Running a search engine optimization strategy in a niche market is hard–your online audience is small, there is tons of SEO competition, and due to its tendency to border obscure content, getting backlinks is tricky in a digital world where not too many blog about the subject. Although challenging, the top SEO experts in the industryhave successfully taken brands shrouded in ambiguity and put them up top the SERPs by composing a smart strategy that transcends the norm in digital marketing. I personally have had success in hard niches, and this article shares some of the steps I took to give niche clients a winning SEO strategy where others failed.
Reboot Your SEO Strategy Foundation
Traffic is always valuable, but especially if you are in a hard niche. One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that SEO is easier in a niche market because there are fewer landing pages optimized for the keyword or search term. But here’s the deal: a lot of these niche brands that have high organic placement tend to also have strong domain authorities. In addition, many were the first in their industry to rank, and a significant number of them have a history of experienced SEOs throwing logs in their fire. This means you need to be smarter and accept the fact that your chances of outranking the “Original G” in your niche market are slim to none. Rather than trying to rank for the highly coveted yet hard-to-reach keywords, begin amassing low-hanging fruit that your competition has wrongfully ignored.
The “Keyword Kool Kid” Popularity Contest
Remember back in high school how all the popular kids were the jocks and cheerleaders? They had a following, got all the glory in the yearbook, and most people thought they were too cool for school. Then you had those socially awkward or loner types that joined the AV, computer, and science clubs. They got little notice, hardly any love, and sadly many others regarded them as a waste of time. But where are these groups of people today? Brad the QB manages a gas station and repairs lawnmower engines, while Pete the Computer Club President is running his multi-million dollar tech startup and giving keynote addresses at Apple events. When it comes to performing SEO in a hard niche market, don’t bank on just trying to optimize for the big cool keywords that your competition already cornered years ago. Instead, give the forgotten keywords your attention because if utilized correctly, they can garner huge results and drive growth.
Identifying the Right Keywords, then Taking them from Geek to Chic
The first thing you will want to do is perform some competitor analysis. Determine what keywords your competition is ranking for, and the ones they aren’t. Then run an audit and pinpoint how they are being used and draft a composite content strategy, broken down step by step, that best mirrors their own. This is what you will try to beat with better content optimization that uses unpopular keywords to leverage the ranking power of the popular ones. These are longtail keywords. The main reason why so many SEOs ignore these is because their search volume is significantly lower than the shorter ones. However, the longtail keywords bring in better quality traffic with higher conversion because the cohort is targeted and therefore has way more value. Here is an example:
1 Word Phrase Keyword – “Snorkels”. Super competitive. High cost.
2-3 Word Phrase Keyword – “Dry Snorkels”. Moderately competitive. Lower Cost.
Long-Tail Keyword – “Black Sherwood Classic Snorkels”. High chance to convert.
There are way more longtail keywords than short ones. Since you are in a highly competitive niche market, got for the lower volume keywords that promise a bigger payoff. While “Snorkels” may have a monthly search volume of 110K and “black Sherwood classic snorkels” gets 72 global monthly searches, the commercial intent is much stronger and therefore offers a greater opportunity for conversion. Now engineer your site to optimize for hundreds of these (if you have a large eCommerce site)…you get the point.
Your garden variety SEOs use Google’s keyword planner or a similar tool in which they input a broad keyword and scoop up the offerings. But remember, everyone including their Aunt Gladys is doing this. In addition to using these keywords, type the broad term into Google’s search bar and see what surfaces.
These automated suggestions are based on search popularity, so there is untapped value here. In addition to incorporating these into your content strategy, you can also do a Google search and cheery-pick the longtail keywords that appear in the competition’s meta. Although there is no proof that meta descriptions hold any direct SEO value, they do have some because they convert to clicks, and if they are relevant to the content and the user is satisfied, they will spend more time on the site thus garnering positive signals to the Google bots that translate into ranking value. Therefore, use these longtail keywords, as shown below:
Remember that Google RankBrain is an algorithm designed to self-learn and reward content through artificial intelligence and machine learning, so your content must be engineered to please RankBrain’s intent. By using longtail keywords that parle with natural voice search language while answering industry-related questions or addressing key consumer wants and needs, you will add a ton of optimized value to your content while telling Google how all variations of the keywords interplay in relevancy.
When Good Links are Hard to Find
Certain niches like popular culture, travel, and cooking are extremely easy to get links because the Internet is jam packed with blogs that publish within these industries. Then there are those tricky industries where blogs simply don’t exist. This is when you need to get extremely creative and brainstorm for other solutions. You can create a spider graph to help generate ideas for potential related industries, as shown below. Take for example a company that manufactures a cleaning product that removes dried gum from any surface. Clearly, there are no blogs dedicated to gum removal, but as the graph shows, there are multiple related niches that are popular and would therefore provide harmonious pairing as referring domains for creating a portfolio of healthy backlinks.
Whether you create your guest blogs in-house or you hire a Google-partner SEO agency to write your content, make sure:
- The off-site blogs are directly relevant to your landing page’s content
- To create a map based on rankings and analytics for charting keyword usage in anchor texts
- Your backlink portfolio is diverse in domains
Don’t Get Discouraged, but Have Practical Expectations
If your main organic competitors are big national banks, massive hotel chains, or Microsoft, you need to have realistic expectations and not waste thousands of dollars and precious time trying to rank for “big game keywords” dominated by Wells Fargo or Hilton Hotels. At the same time, don’t get discouraged; it is possible to outrank these giants for some of the lower-hanging fruit keywords, and still create a large enough digital presence in your hard niche to attract specific crowds with high probabilities to convert. Reboot your SEO foundation, give some love to the ostracized keywords, and get creative because if you don’t, the next guy will.