Tuesday, June 23, 2015

To Compete, Discover Your Niche

A few weeks ago we wrote a post about creating attention-worthy content with reference to Rand Fishkin, of the Moz Blog, and his idea of "10x content." Fishkin's premise is that simply creating "good, unique content" is not enough to rank. In order for new or smaller to medium-sized websites to rank, Fishkin believes, they must create 10x content:

"Really, where I want folks to go..is 10x, 10 times better than anything I can find in the search results today."

Fishkin gives an outline for creating this sort of content, which is at best, nebulous, but still helpful for beginners. He asks, for example:

"What questions are being asked and answered by these search results?

What sort of user experience is provided? I look at this in terms of speed, in terms of mobile friendliness, in terms of rendering, in terms of layout and design quality, in terms of what's required from the user to be able to get the information? Is it all right there, or do I need to click? Am I having trouble finding things?"

Answering these sorts of questions will give you an idea of why a piece of content is successful (or not), but it might not necessarily help you create great content. In any case, we simplified Fishkin's recommendations to two simple questions.

Read: "Two Questions to Inspire New Content."

Still, the question remains: Is the creation of superlative, outstanding, 10x, or whatever you want to call it, content really enough for a new or small or medium-sized website to compete in the rankings?

This is the question Adam Stetzer asks on Search Engine Watch, and his answer is definitive:
"The Google mantra: 'Create great content and it will earn links,' works for big business, but not for small ones."

Read: "Come on, Google. Let the Little Guy Earn a Link."

Stetzer focuses his discussion specifically on high-quality, relevant links, which work as editorial votes, and are supposed to boost a website's ranking. The problem, Stetzer asserts, is that "small businesses are not going to get links just by virtue of having good content."

This assertion, of course, is in contrast to Fishkin's claim about 10x content. As Fishkin writes,
"If you use this process or a process like this and you do this type of content auditing and you achieve this level of content quality, you have a real shot at rankings."

Not really, Stetzer says: "Google policies are seemingly oblivious to this reality: without links, small businesses get no traffic and without traffic, they get no links."

In our view, both are right (and wrong). We happen to agree with Fishkin's assertion that outstanding content can boost rankings and attract traffic. But Fishkin himself makes a key point that Stetzer overlooks:

"Really, where I want folks to go...is 10x, 10 times better than anything I can find in the search results today. If I don't think I can do that, then I'm not going to try and rank for those keywords. I'm just not going to pursue it. I'm going to pursue content in areas where I believe I can create something 10 times better than the best result out there."

And this is a reality of a small business, which by nature is not trying to compete with a large business.

A small bookseller, for example, will not try to compete head-to-head with, say, Amazon, the behemoth of online book sales. But a smaller bookseller, like Powell's Books, which originated as a neighborhood bookseller in Portland, Oregon, can certainly discover success.

Powell's Book City in Portland, Oregon
Powell's ingenious way of marketing itself is "The World's Neighborhood Bookseller." If you Google "books," the number-one result is, of course, Amazon, followed by Barnes and Noble and Google Books. Powell's is not even on the first page. Yet Powell's has earned a durable success with unique branding--and, ironically, by selling its books on Amazon.

The point is that to compete you have to discover your niche.

Stetzer's assertion, then is not entirely true. To be fair, Stetzer seems to imply that a smaller bookstore like Powell's should be able to compete with Amazon. He begins with an ideal scenario:

"Some would say that the Internet is the great equalizer, that every business, large and small, has an equal shot at page one rankings and with that, web traffic, leads, sales, and growth."

But this is simply not true. And that's OK. As we've written before, "To Compete You Must Evolve." And for a new or smaller business this means answering the questions that have not yet been answered. Create your own rankings. Be unique--and specific about your offering:

"By paying attention to the unique specificity of your product or service, you can dramatically improve your visibility on Google. Instead of thinking about keywords, however, think about questions. What question(s) does your product or service answer? Once you've answered these questions (for yourself), you can begin to compose your answers."

For more, read our posts about content.

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