Author: Jack Telford
We are often faced with a decision as SEO professionals. Do we target a specific, ultra-relevant niche or go after the big win, high volume keyword? I tend to be someone who would argue for the former. However, I also know a lot of people who swear by the mass appeal approach and have seen it work well for them. What’s more, combining approaches is often the best route to success. Anyway, I’ll try to be impartial here. Maybe I’ll convince myself?
What Do I Mean By Niche Vs. High Volume?
A few things go without saying in content marketing. Ideas have to be relevant. They have to have at least some discernible search interest around them, and they have to offer people something which we can see down the line leading to them taking a valuable action for the business. However, where people often diverge here is in their approach. Should we go after the big win by tackling highly searched, competitive topics, or should we tap into a niche interest with ultra-relevant and unique content?
Say we work for a travel company operating in a wine making region of South Africa. Someone who favours niche content might propose content about what to expect from two specific grape types that you’re likely to find on the tour. Conversely, someone who is into the broad approach angle is more likely to pick something like “The Best Vineyards in South Africa”.
Both ideas are relevant, and both have been signed off by our easygoing client Enzokuhle. Who’s will do better? Here are a few pros and cons for both approaches. I’ll also summarise afterwards and add a few more considerations.
The Argument for Niche Content
- You’ll find it easier to rank: When you come up with a good, highly specific idea, you may only be able to sell it on 10 searches a month. However, you can be confident that you’ll take a good share of these with well-written content in an area which you have the right to specialise in.
- Niche Areas Are Less Saturated: If Google Keyword Planner is showing a term as having 100+ searches a month in English, you can rest assured that someone has tried to target it before. With niche content, you’ll have less competitors’ content competing with yours.
- Tap into a very specific audience need: Generally speaking, topics which have a very high search volume will be searched by a wide swathe of people. By finding a niche area which is highly likely to be searched by your prospects, you can be more confident that the resultant traffic you gain is relevant traffic, likely to progress through your site down the line.
- Niche content allows long-tail performance: I am a big believer in the limitations of search volume data. There are so, so many terms out there which we would miss if we went on what tools alone tell us people are searching. By writing in detail on specific topics that you know are important to your prospects (regardless of what Google says) you can tap into more of the ultra high intent, low search volume terms which broader appeal content would miss.
- You can be more original with niche content: When you’re writing on a broad appeal topic, the chances are other people have already covered all of your key points. If you want to lead, you’ll need to go deep into the topic and way beyond the obvious few points. Not so with niche topic targeting.
- You can be more accountable with niche content: If you want to sell in a content idea with high volume terms, go right ahead; maybe you’ll succeed. However, if you’re going to be reporting on the specific terms you go after, you’re more likely to succeed if you set conservative targets. Surprisingly high is always better than surprisingly low – unless you’re a limbo champion.
The Argument for High Volume Content
- You can reach more people: This is the obvious one, but no harm in spelling it out I suppose. If more people search for something, the pool of targets for the content is bigger. Ranking in a lower position you could still see generous clicks, so even if it’s more competitive, you could see higher returns performing averagely in a broad area than leading in a niche.
- Rank for incidental keywords: Broad keywords can have a lot of smaller volume siblings, all of which you can tap into with a wide appeal piece of content by accident. Even if you don’t rank for your #1 target, ranking for 5 less searched synonyms can mean content is still a success.
- High traffic has benefits: Even if your wide appeal content doesn’t guarantee audience relevance in the same way that niche content does, there is a higher likelihood that if you’re reaching more people, you’ll gain more backlinks & other coverage with your piece.
- You can still target niche queries in broad content: If you format it right (for example in Q&As or short header/paragraph sections), you can target some of the niche queries that are related to your main piece in a broader one about a seed term. This all comes down to having a comprehensive and diligent ideation process. Think topics over terms to succeed.
- You can learn from competitors: This is the flip-side of points one and two for niche content. If a SERP is saturated with content, you can tell exactly what Google favours in the area and gauge the barrier to entry very easily. That way you can carefully pick your battles, finding the areas where lots of people search, but you don’t need a thousand backlinks to rank.
- Broad content ideas are easier to sell: Have you ever tried selling a very niche topic idea to a client or colleague and been blocked? Me too (sob). This is not anything as likely to happen if you’re after a juicy 500 searches a month term. If it’s a matter of niche content you can’t get buy in for vs. broad content you can, it’s obvious what you should be going after.
A Few More Considerations
- How Strong is Your Site?: If you are just starting out, you’re unlikely to be able to compete for high volume terms. You’re better of building highly targeted content than going after any of the big boys. Conversely, if you have an established and leading site, you’re less likely to see tangible value from going after niche areas.
- How Flexible is Your Site?: If you have the ability to create “parent” and “sub” pages, I’d recommend that over deciding between niche & high volume ideas. That way you can have one strong parent page targeting a high volume term, bolstered by those on niche topics which are related to it.
- How Good is the Competition?: Search terms with equal volume can have highly varied competitiveness. Some areas are massively backlink driven, others require high degrees of EAT, and others need very comprehensive content, or interactive assets, multimedia and more. Review these “barriers to entry” before deciding whether to go niche or broad appeal.
- What are you investing?: If you have budget for only one piece and you’re going all in, you are better off investing in something where you can see a tangibly high opportunity than something niche (especially if you’re accompanying it with off-site tactics). However, if you have the ability to churn something out every week, you can tap into those little pockets of interest easily and incrementally drive your traffic up.
As with all broad and wide-ranging questions, the degree to which you should target niche vs. high volume topics is largely driven by context. Both can and do work well across verticals.
My original claim that I tend to prefer targeting specific terms comes down to my own experience. I am a strong believer in high relevance over wide appeal. I believe that it’s better to find something we’re really likely to see results for than something we may battle to justify down the line. Finally, I would rather have 10 visitors to my site who have a 20% chance of converting than 100 visitors who have a 1% chance. Creating very audience-centric content is in my view the best way to achieve this.
However, I’m very keen to hear the limitations of my thinking – tell me in the comments section below! Otherwise, take a look through our categories here.
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Behind the Site
I’m Jack Telford, an Owned Strategy Director at Publicis Media. I’ve been in the SEO industry for the last 6 years and love the collaborative nature of the space. This site is my little contribution to the community.
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