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I Got 99 Problems and My Niche is One

Posted by Jesse Stoler on Nov 27, 2013 12:50:03 PM


Not even the best can master every niche.

Jay-Z is a business titan. He developed a blueprint so he could achieve the holy grail and ended up building one of the most expansive business empires I’ve seen in my lifetime. He has ventured into everything, from clothing to video games to sports management. Some suspect he has his own new world order, but I have my reasonable doubt (last one, I promise).

Despite his astonishing business acumen, there is one niche Jay-Z can’t break into: cars. Back in 2005, he coordinated with Chrysler to create a branded Jeep, one that would be painted Jay-Z blue and would come up with a stereo system already set with the rapper’s discography. The plan fell apart, partly due to new management, but also because of Jay-Z’s criminal past. Other rappers have tried their hand in the automobile business to varying degrees of failure. If even Jay-Z can't master the niche, I wouldn't expect anyone else to either.

Some niches are incredibly difficult to tap into; this applies to be link building as well.

I’m going to go out on a limb here: we’re pretty damn good at what we do. Link building is rough. There’s no denying that. That’s why it’s commonly outsourced – a lot of marketing companies don’t have the time, energy or skills to manage a link building campaign.

But not all niches are equal, and it would be terribly misleading to say so. Some are a gift, some a curse (I lied earlier).

The entertainment niche is a gift. The amount of target sites borders on infinite, and the community is (for the most part) incredibly welcoming.

Then there are the curses. There are some niches that leave even the best link builders banging their heads on their desks and devoting extra effort just to find a single solitary link. There are a multitude of reasons why there can be such slow movement in your link building efforts for a specific niche.


I had a girlfriend once who told me to never judge another person on previous mistakes. Of course, this rule came with a caveat if the person in question was me; then all of a sudden those mistakes counted for something. But I still like the philosophy. I don’t believe it should be applied wholesale, but everyone makes mistakes.

Some niches are currently victimized by their past mistakes. One mistake that still haunts these niches to this day is comment spam.

Comment spam was an unfortunately successful tactic pre-2012. Many industries took advantage, if only to keep up with the competition. Some niches that are notorious for this include online poker, payday loans and merchants of white label products.

However, an individual payday loan site may not have been guilty of putting forth such spam. In fact, I would assume plenty weren’t. Yet a lot of sites that used to take up space on 1/3 of the Huffington Post comments section have been penalized recently.

As a result, many webmasters are cautious to link to payday loan sites (for example), because they feel their site will be at risk. Call it guilt by association.

“You Know Why the New Coke Marketing Campaign Failed? Because Nobody Liked New Coke!”

Sometimes, you’re going to have work for a site that no one wants to link to. It’s an age old marketing dilemma. The quote in the subheader says it best. Also, if you knew without having to look that I just quoted CJ Cregg from “The West Wing,” it’s entirely possible we’re soul mates.

There’s a lot of truth in this quote. To revert back to movie talk, sure a publicity firm could throw tens of millions at a forthcoming movie… but oh no! The star of the movie is Eddie Murphy! No one’s wanted to watch one of his movies since he made purple leather “fashionable” in the 80s.

This ties into link building, in that some niches there’s just very few link building opportunities. In this case, it’s not so much spam as much as it is at the level of public relations.

Everyone needs insurance. But no one LIKES insurance. No matter the value insurance provides, the public at large generally rolls their collective eyes when the word comes up.

This comes into play when link building. When a site owner sees a link to an insurance provider, a common reaction is for him or her to question the purpose of the link. “That’s an advertisement,” is something you will see oft repeated in e-mails.

Then there’s the kind of site that doesn’t necessarily have a bad reputation, but the interest is low because of the antiquity of the service the site provides.

Let’s say a website that makes custom letter openers is looking for some link building. Nothing against letter openers; I’m sure there have been some really beautifully made ones. But it’s really hard to convince a blog owner of the importance of letter openers when you’re communicating via electronic mail.

One in 148,000,000

Relevancy first. That’s a selling point for Page One Power, and we stick to it.

The problem is that not every niche has an overwhelming amount of relevant sites. According to whois.com, there are over 148,000,000 registered domains. Believe me though, there are niches out there that have fewer relevant sites than there are children in the Duggar family.

For instance, I recently came across the site that provided white noise to help you sleep. They didn’t sell any products, mind you: you just hit the play button on the page and it provides the noise. Call it NAPster if you want.

Where on earth are you going to search to build links for this site? Ceilingfans.com? The Enya fan page? I’m not saying that this is a completely useless site. Heck, I might even use it when I get home. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to find potential backlinks for.

Even though this kind of client can be an overwhelming source of frustration, they force a link builder to be creative. Chances are you aren’t going to get any natural authority links with traditional link building. For a client like this, it’s imperative to use the link builder’s best tool: their own brain.

Let’s take the aforementioned white noise site again as an example. Chances are most sleep science institutes aren’t going to place that site on a resource page. What they MIGHT put on their site, however, is a survey. “Do you need white noise present in order to fall asleep?” “Do you find it easy to fall asleep even with disruptive neighbors?” “Are you sleep survey taking again?”

A survey like this is still relevant to the simply noise, and presents a better reason for linking.

The Competition is Steep

Remember earlier in the article when I talked about how easy it is to build links in the entertainment niche? I stand by what I said. But the downfall of the entertainment niche is the intense competition.

Type in “movie news” as your search query. See how long it takes you to sift through every single site the SERPs give you before there are no more entries. Before you do this, tell everyone in your family that you love them, because you’re not going to see them again for the next ten years.

Yes, it’s easy to build links for movie sites. Now try getting one of those sites to rank on the first page. Not so easy all of a sudden, especially for a freshly registered domain. So what if you built up an army of relevant links; so have the sites on page 16.

You have to figure out a way to stand out from the crowd. Otherwise, you’re going to be just another greased out Guido that’s lifted more weights than pencils at a “Jersey Shore” casting call.

Does. Not. Compute.

Given my profession, I look at a lot of websites. If the NSA tracks my web activity, they must think my interests are incredibly schizophrenic.

But just because I look at a lot of websites doesn’t mean I necessarily understand them all. Whenever anyone tries to explain immunohistochemistry to me (of course a common occurrence), I feel like a member of the Insane Clown Posse getting a lesson in how magnets work.

Of course, plenty of hard to understand niches still want to increase their web visibility. Indeed, very likely part of the reason they want to increase their visibility is because they are so hard to understand.

The reason it’s so hard to build a link for such a technical niche is simply a lack of comprehension. The outreach process of link building becomes absurdly more difficult if you can’t exactly pin down what it is you’re trying to link to. You certainly don’t want this kind of conversation to happen:

Webmaster: “Hey Bob, I looked at your article and the content itself is fabulous. Might be right for my blog. But I see you have a link in the bio that leads to immunohistochemistryproducts.com. What’s the value in this link?”

Link builder: “Uhhhhh, that site provides chemicals that make you immune to hysterectomies. I think. Can I get back to you on that?”

Any link builder with minimal talent can build links in the entertainment and food niches. It takes an innovative link builder to figure out ways to get the ball rolling in the difficult niches. Understanding the difficulty of a niche, along with the unique value proposition of their client, will greatly help any link builder reduce link building friction from the start.