How to Use SEO to Define Your Business Niche
When businesses think of SEO, they often think of blogs, keywords, and ranking. But SEO can provide so much more than that. But how exactly?
SEO can help you see market trends, providing incredible value to your business. And this is especially helpful when choosing a niche. But choosing a niche is one of the hardest challenges growing businesses face.
As a business owner, you’re likely to take every opportunity you can get your hands on. Sometimes the margins are great, other times, you may even lose money.
The key to business success is to choose the right niche as you want to focus on the most profitable customers that fit your business best.
But how do you find that niche?
The good news is that SEO can help make that process much easier by giving you the insights your team needs to pick a profitable niche and scale your business.
Let’s see how!
- Choosing the right niche to focus your SEO efforts on can be extremely hard and time-consuming.
- When narrowing down your choices and choosing a niche, dive deep into search results and have a look at the data. Don’t limit your research to just current and past customers.
- Follow these best practices by James De Roche, a well-known SEO expert & founder/CEO of Lead Comet, to research viable business niches using SEO.
- Conduct keyword research from the very beginning to avoid language problems.
- Search for terms and phrases to analyze the SERP results.
- Dive deep into your chosen keyword to understand its full potential.
- Conduct additional keyword research to ensure alignment with your business goals.
- Don’t forget to analyze your competitors.
- Determine the level of effort needed to establish your business as an authority in this space.
- Finally, once you’re done with keyword research on finding a niche, share the results with your team for further brainstorming.
Why should you always start with keyword research before naming anything?
The terms you use to define your product lines, service lines, and business can set you on a path to success or inescapable failure.
You’re pretty much stuck with whatever name you choose, so you must be careful. You don’t want to slap a name on something and call it “done.” Branding is a time-consuming, expensive process. And it’s much harder to fix later on.
To avoid problems, you want to start by ensuring the term or name you want to use isn’t already taken.
It seems obvious. But, it’s a common step people miss. I’ve seen businesses with the same name as movies, animals, and more. And they want to rank #1 on Google for their business.
Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen (at least, not without a ton of marketing spending).
For example, if you own a lighting fixture company and want to build out a service line for Gas Lights called “Gas Lighting,” You’re in for a world of hurt.
In some terms, you can’t outrank what’s out there, especially if they’re already established. Instead, you’ll waste a lot of time and resources trying to wiggle onto the first page only to find no room for you.
In the end, you’ll burn through your marketing budget. And your impact will be minimal.
This is an incredibly frustrating (but common) scenario for business owners. They offer great products or services, but it gets buried because they didn’t research the name.
You need to do your homework.
Before creating a business or labeling any product or service, always run a search on Google. You want to see what terms rank for that keyword. And you want to understand the search intent for that keyword. This will help you decide whether or not it’s worth branding it.
Better yet, use an SEO tool to research keyword volume and difficulty. These tools will tell you whether or not people are already looking for these terms and how much of a lift you’ll need to rank for them.
How SEO can help you define your niche
Choosing a niche for your business is hard.
For one, the idea of turning away business feels unnerving. This is especially true if you’ve spent much time as a business owner in feast-or-famine mode.
Still, it’s often better to niche down because you can streamline processes and increase margins by becoming a specialist. Plus, you’ll stand out against your competitors.
But, you don’t want to back yourself into a corner.
One of the biggest fears business owners have with niching down is that they’ll narrow in on a niche that isn’t very profitable (or isn’t something customers want).
For example, let’s say you own a construction company and are considering specializing in foam-fitted toilet construction. Before you flush your profits down the toilet (I couldn’t help myself), you want to know if this is a service people want. Otherwise, you could waste a lot of money investing in a service or product that no one wants.
You’ll likely start by reviewing current and past customers. And you’ll speak with your sales team to determine what pain points the leads have.
That is great, but it’s limited to the people you work with directly. It’s not necessarily a snapshot of the market and potential customer needs.
To figure that out, you need to go beyond your business. SEO helps you do that. You can uncover the total addressable market by diving deep into search results and data.
How to research viable business niches using SEO?
Using SEO tools and tactics, you can evaluate the market potential of various niches. Heads up: you’ll need SEO tools to conduct this in-depth research.
Follow these steps to provide additional insights for your leadership and sales teams.
Step #1 Search for the term or phrase
This is the easiest step. Drop the term into Google in incognito mode (to prevent previous searches on your device from interfering with results) and see what comes up. Take screenshots of the SERP results and drop them into a deck to share with your team.
Look at the type of results that Google shares.
Google attempts to match searcher queries to content. The results on the first page will likely have a theme (blog posts, product pages, branded terms, etc.).
You need to identify the theme of the results to identify search intent. You want to know what people expect to see when they search that term.
Sometimes there will be mixed results. This could indicate a term without clear search intent. And in some cases, this could be an opportunity.
Uncertain results could mean people are looking for answers but not finding what they need. That means your business, product, or service could better address the search intent.
After, you’ll need to go deeper.
Using an SEO tool, analyze the metrics of the top search results. Specifically, you need to note these sites’ traffic and backlink profiles.
Questions to ask when using Google to Identify your niche
- How much is traffic potential (keyword volume) there?
- How competitive is this niche?
- Which brands already rank for this keyword?
- Do any major publications cover the topic?
- Are there guest posts?
- Are there product pages?
- Are there blog pages?
- What other types of content rank?
- Is the content good?
- Can you realistically rank on this term?
Your goal is to scope out the landscape and gauge your potential for success.
Read posts. Review web pages. Analyze the search results and identify other features that show. Your goal is to figure out whether or not you can rank there.
Don’t shy away from Reddit and other social media platforms. Forums and reviews are also great places to discover honest customer feedback that can help you gauge expectations. You’ll see what people think about when discussing a certain term.
While researching, make sure you make a note of any competitors that you see. (You’ll need these later.)
Step #2 Conduct additional keyword research
Sometimes, you’ll find that the term leadership wants to define their niche isn’t the best. This happens when the search results don’t align with your business goals for the niche.
In that case, you’ll need to explore other topics.
You’ll need to do some brainstorming and exploratory research.
Try to put yourself in the mind of prospects. What would they be searching for to solve their pain points? Research those terms. Note any keywords that are a better fit.
If the keyword aligns with your business goals, you’ll still want to conduct additional research.
Again, you’ll want to run the keyword through search tools. This will help you easily find related or similar keywords that may better align with your business goals.
Step #3 Analyze competitors
Once you’re confident that you have the right term, you need to identify the potential market. Pull up the list of competitors you created during your research. It’s time to evaluate them.
Visit their websites and review their product pages to see what they offer.
Using an SEO tool, you should also look at their keyword and backlink profile. This will help you determine whether or not they have a large online presence. Find out which keywords they prioritize. Look at how they earn backlinks.
Then dive deep to understand the sources of their incoming links. This is crucial as you don’t want to end up with competitors who “earn” those badly wanted links by illegally buying them or through spamming. As a result, you will be misled about what the real demand is.
Finally, you’ll want to analyze their content to determine its quality.
You need to determine whether these are generic business blogs or real thought leadership. This will help you understand the level of investment you’ll need to own this space.
Step #4 Determine the level of effort
With all your insights, it’s time to determine the level of effort needed to establish your business as an authority in this space.
Every niche has four levels:
- Blue Ocean: No search volume or traffic on terms. Search results are minimal or not aligned with the potential product or service.
- Emerging Niche: There is some keyword traffic and content on the topic, but the difficulty is low, and there is no thought leadership.
- Functioning Niche: Several businesses compete in this market. There is some thought leadership but the potential to position your brand with effort.
- Competitive Niche: Numerous businesses, including international companies, compete in this space. Thought leadership is abundant. High-quality content is everywhere.
Your best chances of success are emerging and functioning niches. You’ll need a minimal level of effort to establish your brand there. Plus, you’ll typically see results quickly.
Blue Oceans offer the most reward but have the greatest risk. You can invest resources, develop an extensive, in-depth marketing plan, and knock out deliverables only to build something no one wants.
Competitive niches are very hard to dominate. But, they’re not impossible to crack.
Large and smaller players alike will have crowded over standard terms. You’ll have to work on your positioning and leverage guerilla-type marketing strategies to stand above the noise.
How to share the SEO research on finding a potential niche with your team?
The data is great. But the last thing you want to do is ramble on and on about keyword data and backlinks to your team.
This will drive them crazy.
Instead, you need to interpret the data for them. This will allow them to draw meaningful conclusions.
Simple strategy deck to present your SEO research
- Brief Introduction
- Summary of your findings
- Your research methodology
- A high-level overview of search engines results for potential niches
- Keyword and Backlink Data
- Pros/Cons of the niche
- Alternative niches
- Major competitors and their positioning
Your deck must tell a story.
You want to paint a picture for your team that shows them what they can expect from trying to build out this niche. Highlight challenges and opportunities while letting your team know how resource-intensive the campaign might be.
With these insights, you’ll not only increase their chances of success, but you’ll also position yourself as a critical member of your team.
Choosing a profitable niche and focusing your SEO efforts on it isn’t an overnight task, but it isn’t impossible either. Just follow my best practices and come up with innovative ideas.
Author: James De Roche
James is the managing partner at Lead Comet, an SEO company that focuses specifically on B2B organizations. He’s obsessed with finding more efficient ways to drive revenue through searches for growing businesses.