In the past, if you were looking to start an online business or blog, one of the most common pieces of advice was to look for an open niche. When the internet was still relatively young, and there were “only” a few million websites instead of the Billion-with-a-B today, it was a lot easier to find a topic that hadn’t been covered extensively already.
These days, it seems like every niche is already dominated by at least one big-name brand. It doesn’t matter if it’s something as top-level as Marketing or as niche as a small hobby; there’s bound to be numerous people competing for the attention present in that space.
So, whether you’re looking to start a site and find the competition is fierce no matter where you turn, or you want to do your best to take over a top spot for a known competitive niche, you need to know how to go about it.
How can you leverage SEO to compete?
From time to time, you’ll often see a newcomer to a space quickly become a challenger and settle into an established role as one of the giants. How do they do it? Very often, they’re backed by immense wealth. These companies saturate the market with paid ads and promotions until they reach a critical mass where they’re self-sustaining.
While the tips we present below aren’t necessarily entirely free, they don’t rely on Venture Capital or already being a big name to succeed. The more power, reputation, connections, and money you can throw at the process, the faster you’ll grow and the better you’ll be when you reach the top.
Many SEO strategies sound promising because they exploit loopholes or otherwise promise shortcuts to success. Collectively, these are labeled “black hat” strategies and are generally penalized when a site is caught using them.
Many sites rise to prominence on the back of black hat techniques, and then when Google turns its scrutiny towards the site, it gets nuked from orbit. Suppose you’re willing to take the risk. In that case, you may be able to use black hat strategies for a temporary boost, then quickly replace them with legitimate methods and disavow previous efforts before those strategies can do the damage.
It’s tricky, risky, and against the Google Webmaster terms of service, so we don’t recommend it.
We’ve come up with five strategies you can use to try to compete in a highly competitive niche. Just remember, your competition is fierce, so you can’t afford to rest on your laurels on each success. If you can’t handle keeping up with the competition, this ambition may not be for you.
The first strategy on the list is to explode on the scene as quickly as possible. You want to go from nothing to a household name as soon as possible; becoming a household name. Develop a great brand. Exact-match brand names, innocuous-sounding names, names that make people wonder what you even do; they’re all terrible. You want a compelling, catchy, memorable brand name. Something you could picture people using the same way they use Kleenex, Velcro, or Popsicle; as a name representative of the industry.
You won’t get there right away. In some niches, you can’t get there. But, it’s the goal you’re trying to reach.
How do you do it?
Your goal is to explode onto the scene, show up everywhere, and sustain that presence as much as possible. If possible, schedule as much of this to happen all at once. If you have the budget for it, paid advertising to promote your key pieces of content, interviews, and your website can all help. The more saturated your market is with your name and content, the better.
Keyword utilization is essential for modern-day SEO, but the trick is that it’s not the same as keyword usage years ago. Modern keyword optimization requires knowledge of how Google understands keywords and language and careful avoidance of keyword stuffing and over-optimization.
Here’s a guide from Brian Dean on Backlinko with a complete rundown of modern keyword strategies. He keeps this guide updated every year, so it’s a great reference to keep on hand.
Another recommendation is to use one of the modern-day high-end optimization analysis tools. These tools analyze your content, pick out your target keywords, offer suggestions for including them at the proper density and frequency, and suggest alternatives and additional keywords you can add to boost your content to the next level.
The two current best tools for this are Clearscope and MarketMuse. They both use vast content and SEO knowledge libraries, along with AI and machine learning algorithms, to help optimize the content you run through them. They’re not cheap, but they’re well worth it.
Make sure every piece of content you write, from a minor guest post to the most high-profile part of flagship content, has been optimized with one of these tools.
SEO is all about optimized content, which means you need to invest heavily in your content marketing.
Content will be the bread and butter of your SEO, but the core of your efforts should go into what is known as 10x content.
What is 10x content?
The keyword guide from Backlinko above is an example of what great 10x content looks like.
10x content needs to be incredible, and to create it; you need a deep awareness of what other content exists for the keyword/topic you’re choosing to target. Identify the top-tier content for a subject, and look it over for opportunities.
Above all else, though, the content must be helpful, whether it’s an informational resource, a reference guide, a go-to tutorial, etc.
The hardest part with 10x content is that it’s not a new strategy, so the chances are that the competition is already creating 10x content for many of the more accessible topics to reach. You can make 10x content on top of theirs, but at some point, it becomes unwieldy or impossible. It would help if you found the right opportunities to use the strategy, which heavily depends on your niche.
Another way to stand out in the content game is to tweak the formula to approach it from a different angle.
Every piece of content has a core topic, a general conclusion, a format, and a target reader persona. You can tweak each one of these to produce unique content.
The trick isn’t to change up just one aspect of your content.
It takes a lot of investment, research, and talented writing to pull off, but it can be incredible when it works.
Content marketing is the modern-day go-to strategy for building a brand presence, but SEO is also about links at the end of the day. Content is there to generate links, social media grows awareness and backlinks, and outreach gets you links.
Quickly, organically, and effectively link building is the best way to make your site explode in popularity. The more links you can get, from varied and relevant sources, the better.
Remember, a link needs to be:
There are tons of different link-building strategies you can use. The most common involve outreach, guest posting, and creating link-bait content. Others might include things like the moving man or broken link building methods. Here’s a rundown.
Above all else, the key is volume. All of these strategies benefit from doing more of them. The more content you generate, the more links you build, the bigger your brand presence, and the more you can dominate a niche. Ramp up all of these as much as you can sustain.
You can positively dominate a scene in record time with all five of these strategies. All you need to do is invest in them heavily enough and keep it up long enough that you build momentum and become unstoppable.