Researching your Niche for SEO

When I first start the SEO process there are some steps I take to research the market and niche. This post will give a broad overview on how I do this SEO research.This post will discuss the following topics:

  • market research
  • keyword research
  • analyze current website vs competitors

Market Research

Research is the first step discussed on the SEO Services page and it is very important for a successful SEO campaign.

In this step, I put a list together of the current competitors in my niche. To do this, I normally just use Google and search broad terms around the niche I want to target and write down all the top ranking sites. Once I have a list of all the competition I go through each site and determine how and why they are ranking in the search engines. I also figure out if they are targeting any other keywords that could be a good source of traffic that I might not have thought of yet.

To do this, I analyze each page of their site and view the page source. Looking at the page source you can find the meta tags that are normally optimized for the keyword(s) they are targeting. You sometimes even find some out dated sites that are still using the meta keyword tag that list out a comma separated list of all the keywords they want to rank for.

Going through each page of your competitors site and taking notes of the keywords they are targeting will give you a good list of keywords and also some good ideas.

While looking over my competitors sites I also take note of the structure and if it is optimized correctly. This would be things like mobile friendliness, markup hierarchy, outdated SEO tactics, active blog, etc. This gives me a good idea on how hard/easy it will be to beat them out in the search engines based on on-page SEO best practices.

Competitor Link Profile

Now that I have a list of the top results in my niche (my competitors), I use various online tools to view their link profile. This data will give you some insight on how much work it is going to take to outrank them.

Here I am thinking:

  • How many backlinks does this site have?
  • What anchor text are they using?
  • How much keyword variation are they using for their anchor text?
  • Can I get backlinks on the same sites they have links on?
  • How powerful are these backlinks?
  • If it is a local site, how many citations and other local ranking signals are setup?

These are all important questions to ask yourself  because this is going to determine how hard it is going to be outrank your competition. If your competition has a huge number of backlinks for the main keyword in your niche it is going to take a while to compete in this niche if you are starting with a new site. It might be a good idea to start off with long tail keywords at the beginning of your SEO campaign.

Keyword Research

This step will give you an idea on how much traffic the keywords in your niche will drive to your site once ranked. I normally use the Google Keyword Planner and type in some broad terms around the niche I am targeting. I also research the list of keywords I compiled from my competitors sites. The Google Keyword planner will also try to give you some keyword ideas that relate to the keywords you entered. If you like the keyword ideas they suggest and they make sense to your business, write them down as well.

By now you should have a good understanding of how much effort it is going to take to rank for certain keywords in your niche. You also have a good idea on how much traffic you should expect. Now these traffic numbers don’t include long tail keyword traffic (which is a big factor), but that is another topic…

With the data collected, I normally start outlining the website and how it should be structured. Based on the keyword research, you should have a good idea on how you are going to build out the site to target your main niche keywords.