Editor’s note: “Ask an SEO” is a weekly column by technical SEO experts Shelly Fagin, Ryan Jones, Adam Riemer, and Tony Wright. Come up with your hardest SEO question and fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!
This week for “Ask An SEO”, we have a question from Amy in West Sussex. She asks:
“How do you effectively optimize your website in a tiny niche?
How on earth do you effectively optimize your website in a niche so small that your keywords don’t get searched more than 100 times a month (according to Google Trends/Keywords planner on Google Ads).
Any advice for a solo exotic pet insurance marketing exec taking this on would be very useful.”
If there is a sustainable business model for a product or service, there is a website about that product or service that can be promoted in the major search engines.
I’ve written before that every business doesn’t need SEO, so it may seem that I’m contradicting myself to say that every sustainable business can successfully promote itself in the search engines.
But even if a company can’t capitalize on a huge volume of direct sales from the last-click on a SERP, effectively shifting the strategy to higher in the sales funnel can reap big rewards down the road.
Most of Our Data Is an Estimate
Most of the tools of the SEO trade aren’t exactly models of accuracy.
Even the tools that come straight from the search engines don’t give us numbers that truly match reality.
If you think the Google Keyword Planner’s numbers are giving the exact number of searches for any given keyword, there might be a Nigerian prince wanting to give you money – check your spam folder.
When dealing with smaller volumes of searches, the data gets even more suspect.
In fact, in many small niches, data is simply not available.
But that’s OK – because even when we do have data, we need to be looking at it through a skeptical lens.
The Bottom Line Is the Only Data That Counts
In the end, the only data that is an indication of a successful SEO program is the bottom line.
SEO can influence that bottom line in a number of ways.
SEO is known for closing the sale immediately after a click on a listing after a query.
But sometimes, SEO creates the awareness that leads to a sale after other interactions with your brand.
Dominate Your Niche Without a Hitch
I’ve been doing SEO for a long time – yes, I’m old.
When I first started doing SEO, there was little data available.
There wasn’t even proper analytics.
Yes, it was much easier to be successful in the major search engines of the day, but success still depended upon the knowledge of the audience.
Understanding your audience is the key to dominating a small niche in search engines.
If there are enough people out there interested in your product or service to sustain your business, there are people that are searching for the solution you provide – even if the Google Keyword Planner doesn’t say so.
If there are only 10 people per month searching for your particular product or service, but all 10 of those people end up buying from you, you have achieved success.
What Are They Searching For?
I’m a huge fan of putting a modest amount of money into a paid search campaign to understand the actual keywords that the audience is searching for.
Here is a great article with some tips on using PPC to glean useful SEO tactics.
Building keyword lists from a “kitchen sink” PPC test campaign, where you run broad match keywords and pay attention to actual queries can help you understand the topics and keywords to focus your SEO efforts on.
Topics Over Keywords
When dealing with a small niche, it’s important to branch out beyond keywords.
You need to dominate the topics around your niche.
Your brand needs to be associated with the broad subset of queries that are relevant to your product or service.
Google has repeatedly told us that 15% of all queries have never been seen before.
I would suspect that the percentage is even higher in queries related to small niches.
When optimizing in a small niche, you may not be able to show success by ranking for a specific keyword.
You need to be visible when potential customers are querying items relevant to your topic.
Off-Page & On Topic
Arguably, links are more important when optimizing for a small niche.
In small niches, the subset of relevant sites out there is limited.
Google makes use of “baby algorithms” for different topics, so even though the number of links is small, I suspect that Google adjusts its algorithm to accommodate the sample size.
Remember how we said you need to dominate topics?
One way to do that is to have links and mentions on relevant sites that rank for the topic.
Those links not only provide your site with authority for the search engines, but they also put your brand front and center of the topic.
When optimizing in s small niche, it’s extremely important to create relationships with the influencers in the space – and get them to talk about you, preferably with a link.
A lack of data doesn’t mean that you can’t optimize for search engines.
Many of us have become so dependent upon our arsenal of tools that we forget you don’t need those tools to successfully optimize your site for the major search engines.
Don’t get me wrong – the tools make life much easier.
But it’s important to remember that most of the data we have is an estimate – not an exact number.
Oh, and if I were optimizing for an exotic pet insurance company, I’d check out what the big pet insurance companies were doing that works and see if it could work in my niche.
Then I’d find as many exotic pet owners with websites as I could and give them something to link to.
Remember, it’s not about the volume – but about the bottom line.