Helpful Tips for Doing Search in a Low-Volume Niche

March 20, 2017
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SEO — you know, that thing you do whereby everyone and their mother will find your site on the web. Easy, right? “Can you SEO this page for me?” or “We’re about to launch a webinar. Can you SEO-ify it, please?” I’m sure most of you reading this can probably relate to these types of questions and the ensuing pressure from bosses or clients. If you’re lucky, you work in a realm where there’s plenty of search volume to chase, featured snippets to occupy, and answer boxes to solve. But what about those who work in the low-search volume niches typically seen in B2B, or with companies pioneering a new product or service that no one really knows about yet (so they obviously can’t be searching for it)?

This blog post is for you, the digital marketer who toils and struggles to drive search visibility where there hardly is any. Let’s get to work.

Search, as I’ll refer to it here, includes both paid and organic. Neither of these may ultimately be the best channel for your organization, but after reading this post, hopefully you’ll be able to verify whether your search channels are humming along and working harmoniously, while leaving other sources of user acquisition to bear the brunt of the load. Three topics I will cover in this post are SEO, paid search, and CRO, but please keep in mind: these are not the only possible digital marketing actions that can be done for an organization in a low-search volume niche. This is just a glimpse into what may be possible, and hopefully it can spark inspiration for you or your client in ways you’d either forgotten about or hadn’t thought of. Whether you’re just starting out in digital marketing or you’ve been around for a while, I hope this will be able to provide some direction.

1. SEO

Sometimes I think of SEO as a skyscraper, though this may just be because I’m surrounded by them in Distilled’s New York City office (come join us!). In order to reach greater heights via SEO, you need to make sure the foundation of your building is in order. And what I mean by “foundation” is the technical structure of your site. Things that you’d want to check will include:

  • Is the link profile clean?
  • Does the site have strong internal linking?
    • Do pages get created and then fall into a black hole?
  • Can search engines crawl the site?
    • Are there noindex, robots.txt, canonical, or other tags that hide desired content from being ranked?
  • Has the site been hacked?
  • Are there descriptive and unique title tags and meta descriptions?
  • Is tracking set up properly (i.e. Google Analytics)?
  • Does the site appear trustworthy and authoritative?

Targeting transactional queries

Once the foundation is in order, it’s time to begin the keyword research. Establish which queries are most vital to the organization, how much search volume they have, and which ones are most likely to yield conversions, whatever that means to the organization. With your foundation in order, you can take the most important queries and try to match them to existing pages on the site, such as the homepage and key product/services pages. It may turn out that the queries an organization should be targeting don’t have pages available yet. That’s okay — you’ll just need to create them. I generally recommend that shorter-tail queries (two or three words) be targeted by primarily by product or service pages, with longer queries either handled by those very pages or by a Q&A section and/or a blog. This is just one way to handle a hierarchy and avoids a cluttered navigation with hundreds of long-tail queries and content, though it is by no means a rule.

Targeting higher-funnel queries

Once the key queries have been locked down and the content plan created, we can move on to more informational queries. It’s very likely that these more higher-part-of-the-funnel queries will require content that’s less sales-y and will be more informational, making desired conversions (like consultation signups) less likely from this crowd, at least on the first interaction. You’ll need to build strong content that answers the users’ queries and establishes the organization as thought leaders and experts at all levels of a particular niche.

Let’s say, for example, we’re responsible for driving traffic for an organization that allows people to invest in solar energy. Lots of people buy stocks and bonds and real estate, but how many invest in solar energy or power purchase agreements? Transactional-type queries, those most likely to provide us with customers, don’t get searched all that much.

Now, let’s take a look at some longer-tail queries that are tangentially related to our main offering:

These queries clearly have more search volume, but appear to be more informational. “CSR” (in the above example) most often means “corporate social responsibility,” a term frequently aligned with impact investing, where investments not only are expected to produce financial returns, but have a positive social effect as well. From these queries we’d be able to help provide proof to users and search engines that the organization is indeed an expert in the particular realm of solar energy and investing. Our desired audience may come to us with different initial intents, but we can begin to funnel people down the path towards eventually becoming clients.

As will be discussed further in this post, the point here is to drive traffic organically, even if that very traffic is unlikely to convert. With optimizations to the content, we’ll be able to solicit emails and try to drive visitors further into the funnel, but first we just need to make sure that we’re enhancing our visibility and driving more unpaid traffic.

Key tips:

  • Target transactional queries with pages optimized for the ideal conversion
  • Target informational queries and modify pages to push the user deeper into the funnel towards more transactional pages
    • If a blog is perceived as a waste of resources and useless traffic, it’s probably not being fully leveraged

2. Paid search

Oftentimes, organizations will use SEO and paid search for their user acquisition, but will silo the two channels so that they don’t work together. Simply put, this is a mistake. Using paid spend for Google or Bing Adwords in conjunction with an organization’s SEO efforts will assist the company’s bottom line.

Get your tracking right

When beginning a paid campaign, it’s absolutely vital to set up tracking properly from the beginning. Do not miss this step. Without setting up tracking properly, it will be impossible to tie back conversions to paid and organic and see their relationship. If you already have paid attribution set up, double-check to ensure that there’s no double counting from having multiple GA tracking snippets, or if you’re using a landing page generator like Unbounce or HubSpot, that you’ve added in tracking on those platforms. Sometimes when using landing page generator tools (like HubSpot), you might elect to have an in-line thank you section display instead of redirecting someone to an external link. If you use an in-line thank you, the URL will not change and will make tracking more difficult in Google Analytics. This is not impossible to get around (events tracking can do the trick), but is something to keep in mind.

Bid on your money keywords

Without getting too fancy, a very important next step is to identify the transactional, important keywords — the ones that might be costly to buy, but that are worth the spend. Waiting for results from organic search or for the different channels to successfully harmonize may take longer than a boss or C-suite might be willing to wait for, so getting results directly from traditional paid search will require a strong setup from the get-go.

The magic of RLSA

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) allow organizations to remarket to specific people who have visited a specific page on their site, either by bidding on keywords one typically wouldn’t bid on, or by altering the bid up or down. This doesn’t create new traffic; it only displays to those who have visited your site in the past. The magic of this is that when done properly, you can potentially achieve lower cost-per-clicks and conversions, as the audience seeing these ads is already familiar with your brand.

Let’s use, for example, the strategy of creating content around “what are alternative investments?” or “how to invest responsibly?”. These would be informational-level queries, representing topics people would like to investigate further. While the ideal scenario for our business would be that everyone would automatically want to invest with us, we know this isn’t likely to be the typical case. Instead, we’ll use organic search to earn traffic from less competitive, informational queries, and use RLSA to bid on queries that would ordinarily be too competitive for us, like “investing” or “how to start investing.” By using pixels and remarketing to anyone who visited our “what are alternative investments” page, we know that the person is more familiar with us and we can try to bid on broader queries that may have been either too expensive for us in the first place, or unlikely to generate conversions. In this case, because the user is already familiar with the brand, it can lead to higher click-through and conversion rates.

Much has already been written about RLSA strategies, so for more information you can begin here:

Advanced remarketing

Another option is to create more informational content for queries that are less competitive than some other terms, but that also isn’t as likely to get people to convert when they visit (i.e. most blog content). Let’s say that our blog captures email addresses, either through forms, popups, or some other means. With our captured emails, we’d be able to build an email list and submit it to Adwords, then target people in Google Search, Gmail, and YouTube. We can target existing users (people aligned with a…

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