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Do you sell lambskin rugs to wealthy Russian businessmen? Or do you specialize in antique bookshelf repair?
Not all of us have the luxury of working in a traditional niche. Run a search for “content marketing” or “SEO” and you’ll see tens of thousands of businesses and individuals crowding for a shot at visibility. The advantage of serving an unconventional, unique niche is that you’ll experience far less competition, but you’ll also deal with a smaller audience, and you’ll have fewer competitors and resources to guide you in your journey (believe it or not, competitors can actually be a good thing).
So what can businesses in unconventional niches do to improve their chances of SEO success? Here are nine ideas.
1. Get to know your audience.
Before you do anything, take the time to get to know your audience. Basic market research is a good start, but you’ll need to get in-depth to learn your customers’ search habits, needs, and content discovery preferences. This will help you eliminate some of your preconceived notions about how your audience conducts searches, giving you a shortcut to better material and more relevance to your audience’s needs.
2. Dig deep with long-tail phrases.
Once you know how your audience searches for products or information in your niche, you can start your long-tail keyword research. Traditional keywords have lost some value in the years since the Panda and Hummingbird updates revolutionized contextual search, but long-tail keywords are especially important for unique niches. You won’t have much competition, and audience size isn’t a concern; relevance is a bigger priority. Instead of targeting keywords that get you the most traffic, spread out and target a larger number of open long-tail keyword phrases; question-and-answer formats are powerhouses for these industries.
3. Come up with truly original ideas.
When most industries come up with “original ideas,” they’re usually piggybacking off someone else’s original idea by updating the research, asking a new question, or viewing it from a new angle. In your unconventional industry, you have the ability to come up with truly original ideas. Do some original research, ask questions that have never been asked, and make a name for your brand as a thought leader in a space that hasn’t yet explored its full content potential.
4. Find compromises for off-site publishers.
Those original, niche-focused posts work extraordinarily well as on-site content, but you’ll still need inbound links if you want to build your domain authority and organic search rankings—and that means you’ll need to work with conventional publishers. Don’t be afraid to make compromises; you can write content that’s only partially relevant for your niche, so long as you’re crafting material that’s valuable to your publisher’s target audience. You’ll have to compromise here, but that’s okay; you need the links if you want to keep growing your search presence. For a full guide on how to build links for your website, see SEO Link Building: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide.
5. Connect with your competition.
It’s possible that you don’t have any competitors, but it’s unlikely; there are probably at least a handful of businesses that operate in the same (or at least a similar) space as yours. Rather than trying to compete with them directly, connect with them. Learn about what they’re doing differently, and share some insights of your own. Because your niche is so small, you won’t have to worry about being forced out; instead, you can collaborate to achieve greater visibility for both of you.
6. Start small.
You won’t have much preexisting data to work with, so before you invest everything in SEO, start with a restricted, experimental effort. Target only a few keywords at a time, and produce some content for testing purposes before launching into a full-blown campaign. You need to gather information before you can be effective, so start small and ramp up.
7. Get social.
Your goal is to rank higher in search engines, but your audience may not know what questions to ask to find you—and in some cases, may not even be aware you exist. Accordingly, you’ll have to make an effort to increase your visibility to your target audience before you lock down your search rankings, and social media is the perfect place to do it. Syndicate your content, connect with influencers, and follow new people regularly to improve your brand’s visibility and reputation.
8. Build an on-site community.
If your target audience is one specific demographic, your community members will likely find a sense of belonging and loyalty by connecting with each other. You can support this connection by building some kind of on-site community, such as a community forum. This will encourage greater loyalty to your brand and will simultaneously help you produce new content—without the need to do it all yourself.
9. Offer some mainstream content.
Finally, it may be in your best interest to offer some mainstream, conventional content in addition to your niche content. This not only serves as a gateway to building relationships with conventional publishers (which is necessary for building inbound links to your website), it also increases the potential audience that could read and share your content. Is your niche a branch or sub-section of a bigger, broader industry? That could be a target for a portion of your blogs. Consider splitting your blog into different subsections to differentiate, and don’t lose sight of the fact that refined niche blogs are your main priority.
Obviously, the fundamentals of search optimization will still apply to you. These are simply additional considerations that can help you execute those fundamentals better. You’re likely in uncharted territory here, which yields the advantage of unclaimed search results space and the disadvantage of few (if any) examples to follow.
It’s a rewarding challenge to pioneer a winning SEO campaign in relatively uncharted territory, but the longer you keep at it, the more you’ll learn.