First of all, please excuse my referencing of the katamari philosophy and applying it to SEO. On the surface the word itself it may appear to be born from an ancient Japanese religion, having you rub your hands together in anticipation of how it’s wisdom can be applied to growing your website. Katamari however, unfortunately (because I’m not that guy) references a popular (relative term) PS2 video game where our hero uses a tiny adhesive ball (the katamari) as its device to rebuild his universe. The ball gradually grows by rolling around to various locations, collecting increasingly larger objects until it has grown colossal enough to become a star (wiki). Google’s Matts Cutts has referenced the katamari on more than one occasion, including within this recent video response to a webmaster who posed the following;
“How can smaller sites with superior content ever rank over sites with superior traffic? It’s a vicious circle: A regional or national brick-and-mortar brand has higher traffic, leads to a higher rank, which leads to higher traffic, ad infinitum.”
The webmaster’s concern is a common one. Small to medium businesses just starting out with an internet marketing plan feel they have no shot at outranking big websites. However this concern is a misconception. While it can be challenging, the prospect is absolutely attainable, if, and only if, you apply the following katamari-esque philosophy.
How to Grow Your Website Niche by Niche
1. Start with Longtail Keywords
A “small” website should not try to go after “big” keywords right out of the gate (infancy stage of a website’s life). Instead, focus on longtail keywords that apply to your target market. Using a real estate website as an example, an agent (with a new website) operating in southern Orange County should not try to go after “orange county real estate” as a keyword string. They’ll find themselves immediately going up against big players (e.g. zillow, etc…) for a spot on Google. Instead, longtails like “laguna beach ca condos for sale” or “two bedroom family homes in laguna beach” offer easier entry onto Google. You have to find your entry niche and target “small” keywords early on. By building a name for yourself in the eyes of Google you begin to get noticed for the bigger picture. An additional word of advice on that last point – make sure that your longtail keyword string includes the primary keywords your website (your katamari) hopes to rank for later. Thus, “two bedroom family homes in laguna beach” can target the more lucrative “homes in laguna beach” when the katamari grows.
2. Start in One Location
This point was already made obvious in the one above. A big part of targeting longtail keywords is to factor in a specific location. Attempting to rank for the “hub” (i.e. Orange County) is fruitless for small local websites. Instead target the location most apt to your place of business. Having a local business address means that you can target your specific community (i.e. Laguna Beach) via Google Local and outrank outsiders trying to get a piece of your pie. Google knows that your target area is a part of a much bigger one. Start driving traffic to your smaller target area and Google will be more likely to notice you when you’re ready to take a step closer to the “hub”.
3. Create Sticky Content Specific to Your Expertise
Your katamari only works when its sticky. Sticky content in the world of internet marketing refers to content that keeps bringing visitors back for more. That means in order for your website to grow, it needs to collect new visitors with engaging content and turn them into return visitors with even better content. Then, you hope that they will share your content (on social or by linking to you from their own site) with others to perpetuate a cycle that works to make your website an authority in your industry – allowing you to compete with the big brands in search. So what will make your content adhesive? It needs to be engaging, informative, useful, complemented by a wide variety of media (photos, graphics, info-graphics, video) and delivered regularly in a channel that is easy to find on your website, such as within your blog. Keep the content “tight” in the beginning, focusing on the same niche as detailed by your longtail keyword selections. Thus, our Laguna Beach agent will deliver content directly related to homeowners living in the Laguna Beach area, such as “how to protect your beachfront patio from saltwater air rust” and so forth.
4. Be Patient
Patience, young grasshopper. This simple statement is an important one when it comes to the katamari philosophy as it applies to SEO. It takes time to build your website’s presence in the eyes of Google. You will be able to make incremental improvements (by following the above) in the beginning by all means, but as far as competing in the big leagues is concerned it will take time – months or more depending upon your ambitions and industry. Slow and steady wins the race so enjoy the small online successes, keep building a sound internet marketing campaign, and get ready for bigger and better in the future.
5. Know When to Strike
Once you start to rank well for your longtail keywords and you’re getting relatively strong traffic you can look to branch out. You can go after broader keyword strings and expand your reach into other locations (where applicable) but do so step by step. Don’t attempt to do both at once and still focus the bulk of your attention on your original targets. Our Laguna Beach agent can go after “homes in laguna beach” or decide to go after “two bedroom family homes in newport beach“. Once you begin to rank for these new ones you can move onto the next, progressively building with each niche success, and ultimately turn your katamari into a star.