As an SEO adviser to real estate agents, I get questions about niche sites a lot. And my advice is always the same: avoid them at all costs.
You might be thinking, “Well, Josh — if niche sites are so awful, what should I do instead?” Good question, thanks for asking. The simple answer: maintain a single well-branded website.
The trick, however, is to understand how you can mimic the niche site theory, but execute it a much more elegant and powerful fashion. Without further ado, here is my recommendation for targeting a niche or multiple niches with a single, branded site.
1. Have a WordPress-based site
I highly recommend you have a WordPress site as your main website. I wrote at length about this in an Inman news article.
In summary, a WordPress site will allow you the flexibility to tackle this strategy from an SEO perspective and, more importantly, do it with very little technical expertise.
If you do not have a WordPress site, don’t fret. You might just need a little more help from a developer or your technical team.
2. Opt for silos in your site architecture
This is the most important thing to understand, so pay attention.
The theory is pretty simple. Rather than have multiple domains all focused on single niches, build out sections on your main website dedicated to these niches instead. I refer to these dedicated niche sections as “silos.”
Site architecture is extremely important for SEO. Google uses it to determine what your website is about. Where each page of content falls in your site structure will change the relevance of that piece of content in Google’s eyes.
If you have small zones or silos of content that are bundled together correctly, you can lead Google to understand that each piece of content in that silo is relevant to the niche you are focused on, and that content bundle will eventually become more relevant to Google for your chosen niche.
The beauty of this approach is that you can have many silos all focused on different niche keywords, while keeping all of the authority, links and company branding on a single domain.
When you are ready to tackle a new niche, you will be starting with some domain authority instead of zero.
3. Start your main site in a niche
If you are creating a new site or just getting started optimizing an existing site, then I highly recommend you only create one niche silo and master that niche before you move on.
This will help boost your confidence in SEO as you see some results relatively quickly, whereas focusing on multiple silos will take longer to see results.
“How is this different than creating a niche site, Josh?” is probably what you’re thinking.
In the beginning, it won’t be much different. The main thing is that you will be planning ahead so your site is ready to attack new silos later on in its life. This will make more sense if you read the linked article above about how to create silos.
4. Focus on your brand before SEO
Your brand will, and should, be front and center. Niche sites usually lack branding and instead are named something like, “BestPortlandWaterfrontHomes.com.” This is not a brand; it creates no credibility. Visitors will not trust it, so even if you do acquire SEO traffic, it will be unlikely to convert.
Use your brand name in your domain URL and try to keep it as short and easily memorable as possible. If you have to write down your URL for someone to remember it, then it is probably too long.
Gone are the days when having a keyword in your domain provided you with any significant SEO boost. The minimal (possibly zero) benefit of having a keyword-stuffed domain does not outweigh the hit you will take in branding. People want to work with people and companies they like, trust and know.
Www.besthoustonhomesforsale.com doesn’t do much to invoke a connection for me; what do you think?
The second mistake I see agents make is that they focus all of their efforts on SEO and completely forget about the website visitor. These sites are usually not laid out very well; the content is keyword-stuffed or hard to read, and the overall site is a bore to use.
Create your website for people. Write for people, period.
If you always have the user of your website in mind, then you will be OK, but if your SEO efforts start to trump this idea, you are going to lose the much bigger picture game.
Luckily for you, Google is getting much more human and will reward you for a website that is built with humans, not computers, in mind.
Are niche sites part of your marketing strategy? Have you had success with them? I would love to hear your replies in the comments section below.