When we think SEO, two words come to mind: "keywords," and "links." Partially as a result of this, for centuries (okay, years), many of us have claimed, "the tighter your niche, the better." Choose the right keyword and it takes fewer links to get more traffic with a good click-through and conversion rate. It's a model that makes sense.
And it's dying.
Now that every brand and their mom is keen on SEO, tiny niches that haven't already been scooped up are hard to come by. Meanwhile, Google is shifting its results in favor of big brands so as to avoid appearing broken.
Are the Days of the "Keyword Sniper" Coming to an End?
I might catch some flak for this, but I'll stick my head out and say, "yes."
We've already touched on the fact that Google wants to own the commercial search terms for themselves, and they are pushing organic search results below the fold. With competition from both Google and other sites, it's getting harder and harder to keep up. Many have no option but to spam their way to the top, only to get penalized into oblivion a year or so down the road (if they're lucky).
While keyword research itself will remain a staple of the SEO industry for the foreseeable future, the idea that you should focus in on a small group of keywords or even a large group of similar keywords is starting to look a bit dated.
Why a Bigger Niche Could Mean Bigger Results
None of this means that the future is all doom and gloom. It means, no surprise here, that you need to adapt in order to survive and stay relevant. Here are a few reasons you might consider going more broad:
Trust - Let's face it, the more narrow your niche, the more likely others will see it as spam, especially if it's a commercial niche. People don't trust microsites anymore. Blogs and wikis are the norm. Almost anybody has the time and energy to throw up a small site, so the sense of authority isn't there.
Link Building Opportunities - If you want to get linked to, you need to be talking about subjects that get media attention. There's no media industry revolving around the subject of "nose hair trimmers."
There is a media industry built around subjects like hygiene, fashion, or dating, all of which can be tied back into "nose hair trimmers" without too much stretching. This means more opportunities for guest posts, interviews, infographics, and other collaborative projects.
Audience Retention - If you successfully rank your "nose hair trimmers" blog, you have to take into consideration who on Earth would subscribe to such a thing. Yes, your successful keyword targeting might mean a good click-through rate and relatively high conversions, but the numbers will be relatively small and visitors won't return to the site.
If, on the other hand, you happen to catch somebody who just wanted to stay up to date on fashion, they are more likely to keep coming back to your blog for advice, and seeing your calls to action, until one day they look in the mirror and say, "You know, my nose hair's really getting out of control."
This means you can try to capture all of the people who will at some point want to buy nose hair trimmers, rather than just the people who want to buy them right now. The conversion rate may be lower, but the numbers will be much higher.
Morale - Be honest. How long can you stay excited about creating "nose hair trimmers" content? How long can you keep a content strategist or writer excited about it? How long can you go on before you run out of subject matter? How high can your quality be if your content producers follow a "revolving door" policy?
Personality - Oddly enough, broadening your subject matter can also be a part of your strategy to be more unique to visitors. There's not a whole lot of personality to put on display when you're talking about nose hair trimmers, but you can really build an identity and stand apart from other places on the web when you offer your perspective on a wide range of subjects.
(We swear we're not trying to rank this post for "nose hair trimmers.")
It's Not the End of Targeted Content
Going after a bigger niche doesn't mean abandoning keyword research, consistency, or relevancy. It means rethinking how you approach these goals. Your site should still be targeting keywords and certain types of users, but should be doing so in a different way.
Core Content - You can and often should still collect together a relatively small collection of highly targeted keywords in much the same way you would for a "keyword sniper" site in the past. These keywords can be the basis of your cornerstone content, the extended posts that you reference over and over. You want these posts to be the most comprehensive and helpful on the web. And then you want to move on.
Peripheral Content - This is the content that you write for people who would buy your product, but who aren't currently searching for it. You still want to do keyword research for these posts, and they should still be somewhat relevant to your products. Just abandon the idea of having keyword relevance to your core content.
If you sell soap you can write about perfume. Those audiences overlap. But target the most promising keywords in the perfume industry, rather than looking for some strange keyword involving both soap and perfume. And don't write it like you're trying to sell perfume. Write something interesting or helpful that will get visitors subscribing to your blog.
And yes, build links to your peripheral content as well.
The important thing to remember about all of this is that search engine authority is cumulative. It's far easier to get attention when your niche is relatively broad. Attention becomes site authority, and site authority means your core content will rank better than it could on its own. Meanwhile, your peripheral content brings in traffic that keeps coming back, familiarizing itself with your brand, and eventually making a purchase.
Is your niche too narrow? Have you tried going broad?
Image credit: Vinoth Chandar