Competitive Niches: 5 Ways to Beat the Big Guns

Written by: Simon Slade, Guest Blogger | One of the best things about internet marketing is that you can start and stay small and still make it. Find out more about competitive niches below.

Something that I love about the internet is the way it has removed a lot of the barriers to getting started in a particular industry or niche. There is a certain amount of democracy to the online world that has removed the stranglehold that large, well-established players had on the marketplace. Ten years ago it would have been very unlikely that a small Internet marketing company from New Zealand would be competing successfully on the global scene, but now it’s a reality.

With that said, it’s still not exactly a piece of cake. Taking on a competitive niche and clambering your way to the top is a challenging task involving tactical thinking and determination.

If it seems like shooting for the stars, I invite you to think about these 5 ideas on tackling top niches – you might decide it’s more achievable than you think.

#1 – Know your target

If you’re thinking, “this sounds familiar,” then you’re right. I talked about knowing your target in a recent post about keyword research, but it’s worth repeating.

So what does knowing your target have to do with tackling a competitive niche? Lots. To illustrate my point, I want to use Subway as a real-world example. Subway took on the world’s biggest franchise, McDonald’s, and became a big player in the fast food niche. They didn’t do it by trying to copy McDonald’s – they did it by getting to know their target better. Learning that fast-food customers wanted healthier options, Subway targeted that hole in the market and became very successful, building up almost twice as many outlets in the US as McDonald’s.

You can replicate Subway’s strategy by thinking about the competitive niche you’re tackling and really getting to know your target market. For example, are you in the ‘stop smoking’ niche?

  • What products are quitters talking about right now?
  • Is there a new product that’s just come out and is in demand?
  • Is there something in particular that is a real concern for people trying to quit, such as dealing with a relapse? Remember to really listen to what people are saying here. Be prepared to alter your perceptions and don’t make the mistake of clinging to your own assumptions.

You’ll notice that effective affiliate sites keep up with the latest trends and stay in tune with what their target market is talking about.

#2 – An effective SEO strategy

Most website owners say they do SEO, but a lot of them are half-hearted about it. They forget that the O in SEO stands for optimization. When you optimize for something it means you are thorough in covering all your bases to make sure your site is built for ranking, with every screw tightened and every page fine-tuned for search engine love. Just having the keyword in the page title is not enough!

You can review how heavily optimized the top 20 sites are for any given keyword phrase using the SEO Analysis feature in Traffic Travis. It looks at 12 different things a website can do to optimize for a phrase, so you can check if a site is dropping the O out of SEO!

Some particularly important SEO factors to keep in mind:

If any of your competitors are missing one or more of these things, then you’ve just found a significant weakness that can be exploited for your own benefit.

While SEO is sometimes talked about like a way to ‘game’ the search engines, it’s better to think of it as preparing a good CV (or resumé for you Americans). And as we all know, when it comes to getting a job, sometimes half an hour’s extra tweaking can make all the difference

#3 – Thinking outside the box

It’s difficult to tackle competition head-on. Like any great battle commander will tell you, it’s more effective to attack your enemy from the rear or even the side. Similarly, affiliates can be more successful by thinking outside the box and coming up with new ways of doing things. Dell was able to shake up the computer industry by selling direct to the public online, rather than through retail outlets. So instead of thinking about what your competition are doing, think about what they’re not doing.

If you’re in the weight loss niche, is there something other affiliates are not giving customers? For many customers in this niche, a sense of community support is vitally important and has been the basis of success for offline weight loss services such as Jenny Craig. As an affiliate, could you fill this gap? For example, you might try some of the following ideas:

  • Add a weight loss widget to your blog that allows readers to enter this week’s losses
  • Build up an online discussion forum around reviewing weight loss products
  • Allow visitors to your site to create their own profile page where fellow members can post messages of support
  • Add a Twitter list to your site that collects inspiring and encouraging tips for people trying to lose weight

#4 – An organized link building campaign

It’s been said that 80% of search engine “love” comes from backlinks to your site. That’s not to say that all the on-page SEO you do is not worth doing – it is – but you should remember that without backlinks you won’t stand a chance in any competitive niches.

Link building can be challenging and you might actually feel it’s more ‘link begging’ than link building. While there’s nothing wrong with asking for a link, remember there are lots of other ways you can get a backlink to your site. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Article directories such as ezinearticles.com
  • Industry directories that are directly related to your niche
  • Forum posts or blog comments (search for CommentLuv blogs that offer dofollow comment links)

The advantage of creating your own backlinks is that you can use the anchor text of your choice, and using the keyword phrase in backlinks to your site is a huge plus for boosting your site’s relevancy for a specific keyword phrase.

Remember to monitor your backlinks with SEO tools like Yahoo! Site Explorer, Google Webmaster tools or Traffic Travis. While not all backlinks are reported, these tools will help you gauge how successful your link building campaigns are.

#5 – Look for the niche within a niche

Some affiliates fail because they think of a niche as a single entity. So if you ask them what niche they’re in, they’ll say “weight loss” and then they wonder why they don’t seem to be getting any traction. The sites that thrive in these competitive niches are the ones who have discovered niches within the niche.

For example, some successful affiliates have targeted a specific subset of weight loss customers, such as people looking for high protein diets. When you start researching this sub-niche you start to discover a lot of different products you can promote, and it can be enough to support your Internet marketing business.

So remember, you don’t need to take on the whole niche. Just find a healthy niche within the competitive niches and you’ll have your sales without the excessive competition that comes with being too generic.

For example, some weight loss sub-niches you could try include:

  • High protein diets
  • Bride diets
  • Belly fat diets
  • Low carb diets

We’re barely scratching the surface here, but something you’ll find with competitive niches is that they fragment really well, allowing you to easily find a competitive niche you can quite happily take on.