Posted April 12, 2007 10:00 am by with 18 comments

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By Ahmed Bilal.

If you are an SEO consultant, or if you are responsible for purchasing SEO services for your organization, the ideas discussed here may be the most important ideas you read this year.

In a nutshell – the SEO industry is changing. We have integrated link baiting and social media marketing into our SEO toolkits, but now it’s time (and space) for the “step”.

It’s also an end to a cycle – we know (to a great extent) what search engines want and how to give that to them.

But as search marketers, do we know what our clients want?

And as media buyers hiring SEO firms, do we know what options we have?

In the next two months (it is early April 2007 as I write this) you will read a wave of articles talking about “niche SEO”. I urge you to follow this wave closely – if you embrace it, you will be part of the new breed of SEO. If you don’t, you’ll be playing catch-up by the end of the year.

What is niche SEO? The best way to answer that is to show you.

Do you have industry-specific SEO knowledge? If you give a competent SEO a specific industry and 30 minutes, he can tell you:

  • How competitive that niche is
  • What the top keywords are
  • Top ranking sites in that niche
  • Where to get topical links from
  • Untapped sub-niches (by comparing keyword popularity and relative competition)

That’s impressive, right?

Now if you handed the same assignment to an SEO with deep knowledge and experience in that industry, he could tell you, in those 30 minutes:

  • Who the top link sources are
  • The sites most likely to link to you (and how to get those links)
  • The linkerati and how to attract their attention
  • The top bloggers and their background (I’m talking names, history, email and phone contacts)
  • The top communities in terms of traffic and influence – and how to use them
  • Where to buy ads for traffic
  • Niche-specific monetization opportunities
  • Trusted information sources
  • The misinformers (spammers)
  • 50 linkbait ideas
  • Top traffic sources (and how to get traffic from them)
  • How to segment and target sections of the linkerati without alienating the rest

Is this something that a ‘generic’ search marketer can find through research?

Yes and no.

Yes, because ultimately the resources being used are the same.

No, because it takes too much time. Knowledge, experience and an established network in an industry – if you are hiring an SEO firm, these are the three main checkboxes your prospective hires will have to tick.

Why/How “Niche SEO” is better than “Generic SEO”

A real-world example, to show you how powerful niche SEO really is:

Recently (on 4th and 5th April, to be exact), there were two key sports-related incidents in Europe. During two soccer matches (one on each day), visiting fans clashed with the police inside the stadium. The common factor in both incidents is that the visiting fans were English.

The incidents have raised serious security concerns within the game AND because of the police involvement, it can (and probably will) turn into a diplomatic crisis as well.

These are serious events, but as news goes, it is also an opportunity for a smart marketing to provide unique coverage of these events and gain market share as a result.

The ideal way to do this would be to:

  • Find videos related to the incident – clips from TV coverage in the English media, in the Italian and Spanish medias, and video footage taken by fans
  • Connect with fans visiting these matches and get their input
  • Provide full (and immediate) coverage of all news related to this incident
  • Pull out historical information that relates to such violence and do a timeline piece
  • Find academic research on soccer hooliganism and refer that in your articles
  • Start and manage discussions on this topic in different forums, using your profile and referring to your coverage / articles to drive traffic to your site
  • Use your media contacts (that cover soccer/sports news) to promote your site
  • Contact leading soccer bloggers with targeted pitches about your content related to this issue
  • Contact podcasters in your niche and give them exclusive information in exchange for coverage

Who would be the ideal candidate to do this?

Someone who:

  • Knows which forums fans frequent and has a strong profile in those communities
  • Knows where to quickly get news and video clippings of this incident
  • Has a strong social network in the soccer news industry that includes media contacts, podcasters and bloggers?
  • Has historical knowledge (through experience and as a fan) of soccer and specifically, similar issues in soccer?
  • Knows the best strategies of promoting content in this sector?


A crack team of link baiters and search marketers who will charge you $500 per hour but will then spend the next 10 hours – $5000 of your time – learning about the niche while other news sites cover the breaking news and eventually become the main hubs of discussion around that topic?

The choice is yours.

Where do you stand? If you’re a search marketer, you can be a ‘generic’ SEO or you can pick a handful of industries (through personal experience) and specialize in them.

If you’re a business owner or someone looking to purchase SEO services, the main three questions you should ask the next SEO company are self-evident – do they have the

  • Experience
  • Social network
  • Background knowledge

in your industry?

The success of your business will depend on those answers. There is much more to talk about on this subject. To follow the discussion, use Technorati to track “niche seo” . And if you want to criticize / discuss this topic further, find me (Google my name) and I’ll be glad to answer any questions you have.

[This has been an entry for Marketing Pilgrim’s SEM Scholarship contest. Keep up to date with all entries and other marketing news by subscribing to our rss feed.]