Doing SEO for super-niche industries can be a bit of a double-edged sword.
On the plus side, SERP competition is typically low which means obtaining good rankings is easier than it would be in more competitive markets.
The downside is that keyword search volumes are often very small.
This can mean that, while it’s relatively easy to achieve good rankings, traffic levels will be minimal. This is usually fine in the short-term, because everyone wants to see their site ranking #1 for some nice keywords, but not so good in the longer-term when traffic plateaus and there’s no new business coming through the door.
This is a challenge I have recently helped a client overcome.
The client in question, who I will refer to affectionately as ‘the client’ throughout this post is in the business of insurance claims management. In simplest terms, they help businesses and homeowners manage property insurance claims once a claim reaches a certain size or level of complexity. They deal mainly in floods, fires, or anything else that could cause major damage to a building.
The business has historically struggled with two distinct SEO challenges:
1. Very few people know the service they offer exists and consequently search volumes are extremely low for the types of terms they use to describe their business. Where search volume does exist, it’s for generic keywords that would send the wrong type of traffic (something learned through PPC testing).
2. The nature of the business means that demand is influenced heavily by a number of external factors, namely, the weather. It can go from being very quiet to incredibly busy overnight, following, say, a major storm or flood. This makes forecasting difficult.
For context, when we first started working with the client they were receiving fewer than 1,000 organic visits per month on average, which broke down roughly as follows in terms of landing page share:
- 40% to homepage
- 38% to other pages (including about, meet the team, contact etc.)
- 20% to information & resource pages
- 2% to blog
While traffic was relatively low, it wasn’t strictly due to poor rankings. In fact, the site ranked consistently in the top 1-3 organic results for its hero keyword plus several permutations of it. The issue was that very few people search for this term/s, so the potential traffic ceiling was low – and had already been reached.
Therefore, in order to increase the number of visitors we needed to develop a strategy that incorporated a greater variety of relevant keywords. We didn’t just need to boost site visibility, we needed to broaden it.
Naturally, the first step was to undertake a full site audit, link audit, and generally ensure the site was in good shape. Once those things were checked off and we were happy we had a solid foundation to build on, we set about developing a keyword-informed content strategy. The process looked something like this:
- In-depth keyword research to identify relevant search terms that could form the basis of new content resources. We didn’t want to rely solely on Google keyword Planner for this process so also pulled ideas from Answer The Public and Google’s ‘People also ask’ results (using the Chrome scraper extension). Specifically, we were looking for long-tail search terms with some search volume, but not so much that we wouldn’t stand a chance of ranking. This may sound defeatist, but competition in the insurance sector is no joke. The saying ‘pick your battles’ was very much applicable here.
- Developed a blog calendar, based predominantly on ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions identified through keyword research. This included a combination of seasonal and evergreen topics to ensure there was always relevant content on the blog, no matter the time of year.
- Creation of new resource-style landing pages to capture higher volume search terms. These were long-form pieces, around 1,500 words in length, structured in a Q&A style. More design consideration was given to these pages than the blog posts on account of the potential for higher volumes of traffic, and we employed CRO best practices to ensure there were no dead ends.
Ultimately the strategy was about capturing more users during their discovery and learning phase by providing unbiased answers to commonly asked questions. In an insurance crisis, most people don’t know there’s help available to them, and our plan was to introduce them to this knowledge, subtly, via their own Google research.
When creating content we had some specific objectives in mind.
First and foremost the content had to provide real value and educate users in a non-pushy way, and in turn, help build brand trust. We did not expect users to convert on their first visit, but knew that information style content had the potential to play a crucial role in the conversion process.
This is not a quick-sale business, with conversion paths regularly consisting of 15 or more visits across three of more channels. What starts as one organic visit can lead to 10 direct visits, then another organic visit, followed by a PPC click, and so on; users need a lot of convincing before getting in touch.
Crucially, we needed the content to be visible and attractive to searchers. So as well as ensuring all pages included multiple variations of keywords throughout, and that page titles and descriptions were ‘SEO friendly’, we also optimised copy with featured snippets in mind. This involved a lot of analysis into the snippets that already existed for variations of the target terms. We dumped the findings in a spreadsheet, made a note of word count and snippet type (list, paragraph, or table) then created our own new and improved alternative versions.
And finally, it was important that the content output was natural, and above all relevant. What I mean by this is, we didn’t just want to create content because a lot of people were searching for it. While it might have been tempting to cash in on some easy SEO wins, chances are it would have been the wrong type of people. It was also important to ensure the blog output remained consistent and manageable, so in between SEO-focused posts, we were keen to maintain a steady flow of company updates, industry news etc.
Given the gradual roll-out of the strategy and relatively low search volumes associated with some of the keywords being targeted, visitor numbers did not rocket overnight, and nor did we expect them to.
However, 18 months on and as a result of the cumulative visits, organic traffic increased by 384%. Blog traffic specifically increased by 1,590% during the same period, which was helped by the fact that we successfully claimed featured snippets for a number of the queries, alongside #1 organic rankings.
The long-form content also performed very well, driving around 2,000+ visits per month at its peak and accounting for around 24% of all organic visits in total. In terms of conversions, enquiries via organic searches increased by 271%.
What we can learn from this
This project has been a particularly interesting one because there’s been such a strong focus on low-volume keywords, which isn’t the typical SEO approach.
- Don’t discount keywords just because they have low search volume. While a single keyword with low search volume may not have much clout on its own, the cumulative impact of lots of low volume keywords can be significant over time.
- Similarly, never rely on a single tool or data source for keyword research. Most importantly, don’t believe everything Google Keyword Planner tells you – not only is the data based on average monthly search volumes, which makes it rubbish for reviewing seasonal peaks and troughs, it can also miss some of the super-long tail terms, and it ‘bundles’ similar queries which can be misleading.
- Think about the user journey and what information they might need or want. Users search differently at different stages of discovery – capturing them earlier in the research phase can be a great way of grabbing their attention before a competitor does later down the line.