Making the decision to niche down and operate as an SEO specialist can be both an exciting and daunting prospect. Exciting in the fact that it can help fast track the success of your SEO business, but also daunting, given the fact that choosing a niche can often be quite difficult.
With so many different industries and service offerings to choose from the thought of having to pick the right one can leave you feeling confused, frustrated and overwhelmed.
In this article I’m going to share a number of key considerations you should take into account before you commit to a niche.
Getting it wrong
Whilst none of us want to pick the wrong niche and get it wrong, it can happen.
Whether it be due to choosing the wrong industry, offering the wrong type of service or simply misjudging market feasibility. Whatever the reason, you should at least prepare yourself mentally for it.
I’m not suggesting it’s going to be a difficult process, I’m simply making you aware of the fact that choosing a niche, going all in and making it work can take time.
Sometimes you may not know whether you’ve made the right decision until you’re 6 or 12 months in.
The best advice I can give you at this stage is to at least prepare yourself for the possibility that you might change your mind or try a few niches until you find your place.
Which brings me to my next point.
There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind
As already mentioned, aside from getting it wrong, there’s also the possibility that you might change your mind.
I’m certainly no exception.
When deciding upon a niche, I changed my mind twice before settling down, which meant having to rethink my strategy. Even after giving everything a great deal of thought and performing extensive research.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with changing your mind, however you need to be mindful of how invested you are before you waste too much time and money climbing a ladder that might be leaning against the wrong wall.
You also need to ensure you don’t waste time “niche hopping” – that is, constantly changing from one niche to the next.
Let’s now have a look at a few ways you can determine a niche that’s right for you, and reduce the potential of getting it wrong or changing your mind.
Niching down in multiple areas
One thing I want to mention quickly before moving on, is something I’ve seen a number of times in the SEO space, and that’s multi niching.
You may have seen digital marketing agencies that specialise in SEO for HVAC and plumbing for example or roofing and flooring. In these examples, although the agencies have niched down and are specialising, they’ve positioned themselves a little bit differently to traditional niching in the sense that they’re not single industry dependant.
This of course provides a bit more redundancy and gives a broader reach. It may also make getting referrals easier, especially if you’re operating in complimentary spaces. For example a plumber will have no problem referring you to a roofer, however they may not be as likely to refer another plumber to you.
Niching down doesn’t always mean having to pick one industry or profession. You do have the opportunity to multi niche, however I would only recommend this if you have the resources and capacity to support it.
If you intend on operating as a soloist, or a freelancer then this wouldn’t be something I would recommend. If however, you have a small team and you can support it, then it might be something to consider.
Remember, multi niching means having separate processes for each industry, so again I would not recommend this unless you are capable of supporting it. You should be mindful that there’s a very fine line between multi niching and operating as a generalist.
How to choose a niche
Lets now have a look at a few considerations you should be mindful of in order to choose your niche.
Go where you have experience
Leveraging your experience, whether it be personal or professional can be beneficial as it will allow you to make the most out of your existing knowledge.
For example, if you’ve been working as an IT technician for 10 years then think about niching down in the IT space. If you’ve been working in hospitality for 5 years, consider niching down in hospitality. Likewise, if you’ve been working in the fitness industry, then consider niching down in the fitness space.
To add to that, for those of you who are actively providing SEO services already, think about previous campaigns you’ve worked on and the experience and knowledge you’ve gained.
Instead of going into a niche completely blind, with no experience at all, consider leveraging the knowledge you might already have.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with choosing a niche where you may not have any experience, however if you want to fast track the likelihood of success then it makes sense to do so.
Instead of learning an industry, you’ll probably already understand that space incredibly well. The economics, client pain points, marketing challenges, competition, subject matter, terminologies, processes and so forth.
Again whilst it’s not essential, you can benefit from niching down into a space where you have some experience and knowledge.
Be mindful of course that this advice is given with the assumption that the industry you have experience in is actually viable. There’s no point targeting an industry where the numbers don’t make sense or SEO as a service offering isn’t practical.
Go where the money is
If you want to build a highly profitable SEO business, you need to go where the money is.
Think about the industry you intend on servicing as a whole. Is it a huge industry? Is there a lot of money in that space? Will you be able to find clients willing to pay premium rates?
Or is that industry quite small, made up of hyper local businesses that may have limited budgets?
I understand that everyone will have their own goals and levels of desired income, however what you charge and how much money you can make in this business is ultimately determined by who you serve.
As an example, there’s going to be a significant difference in earning potential between servicing a local florist as opposed to a legal firm that operates nationwide.
Both have pros and cons, of which you’ll need to take into account.
If you want to run a smaller operation and charge modest fees, then you might have to target smaller companies. If you’re wanting to be more aggressive and charge premium rates, then its likely you’ll need to target larger companies.
Pick a niche that’s of interest
Choosing a niche that’s of interest certainly isn’t compulsory but it can make the work more enjoyable.
Let’s face it, if you’re going to invest yourself and specialise in a particular field you may as well enjoy what you’re doing.
I know through personal experience having worked in many different industries as a generalist that it can be difficult to feel enthusiastic towards a campaign where the interest or motivation isn’t there.
This doesn’t mean it needs to be a real passion, but at the very least, an industry where there’s a sense of interest or enthusiasm.
The industry, the subject matter, the type of client, the nature of the business – all play a determining factor in how enjoyable the work will be.
Having said that, I would make the recommendation when choosing a niche, to ask yourself
- Is this a space that’s of real interest to me?
- Is this a space that excites me?
- Is this a space where I can make a real difference?
- Is this a space I can see myself working in for (at least) the next 3-5 years, or longer?
It’s important to remember that niching down and working as a specialist means working in the same space constantly, so its important you be mindful of this when shortlisting ideas.
Go where there’s demand
This one is pretty obvious but go where there’s demand. It’s much easier to sell SEO to businesses that are actively seeking your services, rather than trying to pitch to business owners that aren’t interested or motivated.
Infact, how motivated your target audience is should definitely be something to take into account also. Varying levels of motivation can mean completely different outcomes. Its much easier to pitch SEO to a company that relies heavily on search as opposed to businesses that can do without it.
How suitable SEO is as a service offering within your niche and how motivated your prospects are, should all be factored into your decision.
Niche where there is demonstrated marketing spend
One of the easiest ways to determine if a niche might be viable, is to simply take a look at the advertising activity in that space.
Are companies in that industry advertising on Google? Are they running Facebook ads? Are they running ads on Youtube or Linkedin?
Take a look at how many businesses in that space are actively spending money on advertising, both online and offline.
Be sure to research online advertising as well as traditional advertising mediums such as television, radio, print media, magazines, roadside ads and vehicle signage.
Pay attention to which types of industries might be investing heavily in marketing. That should lend some clues as to which industries you might be able to target.
Researching existing SEO specialists
The fastest and most effective way to find opportunities within certain industries is to research and potentially reverse engineer existing agencies that have already niched down.
That is of course other SEO agencies that are specialising in a particular industry or service offering.
By doing so, you can eliminate a lot of guesswork and uncertainty around market feasibility. It can also help you shape your offer, clarify exactly who you might target and which service to provide.
I’ve always encouraged the idea of getting in touch with agency owners who have niched down, regardless of industry and learn from them. Of course this isn’t always possible, but you should most definitely make the effort.
Even if they operating in a niche that you don’t intend on targeting, you can still learn a lot from them.
In other words, get in touch with those who have already niched down is the fastest and most effective way to learn, to move quickly and to plan ahead.
Sometimes the niche chooses you
A common saying that I often hear is “I didn’t choose this niche it chose me”
This can sometimes be true, especially when you pick up a client in an obscure industry, or you attract an unusual number of clients in an industry that you weren’t actively targeting.
I found at one point whilst still working as a generalist that I was getting quite a lot of clients within the pest control space, and in many ways, I was specialising before making the conscious decision to do so.
If you’re in this position, and you have a large number of clients in a particular niche, then consider transitioning into that space. It might help fast track your efforts and make getting referrals much easier.
Before you do anything, I think the best place to start is to simply shortlist some ideas. I wouldn’t concern yourself with accuracy right now, just sit down and put together a list of industries or niches that interest you.
If you’re really not sure where you’d like to niche down, give it time.
This process might take you a few weeks, it might take you a few months. You’ll need to work your way through this with patience, being sure to take the time to perform a sufficient amount of research, as well as giving yourself time to think everything through.