It’s one of the biggest challenges when it comes to SEO.
You can read about tons of different SEO tactics on various blogs, but will they work for you?
After all, that’s the important part.
Not everyone wonders about this because they know that common SEO tactics will work for them, no problem.
But you might be different.
Your business may operate in a “hard” niche.
And it’s true, SEO is more difficult in these niches, so not all tactics will work.
However, I’ve worked with many clients in hard niches and have been able to achieve great SEO results with them.
That’s why I’m confident that there is an SEO plan out there that will work for you.
I’m going to help you make that plan for your specific business by showing you 5 ways to improve your SEO efforts in hard niches.
Want to get traffic in hard niche? Check out this cheat sheet to learn how to do it:
But before we start…
What is a “hard niche?” There’s no formal definition, but I’m referring to businesses that operate in niches that:
- have small online audiences
- have lots of SEO competition
- are hard to get links in (there aren’t many blogs or sites that seem to link out)
- are “boring” (I’ll expand on this throughout the article with specific examples)
If your business falls into that category, I believe that by reading this post, you’ll learn at least a few ways to improve your SEO traffic.
1. Competition depends on the scope (hint: change your scope)
We’re going to address those problems individually, starting with competition.
It’s easy to rank highly for a term when only a few pages on the Internet are optimized for that term.
However, if you’re going up against 10 experienced SEOs, you’ll have a hard time.
If your business is in a hard niche in the sense that traffic is incredibly valuable so competition is fierce (think loans, insurance, etc.), you’ll find that scenario often.
The very core of your SEO strategy needs to shift because you won’t be able to beat all your competitors.
Instead, you need to find keywords that they don’t even target because they don’t think that those words are worth their time.
But you’re smarter than that.
We’re talking about long-tail keywords here—longer, more descriptive keywords that have lower search volumes.
Even though they have lower search volumes, because they are more specific, the traffic they bring is usually more targeted and valuable.
While long-tail phrases don’t get as many searches per month as shorter ones do, there are way more long-tail phrases than the popular short-tail ones.
This isn’t a new concept by any means, but it’s an important one if you’re targeting a competitive niche.
Even a phrase that only gets 50-100 searches a month may be worth it if it’s for a term with high commercial intent (reader is likely to buy something from you).
How to find long-tail keywords: Sure, some SEOs are smart and target long-tail keywords because they know they’re easier to rank for, but there aren’t very many of those SEOs.
And since there are so many long-tail keywords, you can always find some new ones to target if you’re willing to dig.
Because the best keywords aren’t easy to find.
Most bad SEOs (and there are a lot) and business owners simply use the Google keyword planner (or a similar tool).
They plop in a broad keyword and choose keywords to target based on the results:
But thousands of people have done this for just about every niche imaginable. You’ll find more competition than seems reasonable for almost all of those terms.
Google has data on just about every search phrase you can think of but doesn’t always show it in these broad search results.
So, while using the keyword planner is fine, you need to enter seed keywords and phrases that are different from those everyone else is using.
There are many ways to find these, but one of my favorites is to head over to Reddit.
Type a broad keyword into the search bar. I typed in “drywall”:
Now, start looking at the results for keywords.
I quickly found “how to screw drywall” in one of the threads.
Put that into the tool, and it turns out that the phrase gets about 90 searches per month in the US:
No, that’s not a huge number, but it’s nothing to sneeze at either. If you rank for that phrase, you’ll also probably rank for other very similar phrases (e.g., “how screw drywall” or “how to screw in drywall”). Each of those will have small search volumes, but they’ll all add up to something substantial enough.
Put together 50-100 articles for long term phrases like those, and you’ll be getting a few thousand search visitors fairly easily, without the insane competition for popular keywords.
Look at the search results for that phrase:
The #1 result is a YouTube video, and the top content results don’t even have the phrase in their titles.
That’s as easy a keyword as you’ll find, and it’s because it’s not a keyword that comes up in those obvious searches.
If you put the time into finding great long-tail keyword phrases, you’ll make your SEO plan significantly easier and more effective.
There are many ways to find good long-tail keyword phrases. Here are a few resources with other specific tactics:
- 5 Modern Keyword Research Methods to Uncover Hidden Gems
- How To Generate 20,000 Monthly Visitors Through Long-Tail Search
- A Step by Step Guide to Integrating Long-Tail Keywords Within Blog Posts
2. If links are hard to find, think laterally
In some niches—such as marketing, recipes, and entertainment niches, for example—it’s very easy to get links.
There are hundreds of thousands of blogs that are willing to link to you if you make a good case.
But in some niches, those blogs just don’t exist.
That’s when you need to get creative.
One very effective strategy is to get links from related niches.
For example, if you’re a plumber, related niches would be:
- home DIY
- home decor
- beauty/life (e.g., a proper way to unclog sinks or prevent clogs)
Basically, think of any other niche that you can add your expertise to.
Then, all the typical SEO tactics come back into play: guest posting, forum posting, etc.
Let’s go through an example.
Let’s say that you’re a home decorator.
One related niche is home buying and owning, which has a different audience from your typical home decor enthusiasts.
You could write about how home decor could add value to your home. In fact, that turns out to be a good long-tail phrase:
What could you do with this?
You could create content for your own site and then reach out to home buyer/owner blogs asking for a link. That’s a standard SEO tactic.
Alternatively, you could use the idea for a guest post on a popular site.
Not only will it rank for the long-tail keyword that you target (sending you continuous traffic), but it’ll also send you a lot of immediate referral traffic from the site you post on.
Start by thinking of as many related niches as you can, then generate as many ways as possible to add value to those niches.
3. Boring niche? Here’s how to make it more fun
What can you do in a boring niche?
Can you really make painting homes fun?
If you approach the subject with a notion that it is, in fact, boring, then you probably can’t.
But usually, there are ways to make content at the very least entertaining.
Brian Dean did a great case study of this exact idea. Mike Bonadio, who runs an SEO agency based in NYC, had a client who worked in bug control—boring.
However, he created a high quality infographic on an interesting topic: how bugs can help you defeat garden pests. That infographic got picked up by a few prominent blogs:
Gardening is a related niche for pest control (just as we discussed in the previous section).
But Mike took it a step further by creating “fun” content.
Bugs aren’t supposed to be fun, but he made it fun by focusing on the benefits that bugs can provide.
And you can do this in every niche by focusing on exciting benefits and surprises instead of the boring parts.
For example, do you seal driveways?
Well, that seems boring at first, but what if you created content like:
- How many gallons of sealant would it take to seal Leonardo DiCaprio’s driveway?
- Choosing the wrong driveway sealant will cost you money: A comparison of the true cost of paving a driveway
I’m not so sure that all of those are real things, but the point remains. Turn the boring parts into an important element of a story, but not the main focus.
Back to the case study—how did it go?
Extremely well, I’d say. After Mike reached out to sites in that related niche, he was able to get over 60 referring domains and hundreds of links:
On top of that, he got over 2,100 views from referral traffic in the short term. His client’s site still ranks #4 for the term “exterminator NYC.”
Can you make your niche interesting to your customers? I know this is difficult and requires some thinking, so let me give you another example: Blendtec.
Blendtec is a company that sells…blenders.
Not exactly a sexy product.
However, you might have heard of their “Will it Blend?” video series.
In these videos, they blend all kinds of crazy objects, like iPhones, superglue, and even skeletons to answer the question: “Will it blend?”
They now get millions of views on each video they produce.
More importantly, those videos get linked to a lot, and those videos link back to Blendtec’s website, which makes them rank highly for all sorts of blender-related terms.
4. Don’t start from scratch
If you’re in a hard niche and you also have a brand new website, it’s going to be a long journey to SEO success.
For some types of businesses, most notably local businesses, you have an alternative: use another site’s domain authority.
For example, if you search for “plumbing Chicago,” you get these results just below a map of a few plumbers:
Notice that these listings aren’t of sites that actual plumbers own but of review sites such as Yelp.
Any business can create a page on Yelp, which will automatically have more search authority than your brand new site.
More importantly, these sites have that authority because they already have good search optimization and huge quantities of backlinks.
All you need to do is show up highly on their important pages, and your page (on their site) will rank highly in the search results.
You don’t need links to do this. Usually, you just need reviews.
If you run a great business, these aren’t too difficult to get. Just ask all your happy customers to leave a review (and give them instructions).
In addition, here are some more resources that will help you get more online reviews:
- 5 Techniques to Get 5 Stars: How to Get More (and Better) Online Reviews
- How To Get Great Online Reviews of Your Business
- 7 Secrets to Getting Positive Online Reviews
5. Competitor analysis is always an important first step
The final complaint that I hear is that “no one links out in my niche.”
Well, I’ll tell you something: everyone else is getting their links from somewhere.
And with the tools available to you today, there’s no reason why you can’t get many of those same links.
This is not a new technique, but it remains one of the most cost-efficient and effective ways of getting backlinks and improving your search rankings.
It’s not difficult either, but it will take some work on your part.
Here’s the simple procedure.
Step #1 – Make a list of competitors: First you need a list of sites similar to your own—your competitors.
If they are similar, you should be able to get most of the same links they have.
To make this list, start searching for popular terms in your niche, and then write down the URLs of the top 10 results (or fewer) in a spreadsheet or list:
If it’s a site on a specific topic, you can write down just the domain name, but if it’s a huge site (like hgtv), copy down the exact URL of the page.
Those are not affiliate links; those are just the two best link databases by far.
The small monthly cost is more than worth it if you’re serious about SEO.
Go through your list, one by one, and enter the URLs or domain names into the site explorer:
Then, go to the “backlinks” panel on the results, and you’ll get a list of all the backlinks to that page or site:
Step #3 – Determine if it’s possible to get any of those links: Here’s where the work really comes in.
You need to visit each of those pages that link to your target page and see if it’s possible for you to get a similar link on those pages.
For example, one of the above links looks like this:
It’s a page that links to tons of resources.
If you had an appropriate resource page, it would be simple enough to email the owner and ask to be included.
Other times, you might see that the link is from a guest post. You can email the owner pitching a guest post of your own.
While you won’t get a 100% success rate, you will be able to duplicate a good portion of the links for each competitor.
The links are out there, and this is one of the best ways to find them.
One final note is that I recommend you batch each step to improve your efficiency.
Don’t try to get each link as soon as you find it. Instead, record it in a spreadsheet, and do all your link outreach at once.
Not all niches are created equal.
Some are in fact more difficult when it comes to SEO.
However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not doable.