There are a lot of smart creators right now dreaming of a future where their hard work will finally pay off, when the snowball effect of everything they’ve put into the world will elevate them to influencer status and earn them the money and recognition they rightfully deserve.
The problem is… there’s a lot of people playing that game right now.
Statistically-speaking, a majority of these smart creators are not going to succeed. Maybe you’re beginning to realize this is the trajectory that you yourself are on.
Maybe you’re losing the steam you once had, or worse, maybe you have written off the fantasy of solo-success all together and resigned yourself to a new goal.
Achieving SEO results is hard enough for full-time marketing teams let alone an ambitious wordsmith such as yourself. How do you prevent yourself from becoming a statistic?
We received a handful of helpful comments on this thread in Jimmy Daly’s Superpath Slack group (to be clear, they all agreed that yes, solo SEO success is absolutely possible.)
But the thing that the commenters each suggested? Narrow your focus. Niche down. Niche WAY down. Further than you think. It’s not as simple as easy-to-rank-for-keywords and dollar signs. It’s strategy.
Solve A Specific Problem
The simplest way to niche down, you ask? Become an expert on one specific problem. That’s it. Solve ONE problem.
We’re a team of two (I do 100% of the writing work, however), so this information is very relevant to our situation, as well as yours.
Using our business as an example, what’s the problem we’re best suited to solve? SEO in particular has many aspects – Keyword Research and Strategy, Link Building, On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO, Technical SEO, Local SEO, SEO tools and resources, etc. Because we’re still a young business, our resources are limited. If it’s just me doing the writing, I need to be efficient.
Rather than generalizing and saying “We do SEO” (which could encompass any of the above), the best advice we could give ourselves is to become hyper-focused on one single aspect of SEO.
The idea is that you want people to instinctively know exactly what solutions to come to you for.
Seeing as how our business offers Keyword Research Services… it’s pretty clear that that is what the majority of our content going forward should be around. To create content around other SEO subjects would be both inefficient for our growth, and misleading to our customers in terms of what we can do for them.
Remember: A specialist in a single subject will almost always earn more than a generalist in five.
Jack of all trades. Master of none.
There’s a reason primary care doctors often end up referring patients to expensive specialists (who are often booked far in advance) and mechanics who specialize in European cars charge more than a general shop can. Specializing is smart business.
If someone has that problem, they’ll want to get it solved by the best person for the job and will often be willing to pay extra for the peace of mind that only you can provide.
For a Specific Person
Our advice? Take your specializing one step even further.
Tailor your business solution to one specific person. What’s that person trying to achieve? What’s their problem-to-be-solved? How do they use the internet? Where should you share your content so that they will be most likely to find it?
As much as we all want to feel unique… in general, if there’s one person out there with this unique problem, there’s thousands and thousands more like them. The world is enormous.
If someone in our target audience is having the problem we can solve for them, we want them to find us and say, “Oh finally. I need this! Take my money now you beautiful content nerds!”
By specializing in what you offer and who you offer it TO…once they find you, there will be absolutely no doubt in their mind that you’re the solution they’re seeking.
Even better, because presumably that type of person now likes you and you did great work for them, they’ll be more likely to share you with their audience, helping you connect with more people like them and become introduced into their communities as a positive, helpful person to work with.
It’s a virtuous cycle that benefits everyone.
Besides simple differentiation, there’s two additional reasons why you’d want to go hyper-specific.
1. It Separates Good Leads From Bad Ones
By focusing our content specifically on SEO Strategy and Content Optimization rather than all-encompassing “SEO in General”, it provides our customers with a litmus test of sorts.
Because it’s just one person creating/distributing all the content, efficiency is paramount.
Since we need to attract people who might be interested in purchasing our deliverables, it’s undoubtedly best for us to focus on topics that solve their unique problems, being useful for this singular niche angle.
By focusing solely on these topics, it allows people who are not interested in our services to weed themselves out. Either by a) Never finding us at all, or b) signing up for our Free SEO Course, then removing themselves from our email list after the fact.
This way you not only establish your area of expertise, but you’re left with an email list of people who presumably genuinely like what you have to say and can either a) become a customer, or b) remain top of mind for potential referrals.
By giving away as much value as possible, you develop good relationships with an audience who will go out of their way to help you in the future. 100 true fans that trust you are infinitely more valuable than 1,000 who couldn’t care less.
2. It’s what Google Wants Anyway
Finally… and this is a big one: Google ranks experts, not generalists
I asked fellow marketer Derek Gleason of Workshop Digital what their best advice would be for a burgeoning solo website to find SEO success. The following quote is a master class in specificity and a lesson you’d be wise to learn early:
“I’ve done this several times for various clients over the years, but I haven’t always done it the right way. The temptation, if you’re small and have a limited budget, is to seek out long-tail keywords you think you can rank for.
You publish a couple thousand words on one topic, then move on to the next. The trouble is that your blog ends up all over the place—you’re bouncing from one semi-relevant topic to the next, often well outside your expertise.
And even when you are covering a topic for which you’re an expert, you’re doing so once, from one perspective, then never again. (When have you ever known a true expert to talk about something once?)
The one advantage smaller sites usually have is their ability to focus on a single topic, writing about it over and over again from several angles. That kind of topical focus is the thing that search engines love to see—and usually the reason a niche site will get onto Page 1 among a bunch of “heavy hitters” with really strong domains.
I’ve even seen this work in the YMYL (Your Money Your Life) space, where Google is particular about the sites it shows (since the consequences for inaccurate information are so high).
In that instance, we were working with a regional chain of pediatric urgent care clinics. Technically, they could’ve written about nutrition, parenting, car safety, etc. But we boiled down their expertise to a single question: “Should I take my child to the ER or to urgent care?”
It made sense for them because their physicians were past ER docs who had gone into private practice—they knew when each option made sense. From that one question, we developed about a dozen articles that covered things like “when a fever is dangerous” and “can you get stitches at urgent care.”
Years later, they’re still on Page 1 for a lot of that stuff, even though their domain authority is in the 30s.
So…if it’s not abundantly clear. If you’re following us, be prepared to get content on SEO and Content Strategy. That’s our niche. If this is you, and you need help with figuring out a solid strategy that helps you get to where you want to be, reach out on Twitter and let me know what you’re needing help with. If it seems like something the rest of our audience might also find useful, I just might write an article about it. 🙂