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How to Create Demand for Niche Businesses

Author: Morgan Petrov

Last updated: 30/08/2023

As SEO specialists, we've all encountered that perplexing scenario where we're tasked with promoting a highly specialized service tailored to a very specific audience - whether it's an investment firm focused on sustainable ocean technology, or a point-of-sale and accounting platform exclusively designed for agriculture vehicle dealerships - the seemingly limited scope of these niche offerings can leave us feeling trapped in a keyword research rut.

Common Problems With Traditional Keyword Research for Niche, B2B, and SaaS Businesses

Traditional keyword research tools and methodologies often fall short when it comes to niche products or services. There often appears to be only a very limited number of relevant keywords to target, and little to no long-tail keyword volume due to the highly specific nature of these businesses. 

Here are some common issues I’ve encountered when conducting keyword research for these types of companies:

  • High competition for non-niche short-tail (or head term) keyword variations 
  • Previously published “fluff” content leading to irrelevant query data in Google Search Console
  • Targeting vague informational queries that rarely (or never) lead to conversion, or returning users
  • Lack of awareness that a product or service even exists

SEO Strategy isn’t about Capturing Demand, it’s about Creating Demand for Niche, B2B, and SaaS Businesses

After exhausting all the traditional keyword research options, you may feel like you have little option but to re-optimize the same pages over and over again, or target keywords that never lead to conversions.  


It's a common predicament that can not only discourage SEOs, but also discourage businesses from continuing to invest in SEO. After all, why would businesses continue to invest when they could allocate their resources elsewhere? 


But SEO is not just about capturing demand. In fact, an effective SEO strategy for niche businesses is to create demand


Creating Demand for Niche Businesses Using SEO

The goal of a demand-creation strategy is to stimulate or generate awareness, interest, and desire for a particular product, service, or solution your target audience was previously unaware of, and eventually lead to a sale or conversion.


Demand creation requires you to identify your target audience and truly understand the unique problems they are facing, the factors that motivate them, and the solutions that would solve their problems. With a proper demand creation strategy in place, businesses can attract new leads, gain a competitive edge, and close deals more efficiently.

I’ve always been given clients in highly niche businesses (I blame my wild imagination and longing for a good challenge). It started with a software company that could identify and manage college students who were at risk of dropping out. During my first attempt at keyword research, I was able to find just a handful of low-volume keywords related to “student retention software.” 

And so, when I had to expand the SEO strategy beyond the standard product description pages, well, the keyword research made me want to bang my head against a wall. I couldn’t find a single relevant query in Google Search Console that wasn’t a branded term. The long-tail terms I could find in Semrush would never lead to conversions and, working with a SaaS platform, that was their core objective. 

I knew that there had to be a better way to come up with new keywords to create content around, and generate demand. After months of being stuck in a keyword rut, I realized that I needed to ditch the traditional keyword research tools, and instead, try to truly understand the needs and desires of my target audience. 


Today, I’m excited to be able to share the tips and tricks that helped me create demand for my clients in highly niche industries. 


Alternative Keyword Research Methods

Persona Modeling

Creating demand requires you to understand your target audience on the deepest possible level which is why persona modeling is a crucial step in the process. Personas provide insights into the specific motivations, challenges, and characteristics of a prospect. In addition, personas typically provide a name, face, and demographic information which allow you to humanize your audience.

Once I started relating to target audiences on a more personal level, I shifted my focus away from keyword volume, and instead, I began envisioning the challenges those people were encountering, and thinking about the types of content that would truly assist them.


How to Model Personas

Persona modeling requires a lot of data, both quantitative and qualitative - you may want to consider collecting quantitative data through sources like existing customer databases, demographics from Google Analytics, or general market-level insights from a third-party source like Nielson

Once you’ve collected your quantitative information, you can begin clustering your data into groups. You’ll want to make sure your data clusters reveal the “who” behind your personas. Many companies use things like job title, age, location, industry, business size, revenue growth, etc. 

Now, comes the qualitative data. You may want to consider sending out customer surveys, setting up focus groups, or hiring a research firm to dive in deeper. 


In my experience, customer surveys have proved to be the most efficient way of gathering qualitative data. I love using open-ended or short-answer survey questions to reveal the common problems customers face before converting, and understanding how the product or service has helped them in their own words. 

From there, you’ll use the research from your surveys to build a story for each persona which defines the “why” and “how” (i.e. why they needed your product or service and how it helps them). You can then add a face and name to your persona, as shown in the example below: 


Example persona profile for a public research university. Creative credit: Cat Stumpp

How Persona Modeling Helps You Create Demand With SEO

Persona modeling uncovers the interests, pain points, and questions of target personas allowing you to ideate new content topics that may not be found via classic keyword research. By developing content that specifically addresses these needs rather just than chasing keyword volume, businesses can attract qualified organic traffic. 

Collaborate With Sales Teams 

It’s not uncommon for sales and marketing teams to be pretty siloed, but we’re able to do much better work together than apart. While marketers are speaking to a theoretical target audience, sales teams are regularly talking to qualified leads about their businesses, the problems they face, and the solutions they are seeking. 


My husband, Matt, was in sales for half a decade and spent some time in the SaaS industry. He says, “The point of sales is to provide a solution a prospect has. Sometimes they have a problem they didn’t even know existed until they realize there’s a solution for it.”

This sounds familiar, doesn’t it, SEOs? 

Encouraging Collaboration Between Sales and Marketing Teams

When there’s an open line of communication between sales and marketing, SEOs can better understand the problems prospects are facing day-to-day, and get a clearer idea of what they’re typing into Google’s search bar. 


The hardest part is figuring out how to collaborate with your sales team. I like to start by finding a “champion” – someone who has the desire to get the two departments working more closely together. Often a conversation is all you need to start things moving in the right direction. 

I’ve found the most effective way to open the lines of communication between sales and marketing teams is by bringing in the sales “champion” into brainstorming meetings. 


Your sales “champion” has a wealth of valuable insights to share including: 

  • Questions and objections from potential customers
  • Common challenges prospects face
  • Problems prospects didn't realize existed
  • Issues within the current market and industry landscape
  • Real examples of how the product or service helps your customers

It can be useful to use a shared digital whiteboard like Miro or Canva not only to jot down ideas, but also to guide the team through the areas you need to brainstorm, and to easily organize thoughts and insights. 


Digital whiteboards can also be fantastic for either fully remote, or hybrid remote teams because they allow for asynchronous collaboration - i.e. not all team members need to participate at either the same time, or in the same place. 

You can also collaborate asynchronously with other sales representatives - create a whiteboard with specific questions or goals, provide a set of easy-to-follow instructions, add a due date, and watch the potential content topics come pouring in. 

Follow Reddit and Quora Communities

For many niches, sites like Reddit and Quora are great places to learn more about your target audience, understand what problems they’re trying to solve, and identify new content opportunities. 


For the uninitiated, Reddit is a discussion-based forum for special interest groups called “subreddits” while Quora is a question-and-answer platform. Both platforms serve as a place to answer very specific questions that search engines don’t always provide great results for. As such, browsing relevant Subreddits and Quora Topics can be a great alternative to traditional keyword research tools.  


How to use Reddit and Quora

Start by identifying the Subreddits or Quora Topics that are relevant to your industry, product, or service. If you have a customer persona already created, think about what online communities that person would be involved in. Once identified, you can begin your deep dive. 


Pay attention to the most popular posts (also known on Reddit as “hot posts”). These posts indicate the topics and questions that are currently generating significant interest and engagement among users. Analyze the content of these posts to understand the pain points, challenges, and interests of your target audience.


Jump into the posts and watch for any recurring questions, pain points, challenges, or issues users are seeking answers to. This can provide valuable insight into the gaps in your current content strategy, and help you identify new trending topics. You’ll also want to read through the comments to gain insights into how others have tried to solve these issues in the past. 


Because we’re SEOs and we love our data, you’ll want to record the instances of recurring themes, questions, and problems encountered by Reddit or Quora users. 

Why Using Reddit and Quora Helps Create Demand With SEO

Remember in 2022 when there was speculation that Reddit would replace Google Search? Whilst Google remains the dominant search engine, holding approximately 85% of the market share, there has been an increase in Google searches containing the term “Reddit”. 

There are several reasons for the rise of Reddit-related searches on Google. One of the most common reasons is that the search results returned often do not really answer users’ queries. 

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve typed an oddly specific question into the search bar only for the results to produce content that half-way answers my question. So, I simply add “Reddit” to the end of my query. Problem solved, question answered - I’m clearly not the only one that does this! 

You may think this phenomenon is related to a faulty algorithm and/or manipulation of the search results, and you’d be partially correct. However, it’s also often the case that relevant content for these search queries simply does not exist, likely for the same reason why you’re reading this article– there was no keyword volume, so the content wasn’t created. Since SEO tools were first brought to life, SEOs have been focused on “data-driven” strategies (read: write content targeting keywords with volume). But, remember, according to Google, around 15% of all search queries have never been asked before and even fewer will ever be registered in keyword tools.



That likely means those oddly specific questions you Google, and the different variations of those long-tail queries aren’t going to show up in your keyword tools. 

If you’ve noticed recurring themes on these social media platforms but there’s seemingly no search volume according to your keyword tool, then forget the tool; and focus on the insights you’ve gleaned from these platforms instead. This is your opportunity to get on top and provide actionable solutions to your prospects using SEO as your primary method of demand creation. 


TL;DR: provide users with the content they’re searching for, so they don’t need to add “Reddit” to the end of that query. 

Use Google Search Console to Find Long-Tail Queries

It’s time to jump into the depths of Google Search Console, where you've never thought to venture before and explore the search queries you’ve previously ignored due to low volumes of clicks, impressions, and positions. 


Head to Google Search Console’s Search Results section in the Performance tab on the left-hand side. While you’re on the “Queries” view, set your date range (I prefer to pull 12 months worth of data). You’ll then want to create a new query filter using the “Custom (regex)” option. 

Here’s the secret to finding those hidden gems: type “who|what|when|why|how” into the filter. This will show you all search queries containing interrogative words. 


Interrogative words, or the 5 Ws, are typically used for informational searches and general problem-solving. This will give you an idea of how searchers have previously stumbled across your website. 


You may be familiar with this process, but now I'm going to throw you a curveball. Reverse your sorting so you’re viewing lowest to highest for clicks or impressions. Trust me, just do it. 


Unless all queries are branded, you’re bound to find some hidden treasure:


Once you’ve found a few opportunities, you’ll want to analyze and run diagnostics for the pages related to those queries. Is the page redirecting to a new URL? Was it recently canonicalized to another page? Is it missing valuable information? Or, does it leave the intent of a query unfulfilled? This will help you determine whether the content needs to be refreshed, or if there is a new content opportunity awaiting to be unlocked. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, creating demand for niche businesses requires a shift in SEO strategy. Instead of solely relying on traditional keyword research tools, focus on understanding your target audience through persona modeling, collaborating with sales teams, and leveraging social media sites like Reddit and Quora. Also, don't overlook the potential of Google Search Console.


By adopting these alternative methods, you can identify new opportunities, and create new content that addresses the needs and interests of your audience, in order to attract qualified traffic, and ultimately drive conversions. 

Morgan Petrov - SEO Lead, Chartis.io

Morgan Petrov is the SEO Lead at Chartis.io, focusing on data-driven and qualitative strategies across B2B, SaaS, finance, and e-commerce industries. Her approach combines the art of user-first experiences and the science behind search.