I want to put this topic to rest: is niching down in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) worth it? Or should you just take what comes your way?
Here is my perspective…
Unlike other markets, SEOniches" aren't broken down by industry, but by the type of SEO
(and then you can niche deeper – link building, content creation, black hat services, etc…)
So, is it "safe" to have clients in multiple clients, in multiple niches, say a dentist here, a lawyer there, and a plumber in Narnia?
While the fulfillment might be scalable, and almost the same across the board:
Lay the foundations/structure…
Create the content…
Your acquisition will not…
You can easily grow a small SEO biz by taking on whatever projects come, but if you're ambitious, and want to have any sort of scalability, then you need the ability to predictably acquire clients…
Meaning, yes, take on all projects, but understand that they aren't what's going to help you scale, and at some point will actually get in the way of scaling…
Scaling means under a single client avatar's:
Typical past failures
What brings in the biggest profits
Understanding the typical micro problems in their business niche
The best channel to reach the target demographic (I.E paid ads vs LinkedIn outreach vs conferences vs email outreach)
How you can de-commoditize your services by solving tier 2 problems (i.e the owner doesn't follow up with leads so you automate their lead follow up for them).
And then, once you figure all of that out, the SEO then has to craft the perfect offer for their target market while also having the trust/authority to back it up…
Breaking that down into each component:
Target Market: Means picking a niche, a single type of business to go after because a pitch that attracts a plumber "get more emergency water heater replacements" will not attract a lawyer…
Trust: This comes down to having case studies, testimonials, proven Return of Investment (RoI) based results so that you can claim some kind of authority / credibility (yesterday, I briefly talked about tracking results and how it's missing piece for a lot of SEO users – the closer your case study reflects the sale, the better it is, I.E sales > booked appointments > leads > traffic > keyword rankings).
If an SEO is just starting out, building this asset, a testimonial/case study, even if they have to work for free, can carry their entire acquisition process…
Offer: Offer quality comes down to 4 components:
Results (ROI based)
SEO offers tend to be pretty bad on all of those fronts (high risk, high commitment, low speed, and a lot of people haven't got the data to track their actual results)…
And so you need a pitch, for that target avatar, backed up by data that's at least somewhat decent on those 4 variables…
And sometimes, what your market NEEDS upfront isn't an SEO, but a different solution as your front-end offer, and sell Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on the back-end.
I.E fixing their Google My Biz (GMB)'s reputation vs selling them SEO
Our agency sells "get a 5-6 pipeline in under 7 days, no ad spend, no commitment"… In a niche specific content that looks like:
For HVACs: "We will get 85% of your clients to schedule spring maintenance so you can avoid losing your best clients during the summer flustercluck this year – no adspend and you only pay if you're 100% happy with the results." (X upfront, SEO backend)
For Gyms: "We'll get you 5-6 figures in membership signs up by the end of the week without any ad spend – only pay if you're happy" (X upfront, SEO backend)
For e-com: "In under a week we will:
1. Increase average cart value by up to 10%
2. Increase average conversion rates by up to 15%
3. Increase customer repurchase rates by up to 20%
WHILE bringing you an extra 5 figures in sales – no adspend required and you only pay if you're 100% happy…" (Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) upfront, SEO backend)
All my offers are low risk (no upfront payment), low commitment (only pay if you're happy), big results/quick wins (5-6 figure pipelines), fast speed (normally 7-14 days).
Okay, so once you get that offer – market – trust alignment, you've tested it through cold outreach and know that it works, now you start sponsoring the niche specific conferences, running paid ads, and even creating niche-specific media.
So is this a lot of work? F*ck yes – it is either cocky or ignorant to think that an SEO can predictably scale WITHOUT picking a single niche (unless they're willing to either wait long periods of time or rank themselves in multiple cities)…
To sum up my perspective: if SEO users want to stay a small biz while growing slowly, they don't need to niche down.
If they want to scale rapidly, they need to pick a single niche, understand the client avatar, build trust for that avatar and then market specifically to that avatar based on that avatars specific needs.
What are your thoughts?
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My SEO hybrid is a whole new way of serving clients, but any model that is scalable works.
I know many SEO users who lost revenue in 2020. Niching down was their downfall.
Diversification makes for a stronger company.
Short term gains = niche down
Long term gains = diversify
And it's OK if your goal is to dominate HVAC, because another Legal entrepreneur might buy you out because they want to diversify.
BONUS: niche down now and dominate then apply your skills to a new niche
Terry and I have strategized on this, and I am sure we will mastermind some more in New Orleans.
How did niching down lead to their downfall?
Keith L Evans 🎓 » Bruno
When businesses closed and had to pivot due to 'Rona, they stopped their marketing services. Wham. No more revenue coming to the marketer.
Souza ✍️ » Keith L Evans
Sure. So we had a bunch of gyms that were forced shut.
So we pivoted and ran SMS marketing to switch their clients to online programs, created bogo deals, etc…
We had restaurants implement delivery services. Emergency services still emergency services, etc…
So I would ask: Is it the marketers fault for commoditizing themselves / not pivoting according to the circumstance?
And then, how do you acquire clients, other than referrals/SEO if you're going to diversify?
Keith L Evans 🎓
The best leaders adapt, the elite become resilient and thrive.
A true marketer is not selling SEO, they are giving peace of mind. Solving client problems, hitting customer goals and delivering results is what we do.
No matter the niche, owners want that.
Souza ✍️ » Keith L Evans
So how does someone who is diverse create a predictable way of getting clients?
Other than SEO rankings / referrals (which I would call predictable lead gen)
Rayburn » Keith L Evans
I agree with Kieth on this one. Not to mention big data rules when doing SEO. Meaning that with a diverse portfolio of clients you get to see things in other niches that you would never see working in a narrow niche
Now with that said, you can still concentrate in certain niches, but I really suggest you think big here. Just my thoughts.
Courtney Marie 🎓
I don't think it's so black and white. If you are great at Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you can work with almost any niche. You can always contract people with experience in a niche to fill a void if necessary.
We tend to work with a lot of home service companies. They make up 60% of our client base. The rest are random small businesses. Not pigeon holing ourselves with a solo niche, has allowed us to pivot, expand into new niches, and grow year over year. For me, diversifying is imperative.
Do you have to rely on referrals / SEO rankings to bring in clients?
Courtney Marie 🎓 » Souza
We are very fortunate. Most of our biz is referrals. I however, don't want to scale (did they startup thing years ago
That was hyper growth focused).
I have a small but mighty team and we tend to stick to 25-30 clients. I have other businesses so I don't have "growth-focused" aspirations for my agency. But if I did, I would do: free SEO courses (did this years and got a lot of clients this way), referrals, Ads, and of course SEO
Souza ✍️ » Courtney Marie
So for someone who was starting out, would you say referrals are a reliable way to grow or would that take too long?
Love the idea of an SEO course
Courtney Marie 🎓 » Souza
Well it's harder to get referrals when starting out. Personally, my strategy would be to teach the free SEO course. I used to do it in-person at local coffee shops. I limited it to 6 people. They paid $5 to reserve a spot, which got them coffee and donuts. It was a 2 hours "SEO 101" course. I usually retained half the attendees as clients bc they realized how much work SEO is after taking the course. So that is a quick way to get clients AND establish trust. Then, use those clients as case studies. Boom, you have something to show future potential clients. FB ads can work too. But there's so much noise out there. I would think organically growing on a social platform by being an expert and sharing info, is the way to go these days. Referrals will continue to grow as you do great client work.
Souza ✍️ » Courtney Marie
Great suggestion Courtney and definitely a great way to get business!
Courtney Marie 🎓 » Souza
Happy to help! Good luck!!!
Heather Shoup » Courtney Marie
I am blueprint dev / mkt associate certified and I manage 10 different brands. Our biggest success has been organic and paid social strategy along with SEO. Great advice about the classes as a way to gain trust and more clients. ❤️
Courtney Marie 🎓 » Heather Shoup
That's awesome!! Sounds like you are rockin and rolling! Love it 👏👏👏
Yes! SEO classes are fun to teach and it immediately established you as the expert. So boom. Trust. And I think trust is one of the biggest factors that clients take into account when hiring digital marketers ☺️
Heather Shoup » Courtney Marie
Yes!! And I have so many clients who have come to me burned out because of cheesy marketing companies that promise and then screw them over. I really think honesty and expectations go a long way. Thanks for the class suggestion! I am not good with speaking in crowds but that could help me grow by doing more micro level course with a small head count. Thanks for the suggestion. ❤️
Patrick » Courtney Marie
Great tips on providing courses. How did you find people to attend your courses? I just moved to my city so don't have many connections. Did you do any kind chamber of commerce or similar?
I have a different take on scalability, although I understand where you are coming from. I am assuming you meant revenue scalability, not operations.
Niching down provides client acquisition and deliverables efficiency when servicing the same audience. That being said, it doesn't solve the scalability part. I know plenty who are struggling while servicing the same niche
From my experience, scalability has to do with your client's business size and the size of operations problems you are solving. I provide link-building white-label, content production white-label, and enterprise SEO solutions, and I only onboard certain clients. The pivot made all the difference in the world. I send smaller projects to trusted partners. Here is an example. Many years ago, I went after one type of client, and each closed account brought me somewhere between 2 and 5k per month. I then pivoted to a filtered type of audience. Each closed account is now worth five to six figures per month.
I am with Courtney Marie. It's never black and white.
I majorly take up B2B companies. Over the years I feel it's possible to work on any Niche. One needs to diversify, if you want to be successful. Today we are negotiating with a client who is in a niche not yet tapped – Nuclear medicine. It's challenging to be a SEO! Love everything I do.
In case you guys miss it – read through the comments here. There's a lot of amazing ideas from some great SEO users 🙂
I have a few business we look after scale to the point they had grown that fast they didn't manage and even ended up folding/closing and start again or halving their team because of overwhelmed.
Seeing business grow and scale is hart warming because you know that the work you have done has been good, the scary part is seeing them fail because they couldn't cope.
It's not always golden nuggets been bigger as it brings in more stress or challenges
Never did I think we would lose clients because of to much work for them to handle. Now we support in a different way to help scale by passing them onto a business coach.
Who wants more clients?
Most are a pain in the ass.
It's easier to start businesses and dominate by becoming your own client.
A little different take, but I like it better than having a ton of people that have to be persuaded into buying something they don't understand.
Just set proper expectations and any nightmare client can become a low maintenance blessing
Roger » Souza
I have been in business for 26 years, 15 of those in the digital realm, with a team of 10.
I prefer to manage my managers in the brick and mortar world and let them f with the clients.
And multiple streams of income are better anyway.
Andrew » Roger
I thought this way once many years ago until I did it. B2B clients are way way better than B2C Karens.
Roger » Andrew
Don't get me wrong, I have SEO clients too.
I just choose to work with people I like and say no to those I don't.
You should work on niches you have experience in or knowledge about. Don't take on a client you know nothing about otherwise JV with someone who does. It's bad business to do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and marketing for a type of business you've never done before
If you really want to niche down and scale, you could, start a real business, partner up with someone who can handle and manage operations, you manage all forms of marketing and customer acquisition and retention. Start in your local area, scale to county, state, etc. Build something real, that you own part of, that can be duplicated to multiple areas.
There's a simple way to put this.
Is starting out yes Niche down, become the expert in that area or section.
Once you are moving then de niche out to more sectors and so on.
Don't forget search intent, people don't just Google for general SEO services but might Google for SEO services for plumbers or roofing companies.
Different verticals/industries/niches have completely different things that are needed for them. Implementing the same strategy for all won't get you the best results, especially in more competitive markets. Google thinks of many things at keyword, results sets, and individual page level.
As the co-owner of a company that has niched-down (High-end Journalist outreach), that definitely works, but I agree with everyone else saying that it's on a case-by-case basis.
The way I see it, there are 3 different ways to niche down in Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
* By product (e.g. linkbuilding, content, technical)
* By area (e.g. California)
* By site niche (e.g. lawyers, e-comm)
When we were brainstorming how our product will look like, and what audience will it serve, the biggest question was "Will we have a big enough audience to grow?", and that's really the only question that matters.
If I would have to start a brand new SEO agency, I'd probably choose a "niche" based on my expertise and resources, and then grow from there. In my opinion, niching down by "site niche" e.g. lawyers is unnecessary after a certain point. If you have a great team of local SEO experts that are able to rank lawyer sites, why not take other local clients like plumbers?
In a way, this is just like building out topical relevance for a site 🙂 You start a site about bikes, target a certain topic until you gained authority, then move on to the next topic. Same with SEO offerings, start with a very specific type of offering (e.g. local SEO) that you know you're amazing at, then scale up.
Niching down simplifies operations.
Delivering results is not the hard part about building an agency.
It's doing it consistently at scale.
And niching down into one industry makes it easier to create repeatable playbooks.
Nick » Souza
The more variation there is, the more experienced people you need.
Good, experienced peeps are hard to find & expensive.
Trick is to have the experienced peeps build systems + documentation & processes that enable juniors to punch above their weight.
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