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Niching: A Lesson Learned in Search Queries

When building an audience, you will immediately start hearing the advice to “find a niche”. If you are the intelligent, free-thinking individual I know you are, then you will ask why. 

Let me explain, leaning on some interesting trends you may not know about search queries.

In the early days of SEO, people relied on short, 2-3 word queries to find what they wanted. 

Example: “Couch for sale”

Over time, a few things happened. Relevant results increased, making broad searches highly competitive. Search engines like Google got better, specifically semantically. People simply got more comfortable using search engines.

The result? Queries got much longer and more specific. 

Example: “durable grey sectional couch with ottoman for sale”

To be clear, the competition for broad searches is still higher. But smart money goes to these longer queries. 

Why? 

Simple. They convert better. 

The individual searching for the latter has a better idea of what they want. There is more implicit intent, as they are further down the buyer’s journey. They just need to find the right product!

Side note: The same trend is happening with voice search. Just listen to the way your dad talks to Siri as opposed to your niece. Your niece is talking to a helpful friend, using natural language. Your dad sounds like you just asked him to tell his toaster a secret. 

Why this matters to you

Just like the search queries, the broad space you want to build an audience around is probably pretty competitive. 

There are a million people offering:

  • Financial advice
  • Marketing guidance
  • PHP development resources
  • etc…

Plus, people aren’t really looking for these things. They are too broad. 

Grads don’t want a financial advisor, they want just any advice for dealing with student loans that just hit them like a ton of bricks.

B2B ecommerce SaaS startups don’t want just any marketing advice, they want to know how they can reach and convert enterprise clients on a shoestring budget.

These differences may sound arbitrary, but with as many groups, podcasts, blogs, newsletters, etc. as there are out there, your potential audience knows that they can find exactly what they need out there. They don’t need to settle for the broad. Meet them where their need is.

A fun example

Let’s say you are an experienced professional dancer and want to build an audience around your passion. You’ll sell products, training, whatever. 

Well, dance as a category is an uphill battle. Your audience is too broad, experiencing vastly different pains, with vastly different resources, and vastly different needs. 

You will be competing with dance school advertising, research on the impact dance has on health, articles on how dance influences culture, etc. 

Plus, even if people do see your content, it’s probably irrelevant to them. You know little about who they are or what value to bring to them. They could be the mom of a toddler they want to send off to tap class for pseudo-babysitting, a gym teacher who forgot that dance was in the curriculum next semester, or an 18-year-old savant deciding which top ballet school to join.

Let’s tighten it up (or niche, if you will). 

You realize that who you are really passionate about helping are young ballerinas, looking to break into the dance world and join a dance company professionally.

Well, you now identified an audience hungry to get what you have to offer.

They have a goal you are speaking to. You understand their plight. You have your own stories. You know exactly what they need to do to get their foot in the door of some of these top companies. After all, you’ve done it! You’ve been in their (Pointe) Shoes. 

Common Questions

But aren’t I limiting myself?

No. In fact, you are giving yourself the ability to go deep. Value is found in depth, and audiences are built on consistently delivered value. 

Won’t it be harder to write content?

No, it paradoxically becomes much easier. You know who you are speaking to now. The tighter your positioning gets, the more ideas will flow to you. Writing for a specific topic is much easier than a broad one. 

How niche is niche enough?

This is a topic for another day, but David Baker (a huge proponent of niching) has talked a lot about this. Check out this article.

This is not a full explanation of why niching is so broadly accepted as a requirement to audience building.

But, hopefully, it provided a helpful perspective and gets you thinking about your niche. For more information on niching and building audiences, check out some of our other resources.

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