Case study: building an authority site
With the Google updates targeting affiliate sites, and thin-content sites, it's time to create authority sites. These are big sites that have loads of user interaction, user-generated content, and link-able content.
Easier said than done, but it has to be done, so let's get on with it ...
The first step is to go for a high-traffic niche (totally opposite to narrow niches). For example: health, finance, dating
The next step is to get a domain name that is brandable such as: zorks.com or whatever. Short and easy to brand with a dot com TLD so you don't have to care about your audience having to get the TLD correct when manually entering it or telling friends about your site. Or maybe you can buy an expired domain with traffic that you can use?
For initial promotion, you should be able to promote your site to your Face Book friends and make them premium founder members or whatever you call them without them all un-friending you.
The next step is to create a logo for the site as a vector graphic (so that you can scale it to any dimensions). I use InkScape for this.
The logo is part of your brand. And then come up with a favicon based on this to display in browser bars.
Now you need to bang out a prototype home page that you can load in your browser to get you excited to get your site live. This is the main motivational tool for me, seeing the site in a browser filled with dummy content.
Now you can start playing with the visual design and elements of the home page, imagining that you are site visitor.
And make sure that your site looks great on a PC as well as a mobile phone. Maybe you will need a responsive web design?
So that is the first step: get your niche, brand, and design sorted.