'Instant' and 'rankings' are probably the two most grossly inappropriate words a genuine SEO can ever use in the same sentence. Indeed, the somewhat seedy reputation of the SEO industry has been born from dodgy snake oil salesmen peddling the promise of instant Google rankings. The sad fact is that instant rankings can never be guaranteed. Sorry to disappoint you. But... there are methods that can be used increase the likelihood of attaining high rankings in a relatively short space of time. Today, I'll provide a case study of how I achieved a number two ranking within Google in a matter of weeks for a search term that immediately became the number one referrer of organic search engine traffic to my blog. The secret is effective targeting of a lucrative niche.
The post at the centre of the case study was published to my blog a little over a month ago. It provides an extensive list of Australian brands using Twitter, along with a description of the nature of their participation. The post proved immediately popular, largely based on the amount of mass media buzz being generated around Twitter. With the sheer weight of media coverage, Twitter driven search behaviour was inevitable, particularly from marketers wondering how to leverage the hot new communications medium.
As a relatively new Tweeter, I also found myself searching around Google's index for practical examples of how local businesses were using Twitter. To my surprise, I couldn't find a centralised resource. Which presented me with a clear opportunity to fill that gap in the market. Thus the post was born. The niche was identified. Within a couple of weeks, the post was ranked second for the search term 'Australian businesses on Twitter'. It also ranks well for a number of variations on the theme.
The immediate ability of the post to rank within Google is predominantly based on the clear gap in the market. The lack of competition made the task of pulling rank far easier, particularly from a domain that has developed some level of trust from Google. However, trying to identify knowledge gaps on the web today is akin to trying to find a needle amongst a million haystacks. So... rather than heading off on a wild goose chase in a quest for your very own knowledge gap, the key lesson is that narrowing the scope of content gives it a far greater chance of ranking. I narrowed the scope of my post in two ways :
I'm already aware of the high profile international case studies of corporate Twitter usage (Eg. Ford, Apple, Comcast etc). But local businesses often want to see local examples. So I created a localised resource of Australian case studies. I'm far from the first person on the planet to create a list of businesses on Twitter. Indeed, Twitter directories are popping up all over the place. However, it does seem as if I'm one of the first Australian's to take on the task.
By limiting the scope of the list to Australian businesses, I ensured that my post would only compete with local resources rather than international directories. Subsequently, I eliminated most of the competition. And with limited local competition, came a fantastic local ranking opportunity.
Aside from geographic targeting, the second variable used to narrow the scope of the content was the product itself - Twitter. As a reader noted in the original post, trying to provide a comprehensive list of companies using a single social technology is difficult enough. Only the likes of Peter Kim are game enough to build an all encompassing list of corporate social media case studies. Again, product targeting ensures that I'm not competing with existing lists of businesses using other social services such as Delicious, Yammer or Ning.
Product targeting is a technique many organisations can use to narrow the competitive field. However, the ability to rank is always relative to the amount of competition. If the web is already flooded with quality content from trusted sources, product targeting alone is unlikely to be effective.
Other niche ranking opportunities
Of course, geographic and product targeting aren't the only techniques available for search marketers to hone their content. A host of other opportunities exist to narrow the scope of a particular piece of content. Here are a couple more alternatives:
- Product features: For many industries, product targeting alone isn't likely to make rankings any more attainable. Travel, insurance, finance and real estate are prime examples of industries in which competition is fiercely intense even at a product level. Targeting content towards important product features increases the likelihood of appearing when customers perform micro searches on individual features.
- Audience: Email marketers have been segmenting and targeting content at an audience level for years. Search marketers should follow suit. For example, the finance and insurance industries often create unique products for different customer segments such as students, young couples, baby boomers & pensioners. Why not develop unique and resourceful content for each audience so they can find you when they look for products targeted towards their demographic (Eg. student loans)?
There' are undoubtedly a number of other qualifiers available for niche content targeting. Feel free to add more to the list via the comments box.
A final word for the wise
It would be negligent of me to close without mentioning that rankings for rankings sake are useless. Targeting niche search terms that don't generate any traffic is a fruitless exercise. I targeted Twitter knowing that current mass media saturation was certain to translate to search behaviour. The best place to start your search for niche keywords is within your web site analytics. Those keywords bringing in a trickle of traffic could well be gems with a bit of optimisation. Use a little Wordtracker magic to identify the search volume and competitivess of each of your current long tail search terms. And if you're lucky, you may discover a knowledge gap of your very own...
James Duthie has recently joined the SEO Scoop team and will be contributing here on a monthly basis. James is an online marketing strategist and writes manages his own online marketing blog. You can subscribe here.