It’s important to pick a niche and target market when it comes to improving your SEO. Why? Because your marketing strategy and choice of words need to resonate if you want to grow your service-based business online. This becomes much easier when you choose to become a niche marketer!
To me, the power of SEO is about more than just numbers and generic “traffic”.
The first job of SEO is for your content to show up so your future clients can discover it. This requires multiple steps. In my opinion, it starts with choosing a niche to focus on in your business communication.
It’s really about helping you grow your business by making it easier for your ideal audience to (first) DISCOVER you in a search. Then, you want your content to RESONATE so the right fit people want to take an ACTION.
The most efficient way to start this process, in what I see as the MOST IMPORTANT “pre-SEO” step (or for any type of marketing activity), is to get really clear about the specifics; people, goal, problem, service, outcome ~ and how you communicate that in your marketing.
This happens to be one of the most powerful aspects of my work with 1:1 clients (even though it’s not what they think they need when they hire me). But it doesn’t take them long to see that it is a game-changer for their business. So let’s take a deeper look.
It begins with a CLICK. WHY will your ideal audience click on the link that shows up in search results?
Because it speaks to them. You want it to answer the question they were searching about. You want them to feel seen and understood.
Then, when they’re on your site, you want them to decide that it’s WORTH sticking around to find out more.
Bottom line, if you don’t know WHO you are trying to build a relationship with, WHAT transformation you facilitate, and WHY it matters to them, it’s pretty hard to effectively communicate with them online.
And that means a lot of wasted time and energy that you really don’t have if you’re a sensitive solopreneur.
Don’t get caught up in semantics when you pick a niche and target market:
I’m a big proponent of picking a niche. But I’m also aware that there’s a wide range of descriptions and understandings of what that actually means. Rather than getting caught up in the semantics of it all, it’s important to focus on the purpose so you can wrap your head around what it means for your business.
Michael Port, author of Book Yourself Solid, differentiates between target market and niche for service providers in the following way:
- Target market: (WHO) the specific group of people you want to serve
- Niche: (WHAT) the specific service you specialize in offering those people (your target market)
In terms of growing your service-based business, Port describes the decision like this;
- either specialize in a specific service (niche) and grow your business by offering that service to a range of target markets (types of clients) over time OR
- specialize in serving a specific group of people (target market) and grow your business by expanding the range of services you offer those people over time.
Take a moment to think about this distinction in terms of your business. Do you have a sense of which way you will specialize to grow? I think it’s helpful to see that big picture.
But, if you’re not seeing consistent business revenue yet, you may be making the mistake of jumping ahead before you’re ready. This becomes messy and confusing for you and your ideal audience.
If that’s the case, I strongly recommend that you narrow down your focus NOW to start with ONE service for ONE audience. This can be challenging for people who have been trying to get their online service business working for a while. I get that. And I’ve also seen the power of getting one main part of your business working so you can gain momentum and build from there.
To help with narrowing that focus, you can think of niche as the specific group of people you are speaking to in your MARKETING activities.
When I mention niche, this is what I’m referring to. Who you are marketing to and what problem you’re helping them solve.
If you’ve struggled with niching before, don’t give up! And if you would like help with fine-tuning your niche, without taking on the SEO piece, email me for a customized service.
Bottom line, when you are clear about what target market/niche you are trying to reach, you will:
- know what they call themselves and where to find them,
- be able to write or speak in a way that helps them know that you’re dedicated to serving THEM,
- tap into bigger networks of communication that they’re already talking to each other in (this helps with marketing in general and specifically for SEO backlinks which improve your domain authority),
- referrals will become easier because you will more easily communicate what you want to become known for,
- your messaging can more effectively describe the specific outcomes you help them achieve.
Together, this helps with reaching new people, generating leads for your services, AND converting interested leads into sales.
So what do target market and niche clarity have to do with better SEO?
Picking a niche and taking the time to understand what your ideal potential clients are searching for helps you to pick better keywords. Better keywords, placed strategically, help your website and blog content show up in search results.
I teach my clients a method for strategic selection of keywords based on how many people have been searching for it AND how difficult it would be for you to rank (so you have a better chance of showing up in the first couple pages of search results).
Of course, your ideas for effective keywords and topics should be based on what YOUR niche/target market is ACTUALLY searching for (that you want to help them with).
So this deep understanding of your ideal client (based on your target market and niche) informs your keyword research.
If you step back from your specialization/expertise and what YOU know to be true and, instead, get into the mindset of your ideal client, what would they be searching for (if they didn’t know you or your specialization was a potential solution)?
Market research in addition to the specific language that you’re hearing from your existing and previous clients will help. Also, pay attention to any questions or comments you receive from potential clients. Think about their “before” picture and what they deeply desire “after” (from THEIR point of view).
- What’s keeping them up at night?
- What urgent problem (that you can help them with) are they already seeking solutions for?
- How are they experiencing that problem? How does it tangibly show up in daily life for them?
- What do they want instead? (I wish I could just…)
- How would they talk about all of this with a trusted confidante?
PLAIN language from THEIR point of view. THESE are the words you are looking for. And these are the potential keywords that you will test for SEO effectiveness.
The keywords reflecting what THEY think, say, and search for may not be DIRECTLY related to what you DO (or be the real problem/solution according to you). This requires a different way of thinking.
For example, if you teach yoga, your ideal client may not yet realize that yoga can help them solve their problem. If you’re a coach using a certain technique or assessment to help your clients achieve their goals, they are not necessarily searching for that technique or assessment. If you’ve labeled yourself a self-care coach, you’ll need to think beyond searches for self-care.
Instead, they may be searching for how to relieve joint pain without medication, for example. Or how to stay on track to actually finish what I started. Or why am I so tired all the time. Or time management for highly sensitive business owners. Or how to find clients when you hate networking. You get the idea.
Think about what they might be searching for (examples like these above can become topic ideas). Pull some potential keywords (1 or a string of up to 3) from there.
The potential keywords you selected (that will resonate with your ideal client) are what you will use in your next blog posts. Importantly, you will weave a keyword into your title and throughout your post in a natural way that is not spammy. The goal is to respect your reader by providing quality.
AND it is to help them make the connection between what they were searching for (including what they call themselves) and what, according to your expertise, you know to be true.
In this way, you’ll begin to build the bridge that connects the before and after stories for your ideal client, making the value of your proposed solution clear.
Don’t just read, DO:
Ideally, your mind is spinning with ideas right now! I invite you to put those ideas into action for your own online service-based business so you can improve your SEO and attract new ideal clients more easily. Keep the process simple, creative, light.
- Imagine a specific person who you would LOVE to work with. Put yourself in that ideal client’s shoes.
- Start a working keyword list by brainstorming what comes up from the bulleted questions, descriptions, and examples above.
- Dive into that person’s current situation. What makes them “your kind of person”? What urgent challenges would that person be searching for answers to? What solutions or outcomes might that person be searching for?
- Review your brainstorm and circle/select/highlight (or otherwise identify) your potential keywords or topic themes.
- As time permits, shift gears from creative flow to look back at your market research and communication with potential clients. ADD THEIR WORDS to your working keyword list.
- Next, you will use this working keyword list to TEST which keywords will be most effective for SEO before you write your next blog post.
- Keep in mind that this is NOT a one-time job. Keyword data changes over time. Plus you’ll be learning more about your target market and possibly fine-tuning your niche. Continue to add to (and refine) this working keyword list as you go.
When you first try these steps, it might feel a bit daunting. For example, you might love brainstorming but then have trouble with getting more analytical and strategic with it. Don’t fret. Be kind to yourself. Stick with it. It will become an easier and more natural part of your process. Customize it to work best for you.
In the end, being more clear and strategic by adding target market and niche considerations into your SEO planning will pay off. Over time, you’ll find that more of the right-fit people find you, refer you, and pay you!
Up next: now that you are clear about your target market and niche, and have some keyword ideas selected, find out whether it will be possible to rank for your keywords in search results.
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