One of the most important SEO skills I’ve developed over the years is evaluating a niche for development potential. Let’s face it, when you develop a domain/build a website your goal is to get on Google’s coveted first page. Many people do this blindly, they pick a niche that looks hot or that they happen to know a lot about and just go for it. Here’s the problem, what you might not realize is that everyone above-the-fold on Google in your niche is spending $5,000 or more on SEO. If you don’t have that kind of budget you really can’t compete.
This is why it is absolutely critical to really evaluate the niche you are going-into and make sure you have the budget to support your dreams. The best way to get started is to simply enter the phrase you want to be on page one for, and see who is already there above the fold. There are two pieces of information that you’re really looking for about these sites – their PR and how many incoming links they have.
To get the pagerank you can simply visit the site with a PR extension running on your browser and make a note of the PR. To see how many backlinks a site has you can use Open Site Explorer. To get a basic idea of how hard it will be to rank just look at these two metrics. If the PR is 3 or higher you’ll probably need to have a similar PR to beat them, however incoming links matter too and if you can beat them here you might get-away with a lower PR.
Here’s what you want to watch-out for and avoid unless you have the budget to do it. When you find a niche where everyone above the fold is a PR 5 or higher and all have over 10,000 incoming links then you’ll need a nice SEO budget to really compete. Remember, companies all over the world enjoying top-rankings in Google spend a lot of money on SEO and for good reason – organic traffic is a wonderful thing. If you find that the niche you want to develop in is full of sites with a high PR and good number of incoming links you might want to look for a more accessible niche to develop in.
One of the most valuable tools to evaluate a niche is SEOQuake. This installs directly into your browser and allows you to see the PR, incoming links, and a lot more valuable data about each site directly on the search results page. Here’s an example:
SEOQuake can save you a ton of time since you can quickly get a snapshot of a niche and decide if you have the budget to compete. Take a look at a search for “insurance” as shown above. As you can see the top three sites are PR 6 and PR 7 all with a ton of incoming links. You would need an absolutely huge SEO budget to rank well in this niche.
What if you do have the SEO budget?
If you do have an SEO budget then I highly recommend finding a local SEO company. There are SEO companies in just about every city and having a local company means you can meet in person which can make a big difference. In general SEO work typically starts at around $3,000/month but depending on the keywords and timeframe you have it is safe to assume you’ll need to spend over $5,000/month.
SEO can be a very time consuming process, it has to be done carefully, it requires picking up the phone and forging relationships. It’s not about getting as many links as you can, it’s all about getting the best links and having a strategy that is broad and improves the awareness about your brand as well.
The idea here is a simple one, before you invest money developing a site, make sure that you understand the niche and what it will take to generate meaningful organic traffic.