiliate

The easiest way to get going is to write content that mentions products that are being sold on Amazon. As you can imagine that’s not very restrictive being the world’s largest online marketplace. You simply sign up for an Amazon Associates account and then grab an affiliate link for the products you want to make commissions for (typically around 6%).

This is made really easy using the Amazon SiteStripe that appears at the top of Amazon after signing up where you can grab a simple text link, image or both.

For a full explanation Authority Hacker have a great guide.

Pros

Super simple to monetize

Cons

Requires a lot of content and traffic to get to $4k/m

Tung Tran is an amazon affiliate expert and on his excellent blog cloudliving.com he is running a challenge to get to $10k/m from one authority site — thankyourskin.com. In one of his updates he mentioned it had taken a year to get to $4k/m which required over 150,000 visitors a month generating over 50,000 clicks through to Amazon a month.

Looking the site up in google at the time(site:thankyourskin.com) it had 170 pieces of strong content (has over 500 now). What’s super interesting to see is that Amazon product pages converted for him at over 6% — a good conversion on your own shopify ecommerce site would be 2%.

2) Clickbank

To potentially achieve quicker results, promoting other people’s digital products on clickbank.com is worth looking at. Clickbank is one of many performance marketing networks that offers a wide variety of ebooks, online courses and memberships in a large number of niches.

For example if you are into Paleo you could promote a cookbook:

The way to make money is by sending people to a sales page on clickbank that’s optimized so that a certain % of people will purchase. In our example the sales page is here and shown below:

However you will first want to make sure you collect the emails of people before sending them over to someone else’s page and offer.

How this works is you create awesome content then offer what’s called a content upgrade within the post which offers more information about what they’ve just consumed in exchange for leaving an email. Once people optin you can either send directly to the offer on Clickbank but typically you will need to send them to what’s known as a bridge page where you congratulate them for opting in, introduce yourself or brand and then recommend that they also check out the offer on Clickbank.

Once you have someone’s email address you need to setup an autoresponder to nurture that lead into customers. Typically less than 2% of people you bridge over to the offer will end up purchasing so you need to try and convert the remaining 98% through a series of emails that gives value and reintroduces the offer. Also through creating a longer sequence you can add in multiple offers on clickbank which will dramatically increase the lifetime value of a lead however this is hard to track.

I recommend and use Drip for this which now has a $0 free plan and I wrote why I moved from Mailchimp to Drip.

Clickbank Affiliate Marketing Funnel Structure

Content > content upgrade (lead magnet) > bridge page > clickbank offer.

The thing with this approach is that a couple of great pieces of content that convert into leads is all you need to get to $4k/m. The guys at authorityhacker.com got one of their blog posts on their authority site healthambition.com to $2500/m through this type of funnel as mentioned in this podcast episode.

Pros

Only need a few pieces of great content to get to $4k/m

Cons

Need to maintain traffic to maintain sales month on month, hard to work out customer lifetime value

3) Recurring Software Commisions

The reason why Software As A Service (SaaS) businesses have high valuations is their predictable business model of monthly recurring revenue (MRR), high margins and high lifetime customer value (LTV).

Due to this, software companies can pay generous recurring commissions to affiliates to sign people up to their platform. I’ve been doing this for years for Leadpages and Drip and all the other companies on my tools page but it wasn’t until I actively started promoting software such as affiliate programs such as clickfunnels with my previous business Funnel Engine that I realised I could make a full-time living doing just that.

Pros

Affiliate income builds every month, you’re building an asset with a much higher multiple. I sold Funnel Engine for over $50k.

Cons

Somewhat limited to the make money online space unless can be creative and target niches who can benefit

Closing Thoughts

I think the easiest business model to understand and get going with is amazon affiliate, writing content and linking to products on Amazon and there are some excellent AMZ courses.

If you already have experience with funnels then Clickbank can be a good way of monetizing your traffic.

However for me there is nothing easier than simply writing about the web & marketing software you are already using and earning commissions by linking to them.

You can read more about why I prefer to promote software here.

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