Tag Archive | "Niche"

Helpful Tips for Doing Search in a Low-Volume Niche

Posted by Jeremy_Gottlieb

SEO — you know, that thing you do whereby everyone and their mother will find your site on the web. Easy, right? “Can you SEO this page for me?” or “We’re about to launch a webinar. Can you SEO-ify it, please?” I’m sure most of you reading this can probably relate to these types of questions and the ensuing pressure from bosses or clients. If you’re lucky, you work in a realm where there’s plenty of search volume to chase, featured snippets to occupy, and answer boxes to solve. But what about those who work in the low-search volume niches typically seen in B2B, or with companies pioneering a new product or service that no one really knows about yet (so they obviously can’t be searching for it)?

This blog post is for you, the digital marketer who toils and struggles to drive search visibility where there hardly is any. Let’s get to work.

Search, as I’ll refer to it here, includes both paid and organic. Neither of these may ultimately be the best channel for your organization, but after reading this post, hopefully you’ll be able to verify whether your search channels are humming along and working harmoniously, while leaving other sources of user acquisition to bear the brunt of the load. Three topics I will cover in this post are SEO, paid search, and CRO, but please keep in mind: these are not the only possible digital marketing actions that can be done for an organization in a low-search volume niche. This is just a glimpse into what may be possible, and hopefully it can spark inspiration for you or your client in ways you’d either forgotten about or hadn’t thought of. Whether you’re just starting out in digital marketing or you’ve been around for a while, I hope this will be able to provide some direction.

1. SEO

Sometimes I think of SEO as a skyscraper, though this may just be because I’m surrounded by them in Distilled’s New York City office (come join us!). In order to reach greater heights via SEO, you need to make sure the foundation of your building is in order. And what I mean by “foundation” is the technical structure of your site. Things that you’d want to check will include:

  • Is the link profile clean?
  • Does the site have strong internal linking?
    • Do pages get created and then fall into a black hole?
  • Can search engines crawl the site?
    • Are there noindex, robots.txt, canonical, or other tags that hide desired content from being ranked?
  • Has the site been hacked?
  • Are there descriptive and unique title tags and meta descriptions?
  • Is tracking set up properly (i.e. Google Analytics)?
  • Does the site appear trustworthy and authoritative?

Targeting transactional queries

Once the foundation is in order, it’s time to begin the keyword research. Establish which queries are most vital to the organization, how much search volume they have, and which ones are most likely to yield conversions, whatever that means to the organization. With your foundation in order, you can take the most important queries and try to match them to existing pages on the site, such as the homepage and key product/services pages. It may turn out that the queries an organization should be targeting don’t have pages available yet. That’s okay — you’ll just need to create them. I generally recommend that shorter-tail queries (two or three words) be targeted by primarily by product or service pages, with longer queries either handled by those very pages or by a Q&A section and/or a blog. This is just one way to handle a hierarchy and avoids a cluttered navigation with hundreds of long-tail queries and content, though it is by no means a rule.

Targeting higher-funnel queries

Once the key queries have been locked down and the content plan created, we can move on to more informational queries. It’s very likely that these more higher-part-of-the-funnel queries will require content that’s less sales-y and will be more informational, making desired conversions (like consultation signups) less likely from this crowd, at least on the first interaction. You’ll need to build strong content that answers the users’ queries and establishes the organization as thought leaders and experts at all levels of a particular niche.

Let’s say, for example, we’re responsible for driving traffic for an organization that allows people to invest in solar energy. Lots of people buy stocks and bonds and real estate, but how many invest in solar energy or power purchase agreements? Transactional-type queries, those most likely to provide us with customers, don’t get searched all that much.

Now, let’s take a look at some longer-tail queries that are tangentially related to our main offering:

These queries clearly have more search volume, but appear to be more informational. “CSR” (in the above example) most often means “corporate social responsibility,” a term frequently aligned with impact investing, where investments not only are expected to produce financial returns, but have a positive social effect as well. From these queries we’d be able to help provide proof to users and search engines that the organization is indeed an expert in the particular realm of solar energy and investing. Our desired audience may come to us with different initial intents, but we can begin to funnel people down the path towards eventually becoming clients.

As will be discussed further in this post, the point here is to drive traffic organically, even if that very traffic is unlikely to convert. With optimizations to the content, we’ll be able to solicit emails and try to drive visitors further into the funnel, but first we just need to make sure that we’re enhancing our visibility and driving more unpaid traffic.

Key tips:

  • Target transactional queries with pages optimized for the ideal conversion
  • Target informational queries and modify pages to push the user deeper into the funnel towards more transactional pages
    • If a blog is perceived as a waste of resources and useless traffic, it’s probably not being fully leveraged

2. Paid search

Oftentimes, organizations will use SEO and paid search for their user acquisition, but will silo the two channels so that they don’t work together. Simply put, this is a mistake. Using paid spend for Google or Bing Adwords in conjunction with an organization’s SEO efforts will assist the company’s bottom line.

Get your tracking right

When beginning a paid campaign, it’s absolutely vital to set up tracking properly from the beginning. Do not miss this step. Without setting up tracking properly, it will be impossible to tie back conversions to paid and organic and see their relationship. If you already have paid attribution set up, double-check to ensure that there’s no double counting from having multiple GA tracking snippets, or if you’re using a landing page generator like Unbounce or HubSpot, that you’ve added in tracking on those platforms. Sometimes when using landing page generator tools (like HubSpot), you might elect to have an in-line thank you section display instead of redirecting someone to an external link. If you use an in-line thank you, the URL will not change and will make tracking more difficult in Google Analytics. This is not impossible to get around (events tracking can do the trick), but is something to keep in mind.

Bid on your money keywords

Without getting too fancy, a very important next step is to identify the transactional, important keywords — the ones that might be costly to buy, but that are worth the spend. Waiting for results from organic search or for the different channels to successfully harmonize may take longer than a boss or C-suite might be willing to wait for, so getting results directly from traditional paid search will require a strong setup from the get-go.

The magic of RLSA

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) allow organizations to remarket to specific people who have visited a specific page on their site, either by bidding on keywords one typically wouldn’t bid on, or by altering the bid up or down. This doesn’t create new traffic; it only displays to those who have visited your site in the past. The magic of this is that when done properly, you can potentially achieve lower cost-per-clicks and conversions, as the audience seeing these ads is already familiar with your brand.

Let’s use, for example, the strategy of creating content around “what are alternative investments?” or “how to invest responsibly?”. These would be informational-level queries, representing topics people would like to investigate further. While the ideal scenario for our business would be that everyone would automatically want to invest with us, we know this isn’t likely to be the typical case. Instead, we’ll use organic search to earn traffic from less competitive, informational queries, and use RLSA to bid on queries that would ordinarily be too competitive for us, like “investing” or “how to start investing.” By using pixels and remarketing to anyone who visited our “what are alternative investments” page, we know that the person is more familiar with us and we can try to bid on broader queries that may have been either too expensive for us in the first place, or unlikely to generate conversions. In this case, because the user is already familiar with the brand, it can lead to higher click-through and conversion rates.

Much has already been written about RLSA strategies, so for more information you can begin here:

Advanced remarketing

Another option is to create more informational content for queries that are less competitive than some other terms, but that also isn’t as likely to get people to convert when they visit (i.e. most blog content). Let’s say that our blog captures email addresses, either through forms, popups, or some other means. With our captured emails, we’d be able to build an email list and submit it to Adwords, then target people in Google Search, Gmail, and YouTube. We can target existing users (people aligned with a particular email) or people who are similar to the audience and share similar web habits. With this tool, we can expand our potential audience.

If one were to run broad-match search ads against a general population (not one that had been cookied by a site), it would likely get very expensive very quickly and would be likely to have low conversion rates. Using broad match with RLSAs is a smart approach that mitigates the risk of complete budget destruction from people with little intent to convert, while allowing organizations to see what people are searching for; it can be an extremely powerful tool for keyword discovery.

By using broad search and RLSAs, your organization will be able to find out faster what people are actually searching for. Any keywords that cost money but that aren’t relevant or aren’t converting can be added to a negative keyword filter. Ones that are valuable should be added to exact match and, depending on the keyword, may be worthy of having content developed for it so that traffic can be captured without paying for each individual click.

Key tips:

  • Make sure tracking is properly set up
  • Ensure you’re bidding on transactional queries
  • Landing pages MUST have a clear goal and be optimized for one desired conversion
  • RLSAs can be used for keyword discovery and may enable you to bid on more transactional, generally competitive keywords

3. CRO

It’s not uncommon for organizations operating in low-search volume niches to also have fairly long sales cycles. The endgame of what we’re trying to accomplish here is to drive people from an informational mindset to a transactional mindset. We’re operating under the assumption that there are few searches for the service or good we’re trying to provide, so we’re going to get people to our service or good via the backdoor. The way we’ll do this is by guiding people from content that speaks to an informational query to our conversion pages.

To be clear, getting the ultimate conversion on our site might not require sending someone to a product page. It’s totally possible that someone may be interested in our ultimate goal after having landed on a tangentially-related page.

Let’s use the example again of the solar energy investment company. We’ll say that our ultimate goal is to get people to open an account where they actually invest in a power purchase agreement (PPA). Understanding what a PPA is isn’t important, but what should be conveyed is that getting anyone to actually spend money and link a bank account to the site is not a simple task. There’s friction — people need to trust that they won’t be robbed, that their financial information will be protected, and that their money is actually going where they expect it to go. Knowing that there’s friction in the funnel, we’re likely going to need multiple points of engagement with the potential client and will need to provide information and trust signals along the way to answer their questions.

Hunting microconversions

That said, our first goal should be to optimize and provide high-quality landing pages for the person who searches “solar energy investment.” Once we handle that low-hanging fruit, we need to move on to the tangential queries, like “what are the advantages of solar energy?”. Within this page, we should frame the benefits of solar energy and use multiple call-to-actions or banners to persuade someone to learn more about how to invest in solar energy. It’s totally plausible that someone who searches for “what are the advantages of solar energy?” has no interest in investing whatsoever and will leave the page as soon as their question is deemed answered. It’s also possible that they never even make it to the landing page itself because the Google SERP has answered the question for them:

We can’t be scared of this tactic just because Google is stealing content and placing the information within the search results. Featured snippets still have very high click-through rates (meaning users still visit that content) and we don’t know which queries will trigger featured snippets tomorrow or in six months from now. All we can do is create the best content for users’ queries.

For the visitors who are interested in the potential of solar energy investment, there are several ways that we can keep them engaged:

  1. Email capture popups
    1. This can be done via time-elapsed or exit intent versions
  2. Static or sticky call-to-actions (for products, demos, or email capture) either within the content or adjacent to the text in right or left-hand rails

AMP to accelerate traffic growth

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are one of my favorite SERP enhancements that Google has made in the past few years. As a quick reminder, AMP provide cached, streamlined HTML that makes loading pages on mobile crazy-fast. AMP pages also show a little lightning bolt icon in the SERPs; eventually this will condition users that any page without a lightning bolt will be slow. They don’t allow for interstitials or popups, and even have their own area within search results. Google is heavily investing in this space and is incentivizing publishers to do so as well. Creating AMP variations of your organization’s content can be a strong idea for driving more web traffic, but it can come with some potential pitfalls that you should be aware of.

Tracking

AMP pages require their own Google Analytics tracking and it does not come standard. If you use a CMS or GTM that automatically places GA tracking code within the head, you will not automatically be covered with AMP pages. Make sure you set up tracking properly.

No popups

I just mentioned that email capture popups are a great way to ensure multiple points of engagement with users who otherwise may have just visited a particular site one time. By capturing emails, you can doing remarketing, send product emails, keep people apprised of updates with your organization, and create similar audiences, among other benefits as well. However, once you create AMP and they begin to replace your m. or responsive pages on mobile within the search results, your popups will no longer appear. While you won’t be able to get the true functionality of popups, a suitable workaround is to add email form capture in-line within your AMP content:

form-error.gif

When it comes to CRO for pages that receive organic traffic, it’s not the end of the world if a person doesn’t undertake an action; we’re not paying for them. Just by visiting our page, we can cookie them and remarket to them on search and other paid channels like Facebook and Twitter. We’ve extracted value from our visitors and they don’t even know it.

On the other hand, when a visitor arrives via paid search, we need to be doing everything in our power to make sure that the person undertakes a desired action. That desired action could be providing an email in exchange for a download, scheduling a consultation, purchasing a product, or providing other information. It bears repeating, though: if you’re paying for clicks and have not made a concerted effort to design your landing page in such a way that users are most likely to undertake the desired action, you’re wasting money. I do not claim that there is some sort of silver bullet that will work across every single niche and every single audience for every single product. Using a gated landing page for one client may work best for some, while soliciting user information via a form might work best for another. The only way to know is to test and see how users interact.

Key tips:

  • Some ultimate conversions have a lot of friction; don’t shy away from microconversions
  • If you already get traffic and it “doesn’t convert,” think critically about how it would be possible to re-engage with those users or what they might feel comfortable providing you with at their level of interest
  • AMP pages need separate GA tracking and do not allow popups

Tying it all together

Let’s recap this. When an organization cannot bank on a large enough search volume in its particular niche to provide the necessary runway for growth, it needs to think creatively about how to best harmonize organic and paid search channels. Truthfully, all organizations (regardless of the size of the search volume in their niche) should do this, but it’s particularly important in low-search volume niches because without it, growth is likely to be far slower and smaller than it could be.

For the sake of argument, we assume that the product or service doesn’t have much popularity, so we need to expand into informational queries, the topics that one would search before they know that they could use the service or product.

We need to ensure that we quickly and properly identify the transactional queries in our niche, and build pages that fulfill the intent of the user’s query. These pages should almost always have a call-to-action that allows people to take advantage of their interest immediately.

However, we’re looking for growth, so we need to think even bigger. We need to provide content for the people who are searching for queries that demonstrate some sort of interest in our niche, but don’t necessarily know that they want our service or product. We build out those pages, populating them with content and resources that fulfill the user’s query, but also provide calls-to-action that capture emails and/or drive users further into the funnel. People who don’t realize that they want your product or service may not react well to hard sells and high barriers to entry. Asking for an email address can be far more palatable and keep the conversation going.

If using AMP pages to gain more visibility, make sure that you have properly set up Google Analytics first and have added in email form captures at different points within the content, not just at the end — most of your readers won’t make it there. Depending on what our strategy is, we may also want to begin cookie-ing users for remarketing.

When using paid search, as with organic search, we need to make sure that we’re properly targeting the transactional queries we need — the ones where people are most likely to undertake a desired action. By using RLSAs we can also potentially bid on more generic, short-tail queries that might have yielded low conversion rates if we were to have exposed them to the broader Internet community at large, but could prove very successful if we only show them to people who have visited our site or specific pages. In addition to possibly converting at a higher rate than a regular paid search campaign, RLSAs can serve as a great keyword discovery tool without completely decimating your budget.

In the vast majority of cases, traffic for traffic’s sake is useless. If your traffic doesn’t undertake the actions that you want them to, chances are it will be declared useless and investment into content creation may decrease. I’ve seen it happen. Your traffic does not need to convert via buying a product or scheduling a demo the first time they visit, but if you have microconversions (like email capture) set up, you’ll put yourself in a much better position to re-engage with your visitors, find new similar visitors, and drive more conversions.

One last nugget of wisdom from Distilled’s own Head of PPC, Rich Cotton:

The main benefit of one agency running PPC and SEO is communication; aligning marketing messages, sharing data, keeping a consistent user experience, making lines of communication for the client easier. By ensuring that your PPC and SEO teams are working together, PPC can fill gaps in SERP exposure for organic, test new copy, and share important keyword data that PPC still has control of.

Rather than competing, when drawing up attribution models, an integrated approach allows us to share the value driven and work holistically for the benefit of the client, rather than fight to prove that our channel was the more effective one. Your marketing dollars will go where they are most needed, not be argued over by inter-agency politics.

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How to Dig Deep and Discover the Treasure in Your Niche

jelle-annaars

Let’s take a moment to sing the praises of counterintuitive moves that propel our businesses to a whole new level.

Every so often, you try something completely different. And every so often, it really works.

Take Jelle Annaars, for example.

Jelle has spent years offering copywriting services to a long list of clients. But when he shortened that list, business improved.

He’s also spent years building a robust online presence. But when he incorporated offline techniques, that’s when things took off.

And he became a Copyblogger Certified Content Marketer by submitting writing samples in English — and English isn’t his first language!

Jelle’s story is this month’s Hero’s Journey feature. We’re tapping the collective wisdom of our community members to bring you reports from the front lines of the content marketing world. See all the Hero’s Journey posts here.

Read on as Jelle shares the counterintuitive moves that have made a difference in his business.

The nail-biting decision that now seems obvious

Jelle Annaars: I’m a content marketing consultant and copywriter. I often tell people I’m a one-man agency for content marketing: I do content strategy, planning, and production. I work mainly with small businesses that have 20-250 employees.

I give my clients a bird’s-eye view of both their current content marketing efforts and future possibilities. That’s the strategy part.

When they need to actually produce content, they can rely on me as well, since I’m a trained writer. And because I dig deep into their industry and their business, there is no “handover.”

I view my collaboration with clients as an in-depth business partnership.

I decided a while ago that I wanted to work with a small number of clients that I build deep professional relationships with — which helps differentiate me from other service providers.

My focus is on tech companies.

Choosing a niche was probably the hardest decision I’ve had to make as a consultant, but looking back, it should have been a no-brainer.

Everything improved once I committed to one niche.

An unusual move that’s working well

Jelle Annaars: I mainly market online, but I’ve branched out to offline recently.

I focus on the Dutch-speaking market in Belgium, and I’ve realized there’s a huge untapped potential for me to market myself offline.

Offline interactions with my audience may have less reach, but they have a lot of impact.

I’m adding speaking opportunities to my marketing mix now, and I’m very excited to see the results. And I’m doing a lot more phone calls lately.

Counting the blessings of self-employment

Jelle Annaars: Autonomy and personal development are both super important to me.

I’m quite curious and always looking to learn new stuff. As an employee, I needed to ask for permission every time I wanted to learn something new or attend a conference. Today, I decide that on my own.

Then there’s the freedom to work whenever I want, wherever I want.

I also value the variety of clients and tasks.

As Sonia Simone put it so well a while back, “I have a high tolerance for stress, but a low tolerance for boredom. That’s why I got started on my own.”

I completely relate to that.

From content supermarket to exclusive high-end caterer

Jelle Annaars: At one point, less than a year ago, I described my business as a bit of a “supermarket for content.”

I had 20-30 regular clients who came to me when they needed something like a blog post or an email, usually at the very last minute. Many were advertising or marketing agencies.

That model didn’t work for me.

Personally, I prefer to build deep relationships with a few people rather than being a social butterfly. I realized my business didn’t reflect that.

I’m very focused on delivering lots of value, and I couldn’t provide maximum value using the “supermarket” model, because I wasn’t as closely involved with clients.

It was also financially less rewarding. I was generating lots of invoices — but they were tiny, and my total earnings were small. It used to be that if I had four to five billable hours in a day, that was a good day.

Then one day I decided I wanted a different type of business. I purposely looked for deeper client relationships that I could invoice on a retainer basis.

I realized I could serve about six or seven clients well using this model, and I changed my business accordingly.

This involved saying no to some previous clients — including all advertising agencies. It also meant I sometimes needed to say no to new prospects.

It was a bit counterintuitive at first but really worked out for the best.

I am very happy I made that decision.

I’m working with a smaller group of clients on a retainer basis and getting to know their businesses better and better. The difference is night and day!

My stress level has dropped dramatically because I don’t have to look for new clients all the time. I also have significantly more financial security.

Today, I’m booked solid.

Your calendar fills up pretty quickly when you offer in-depth collaboration on a retainer basis. And I’m confident that the moment I have room for a new client, that slot will also fill up quickly, because word gets around.

Digging deep and daring to dream

Jelle Annaars: Something that’s working well for me right now is what I call deep networking.

I go to many digital marketing events in Belgium and I keep meeting digital media professionals. I stay in touch with them through Twitter and LinkedIn. I enjoy interacting with this crowd because I genuinely like them and want to be a part of the community. I don’t try to pitch myself; I just try to be helpful and fun to be around.

As a result, this type of networking has landed me a few great jobs.

Another practice I cannot recommend highly enough is taking one day a week to spend time on your own business.

Whether you use the time for reading, attending conferences, perfecting the way your business works, deciding which direction you want your business to take — it doesn’t matter.

It’s very counterintuitive to say no to a client or prospect because you’re booked to work on your own business, but do it anyway.

You might not be able to invoice that day of work, but you’re increasing your long-term value and doing your future self a huge favor on all fronts.

The Rainmaker Digital products Jelle uses

Jelle Annaars: I use the Rainmaker Platform, and I recently experimented with the sales and membership features to sell a webinar and make it available afterwards.

I’m in the middle of building a course that I will host on the Platform. I’m also experimenting with the email marketing features.

I’m a Certified Content Marketer, and I do not hesitate to show my certification badge at any appropriate moment.

I still refer back to the material in the Certification program. The central idea of transforming from a copywriter into a content marketing consultant was an eye-opener for me.

I have used what I’ve learned from Rainmaker Digital to sell and produce a webinar, and I am working on a larger video course right now, called the “Content Marketing Blueprint” (in Dutch only, sorry).

Onboarding, productizing, courses, and more

Jelle Annaars: I like the new direction of my consultancy a lot and want to further improve my practice, especially when it comes to client collaboration. I’m thinking about adding universal client onboarding and off-boarding processes, an online client area to organize all materials, and a briefing process.

I’m also considering “productizing” my services by offering a few packaged services with fixed prices.

Furthermore, this year I’m launching my first full course. It’s going to be a mix of online and offline lessons with my students.

I’m very excited to expand my business in that direction and be able to help people I can’t work one-on-one with for whatever reason.

Gratitude and inspiration

Jelle Annaars: I’d just like to say a word of thanks to Copyblogger.

I once was an aspiring copywriter who was desperate to get into the business but had no idea how to go about that.

At a time when it was hard to find people who would invest time and energy in training me, I found Copyblogger and was able to more or less train myself just by reading the blog.

I may well owe my current career to you.

The generous knowledge Copyblogger shares every day is still a huge inspiration.

Find Jelle Annaars online …

Thanks to Jelle for appearing in our Hero’s Journey series.

Do you have questions for him? Ask them in the comments.

We’ll be back next month with another story to teach, inspire, and encourage you along your journey.

The post How to Dig Deep and Discover the Treasure in Your Niche appeared first on Copyblogger.


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A Different Kind of SEO: 5 Big Challenges One Niche Faces in Google

Posted by Alex-T

When it comes to brick-and-mortar storefronts, local businesses often struggle to compete with neighboring big brands. Statistics show that, even for a well-known local store that’s established a strong relationship with its customers and built a community through the years, having such a neighbor can be detrimental. But what about a newly opened business? Does it have any chance of competing with popular brands? My experience has led me to believe there’s only one way a locally owned business can overcome big competition: it needs to take advantage of local SEO.

Recently, in collaboration with Accuranker, I conducted a survey that touches upon the difficulties local businesses face when trying to become visible in Google’s local results. We analyzed more than 300,000 local SERPs across multiple industries (beauty, medical services, auto services, legal, shopping, etc.) to get a clear understanding of what the chances are for a local site to seem attractive to Google.

One of the more curious insights our research revealed is that the legal services niche is among the most competitive. Sure, this finding isn’t rocket science. In fact, I bet on some level you were aware of this (or at least you had a gut feeling). However, this issue is much more complex than it seems. The legal services niche far surpasses other niches in terms of competition and prices.

Does this mean that the legal services niche falls under radically different rules and requires unique SEO tactics? This is exactly the question I set out to answer, and you’re most welcome to follow me on my little investigation!

Gathering the data for this article

After reading this article, you’ll understand the biggest challenges that any legal website faces when trying to become visible in the SERPs. The data here will help ensure that your future strategies are based on informed decisions. Moreover, you’ll be able to streamline your creative process and find non-standard approaches that will cement your success in the legal industry.

To conduct proper research on what SEO strategies local businesses employ in the legal services niche, I took the following steps:

  1. I made a list of keywords unrelated to any brand (which could hardly be classified as local).
  2. I identified the most competitive places in the US for this industry in order to analyze how legal sites build a presence in this extremely aggressive environment

The first step was simply to do keyword research, which involved a bit more manual work than usual — I tried my best to filter out branded keywords and ones that weren’t relevant to local searches.

With the help of Statista I was able to get a list of the states in America that have the highest employment rates in the legal niche:

states with the highest employment in law.png

This graph shows US states with the highest number of employees in legal occupations in the United States as of May 2014. Source: statista.com

You can see that California, New York, and Florida have the highest number of employees in this industry, hence these locations are the most “densely populated” by law firms and lawyers, and, as a result, the competition in these states should be higher than in other states. After I made a list of the most competitive locations, I was ready to move on to the next step — analyzing the domains that appear in SERPs for the keywords I had previously selected.

Now let’s see what my findings revealed.

The top 5 SEO challenges for the legal niche

The extreme competitiveness of the legal services niche might be explained by the fact that this market generates more than $ 248 billion USD in revenue (according to a recent report provided by Statista) with only a relatively small number of searches.

To give you a better understanding of the size of the legal services industry in the US, let’s compare it with a bigger market: for instance, if we look at ecommerce, we can clearly see that the revenues generated by the two niches in question are nearly the same (ecommerce sales surpass $ 256 billion USD), despite the fact that ecommerce traffic share figures are four times greater than in legal services. It’s safe to say that the legal niche has turned out to be a ridiculously competitive market, because it’s an outrageously profitable one. I’m also certain that the success of any SEO activity depends on a deep understanding of how the industry and its major players work.

In the next section, you’ll learn about the main challenges that legal businesses face.

#1. Online legal business are dominating local SERPs

Statistics from an IbisWorld report confirm that the online legal services niche was able to generate $ 4 billion USD in 2015. Moreover, in recent years this niche has been steadily expanding due to the fact that consumers are interested in getting legal services online. That’s why it doesn’t come as a surprise that a company named Rocket Lawyer generates more than 30,000 searches monthly (according to Google Keyword Planner) by helping users deal with their legal issues online. This number of searches proves that online legal services are gradually becoming popular, and people don’t want to spend their time scheduling an appointment with a lawyer anymore.

Now you’re probably wondering how this trend is affecting local SEO, right?

Knowing that New York, Miami, and Los Angeles are among the most competitive locations for the legal niche, I decided to find out which sites are the most visible in local search results there. I took into account more than 500 different keywords related to legal services and compiled a list of the domains that most appeared most frequently for those keywords. And here are the top three domains that remain visible in local search results in all three cities:

  • Findlaw.com
  • Avvo.com
  • Lawyers.com

After making this list, I double-checked these websites to make sure that all of them belong to the online legal services niche. I also decided to dig deeper and manually checked the top twenty domains that were most visible across all the locations I analyzed, in order to understand what kind of legal services they provide. I found out that 55.6 percent of the sites I analyzed belong to the online legal services niche. That means that local businesses now have to compete not only with global businesses, but also with online legal businesses that, by default, have better positions in SERPs, as the main goal of their business is to increase their online presence by getting more organic traffic from Google.

#2. Google doesn’t give priority to local legal businesses in organic search results

Apart from the strong presence of online businesses in local organic SERPs, I was struck with the steady visibility of the top twenty websites that appear in local search results in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. The shocking truth I discovered about Google local SERPs is that less than 20 percent of sites were unique across all the studied locations. This means that search results are occupied by global and online businesses in 80 percent of cases. Furthermore, the top three most visible domains remain the same in all three cities, and they are as follows:

  • Findlaw.com,
  • Avvo.com, and
  • Lawyers.com.

I also discovered that all three of these websites belong to the online legal services niche, and, despite SEO visibility, have a good number of backlinks. I am of the opinion that local businesses have no chance of competing with them whatsoever.

As I studied the 20 percent of websites that are unique, two curious cases of locally based businesses caught my eye — Injurylawyers.com and Cellinoandbarnes.com. Let’s take a closer look at these two websites.

From Injurylawyers.com’s “Contact” page, I learned that it operates mostly in Florida. However, I don’t think that the reason it ranks so highly in local search results in Miami is because of its physical presence there. Even at a quick glance, it becomes clear that Injurylawayers.com is ranking so high in local results because of its website’s overall performance. As you can see from the screenshot below, its website has a good number of referring domains, as well as a decent amount of organic traffic:

Source: ahrefs.com

Another site that caught my attention — Cellinoandbarnes.com — has a branch based in New York. The history of this legal company begins over 50 years ago, and without any doubt Cellino and Barnes is a well-known and trusted bran. Plus, Google recognizes it as a brand. The very fact that its brand name is being searched for more than 6,000 times a month speaks volumes about the trustworthiness of this legal company:

All these facts show that Cellinoandbarnes.com’s visibility in New York SERPs is because of the domain’s general performance in Google US organic search results:

Source: spyfu.com

My quick research proves that, in practice, Google doesn’t give priority to NY-based legal companies and still mostly relies on general ranking factors. And it seems obvious now that any online business can easily outperform an offline SMB legal company by increasing the number of backlinks, brand mentions, and site visits it receives.

#3. The local pack is still a saving grace for local businesses

One year ago, Google implemented a major change that dramatically minimized local businesses’ chances of becoming visible in local packs: Google replaced the 7-pack in SERPs with a 3-pack. And I was quite interested to figure out what kinds of businesses now hold these three positions in the legal niche, and whether these results are local.

Despite the fact that local organic SERPs are fully occupied by big online businesses, the local pack still is the best way to remain present in Google for locally based legal companies. My research revealed that 67 percent of sites that appear in local packs for legal services are hyper-local and local. To arrive at this percentage, I analyzed the domains that appear in local packs in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles in terms of their SEO performance in Google US (to do this, I used Serpstat’s Batch analysis tool).

I was also curious what share of online presence the local legal businesses that appeared in the local pack had, along with the breakdown by states. To mark sites as local, I checked their their traffic with the help of the Serpstat’s Batch Analysis Tool. (I’d like to note that I find Serpstat’s figures most relevant for such purposes, as they parse raw data from Google US. You can easily spot which sites are global and which are local.) And here’s what I found:

  1. Miami – 60% of legal websites appear in the local pack
  2. Los Angeles – 35% of legal websites appear in the local pack
  3. New York – 15% of legal websites appear in the local pack

This was quite an insight, since I assumed that California would be the most competitive location for the legal niche, because — as you may recall from the beginning of this post — it’s the state most densely populated by law firms. Also, it’s surprising to find New York only at third place in this list. Yet, as you can see, Miami has the greatest number of local sites that are present in local pack. Therefore, I believe that being featured in local search results in New York requires a lot more resources than it does to achieve the same visibility in Miami. And this is something that every SEO expert should be aware of.

#4. You can’t stand out without a site — even in local pack results

It’s a well-known fact that Google’s local pack provides businesses with the opportunity to appear at the top of Google SERPs even without a website. According to my previous research, which I conducted in collaboration with the AccuRanker team, the local pack works much better for less competitive niches. What I tried to clarify here is whether you can stand out in a local pack without a website in such an unconventional and competitive niche as legal services. Unfortunately, no, you cannot.

To prove this, I analyzed 986 local SERPs in order to figure out if legal brands can appear with or without a website. My findings showed that 86 percent of legal businesses that pop up in local packs have a website. This means that even if your business is visible in local packs without a website, in a majority of cases, it’ll be considered by potential clients as less trustworthy, since users usually expect to see a link to a particular domain.

Without a link to a professional-looking website, your business will seem less credible — not only to potential clients, but also to Google. Nevertheless, it’s not unusual for large, global companies to be trusted more than small, local ones. Therefore, small companies need to instill confidence in their potential clients by having a website.

#5. There’s no correlation between a legal website’s ranking number one in a local pack and its number of reviews

I’m certain that every business owner understands the importance of customer reviews. It’s a no-brainer that a level of trust is instantly established when a potential client sees that a local business has reviews. And it definitely increases the likelihood of said client to convert. Also, the very presence of Google native reviews is thought to be among the Top 50 local search ranking factors.

However, this study of legal services has already revealed that there are quite a few peculiar ranking factors that business owners need to keep in mind in order to succeed in this niche. That’s why I was curious to know whether there’s any correlation between a site’s number of customer reviews and its ranking #1 in a local pack.

With the help of the AccuRanker team I was able to get the sum of reviews that show beside each result in local pack. Afterwards, I analyzed more than 2,000 local SERPs in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. And here’s what I found:

There’s no correlation between ranking in the first position in a local pack and your number of reviews.

For instance, in New York local pack results, the companies that appear in the third position have 824 total reviews. Those that appear in the first – 732. Moreover, I noticed a good number of cases in which a company that had a solid number of reviews was ranked in the third position, while a business that hadn’t even been reviewed yet was ranked in the first.

Another striking insight I gained: most legal sites never show their potential visitors more than 2 reviews. Based on this data, I can say that this represents an overall industry trend of a lack of native Google reviews. That’s why Google ranks businesses that haven’t been reviewed so highly. Even if you have a significant number of customer reviews, it won’t help your business rank higher in local pack results.

One final note

Without any doubt, the legal niche presents a lot of unique local SEO challenges that other industries hardly ever face. The high penetration of online legal services into the existing legal market is changing the current business landscape — in particular, it’s drastically affecting local results. Online legal businesses are stealing an outrageous amount of web traffic from local companies, without giving them even a slim chance of ranking as well in local SERPs.

Fortunately, local legal businesses still have priority in local packs, but the highly competitive environment is forcing them to improve their online presence by creating a website. Since a majority of the companies that appear in local packs have sites, your potential clients’ expectations are ratcheting up. In fact, this trend may reinforce searchers’ opinions that businesses without a website are untrustworthy. Furthermore, it seems that Google also prefers to show users local legal businesses that have a site, rather than those that don’t. The only good news is that your number of reviews doesn’t really influence your rankings in local packs.

Still, if a local legal business is interested in attracting clients via the Internet, it shouldn’t hesitate to look for alternative ways of generating traffic in both organic and paid search channels.

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​How to Create Images That Attract & Convince Your Target Niche

Posted by nikkielizabethdemere

FJPY1Rw.png

Any old picture might be worth a thousand words. But your target niche doesn’t need or want a thousand words. Your ideal audience needs the right words, paired with the right images, to tell a story that uniquely appeals to their deepest desires.

Studies show that people understand images faster than words, remember them longer, and if there’s a discrepancy between what we see and what we hear, our brains will choose to believe what they see. Our brains prioritize visual information over any other kind, which makes images the fast-track to connection all marketers are looking for.

So don’t just slap some text on a stock photo and call it good. You can do better. Much better. And I’ll show you how.

Understand the symbolic underpinnings

This homepage from Seer Interactive does a lot right. The copy below this central image is golden: “We’re Seer. We pride ourselves on outcaring the competition.” Outcaring? That’s genius!

But, I would argue, pairing this image with these words, “It’s not just marketing, it’s personal,” is less than genius. There’s nothing personal about this picture. Sure, there are people in it, but chatting with a group of coworkers doesn’t say “personal” to me. It says corporate.

NNqDoNV.pngWhat if they paired those words with this free image by Greg Rakozy from Unsplash?

SOgjVjt.pngThere’s something about this image that isn’t just personal; it’s intimate. Two people connecting in the dark, surrounded by snowflakes that almost look like white noise. Could this be a metaphor for reaching out through the noise of the Internet to make a personal connection? To get someone to fall in love (with your brand) even?

Many philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists have pointed out that humans are uniquely symbolic creatures.
– Clay Routledge Ph.D., The Power of Symbolism, Psychology Today

A truly powerful image speaks to us on a symbolic level, feeding us information by intuition and association. Humans are associative creatures. We naturally derive deep, multifaceted meanings from visual cues, an idea brought into prominence by both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

The magic behind an effective symbol is its ability to deliver messages to both our conscious minds and subconscious awareness. When choosing the right image for marketing copy — whether an ad or the “hero” section of your website — consider not just what you want to tell people, but what you want them to feel.

A symbol must possess at one and the same time a double or a multiple significance … Thus all symbols possess both a ‘face’ and a ‘hidden’ value, and it is one of the great achievements of psychology to have shown how the ‘hidden’ value is generally, from the point of view of function, the more important. …Behind this face value lies a mass of undifferentiated feelings and impulses, which do not rise into consciousness, which we could not adequately put into words even if we wanted to… and which, though they go unattended to, powerfully influence our behavior.
– F.C. Bartlett, ‘The social functions of symbols,’ Astralasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy

And, of course, as you’re looking through images, consider this:

What type of images and experiences will resonate with your target audience’s deepest desires?

This, of course, requires you to have built out a robust buyer persona that includes not just their demographic information with a catchy name but also their extracurricular passions: the driving forces that get them out of bed and into the office each day.

As with conversion copywriting, the key to success is identifying motivations and using them to create a visual representation of your niche’s most desired outcomes.

Set the stage for an experience, not just a product

In keeping with the theme of images that deliver the desired outcome, the most effective online ads do this in a way that invites the viewer to experience that outcome. Instead of featuring simply a product, for example, these ads set the stage for the experience that buying the product just might enable you to have.

ModCloth is a master of this. Doesn’t this image make you want to take a nap in a nice, cozy cabin? You can get that experience (or something like it) if you buy their $ 200 hammock.

5036Odd.pngUnless you live in the deep woods of the Appalachian mountains, your home will never look like this. But some of us wish ours did, and we’re clearly the target audience. This picture speaks to our deepest need to get away from everyone and everything for some much-needed rest and recuperation.

When choosing images, it’s just as important to consider symbolism as it is to consider the target viewers. What experience will resonate with them most? What images will sell their desired experiences?

ModCloth’s recent “road trip” slider doesn’t say anything about the clothes they’re trying to sell, for example. But it does speak to a sense of adventure and the power of female friendships, both of which are defining characteristics of their target niche of millennial women with a delightfully quirky fashion sense.

cWEVdqk.pngYou don’t have to be a clothing company to capitalize on this idea or even a B2C company. Check out how these B2B companies use images to make their words not just read, but felt.

LU9kd3l.pngDon’t you feel like you’re Superman out for a midnight joyride? All the world at your fingertips? Yeah, that’s the point. What they’re selling, essentially, is omniscience via data. All the benefits of DC Comics-like superpowers, minus the kryptonite.

19LrmR9.pngYou might not catch it at first glance, but look at how cozy these people are. They’re wearing knit sweaters (not suits) while cradling warm cappuccinos in their hands — clearly, this sales meeting is going well. No pressure tactics here. Quite the opposite.

C8OQkJi.pngFor this example from Blitz Marketing, you’ll have to visit their website, because this isn’t a static image — it’s a video montage designed to get you PUMPED! Energy practically radiates off the screen (which, we are left to infer, is the feeling you’d get all the time if you worked with this creative marketing agency).

EUzMn5d.png

Piston, another ad agency, takes a more subtle approach, which I love. Instead of having your standard stock photo of “man in a suit,” they did a custom photo shoot and added quirky elements, like a pink candy ring. I find this image particularly powerful because it effectively sets up an expectation (man in a suit), then adds a completely unexpected element (candy ring), which is conveniently located behind the word CREATIVE. This illustrates just how creative this agency is while remaining utterly professional.

Numbers are compelling. Numbers with visual aids? Unstoppable.

Let’s say your buyer persona isn’t driven by emotion. Show this persona a grid of city lights from 2,000 feet up, and he or she won’t feel like Superman. They’ll be wondering what this has to do with the ROI they can expect.

Someone get this persona some numbers already.

When conversion depends heavily on gaining credibility, pictures can be very compelling. In fact, one study out of the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand showed that simply having an image makes the text alongside that image more believable, even if the image had nothing at all to do with the text.

When people evaluate claims, they often rely on what comedian Stephen Colbert calls ‘truthiness,’ or subjective feelings of truth.
Nonprobative photographs (or words) inflate truthiness, by E.J. Newman, M. Garry, D.M. Bernstein, J. Kantner, D.S. Lindsay

Essentially, any image is better than nothing. But the right image? It’s worth even more. In a similar study by the Psychology departments at both Colorado State University and the University of California, researchers experimented with brain images.

Brain images are believed to have a particularly persuasive influence on the public perception of research on cognition. Three experiments are reported showing that presenting brain images with articles summarizing cognitive neuroscience research resulted in higher ratings of scientific reasoning for arguments made in those articles, as compared to articles accompanied by bar graphs, a topographical map of brain activation, or no image.
Seeing is believing: The effect of brain images on judgments of scientific reasoning by David P. McCabe and Alan D. Castel

However, what if we traded in this either/or philosophy (either picture or no picture, either picture or bar graph) for a philosophy that uses the best of all resources?

Having the right image, supported by the right words, and given credibility by real numbers (as statistics or in graphs/charts) is the most effective possible combination.

Statistics have also proven to be compelling. In Blinded with science: Trivial graphs and formulas increase ad persuasiveness and belief in product efficacy, the study out of Cornell University reveals that just the appearance of being scientific increases an ad’s persuasiveness. What does that “appearance” require?

Graphs. Simple, unadorned graphs.

And, those graphs were even more effective at persuading people who had “a greater belief in science” (e.g., your logical buyer persona).

Put the right words together with the right image, then overlay with a supportive set of numbers, and you can convince even the most logical persona that you have the solutions they seek.

Caveat: When the name of the game is building credibility, don’t undermine yourself with shoddy data and lazy analysis. One of your smart customers will, without fail, call you out on it.

Graphs and charts don’t have to be fancy or complicated to be convincing. Check out these two graphs from the Kissmetrics article Most of Your A/B Test Results are Illusory and That’s Okay by Will Kurt.

CpsQKZK.pngF0eQFmR.pngDo you even need to read the rest of the article to get the point? (Though you will want to read the article to find out exactly what that scientist is doing so right.) This is highly effective data storytelling that shows you, at a glance, the central point the author is trying to make.

CubeYou, a social data mining company that turns raw numbers into actionable insights, does great data storytelling by combining stats and images. Not only do these visuals deliver demographic information, they put a face on the target at the same time, effectively appealing to both logical and more intuitive personas in one fell swoop.

VwJsu9Q.pngAnd for even more powerful images, look at the data visualizations Big Mountain Data put together of the #WhyIStayed domestic violence hashtag. Talk about telling an impactful story.

IFaDNBQ.pngThen there are infographics that include data visualization, images, and analysis. I love this one from CyberPRMusic.com.

qelQyNp.pngIt’s all about telling their story

Uninspired visuals are everywhere. Seriously, they’re easy to find. In researching this article, I could find 20 bad images for every one good one I’ve included here.

Herein lies an opportunity to stand out.

Maybe the intersection of words, images, and numbers isn’t well understood in online marketing. Maybe having free stock photos at our fingertips has made us lazy in their use. Maybe there aren’t enough English majors touting the benefits of effective symbolism.

Whatever the reason, you now have the chance to go beyond telling your target niche about your product or service’s features and benefits. You have the ability to set your brand apart by showing them just how great life can be. Free tools such as Visage make it possible.

iHrJ3ka.png

But first, you have to care enough to make compelling images a priority.

What are your thoughts on using stunning visuals as needle-movers for your brand?

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How to Use an Iterative Loop to Dominate Your Niche

How to Use an Iterative Loop to Dominate Your Niche

Here at Rainmaker Digital, we’re riding an iterative loop. It’s how we do business.

We listen, we create, we offer, we improve, and the cycle goes on.

Approaching your content strategy as an iterative loop will help you create useful, in-demand information that serves your customers and builds your business.

Out in the business world, this approach is called design thinking. And design thinking is in the news right now. Harvard Business Review ran a cover story on it this past September. The New York Times featured it earlier this month.

Here at Copyblogger, we’ve been talking about design thinking since 2010.

Design thinking isn’t difficult — it’s just different. It requires a mindset shift that will change the way you create products, content, and customer experiences.

What is design thinking?

It might be easiest to answer this question by comparing design and design thinking.

Design is about making objects functional and pleasing to the eye. Traditionally, design has been a discipline that was practiced by the small percentage of people who’d studied it or those whose aesthetic sense made them especially qualified.

Design thinking is about developing products and services using a methodology that puts the customer’s needs and experience at the forefront. It’s a different way to approach the development process.

Design thinking is driven primarily by audience needs, and the fruit it bears is based on the challenges and problems they face. It’s about looking at how real people interact with your products and services, and adapting them so they truly meet their needs.

Companies that practice design thinking put an imaginary sticker on everything they produce that says, ‘Designed by our customers.’

IBM bets their future on design thinking

Profits are down at IBM, but I’m not too worried about it.

How many technology companies can boast that they’ve been around for more than 100 years? It’s only through aggressive adaptation that IBM has succeeded despite all the changes in the technology landscape since they started back in 1911.

Their latest adaptation is to incorporate design thinking as an integral part of their business. They’re using design thinking to change their culture and the way they do business.

IBM is in the process of hiring 1,100 designers, with a long-term target of 1,500. They’re training a large portion of their management staff in the principles of design thinking. They’re “embedding” designers inside product development teams throughout the company. To date, 8,000 people company-wide have received some type of design thinking training.

It’s a small percentage of the total employee population, but it represents a significant investment of resources in a new way to look at their business.

They’re banking on design thinking to improve their long-term outlook.

How to apply design thinking to your content and your business

The goal of design thinking is to make your content, your website, and your products and services inherently simple and useful.

Aim for something that is so well designed that people don’t notice the design.

The goal? Design that doesn’t call attention to itself. Design that isn’t ‘precious,’ or even very noticeable.

It all starts with one important question.

“What is a better way to do ___?”

Ask this question of any process, product, or service.

Then grab a physical object — a pad of sticky notes, some pieces of paper, a whiteboard and marker — and map out what your customer experiences now and what you’d like them to experience. Even better, get a customer or two in the room with you to tell you firsthand what they’re experiencing.

Very basic prototyping gives you insights into the important customer touchpoints in your business. It shows you where you can improve their experience either through better content, a streamlined interface, or a more robust solution.

When thinking about your content, incorporate a customer experience map. Create a content strategy that serves customers along every step of their journeys.

Design thinking. Do. Iterate.

Iterative loop graphic

Graphic courtesy of Diagrammer on Duarte.com

Here’s an example from our own company.

A couple of months ago, we launched the Rainmaker Labs feature within our Rainmaker Platform software.

Labs is a place where a select group of users are invited to experiment with features that are currently in development and provide feedback directly to the team that’s working on those features.

  • Design thinking: We’re thinking about our customers as we develop new features — they’re often a result of direct requests.
  • Do: We develop the feature enough to be tested in the real world. It’s the software version of a physical prototype that real end-users can try out.
  • Iterate: Based on the feedback we get, we improve and polish the software enough to release it as part of the platform that all users access.

We’ve built design thinking right into our software. Pretty cool, huh? :-)

The downside of design thinking

Design thinking sounds great, doesn’t it? What’s not to love?

Here’s the thing: people who live by the rules of design thinking welcome failure. Often. If you’re going to ride the iterative loop, you have to be prepared to fail and learn from that failure. You’ve got to embrace the fact that things will have to be pulled apart and re-done when the best customer experience demands it.

You’ve got to put your ego to one side, and recognize that the customer is king and their experience rules the process.

If you haven’t done business this way, it can be uncomfortable. But when you see the final results, you’ll recognize that it’s worth a little discomfort.

Design thinking makes space for emotion

Traditional design is about functionality and aesthetics. “Does it work?” “Does it look good?” These are the questions you consider.

Design thinking folds in emotion. “How do our customers feel when they use our product or service?”

This might sound a little woo-woo. But design thinking means having deep empathy with your users and producing experiences they’ll remember. Those memories are sealed in with the emotions they experience when interacting with your business.

And those emotions make your business memorable — remarkable, even.

The iterative loop and where to use it

This iterative loop — design thinking — do — iterate — is something you can use to make deep cultural changes within your business, whether it’s a one-person shop or a 412,000-employee corporation.

The iterative loop can touch every single aspect of your business, even down to elements like your shopping cart software and the copy on your invoices.

Adding design thinking to your process leads to products that are simple and human.

Every aspect of your business, from the front end to the back, can be designed around your users’ needs.

Let the iterative loop guide your strategy

One warning: design thinking often makes your future unpredictable. Planning months ahead of time is difficult. You have to be willing to ride the loop wherever it takes you.

Your customers will lead the charge, not you.

You’ll be alongside them, serving up what they need with a dose of memorable emotional appeal.

About the author

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is Executive Vice President of Educational Content at Rainmaker Digital. Follow her on Twitter, and find more from her at BigBrandSystem.com.

The post How to Use an Iterative Loop to Dominate Your Niche appeared first on Copyblogger.


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How to find a profitable niche with Wordtracker

Author (displayed on the page): 

Read the transcript:

(By the way, I use the word ‘niche’ a lot in this video. I’m English, so I pronounce it “neesh” rather than “nitch”. Please bear with my pronunciation!)

Hi there,

Thanks for tuning in. My name’s Mal and I’m going to show you how you can identify and prioritize new niche markets to target from keyword research.

There are three things to consider when you’re looking for a new niche:

1 – Demand

The search volumes in Wordtracker can give you an idea of the relative demand for each niche inside a larger market – for example, if I’m searching on a head term like ‘gardening’, the keywords at the top of the list can be considered as niches (and I’ll show you how to explore those in more detail later).

2 – Profitability

Google’s a really useful tool for establishing this. If there are people advertising on Google around your chosen niche, then that suggests that there’s enough demand to warrant investment in advertising to capture those searchers and bring them into your marketing fold.

3 – Competition

It’s all well and good finding a heavily searched market with lots of clues around its profitability – but we shouldn’t just leap in there without establishing how much competition there is out there vying for the same attention. Wordtracker can show you which keywords have lots of competition, and which have less. Ideally we’re looking for less competition, as too much competition can make it hard to rank for a keyword.

I’ve been hearing lots of chatter lately about organic food, organic clothing, organic farming and even organic shoes – so I’m going to start looking around that market to find a niche that I can work on to attract traffic and sell some products. Looking at [www.magazines.com](http://www.magazines.com) is a good loose starting point (but I’m sure you’ll have plenty of your own ideas about where to start), so I’ll just put ‘organic’ into their search box to see what comes back – and ‘organic gardening’ seems pretty popular.

I’m going to head into Wordtracker now, and with the ‘gardening’ word in my head, I’m going to start there. Gardening is the market, and I’m looking for the ‘organic gardening’ niche – but there are going to be plenty of others there.

I just create a new project, and then start a search for ‘gardening’.

Many of the keywords at the top of the list here could be contenders for a new niche – so I’m going to do a little general research here, which Wordtracker makes really simple. Just clicking ‘search’ and ‘search & save’ by each keyword means that I can build up a really quick assessment of the search behaviour for each of these niches – and the search volume for each of the keywords expresses the relative size of each of those niches.

I can find more by putting my seed word into the related tool – and using search and save in exactly the same way.

These keywords reveal a searcher’s needs and desires – and by finding out what those needs and desires are, you can satisfy them by publishing great content which guides them to the products or services they’re looking for.

Now that I’ve got a few lists saved, I’m going to head back to my main project page, and I can see all of them in an easy to read way. I can see at a glance which lists (think of a list as a niche) have the most keywords and the most searches – this tells me which market niches have lots of demand. It’s fairly safe to ignore the actual numbers at this point – it’s the relative values which are really important.

I’ve opened a list to look at the keywords (which in turn can even represent new niches) and find those which have lots of searches (demand) and not too much competition (supply) – those keywords can give me a way into a whole new market niche. Once I’ve established a keyword which I think I can build a niche from, I’m going to check if it’s profitable.

In Google, I type in the keyword I’m interested in (using quotes so that I get more specific results). I can see that there are people already advertising on the search pages, which tells me that advertisers feel there’s enough value in that niche to start trading – and that’s all three elements of our research satisfied.

So once you’ve found the keyword that you want to build a niche from, try seeing who ranks for that keyword already – and take some of the keywords that they themselves are using on their pages to find the ones that will be most effective for you.

Once you’ve been up and running with your new niche for a while, you’ll probably be faced with one of three results from your analytics reports:

1 – Not enough demand for my niche (low traffic)

In this case, try a niche a bit higher up – for example, if you’re trading with ‘organic gardening supplies’, then perhaps that market isn’t quite ready – so you could experiment with ‘gardening supplies’.

2 – Too much competition for my niche (low search engine rankings)

In this scenario, you might need to niche down into a smaller market area and start from there – once you’ve built authority and trust for this smaller niche, you’ll find it less of a challenge to get back to (and beyond) your original target niche.

3 – Traffic and conversions are great for this niche!

If you reach this point with your marketing, congratulations! Don’t sit back, though, because there’s more content to be written, more outreach to do on social media and more links to be built so that you can build up your brand and move into more competitive areas.

So now we’ve looked at how to identify potential niches, and assess their levels of competition in Wordtracker, and how to get a rough idea of whether a niche can be profitable from Google’s search pages, it’s time to take over the world (I mean, get to work…)

That’s all for now. Drop us a line at support@wordtracker.com if you have any questions.

Bye for now

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How to Know if You’re Entering a Viable Niche

Image of Chart for Solving Right-Angled Triangles

When western companies first visited a deregulated India, they were licking their fingers in anticipation.

India was a country of just under one billion people at the time, and businessmen were seeing dollar signs everywhere they looked.

But, numbers alone don’t make sales.

Many companies burned themselves trying to get off the ground, because the vast majority of people simply couldn’t or wouldn’t buy their products.

They learned — after a lot of trial and error — that sheer numbers aren’t everything.

It’s impossible to know in advance if your business venture will be successful online. So, I suggest you look for one big factor before you start out: competition.

Huh? Competition?

Yes, competition. If you can find a ton of competition in the market you’re in, then you’ll know it’s extremely viable.

Why? Because a whole truckload of people have been there before you, and have been able to keep their businesses afloat.

But just having a large number of competitors still isn’t the best denominator — so I suggest you go even further in your investigation.

Subscribe to some of your competitor’s email lists and Twitter feeds, see what they’re doing out there in the world. Are they selling higher priced products and services? Or is it all a discount play?

If you find higher prices, then you’ll know for sure that there’s a market — and a high priced market, too.

If those high prices continue over the years, you’ll know that particular niche is sustainable.

This isn’t a foolproof method.

You’re looking in from the outside, and it’s hard to know for sure what profits exist in the business. But you can be fairly certain that if you find a lot of competition on your topic, the niche you’re looking at is a profitable one.

This is how I got into marketing

Years ago, I was fascinated with marketing, but mere fascination isn’t enough. The book that nudged my life in a different direction was “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.

Collins introduces a concept called “The Hedgehog Principle,” and it consists of three questions:

  1. What are you deeply passionate about?
  2. What can you be the best in the world at?
  3. What drives your economic engine?
Image of The Hedgehog Principle

I was passionate about marketing, and I know I could be the best in the world at it (if I dug in and did the work.)

But the companies trying to get a foothold in India never answered the third question.

What drives your engine? How viable is this niche?

The answer must come from the market

Generally, the higher the competition in a market, the more viable the product or service attached to it will be.

If the market is saturated with fad diets, you’ll have a better chance of writing a bestseller about a fad diet — versus a rigorous lifelong lifestyle change.

If TV is swamped with reality shows, you’re better off making yet another — yes, another — reality show.

When I got started on my marketing journey, people like Jay Abraham were selling seats at workshops for $ 5,000. I went to workshops that were priced at $ 10,000.

I could see that people were selling online and offline marketing products — and for pricey sums, too.

Price is a good benchmark

High prices show that not only does a market exist, but it’s a mature market.

And high prices also allow smaller players to co-exist.

If everyone is discounting each other in a tiny market, then you struggle to get off the ground. But if there are several layers of pricing, it’s a lot easier for you to enter the niche and slowly power your way up the ranks.

But what if you don’t want to follow the crowd?

Don’t want to be a lemming?

That’s noble, but the pioneers always take all the arrows.

The pioneers are the ones that have to educate the market — and that takes a lot of time and effort. It’s a lot better to follow the crowd (read: competition) and start off there. But you then carve out a position in the market by doing your own thing, so you can build the audience that will support your business.

Get started today with researching your niche, and place a premium on looking into the competition factor. It may be the smartest marketing move you ever make.

About the Author: Sean D’Souza offers a great free report on ‘Why Headlines Fail’ when you subscribe to his Psychotactics Newsletter. Be sure to check out his blog, too.

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7 Targeted Social Networks Niche Marketers Should Try

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You’re probably always hearing about the most popular, mainstream social networks — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ — and how you can use them for business. That’s because these networks attract such a wide range of users, that it’s easy for the majority of marketers to have success connecting with their audiences there. But you must know that those “top” social networks aren’t the only ones out there, right?

Truth be told, there are hundreds of other, niche social networks on the web that, depending on your particular audience or your goals, can also be well worth it for you to participate in.

Why Niche Social Networks Are Valuable

A social network can be considered “niche” if either A) the focus of the social network is much more specific (e.g. a social network just for events), or B) the users it attracts are much more targeted than those of social networks that cater to a wide range of users (e.g. a social network just for animal lovers).

The beauty of niche social networks is that they take the step of targeting and segmentation out of the marketer’s job. So for example, if your business sells yarn and you’re a marketer participating in a social network for knitters, you already have a much more targeted audience at your disposal than you would on a social network like Facebook. And we all know how much more effective your marketing can be when segmentation is involved, right? So before you devote all your social media marketing time to just the top networks, it behooves you to do some research into whether there are any niche social networks populated by your audience.

Not sure what kinds of niche social networks have popped up on the web? Here are 7 of some of the more targeted social networks to open your eyes to what’s out there. Have you heard of or used any of these before? Go ahead — try ‘em out!

1) Quora

Quora is often a forgotten social network, but it’s also one of the most valuable. Quora aims to provide answers to almost any question you can think of. From questions about marketing to questions about coding, Quora provides a great resource to both users looking for answers, and marketers seeking to position themselves as thought leaders. Think of it as a much broader version of LinkedIn Answers!

 

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How Marketers Can Use This Network

  • Ask questions about your industry to collect direct insights into what your audience is thinking.
  • Answer questions about your company, industry, or even competitors. This will help you position yourself and your company as a thought leader. (Note: Disclose what company you’re from for the sake of transparency — and credibility!)
  • When possible, provide links to resources such as blog articles that help to answer users’ questions.
  • When appropriate, sprinkle in links to some of your educational lead-gen content such as ebooks and webinars to capture Quora users as business leads.
  • Connect with other marketers on the network to see what is or isn’t working for them.

2) Meetup

Attending and planning events is an important part of any marketer’s job. Meetup makes this responsibility easier for almost every industry. Whether you’re hosting or looking to attend an event that focuses on marketing, health, lifestyle, literature, or even family, pets, sci-fi, or photography, Meetup provides a centralized network with information on the events happening in your area. Marketers who want to reach a particular industry can immediately identify the right events and connect with attendees even before they attend.

 

meetup

 

How Marketers Can Use This Network

  • Identify relevant industry events to attend. Not only will you be able to see all the industry’s events in one place, but you’ll also be able to find networking opportunities before the event even starts.
  • Publicize your own events and attract more attendees by industry or geography.
  • Find inspiration! Get cool event ideas from other cities, and bring them to life in your own area.

3) Care2

The trend toward “going green” isn’t exactly breaking, but it has caused an uptick in many marketers making sure their marketing campaigns use environmentally friendly processes. The social network, Care2, popped up as people came together to discuss this eco-friendly type of lifestyle and educate others about it. And more and more, marketers need to use these practices in everything they do to cater to this growing audience. By participating in this social network, marketers can educate themselves about the ways they can implement eco-friendly tactics into their marketing strategies.

 

care2

 

How Marketers Can Use This Network

  • Research, research, research! Implementing green strategies into your marketing isn’t easy. Learn what others are doing.
  • Talk to people in this community, and see what they really care about. What topics matter most? Is your marketing aligned?
  • Does your company sell products/services that cater to eco-friendly users? Then you’re golden! Research what eco-friendly issues are prevalent among your audience to inform your content creation, marketing, product decisions.

4) Gentlemint

When the popularity of Pinterest began to rise, we noticed the emergence of another social network catered to men’s needs and interests: Gentlemint. Often called the “Pinterest for men,” Gentlemint has a similar layout to Pinterest with a layout of images that can be commented on and re-shared. But instead of pictures of fashion, food, and babies, there are pictures of guns, cars, and alcohol — a community perfect for businesses selling products/services that appeal to the male demographic.

 

gentlemint


How Marketers Can Use This Network

  • If your target audience is comprised mostly of men, use Gentlemint to do some research about what the male demographic is interested in. See what they’re sharing, and identify what’s popular (and what’s not).
  • Host Pinterest-like contests to drive traffic from Gentlemint to your website and engage your audience with your brand.
  • Apply Pinterest best practices and set up a board (or a few) through which you can connect with Gentlemint. Here are 28 creative pinboard ideas you can adapt to cater to the Gentlemint audience.

5) CafeMom

Mommy bloggers have become a very popular resource for promoting products and services to other mothers looking for parenting advice. CafeMom is a popular network that gathers these mommy bloggers on one platform to share on childcare through blogs, videos, and games. This audience is becoming an increasingly valuable asset to marketers who are trying to get the attention of mothers.

 

cafemom


How Marketers Can Use This Network

  • Blog about and share information that is useful to mothers, and share it in the network. Give advice about parenting, and recommend products or services that might be useful to them.
  • Research the articles and videos this audience is posting to get a sense of the topics that garner the most clicks and views. Figure out how to incorporate these topics into your content creation strategy.
  • Make connections with other mothers to learn about the problems, challenges, and interest. Ask questions/survey them to learn how to better market to them.

6) ThirdAge

The fastest growing age group on the internet is senior citizens. More than ever, Baby Boomers and seniors are connecting online with each other and their families. As a result, the internet has become a resource for seniors to get advice from each other on health, aging, and retirement. This is where ThirdAge comes in. ThirdAge boasts newsletters, groups, discussion boards, videos, articles, classes, games, and more designed to help females ages 50+ connect and get advice — perfect for marketers whose products/services appeal to an older generation.

 

thirdage

 

How Marketers Can Use This Network

  • Research to discover better ways to reach this audience. How do they like being marketed to? What do they like or dislike?
  • Peruse the forums to learn what issues this demographic struggles with. Can you create and share content that helps address these issues and provides solutions?

7) Athlinks

Athlinks is a social network for athletes to compare statistics and network with each other. With over 266,000 members, it allows athletes to provide information about themselves such as the sports they’re interested in and lists local races and events athletes can attend to meet up with other like-minded athletes. It also includes an athlete directory to search by person or location. This network is great for marketers whose products/services cater to the athletically inclined.

 

athlinks

 

How Marketers Can Use This Network

  • Using the event feature, find out and attend events that are popular among the types of athletes you cater to. This could be a great opportunity to chat with your buyer personas and even publicize some of your products and services in person.
  • If you’re a local business, search for and connect with members of the different clubs your audience may be a part of by location. 
  • Share a relevant article or participate in the ‘Action Spy’ section of the website to participate in the conversation.

What other niche social networks have you found handy?

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Stop Questioning Negative SEO — It Exists and It May Kill Your Niche

Cygnus Drawing.

The best part about a growing and very quickly changing industry is the diversity of viewpoints; the worst part is the exact same thing because sometimes 1 always equals 1 and doesn’t need bullshit in lieu of evidence. I try my best to stay out of the limelight and just focus on making things happen. However, occasionally a topic will bother me so much that I have to chime in. The last time was over 5 years ago so I figure I’m due to speak up again. Today’s topic? Negative SEO. My issue with the topic? Deniers.

There’ve been several posts on how negative SEO doesn’t exist (those are the worst) or that maybe it exists but only weak sites can get hit (in other words, people with opinions that didn’t do any testing). I’d like to put those topics to rest as best as a guy that keeps to himself can. I really should be able to do this in one sentence, but in the event what I write as the second half of this sentence doesn’t do it for you, I have a couple stories; if crappy SEO of over-optimized anchors and junky links are to blame for ranking drops, how can it be said one cannot do this to someone else, and even if you were to deny this, then why the sudden rush to denounce certain links? On to some anecdotes!

While leading a training session overseas I mentioned a site I watched get hit by some negative SEO activities. I know that it was negative SEO and not a slip up on the SEOs’ part by virtue of knowing the history/team behind the site and watching it as part of my normal data routine; the site was managed by the kind of guys that get asked to speak at SEOktoberfest…the kind of people I’d go work for if my bag of tricks ever ran out. Ok, so you’re asking how I know it was negative SEO. The easiest explanation is that I watched the site spike heavily with on-theme anchors from junk sites over a one week period and was filtered shortly thereafter. It stayed filtered for just under few months, but 2 days after discussing the site and explaining how I knew the site was hit it magically reappeared (yes, there were googlers in the audience).

If you are skeptical then your first response better be that I’m only loosely describing one example so let me say that in the same industry where I’ve shared my knowledge of the subject on some more sophisticated methods (first released in the SEObook community), I feel almost like an information arms dealer since even the larger brands have themselves or through affiliated relationships been clubbing each other over the head. You read that right; I explained how I thought negative SEO could be employed and then watched a bunch of people actually do it, repeatedly. Unfortunately, I was hit too, but that’s a different issue. In this particular industry, the only people left standing now are some poorly matched local results with fake reviews, a bunch of hacked domains, and the flotsam of macroparasites that gained popularity post Penguin. The only one that came back? The one I publically shared at a conference, explaining exactly how they were a victim based on the link patterns that didn’t fit with the site’s history over a several year period.

I’ll wrap this up with a bit of humor. As a joke a friend of mine asked me to negative SEO him for his name. Let’s say his name is John Doe and his domain is johndoe.com. The negative effect was temporary, but I was able to get him filtered for a little while on his name for maybe 120 seconds of my time and less than $ 50. The site did come back after a few days, but our mutual feeling on the matter is that for an extra $ 50 double-dose I could probably get the site filtered again. Neither of us wants negative SEO to get any more prevalent than it already is, so I’ll skip the details on exactly how it was performed. There are multiple forms of negative SEO significantly scarier than someone with a copy of xrumer and in some cases there is very little you can do to prevent it; if a jerk wants to take you down, it can happen. If your niches begin to look like the wasteland I described above where I shared my thoughts a little too freely, then heaven help you because it doesn’t look like Google is going to.


Cygnus has been involved in search since 1997 and loves tackling new and interesting (and of course lucrative) projects. Follow @Cygnus on Twitter for his rants.

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Google Aggressively Enters Make Money Online Niche

Even if you are in a seedy vertical that you think Google wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole, Google may still be gunning for you!

Recall that when Google bought DoubleClick, Larry Page wanted to keep running the Performics SEO & SEM shop:

Google would spin Performics out of DoubleClick, and sell it to holding firm Publicis. Only one major force inside of Google hated the plan. Guess who? Larry Page.

According to our source, Larry tried to sell the rest of Google’s executive team on keeping Performics. “He wanted to see how those things work. He wanted to experiment.”

A search engine selling SEO services? Yep.

And now they are aggressively entering the make money online niche. Both Prizes.org & YouTube are in the top 3 ad slots for “make money online”

And I am seeing some of those across portions of the content/display network as well. I just saw this in Gmail today.

How does this align with the Google AdWords TOS?

To protect the value and diversity of the ads running on Google, we don’t generally permit advertisers to manage multiple accounts featuring the same business or keywords except in certain limited exceptions. Furthermore, Google doesn’t permit multiple ads from the same or an affiliated company or person to appear on the same results page. We’ve found that pages with multiple text ads from the same company provide less relevant results and a lower quality experience for users. Over time, multiple ads from the same source also reduce overall advertiser performance and lower their return on investment.

Google doesn’t allow advertisers or affiliates to have any of the following:

  • Ads across multiple accounts for the same or similar businesses
  • Ads across multiple accounts triggered by the same or similar keywords

Well, as it turns out, the Google AdWords TOS doesn’t actually apply to Google.

Search is a zero sum game.

Google is just getting started with breakfast. I am afraid to see what the last meal will look like!

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