Creating an SEO Strategy in a Highly Competitive Niche with @KelceyDrapp #vcbuzz

Search Engine Optimization is always challenging but in some niches it may just be impossible.

It takes time, budgets, creativity and technical skills.

How to create an SEO strategy in a highly competitive niche? Let’s discuss!

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About @KelceyDrapp

@KelceyDrapp has been in the digital space for over a decade.

Kelcey enjoys digging deep into SEO research to discover the ‘why,’ and helping clients realize their potential for success online.

In addition to her work in local SEO, Kelcey also likes to volunteer her digital marketing skills for non-profits in need.

Questions we discussed

Q1 How did you become a digital marketer? Please share your career story!

I first got into digital marketing in college. I had a digital strategy internship at @AgencyEntourage, then followed that with a year-long SEO internship at @RankHammer. As a marketing major at Baylor University, seeing the tech side was fascinating to me.

After I graduated with my business marketing degree, my first ‘real’ job was in higher education at @jindal_utdallas as an SEO and Content Specialist. At the same time, I was also on the board of @dfwsem, where I served as the communications chair for 2 years.

After a while at UTD, I was recruited by Local SEO celeb & fellow DFWSEM alum @GregGifford to work in the new SEO department at @DealerOn as an SEO Team Lead. DealerOn predominantly specializes in website & ancillary services (such as SEO & SEM) for car dealers.

I’ve been at @DealerOn for 7 years and I absolutely love it. I’ve risen through the ranks to an SEO Manager; and very recently, I was promoted to GM Program Manager. In my new role I’ll be the primary liaison between DO and General Motors. It’s a big role!

Q2 What are some of the most challenging niches when it comes to SEO? How much time could it take to generate at least any organic clicks if you have a site in any of these?

Attorneys, doctors offices, & automotive are among some of the most unique niches when it comes to SEO. These are industries in which a deep knowledge of Local SEO (vs general SEO or international SEO) is essential. My most extensive expertise is in Automotive SEO.

Like other niches, automotive SEO is so specific because of the clientele. It’s not impossible, but it’s unlikely that you’ll sell a car to someone in another state. Usually, your customers are people in your local area. Catering to THEIR search needs is essential.

In any of these competitive niches, there are a lot of factors that contribute to a business’ ability to rank in organic search beyond SEO alone. New businesses are going to have a harder time outranking established businesses with older domains, more reviews, etc.

I think it’s important to be realistic about your competition. A brand new (or recently rebranded) business is going to have a harder time performing better in organic search than an established brand that has been in business for decades. That’s just a fact.

No matter how long you’ve been in business, there is a key thing I tell ALL clients: SEO is a long game. You may not see results in the short term (it can take 3, 6, 9+ months), but the effects of SEO will last a long time. If you want faster results, do PPC, too.

Though SEO takes time, it doesn’t mean you won’t see ANY organic results in the meantime. There are a few ways you can expedite the results, including: regularly updating your website content (blog is a great option) and having a complete @GoogleMyBiz listing.

Q3 What is the most effective way to build organic search visibility in a competitive niche?

Building organic search visibility in a competitive niche is a lot about focusing on LOCAL ranking signals, and not just general SEO ranking signals.

In local SEO, you need to pay attention to where both your business AND customers are. You’re optimizing for your location, NOT just your keywords. You need to include your city and state in your heading and title tags. You need to create locally focused content.

You also need to pay attention to what your competition is/isn’t doing. Can you go after the same types of links as your competitors? Add that to your linkbuilding strategy. Do they have bad reviews or wrong NAP in their Google listing? Make sure yours are right.

This may seem like a ‘duh’, but the most crucial part of building organic search visibility in a niche is to be a good, honest business. All the SEO in the world will not fix a bad reputation. If you’re doing ‘right’ by your customers, the SEO part comes easier.

Q4 How to set the client’s / boss’s expectations right?

I firmly believe honesty is the best policy. I am up front about lead times, and I make no guarantees. If I make a mistake, I own it immediately and offer a solution. This perspective has always helped me have better relationships with both clients and cohorts.

I tell my clients not to expect concrete results in the first few months. We estimate that on average, it takes about 6 months to see lasting effects of our efforts. Sometimes it’s as few as 3 months, sometimes its 9-12. There are many factors that affect this.

A few factors that affect how fast SEO ‘works’: how established the brand is, the URL’s crawl rate (could be anywhere from hours to weeks), crawl budget (which can be impacted with canonical tags & robots.txt directives), how the site was already performing, etc.

A big thing is I always assure my clients that even if SEO is taking longer than they expected, there is nothing we are going to do to their online presence that will hurt them. My team and I take a lot of pride in what we do and would never do anything deceitful.

Q5 What are your favorite SEO tools?

I am a huge fan of @screamingfrog for full site crawls. It breaks down all the tags, status codes, and forwarding without me having to look at anything in the source code.

I also love @semrush and @ahrefs for audits and historical data. We use the paid versions of both, and I think they are worth their weight in gold. They both offer similar services, but I tend to prefer different aspects of each tool for certain things.

This may seem silly, but everyone should use the @Grammarly chrome extension. It’s a life saver for checking errors while writing page and tag copy. It makes my eye twitch when I’m on a website that I can tell has been optimized and there are spelling errors.

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