When it comes to outranking your competition, most of the advice you’ll find online has to do with identifying keywords relevant to your business, then creating content and developing marketing strategies that are focused around those keywords.
But what if the industry you’re in has highly competitive keywords?
What if there are countless businesses all competing for that keyword list?
It can be extremely hard to rank high in Google searches for those keywords.
But luckily, there is another way for your business to get noticed online without pushing past boundaries and resorting to black hat SEO tactics.
In fact, there are quite a few – some of which we’re going to discuss in this post.
3 Strategies to Help You Win in a Competitive Niche
When it comes to SEO, the effectiveness of the tactics you use is highly contextual, and the level of your competition plays a massive role within that context.
So, we’re going to take a look at three effective strategies that will help you come out on top in super-competitive niches.
1. Hedging Your SEO Strategy
The term ‘hedging’ is one you’d normally hear being used by high-frequency traders and investment bankers.
It is a risk-management strategy that they make use of to help offset the probability of loss. In simple terms, it just means that you’re not putting all your eggs in a single basket.
In an investment portfolio, you’d be spreading your money between stocks, bonds, commodities, etc. to protect yourself against swings that can occur in the economy.
In pretty much the same way, a well hedged strategy for SEO will help to protect you against (the never-ending) Google algorithm changes.
For instance, there is one popular online gambling brand with a unique SEO strategy that they separated into three parts, each of which is isolated from the other two. This means that whatever happens in one part, doesn’t affect the other two areas.
But more importantly, the strategies are hedged against each other, which means that (in theory, at least), the company would benefit even if Google increased the priority of content marketing, brands, spammy link-building, exact match domains, or any other variables.
This is what their strategy looks like, in a nutshell:
Part 1: Long-Term – White Hat SEO Strategy
This is their main strategy that they use on their brand’s main domain(s).
As you’ve probably already guessed, this strategy is quite ineffective for the short term.
But, since the Casino brand’s competitors were employing extremely aggressive tactics for ranking for the competitive search terms, they figure that over the long term, Google will not only prioritize brands in the results pages but also make it much harder for those black hats to get ranked for competitive commercial terms (a safe assumption, given the signals).
Part 2: Medium-Term – Grey Hat SEO Strategy
This part of their overall strategy involves a series of grey hat SEO tactics which include buying competitors’ sites or setting up micro-sites and then building a variety of links to them.
This particular strategy relies on the probability that some tactics, such as scaled guest-posting or widget links, will likely still work in a year or so, but probably not in five years.
Part 3: Short-Term – Black Hat SEO Strategy
This strategy takes on a very aggressive churn-and-burn approach where they buy hundreds of domains and build large numbers of links to each of them, getting the sites to rank for a few weeks before repeating the process all over again.
For someone who wants to take this to another level, you could add many layers of diversification in these strategies.
For instance, you could target different markets or languages or use various tactics within each of the strategies.
Of course, the example above is an extreme case study.
Also, I’m not an advocate for black hat tactics, but I do think that every marketer stands to benefit from applying some degree of hedging to their SEO strategy.
Putting all your eggs in one basket (whether it’s white hat, gray hat, or black hat) is extremely risky, particularly when you consider the vast amount of unknowns when it comes to effective search engine optimization and digital marketing as a whole.
For those businesses that are in super-competitive niches such as the adult, finance, gambling, and pharma, it’s almost a necessity to hedge multiple SEO strategies.
The one major drawback of this type of approach is that it can be wasteful (in hindsight) and very expensive.
2. Out-Do Your Competition
You absolutely cannot win in the game of thrones, I mean SEO, unless you out-perform your competition in some aspect.
You need to come up with a solid plan detailing how you are going to beat your rivals in some way. The good news is that, as with most games, there are tons of different ways to win.
For instance, you could:
- Out-brand your competitors
- Out-think your rivals
- Out-work your competition
- And so on…
Out-Brand Your Competition
You can do one of two things: Either position yourself as the Goliath in your industry – Or, you can position yourself as being against the Goliath.
Nothing in between will work if you’re in an ultracompetitive niche. An underdog can win in such niches simply by out-branding their larger (laggard) competitors.
Out-Think Your Competition
When it comes to out-thinking your competition, there are a great many ways you can do that. All you need to do is get creative.
Read Dave Trott’s book, Predatory Thinking to get some ideas of how you can eat into your competitors’ market share no matter how small you are (and how big they are), simply by out-thinking them.
You can get this book on Amazon, and it will provide you with valuable insight that will help you excel as a marketer.
Out-Work Your Competition
Most bloggers have to compete against sites in their niche that have dozens of journalists. If that’s you, don’t despair – there’s a way for you to win.
Others have done it before, and they have left clues as to how you can achieve it, too.
Look at a site like Mashable. It started as a one-man project but ended up at the top because the owner out-hustled the competition.
At one point, the founder, Pete Cashmore was publishing 7 blog posts per day – a lot more than his competition were publishing in an entire week!
Of course, there are other ways of out-hustling your competition if you’re in a super-competitive niche.
That’s just one of the ways, and out of the three options here for out-performing your competition, this is the least costly but it’s also the one that demands the most work.
For this to work, you need to have a real passion for the work you’re doing.
3. Use Long-tail Keywords
I saved the best one for last.
The majority of businesses in a very competitive niche are most likely focused on the same main collection of keywords. One of the best things you can do is to swim upstream, using more long-tail keywords to target different portions of the market.
You could also put your main focus on a different phase of your sales funnel than most other businesses do.
For instance, if most of your competitors are focusing on the ToFu (top of the funnel) long-tail keywords such as: ‘What is the best email marketing software?’ you could focus instead on keywords closer to the signing-up process such as ‘email marketing trial’.
This will help you capture a lot more converting traffic.
Let’s take a deeper look at long-tail keywords, and how you can use them to help you beat your competitors:
If you’re a regular visitor to my blog, then you already know that I firmly believe that the future of SEO is long-tail keywords. A long-tail keyword is a much more specific phrase that a customer is more likely to use when they’re close to making their purchase.
For instance, if someone were to search for ‘tiles’ on Google, they may just be seeking general information.
But, if they searched for ‘luxury bathroom remodeling tiles’ then you know they are probably a lot closer to purchasing the product.
In a market that is highly competitive, it can be hard to rank well for more general terms.
Using the example above, there’d already be so many companies competing to be number one for ‘tiles’ that your odds of getting ranked high for that term would be next to nil.
Of course, over time, with the right long-term SEO strategy, you would stand a chance, but for now, it would be better to optimize the content on your site (as well as any advertising keywords) on more specific long-tail searches.
This will help you gain a competitive edge quickly.
While there will be far fewer searches for such specific keyword phrases, the people doing those searches will be more likely to buy from you – which means that if you’re using PPC (pay per click) advertising, your investment will have a much better ROI.
What you need to do is identify exactly what type of long-tail searches your target audience is searching for, and that will make a massive difference to your ability to attract the right people to your site.
Not everyone has the time or the inclination to invest in making their website marketing perfect, but unless you’re willing to outsource this to internet marketing companies who will do this for you, this is something you have to make time for.
How to Find Long-Tail Keywords
This is something you shouldn’t over-complicate. Simply work out what your ideal customers are asking when searching for products or services like yours online. Google helps you collect valuable data to help you in this regard.
Here are three tools that are useful for getting this done:
1. Use Google Search Bar Auto-Suggest
Just open your browser, type in the main keyword in your industry, and the suggestions will come up as you type. These are real searches that are conducted by consumers, and they are served to you in order of relevance and volume.
The results will be relevant to you depending on your location.
If necessary, expand your search using different words to gain a better understanding of what your ideal audience is searching for.
2. Use Google Related Searches
After typing in the keyword or key-phrase, simply scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll find more helpful long-tailed keywords from Google.
Make a note of what’s coming up often, and don’t avoid the longer phrases as these could very well give you the competitive edge you so desire.
3. Use Google Keyword Planner
Anyone with a website needs to make use of this tool – it’s not just for marketing gurus. Register or signin to the Google Keyword Planner and enter your main keyword or phrase.
Google will then bring up searches that pertain to your search.
In addition to that, you’ll be able to see the competition value and search volume of the keywords as you scroll down. Look for the ones with the highest volume and the lowest competition.
These are the ones that will help you get to the top quickly and easily.
These three tools are more than enough to give you a nice long list of long-tail keywords that you can use on your website.
Just remember that to be able to compete with the big guns, you don’t necessarily have to use the exact same keywords they’re using.
Your next step is to focus on developing valuable content and SEO strategies that are focused on those keywords to maximize your online presence.
When it comes to super-competitive SEO, you don’t have to be the best at everything. Just beat your competitors at one thing, at least, and you’ll find yourself at the top of the rankings in no time.
That one thing can be anything from out-spending, out-branding, out-lasting, out-working, or outsmarting them.
Make sure you choose an area where you excel so you know you’ll have a competitive advantage from the get-go.
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Updated: Originally published March21st 2019