Risk-based portfolio strategies, such as minimum variance, maximum diversification, equal weight and risk parity, to name the most famous, have become increasingly popular in the investment industry. This paper aims to help investors better understand the commonalities and differences between these strategies.We offer a general unifying analytical framework, allowing the discussion of key distinctive features such as capital concentration, market beta, volatility, sensitivity to risk parameters, preference for low-volatility assets, turnover or tracking error, while not being dependent on a specific sample. We confirm the validity of these theoretical results by an empirical investigation of a large sample of international developed equity markets over the period 2002–12.