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Criteria To Determine If A Website Can Compete


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#1 RisaBB

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 07:16 PM

Hello,

I know that there are dozens of elements involved in making an e-commerce website successful such as good web design, usability, navigation architecture, SEO, content, incoming links, good products with good photos at a good value, analytics, online and offline advertising, and more.

However, if you're a small business with a limited budget and not a known brand there are some fields that I think you just can't compete in, yet. For example, fields as large as gifts, electronics, clothing, jewelry are just too big and general to show up in the SE's for a term like "digital camera." But, once the field is narrowed down to a tight niche, I think the chances are greater to compete.

For example, a site that sells gifts, but specifically butterfly gifts: butterfly hats, butterfly paintings, butterfly umbrellas, butterfly earrings, etc. - now this site has a chance of getting high rankings in the SE's (I think) for a targeted search query.

I've only done preliminary competitive research to determine if a niche can compete online - keyword research, an allintitle: "keyword phrase" in Google, and an incoming link analysis of the top 10-20 sites. What other criteria should be used to determine if a niche is worth the blood, sweat, and tears?

In the above example - butterfly gifts - a site might rank well, but at this point, a user could go to thousands of other sites searching for that unusual gift. If someone's niche was beaded jewelry, there are many jewelry stores in every town. Does that mean that beaded jewelry is not a good niche to go after, even if there's a good chance to rank high in the SE's?

However, if someone decided that their niche was used hockey equipment and they rank high in the SE's, there really might not be many other sites out there that specialize in used hockey equipment so there might be a great chance of success.

So, what criteria do you use to determine if a niche has a shot at high rankings and high sales conversions?

Thanks!

Risa

#2 EGOL

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 08:14 PM

I've had lots of people ask me to help them with websites. I decline almost all of them - 98%.

I have worked on a few with the site owner as a paying client. But I have worked on a lot more for free. I've helped twice as many for free as I have been paid to work on. In every case that I have agreed to help, the owner of that site (or their employees) had one incredible asset.... The demonstrated ability to generate *Best on the Web* content in their theme.

Not sales content. Instead, generous, informative, jaw-dropping prose, images and ideas. Almost all of them have succeeded and hold either ubiquitous rankings across their theme or hold TopSERPs for primary terms.

If you don't have a fantastic content source then your "blood, sweat, and tears" description will apply. If you have that resource and the person wants to attack, then the site has an chance of success - IFF you can pull together the SEO and the initial visibility to attract links to their content.

The people who have been my clients had a "go for their throats" attitude so I enjoyed helping them. I explained the concept of content and they went to war making it. They made and continue to make great content. One guy I helped for free was fuming that wikipedia and a bunch of trash content held TopSERPs in his specialty area. The rest had very small business but enormous knowledge about their field and unique abilities to communicate it.

Lots of one-person websites hold #1 positions at Google for very very difficult terms.

If someone asks me .... "hey, make me a website to sell my stuff... I'll pay you"... I would not take that job for one reason. We don't have a source of links. That means a content source. Without that you must trade links, buy them, or resort to the time-waster methods of article syndication, press releases, blah blah. That does not work in the long term.

Most people who make websites for clients don't have any idea where the links are going to come from. So, identify that first. The client must understand and have the ability to contribute. Your job is making the site. His job is making the content that will make it competitive. It's his fight, not yours. He must know that the content makes the site and gives it its rankings. If he doesn't "get it" then you are not going to succeed long term. If he can't create the content then he must have the resources to pay for that content and advise you on the value to his potential visitors of any content source that you identify.

To summarize..... You don't assess the difficulty of your SERPs, instead you assess the abilities of your client (see my signature).

#3 iamlost

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 09:37 PM

Niche determination:

1. revenue potential.
* who will pay how much for what?
* how can each be leveraged?
* imagination and experience are valuable helpmates.

2. traffic potential by demographic.

3. ratio of evergreen to time sensitive content.
Note: the more that is evergreen the less work involved.

4. official 'competition', i.e. government regulatory agencies, educational programs, professional organisations.
* these are great link-out resources.
* these are valuable potential backlinks.

5. commercial competition.
* SERP vulnerabilities.
* domain weaknesses.
* B&M considerations.

6. broadened niche social media activity, includes blogs.
Note: by this I mean that if I planned to do 'apples' the broadened niche would be fruit.
* potential marketing avenues.
* potential traffic.
* potential backlinks.

With this information I build out the revenue and marketing models. Providing the nembers make sense I progress to keyterms, site architecture, etc. Business first, tech second. And then content forever.

#4 A.N.Onym

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 02:08 AM

I think there's a level under which going further niche won't be helpful.

Compare it to content creation. Can you write about the topic for a couple of years without repeating yourself? Then you have a good niche. Narrow it down, until you still can create awesome content.

In the end, what your client wants and loves to do counts. That is what defines, whether he'll be able to deliver awesome product, service and site content. Passion will help him win over formal, larger rivals.

#5 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 05:10 AM

There are lots of aspects to whether it's "viable".
Unfortunately, most peopel only realise it when someone explains it too them (which is often a little too late!).
Technically, it should be one fo the first things covered when planning for business... and not enough people do the ground work (research) first.

It is possible.

There are new sites all the time that crawl up through the rankings, building a solid brand/reputation and earning recognition.
The key term there is 'earning'.


Yet it is hard won.

It takes a lot of planning, thought, innovation and drive to enter an established market.
People often seem to forget (easily) that they are i na race with litterally hundreds/thousands/millions? of others.
It's been mentioned on other topics that it can be viewed as a battle/war... so fight smart!
It's not just "niche" - it's association, it's word of mouth, of brand reinforcement, it's advertising in general etc.

There are plenty of ways to do it... yet it's the cost (resources as well as financial) that are needed.

And a good dose of reality never goes amiss!
"We can ship world wide"... brilliant... so how are you goign to let people all over the world know about your company? Are you going to have adverts in chinese on chinese sites? Going to pay for adverts in australia whilst you are in the UK?
Work it over, sector by sector, area by area ... geographically, product wise, site wise, term wise etc.
Trying to do everything for everyone all at once is jsut going to cause 1) a nightmare on organisation 2) a severe drain on probably limited resources.


Then, when they start to get success (they get traffick/visitors etc.)... they think "yews, we have won the battle"
... and lose the war because of poor customer service, failure to liase/relate/communicate/serve properly.
They end up conquorering their first few objects, and cause faminine and their own destruction... and one of the others simply walks in and takes up the slack!
(Note: there is a advantage in there... if your clients can see some of those above failing...!).


At the end of the day - it's still business, following generally all the same rules (and possibly a few variants).
Once peoel start understanding the nature of people and business, they can make a success.
It's not jsut about "traffick" or "new customers"... concentrate on the existing ones. Repoeat custom is well known to generate more money than new custom (trust, respect, ease of use, bond etc.).
I'#ve often found following the simple tenets are quite simple, obvious and more often than not productive.

Additionally, it helps to have that sort of custom, a it helps replenish resources (emotion and spirit as well as money!).
Then you can continue waging war upon the enemy :)


And I cannot express strongly enough - plan - plan and plan.
And before each plan... information/research/spy etc.
Who are the enemies (not jsut companies, but laws, regulations, currency fluctuations, shippers and couriers, market history, target demographics, payment processors... you need to know all the players, not just who you are fighting!).
Then look around for allies, resource deposits etc. Who will link to you... what do they want in return. How can you be seen as "the good guys" compared to so many others? Why should people betray their current suppliers and join your side etc. ?



(okay... starting to get poetic/prose like -but I'm sure the point is made :))

It's not about the nEt... not really.
It's about common sense, smarts and knowing what yo uare doing.
Then applying that to different environs and taking advantage of what you can whilst avoiding known dangers.

#6 EGOL

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 05:29 AM

As a general guide SEOMOZ has a Keyword difficulty tool. It assesses the competition and the environment and assigns a number to the keyword. Here's a copy of their results. If you have earned a few top spots it can give you some guidance on the relative difficulty.

0 - 15% Non-competitive term, top rankings achievable with well optimized on-page keyword use

16 - 30% Low competition, top rankings achievable with well optimized on-page keyword use and light link strength

31 - 45% Slightly competitive, top rankings require well optimized on-page use and moderate link strength

46 - 60% Competitive, top rankings achievable only with highly optimized on-page content and substantial link strength

61 - 75% Highly competitive term, top rankings require on-page optimization, well-established history and robust link strength

76 - 90% Exceptionally competitive term, top rankings only achievable with highly-established site and overwhelming link strength

91%+ Among the most competitive terms on the web, only the most powerful & popular sites can achieve rankings

-------------------------------------

Another aspect of this not mentioned yet is.... Do you have a product that will sell and a platform that is suitable for selling it? It might be a good idea to place the product on a landing page and see if anybody will buy it using pay per click. If you can't sell it that way you probably will not sell it from the SEO approach. I've heard quite a few people complain about fighting their way up the SERPs and then finding that nobody buys.

#7 bwelford

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 08:35 AM

Some really great ideas there, Egol.

:applause:

#8 RisaBB

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 09:01 AM

Thanks for the really great feedback.

EGOL, re: SEOmoz's keyword difficulty tool, I think there are two issues here: 1. high rankings and 2. being a viable online business. Their tool helps to determines your chances of getting a high ranking.

Through great content, SEO, and everything else important, I might achieve a high ranking for "antique gold watch," but because of the huge competition of the watch and jewelry field in general, it might be a harder sale, than, say for example, "Mormon gifts" just because the jewelry market is so huge.

While a user might have searched for "antique gold watch," his next search might be for "modern gold watch," - I think there are some phrases that, although they may seem highly targeted, they aren't as targeted as other search queries, so keyword difficulty is just one part of the equation.

#9 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 10:01 AM

:)
Now thats the type of thinking that will win win win :)

Figuring out the weaknesses and openings, calculating which ones are worth hitting for, and how to hit them!

Technically, most markets are viable, so long as you can forge a path into them... it's the "how" part that often decides whether it's a winner or not.

#10 EGOL

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 10:19 AM

Through great content, SEO, and everything else important, I might achieve a high ranking for "antique gold watch," but because of the huge competition of the watch and jewelry field in general, it might be a harder sale, than, say for example, "Mormon gifts" just because the jewelry market is so huge.

Exactly! That is why I would build landing pages and PPC campaings first. Then if those work, I would consider the SEO route. If you have widgets that nobody wants it will save you from the much more expensive battle of links.

You can test the PPC waters in less than a day. Toss up a one page website, slap on a paypal cart, buy some Adwords.

#11 RisaBB

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 10:29 AM

EGOL,

What are you testing for, traffic or sales?

I can't believe that a one-page website would have any credibility at all to make a sale.

Risa

#12 EGOL

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 12:37 PM

Conversion. The goal is to answer the question.... Will highly targeted traffic buy the item?

For example, if you have the butterfly suite of jewelry, they could all be on one page, earrings, pendant, etc. And you advertise for those terms. It would be better to have a full website with lots of alternative items - but we are talking about "testing the waters". If you try this and get a lot of sales then you have a lot of incentive to get into SEO fast.

Lots of one-page websites make money. They usually sell one specialized product - such as an ebook.

#13 Respree

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 12:49 PM

I think careful attention needs to be paid to the research and assumptions.

If you are testing the waters for "butterfly jewelry," you need to ask yourself the question if that research is too narrow? For an extreme (hypothetical) example, let's say you can't find a single merchant selling butterfly jewelry. Your initial conclusion may be that there is no market for it, and therefore would be a poor choice.

Its also important to consider the possibilities of who may be interested in these types of products; butterfly collectors, readers of butterfly books and publications (if they even exist), etc.

I think a correlation between high conversions and uniqueness in products and product mix exists. Of course, there are many variables and many exceptions, but if you're selling the same thing as thousands of other merchants, success will be limited, no matter how good your conversion and seduction skills are. If I want to buy a Starbucks Coffee Cup, there's only one place I can go to buy it -- there's just no two ways about it.

#14 EGOL

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 01:01 PM

Just for fun I looked at the SERPs for "butterfly earrings" (I figure that this is a hypothetical term) and notice a LOT of pages optimzied for that term.

#15 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 02:30 PM

LOL... not being funny... but I'm guessing you've never bought earings (or at least, not the sort I've always knonw).
The clasping at the back for stud earings etc. are called butterflies.

(jsut thought I'd mention that... it kind of goes hand in hand with ...Respree...'s comment of research, results and assumptions... what you see and what it really is need not be thesame :D).

#16 RisaBB

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 03:08 PM

So are you saying that it doesn't matter what the competition is, if you have the talent, knowledge, content, & resources, your site can kick butt?

Edited by RisaBB, 10 April 2008 - 03:08 PM.


#17 EGOL

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 03:36 PM

Those are a good start... you also need basic SEO on a nice design.... once your content is up you will need to get some visibility to start the links coming in. To get the visibility we have emailed lots of authority sites asking for unreciprocated links, done press releases, and promoted through trade associations.

If you are talking about some of the search terms that have "nearly impossible" rankings according to the SEOMOZ tool, those are probably out of reach. Things like "hotels", "poker", "diamonds", etc.... I would not try to take those. You would need a highly skilled, educated and well financed (millions of dollars). team to attack them and even then you would probably get beaten.

Can anybody do it? The answer is probably "no". You need abilities, willing to work hard, and luck.

If I tried to do the same thing in a different niche I would likely fail. Not enough knowledge to create the content and the dedication to that content theme to keep me energized and working hard..

Edited by EGOL, 10 April 2008 - 04:08 PM.


#18 EGOL

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 04:03 PM

Nope, don't know anything about earrings.l I'd fail in that niche. lol

#19 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 04:35 PM

So are you saying that it doesn't matter what the competition is, if you have the talent, knowledge, content, & resources, your site can kick butt?

Not exactly, no... then again, yes.
If you have the resources, you can win at jsut about anything, jsut through sheer determination and wearing the competitors down (it's why having a lot of money helps in business).
But, using brains can often result in less resources being needed (or wasted), or better application of those resources.

Planning (based on research) can give you a way in to the fight (compete in a less busy area of the sector).
Once there, you can start making a name for yourself and getting dedicated customers etc.
That goes towards building brand/reputation/image and all that.
That should also go towards replenishing depleted resources, and with luck, should suffice in creating new resources, and opportunities!
Over time, you work your way up the ladder and start fighting the bigger/badder/better opponents as it where.


The real issue is, the smaller the original resources and the bigger the competitors, the longer it takes.

But, as with any form of business, there is a line!
Is the time/effort/frustration/stress and emotional kicking worth the end result?
Not an easy question (as few of us know the future), and one tht can only be merginally glimpsed by conducting research.

To further muddy the waters, things change
How many sites simply disappear from the top positions inGoogle every few Months?
How many businesses simply vanish.. poof. gone.


It s a constant war, battle just about every day.
Not many peopel are willing to wage such a war, and few still actually manage it when they try.


I'm really beginning to see the internet and e-business as the wild west and the great frontiers...
(and yes... that includes a few cowboy jokes too :D)
Alternatively... for those that enjoy the game... I see similarities to poker as well!


So again... the answer is yes and no... depends msotly upon those that will be doing the fighting... have they got what it takes to get a constant pounding and yet keep slugging on through it to win?

#20 iamlost

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 07:50 PM

So are you saying that it doesn't matter what the competition is, if you have the talent, knowledge, content, & resources, your site can kick butt?

Maybe :D

Is there sufficient available revenue?
If you can not see where the money is going to come from you are making a leap of faith not a business decision. And AdSense et al are not where you should be looking unless you want to work for the company store.

Is the net revenue equal or greater than the cost/effort?
This is the greatest failure in many ppc campaigns - they cost more than they are worth. It is also a problem for many web designers who work long hours for minimum wage.

ROI gets a lot more lip service than actual consideration.

offline: I know a fellow had a booming BBQ business. Then Wal-Mart opened up across the street. He lost 90% of his business when they opened. Being a canny fellow he dropped all the low end BBQs but bulked up on their replacement parts and expanded his high end offerings. Business boomed as he got to sell the parts (which have a much higher markup) without the complaints that go with entry level products plus endless upsell opportunities.

online: A friend has merged pr0n and travel. She tackled two of the big nasties and is doing great. While I can not give details she is able to leverage each upon the other and pull amazing female traffic numbers. Her ad/aff deals are enormous.

All you know from tools is what is. The opportunities are rarely in what is (unless you see arbitrage possibilities) but in what is missing, where new connections can be made.

If you want to sell butterfly jewelry - what makes it better/different?
What is your unique selling point(s)?
If you are the same (so far as the customer can see) as everyone else selling butterfly jewelry you are not making new connections but infringing on existing ones.

As you can see from my method all the SEO and keyword stuff comes much much further down the process pipe than is conventional wisdom. But then iamlost. :oh-so-lonely:

#21 RisaBB

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 08:03 PM

Thanks for all the wisdom and in-depth answers, everybody. Now I need to read them again slowly, after I put the kids to bed.

#22 iamlost

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 08:12 PM

Now I need to read them again slowly, after I put the kids to bed.

If you read them slowly to the kids, they will go to sleep quicker. :angel:

#23 RisaBB

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 09:47 PM

:lol: :) :D
That was laugh out loud funny!

#24 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 02:23 AM

ROFL

Hmmm... someone was quick off the mark ;)
(Probably true too.)

#25 AbleReach

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 02:25 AM

Lots of one-page websites make money. They usually sell one specialized product - such as an ebook.

To get back to beaded jewelry, try doing a few searches for specific beadwork styles and techniques, and you may find some gorgeous patterns for sale.

In general, if a thing can be easily made by others, it will be. In that case, the pattern, the tools or the parts may be the more unique and marketable. Even if people can't buy the parts to make a thing - hand made, unique parts - they will think that they can find the parts and make it themselves.

For a few years I sold my own handmade millefiore beads and beadwork to bead stores and craft galleries. I also did a few retail shows. I can't count the number of times someone who thought they were being clever took a picture of one of my necklaces so that they could copy it. The centerpiece beads were mine, handmade and not available individually. Many of the strung beads were antique, also unavailable. Made no difference - just like with SEO, some people are always looking for the work-around short cut recipe.

Sometimes you'll get more from selling the recipe. Sometimes it's best to sell the cake. Sometimes, in the case of beautiful coffee table books about beading, it's best to sell the browsing of cakes :-)

#26 earlpearl

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 04:37 PM

Great responses EGOL. I've used and suggested competitiveness tools, such as the one from seomoz. Going much further though, suggesting a one page site and ppc as a test is really a strong additional idea.

Bravo.....great response. :applause:

#27 root123

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Posted 30 April 2008 - 05:56 AM

Now this is call "brain storming"...!

:whirlwind: :whirlwind:



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