SEO and Link Building in Competitive Niches

Trying to perform ethical and quality SEO in competitive niches can feel a lot like adding water to the ocean, no matter how much you do it just seems fruitless. Sites dealing in areas such as real estate or insurance (and a host of other areas) find it difficult to move up the SERPs and many SEOs resort to black hat techniques in order to gain a boost in back links. However, if 2012 and Google’s Penguin and Panda updates taught us anything, partaking in spam strategies will do more harm than good. It is more important than ever to focus on natural SEO and link building techniques and work with Google’s algorithm rather than trying to manipulate it.

Competitive Niches

Of course, natural link building is time extensive and expensive even in uncompetitive niches, so trying to do it in a competitive area can be a daunting task. Assuming your onsite SEO is up to par, keep these ideas in mind as you move forward in your offsite SEO endeavors for the best results.

Know thy Neighbor

Great SEO starts with knowing what you’re running up against. Find out what keywords you want to rank for by using one of the handy tools like Google Adwords or Nichebot. After you’ve narrowed down what search terms you want to rank for, see which sites are ranking highly for those same terms. These are your “competitors” and you can learn a lot by looking at these sites. You can look at their site to see if there are any improvements you can make, but you should be focusing on their backlink portfolio. By using a tool like Open Site Explorer you can see an expansive lists of links pointing towards their site. It takes some time, but these lists are a great place to start finding relevant sites where you can also try to get a backlink.

Relevancy Over Quantity

A big mistake new SEOs make is seeing that their keyword competitors have hundreds of thousands or millions of backlinks pointing towards their site and they think that in order to compete, they have to get this number. However, these links are often spam or random links that propagate and lose value. At Page One Power, I’ve seen clients leap frog over competitors in the SERPs with millions of links after securing only a handful of relevant, higher quality links. Don’t get sucked into believing quantity drives rankings, it is quality.

Long Tail Keywords

A competitive niche means trying to rank for competitive keywords which can be an arduous task. Instead, put some time into finding some great long tail keywords that are easier to rank for. Long tail keywords are typically 3-5 words in length and make a more specific phrase than a short tail keyword. Since they’re more specific, they are searched for less but many people think they have a higher conversion rating for sales and CTR than the short tail keywords. In fact, the short tail keywords are a minority in search engines when it comes to total searched terms. 20% (that’s one of out of every five) search queries is actually unique, meaning that that phrase has never been searched before. This means that just because you’re in a competitive industry it doesn’t mean you can’t rank well, you just have to try harder and get creative with your keywords.

Quality Content

Now, more than ever, providing quality content is the only way to get noticed. Google’s crawlers are becoming better and better at reading text and telling what is good vs. bad. Keyword stuffing won’t help you rank highly anymore and you need to be able to produce content that is easily readable by both people and crawlers. Don’t just post fresh content to post fresh content. Make sure that the content can stand alone. Strong pieces on your site will naturally attract backlinks over time, and if you link build through guest posting you need strong content in order to stand out above the fray. While it is now a dated phrase, it’s truer now than ever that content is king.

Go Local

Remember how 20% of search queries are unique? Well 24% of Google searches are focused locally and that number is even higher if you look at searches coming from mobile sources like phones or tablets. The Chitika study shows us that while you may not be ranking well for a short tail keyword, local focused keywords could provide better results. Don’t be afraid to hit up those resource links on Yelp, Yellow Pages, and areas with low hanging fruit where you simply have to list the information. It’s easy to do and could get you listed on local searches.

Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole

It’s important enough to mention again: don’t start using black hat techniques! Think of black hat SEO like the witches hut in Hansel and Gretel. It may be tempting and you may be hungry, but it will get you eaten by a crotchety old Google algorithm and you’ll become buried or expelled from the SERPs! If what you are doing looks artificial or spammy, then it probably is and Google will find it eventually. Focus on the long term and keep your site ranking.

It’s tough, but with some creativity you can jump up the SERPs too. What are some other ways you’ve found results in competitive niches?

About Amit Shaw

Amit Shaw, Administrator of iTechCode.He is a 26 Year Ordinary Simple guy from West Bengal,India. He writes about Blogging, Technology, Gadgets, Programming etc. Connect with him on Facebook, Add him on Google+ and Follow him on Twitter.


  1. Great article with some valuable advice.

    I’ve never heard of nichebot. How does it compare to Market Samurai and LongTailPro?

    • Thomas McMahon says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Alex.

      Nichebot is nice because it combines a number of free services like Google Adwords and Wordtracker in its searches which saves a lot of time. Unfortunately, I haven’t used the service in quite some time and it appears that after some searches the service isn’t what it once was.

  2. When it comes to quality of SEO and Link building quality is ultimately important to create trust with people. Unlike blindly taking efforts to build back links and SEO for out business, we should consider using these tips for better results.

    I’ve been using SEMRush to track competitors keywords and hope nichebot is good suggestion.

    Thanks to the wonderful article.

    • Thomas McMahon says:

      Naveen, great point that I can agree with 100%. Too often, SEOs forget that web developers and editors are people and not machines. Treating them as such and building relationships is more time consuming, but the results will be much better and long term.

      SEMRush is a great option, if you’re happy with it I’d stick with it. Although, it never hurts to branch out to try new services that might catch some keywords that your go-to didn’t get.

    • Rank Watch says:

      “Long Tail Keywords” was never a stressed upon entity before 2012. But with the competition so tight bound, many professionals have started to take a note of this new and unique which can really prove effective for your site. Also some new site owners tends to stuff loads of keywords into their content, which could have gone good in earlier years, but now it takes no time for search engines to put such content as spam.

      • Thomas McMahon says:

        Thanks for the comment, Rank Watch, I appreciate you taking the time to read the piece. The problem with more professionals recognizing the benefit of long tail keywords is that once a query (long or short) becomes noticed it starts being a competitive term to rank for. This means if you’re dabbling with long tail keywords you have to constantly be changing your game to stay ahead of the competition.

        And I agree, while keywords are important and need to be featured on your site, over-stuffing them looks just as spammy to people as it does to the search engines. Time and effort need to be put in to make the content top notch, while hosting keywords, in order for it to be effective.

  3. Narender Chopra says:

    Totally Agreed bro. One can’t get higher rankings in Search Rankings without Good Backlinks. So really nice link building strategy you have described here .

    • Thomas McMahon says:

      Thanks Narender! Once people realize that link building requires “good backlinks” and not just a lot of backlinks the internet might be a cleaner place – but I won’t hold my breath.