This is a question that I get fairly often, and I've even had customers pivoting between the two before. Knowing whether you should focus on one site, or have several is actually not a simple answer.
There's no real case of A being better than B, but there are definitely pros and cons to both. In short, both ideologies can work, but you need to apply different strategies to each. You can't (easily) run multiple sites and treat each one like an authority site, and you can't really have just one site that you don't pay full attention to.
Which style is suited to you depends on your own personality, schedule, budget, and to some extent, expertise.
In this post, I'm going to talk about the merits of owning one site vs multiple, and will talk about the different strategies involved to making each model successful. After you review it, you should have a much better idea of how to move forward with your own Internet Marketing career.
Before we continue though, I'd like to point out that the key to success online is figuring out what works best for you, and that it's never too late to change strategy.
Authority Sites vs Niche Sites or “Micro” Sites
There's a lot of debate about authority sites vs niche sites, aka ‘micro niche' sites. I actually don't believe that this is as black and white as people believe; microsites still need to be high quality with authoritative content, and authority sites aren't guaranteed to be better quality.
However, to keep my explanations and this post's analysis simple, let's go with those labels.
Authority Site – My Definition
My definition of an authority site (for the sake of this post), is a site that:
- Regularly creates new content (minimum once per week)
- Focuses on the wider issue rather than one specific issue.
- Typically has hundreds of posts.
- Has an active or semi-active community around it (At a minimum, the owner is engaging with users via comments).
- Achieves authority and back-links over time in as white-hat a way as possible (At least, most people should be doing it this way).
- Takes up a lot of time.
I'm not going to talk about how much I think an authority site should earn, because that's not very practical.
Generally though, someone with an “Authority” site will be following the one site model. They may have a few others that they are growing or have abandoned, but this one authority site is the main part of what they do.
Smaller micro sites on the other hand are smaller and more passive (at least in an ideal world).
Micro/Mini/Niche Site – My Definition
In my definition, a microsite:
- Updates far less often.
- Focuses more on link building than adding new content.
- Focuses on one or two products/issues.
- Doesn't have a loyal following (and doesn't really engage with it's audience).
- Optimizes one or two parts of the site in order to make money, rather than growing and scaling.
- Takes up less time (Except in the beginning).
There will be other things I have missed, or things that other people interpret differently. I encourage you to let me know in the comments, if you disagree with my definitions!
One Site vs Multiple Sites – The Theory In A Nutshell
It's more complicated than this (which I'll show below), but the two general camps for having one site vs multiple sites is as follows:
Those who have 1 site find it easier to get 1 site to $1,000 per month and would prefer to focus on becoming an authority.
Those who have multiple sites aren't interested in building an audience and would prefer to have 10 sites making $100 each, on a more passive level.
There are many more factors than this though, and you need to consider the bigger picture before you decide what path to go down.
Let's look at some more of the pros and cons of each business model, before I expand upon some of those points below.
Pros and Cons
Niche Website Pros
- Small (5-20 pages). Less competition because you focus on smaller topics. Sometimes you only compete with articles rather than sites.
- Effort is lower.
- Cost is lower.
- Content doesn't need to be as good. It needs to be ok, but you're not trying to be the best online.
- Ongoing work is limited.
- Relatively passive (once earning).
Niche Website Cons
- Numbers game. If you build 5, 2 will be ok, 1 will be great, 2 will fail.
- More difficult to rank and bank recently.
- The Sandbox.
- EMD doesn't work anymore.
- Difficult to rank for multiple keywords.
Authority Website Pros
- Larger income potential
- Stable traffic
- Sell for larger income multiples (36x vs 20x)
- Real scale benefits. Once authority is established, you can do the same work for bigger income gains.
Authority Website Negatives
- All eggs in one basket. Kbkb story.
- When you go full time, you might not want to improve your lifestyle.
- Much more work to build up.
- Harder to outsource.
- Harder to switch off
What's Your Personality Type?
At EmpireFlippers.com, they have a number of different ‘buyer types' that help people decide what type of site to invest in. If you consider yourself a Portfolio Paul for example, you should lean towards having multiple sites. A Lifestyle Larry on the other hand may prefer to have 1 site that can get them out of their 9 to 5.
What about those of you reading this who are more of a Newbie Norm, just trying to figure out if you'll make money? Should you go with 1 or several?
While some of you aren't interested in investing in established websites, it's still important to understand your personality, and your propensity for running sites. Do you only have 4 hours per week? 12 hours per day?
Are you a seasoned marketer or a raw beginner? Bear this in mind while I discuss the other factors at play.
How Much Work Do You Want To Do?
This is actually a bit of a trick question, because the truth is that no matter which strategy you follow, you still need to make sure you work hard in the beginning. As my new Operations Manager Brad put it:
“It's easy to fall into the trap of ‘If I get multiple sites, I will be more likely to make an income because I'm spread out'. This may be true, but don't use that as an excuse to not work diligently on any of those sites.”
There's no point having 5 half-assed sites vs having one half-assed site. The issue of one vs multiple sites runs deeper than that.
Instead, a better question to ask would be..
What KIND Of Work Do You Want To Do?
So we are agreed that you need to hustle no matter your strategy, but the kind of work involved is definitely different. If you prefer to just keep writing content, and doing some outreach and guest posting, then an authority site is definitely the way to go. Having the focus that a single site gives you is essential if you want to make a name for yourself in your industry.
Outreach is very hard to outsource, and even harder to do part-time, which means those operating multiple niche sites need to consider other methods for ranking their sites.
Can you rank a site just by writing content? It's hard to do and it takes a very long time, but the single-site/authority-site method is the model for you if you want to do this. You'll need to create 2-3 posts a week for anywhere from 6-12 months before you start to see any real traction, and even then you might not have much to show for it, but I've seen it done.
On the other hand, if you'd prefer to put a site together, pay some link builders to rank it (or learn how to do this yourself), and understand that not all of your money pages will make you money, the multi-site approach might be best. After all, you can handle the increased risk of a Google Penalty because you will have 4 or 5 other sites in the works.
Those who hate outreach and the inevitable frustration that comes with waiting for an authority site to gain traction would also be more suited to having several smaller sites.
Additionally, authority sites tend to be slow burners that target bigger, more competitive keywords, and micro sites go after long-tail keywords which are easier to rank but have a lower payoff (hence why you need multiple sites).
How Much Time Do You Have?
When I first started internet marketing in 2012, I worked on 2-3 sites at once. I wrote 2-3 posts for each site a week, which meant something like 20 posts a month. I had a lot of free time, and I could do it. It was great practice too.
The advantage of this method was that it increased the chances of seeing some success with one of my sites. Back then, I had no idea if I would ever make money online, so having three sites was enough to give me some early success signs.
When I burned out on one site and focused on another, little did I realize that the first site was slowly climbing up the rankings. Things definitely grow when you're not watching them.
Thanks to Google, you often don't see the fruit of your efforts until weeks or months after you've done the work. If you've got multiple sites to keep yourself busy, this can stave off frustration and stop you from sitting around waiting for a site to get somewhere.
Multiple sites also gives you a little bit of security. If only 3 out of 5 niches succeed, chances are, you'll do well with 1 of them. That said though, you're more likely to succeed with a site by focusing on just one, so it's a double-edged sword there.
If you plan to outsource, then hands-down the best model for you is to have multiple sites. Since a niche site only needs 10-30 articles, that is a lot easier than outsourcing 10-30 articles per MONTH following the single authority site model. Additionally, the articles need to be so much better for authority sites.
With niche sites, I'm not saying your articles can be terrible, but they can be written with a formula and by writers who aren't experts on the topic. I can outsource content for my niche sites all day long, but outsourcing content for HPD is very hard. Even great writers might not be perfect for the topics.
I occasionally have someone ask me if we can get our writers to do very technical writing for their niche blogs, or very high quality. Without being too cynical, I point out to them that this isn't something that is very outsourceable, and it's also not necessary unless you have an authority site.
The same goes for link building and outreach. You can outsource someone to build you PBN links. You can outsource Web 2.0s, and you can even outsource guest posts and more white-hat methods, but outsourcing outreach, which is the best method for growing an authority site? That's very hard unless you have a good budget and the time/experience to train someone.
The best you could do is use a tool like Ninja Outreach to find a list of prospects, and then use templates to mail them, but you'd still have 10x the results if you only had 1 site to focus on.
With an authority site, you really need to tell yourself that you want to be the best site online for what you do, or if not the best, then at least very good.
With a niche site, you really just need to help answer someone's question or show them some good products.
There's definitely less effort involved with a niche site, but as we mentioned earlier, don't let that trick you into thinking you can put no effort in. Nobody makes money without any effort. Even beggars have to put in a long shift on the sidewalk.
However, once a niche site starts earning, you can pay much less attention to it than an authority site, and can move on to your next niche site. Sure, it's not going to increase its income, but that's what your other sites are for.
An authority site on the other hand takes a lot more effort. You've got to be one of the best, and you have to work when you don't want to. I can't tell you how many 70 hour weeks I've put in at HumanProofDesigns, or how many nights I went to bed with HPD on my mind in the last 3 years.
That effort pays off though, as we'll see in the next point.
While both strategies are scaleable, an authority site has the edge. Once a site gets to the point where it is successful, you can put in the same amount of effort, for an increasing amount of income. I work the same (or less) now on HPD than I did 2 years ago, but look at how quickly my income went up last year when things started to scale.
Now I can put in 4-5 hours a month to create a new product, and have a huge payout as a result, when two years ago I couldn't even get that with 4-5 hours per day.
The same is true for most large authority sites. Once you have established yourself as an authority, people almost beg you to make products for them.
You CAN still scale niche sites though. Once you've got a few sites earning and you know the process, you can start reinvesting those funds into building more sites. You could start out with 1-2 sites per month, then move on to 5-10 sites per month once you know what you are doing.
This isn't as scale friendly as an authority site though, because scaling a multi-site business needs more time or money, and an authority site can often be scaled with less.
Exiting The Business
Authority sites sell for much higher income multiples. If you have 1 site making $10,000 per month, you could probably sell it for 36x that amount (or more).
One buyer might be willing to buy your site in order to quit his job, and will be able to manage 1 site as a result. If you have a portfolio of 5 or more sites that makes a total of $10,000 per month though, suddenly a potential buyer has to think about managing multiple sites, and learning about multiple niches and products.
It's a lot more complicated and you might only get 20x your monthly income.
Thomas Smale, from FE International said this about flipping websites: “Buyers prefer less complexity, so running 1 site will almost always be easier. You also benefit from being able to focus all your SEO attention to one domain which is more effective than the same amount of time on multiple domains.”
YOU know that an authority site is actually more work than a group of niche sites, but buyers still prefer to pay a higher multiple for authority.
Do you feel you can be the best? I actually think most beginners might be more suited to smaller niche sites, simply because it lets them learn many of the necessary skills, without the pressure of trying to be the best.
I definitely wouldn't' have succeeded with authority sites when I first started, but those 5 or 6 niche sites I built first, enabled me to grow in confidence and build up my patience for an authority site.
Decline Of Niche Sites
Many people will say that micro-niche sites have died off a long time ago. I would say this is not true. They are much harder than they used to be, but they still work. You can't buy an exact match domain, stick one article on it, and make money anymore, but you can still build a 10-30 page site around a small subject and do very well with it.
Some of the niche sites we've built for customers have found their way to page 1 of Google with fewer than 10 pages of content.
Diversity Is Good
Back in the summer of 2013, I was making about $700 per month from my first “successful” niche site. The majority of that site's income came from a DVD set sold on Clickbank, earning me $27 per commission.
I was working on scaling up the promotions of this DVD and really taking that site to the next level, when the vendor announced that due to other commitments, they were taking the product off clickbank.
My income for that site dried up pretty much overnight, and I realized that relying on just one site or vendor or income source was scary when you didn't control it.
For that reason, I will always grow more than one source, and I encourage you to do your best to control your income if you only have one source.
Got an authority site? Create your own products as soon as possible.
Whichever You Go For..Use The Right Strategy
I see too many people operating 1 site but not with an authority site attitude, or people who want multiple sites but expect they need to be awesome. Here's the thing, if you want to operate multiple sites, then you need to be aware of the pros and cons above, and all the other points I've made in this post.
Don't think that you need to create award-winning content or designs, and don't worry if you aren't adding 3 articles per week to your site.
For those of you who are operating just one site, you need to embrace the authority site strategy. Work on outreach, build white-hat links, add regular content, and prepare yourself for playing the long game.
Don't use a half-assed strategy. Equally, don't forget to work on your site(s)!
Final Thoughts – Find Out The Different Strategies And Involvement Levels That Work For You
As I've tried my best to make clear in this post, there are ways to make either strategy work. Your job is to figure out what works best for you, and then commit to it for at least 90 days.
If you want just one site, fine! If you want multiple, great! The important thing to remember is to make sure that if you have a multiple-site mindset, you need to have multiple sites, and vice versa!
So what did I miss? What questions do you have?
What's YOUR favorite strategy?