SEO is part of any well-rounded digital marketing strategy, but its relative importance can vary a lot.
For some companies, it’s central to their success. Organic traffic is the number one driver of leads and sales, and it’s the most important thing to focus on.
For other businesses, SEO is a bit of an afterthought. Other digital marketing channels like PPC ads, paid Facebook ads, or their organic social media following are where the money’s coming from.
In most cases, it’s somewhere between these two extremes. But there are a handful of industries that are particularly likely to see a disproportionate amount of benefit from their investment in SEO.
Organic search brings a high ROI for them, and it’s one of the best ways to bring in new customers.
Which industries benefit the most from SEO? In this post, I’m going to talk a little bit about which kinds of businesses really get the most bang for their buck when they rank in Google for the right search terms.
These businesses fall into a couple of different categories.
Industries That Struggle With Other Forms of Marketing
There are tons of marketing channels, some online and some offline. From old-school billboards and primetime TV ads to ultra-modern options like interactive video, there are a lot of ways to spread the word about your business to the right people.
But different industries get different results from different media. This can tie into what kind of product or service you’re selling, where your target audience spends their time, and other factors.
In some cases, an industry is so highly regulated in the UK that the forms of advertising they can use are fundamentally limited. If this is the case, but ranking in Google is still fair game, SEO could be the key to their success.
One of the best examples of this kind of industry is cosmetic surgery in the UK. Unlike the vast majority of medical specialities, cosmetic surgery is primarily offered by private medical practices. Despite the fact that they’re not a part of the NHS, however, they’re still highly regulated by the government.
These regulations put restrictions on what kinds of advertising methods cosmetic surgeons are and are not allowed to use. These regulations are in place to help protect patients, preventing practices from engaging in advertising that could be considered irresponsible or misleading.
There are concerns about dubious practices in British cosmetic surgery, and patients may be particularly vulnerable to being exploited or put under pressure to opt for a procedure.
As a result, the NHS has cracked down on aggressive promotional tactics in recent years. In the UK, plastic surgery has a bit of a reputation for hard high-pressure sales tactics, despite the fact that these elective procedures are certainly not something where people should feel like they need to make a split-second rush decision.
Some kinds of advertising, like two-for-one specials and limited-time discounts, are prohibited, so that patients will give things enough thought before they decide to go under the knife.
Fortunately, some things are still fair game, and SEO is one of them.
For cosmetic surgery in particular, SEO is very effective. Naturally, these voluntary surgeries are not cheap. Also, it’s incredibly important to find a highly skilled surgeon, especially for anything facial. Botched plastic surgery is an absolute nightmare that no one wants to deal with.
People do their research before they commit to a particular practice or surgeon. They’re making a major decision that’s quite costly, so they’re definitely Googling around to find nearby practices, look at reviews, and learn more about the procedure that they’re considering.
For cosmetic surgery practices, this is a fantastic opportunity. SEO can bring considerable ROI, making it one of the most effective marketing channels for this particular industry.
Industries Where Competition is Low
When there isn’t a whole lot of pre-existing competition, the SERPs (search engine results pages) can be yours for the taking. When you can rank easily for low-competition keywords that reflect commercial intent — that is, they’re something you type in when you’re ready to buy — then SEO is definitely somewhere that you want to invest.
Maybe what you’re selling is relatively new, and no one else is specialising in it yet. Maybe you’re hyper-local, so you’re more concerned with local SEO than achieving more competitive national rankings. (I’ll talk more below about local businesses.)
Either way, low competition is good news. An example would be a landscaping service in a small village. You’re the only landscaper in town, or you’re one of just a small handful of companies offering that kind of service. Guess what? Google’s all yours.
A Low Competition SEO Case Study: How a Niche Brand in the Education Space Was Able to Dominate the First Page
I have an example from my own experience, where a brand with little to no competition was able to not only rank but profit as a result.
The brand was Target Map. They’re a very niche company, within the education space. They provide progress charts for the new primary school curriculum, and they’re one of the only companies that specialise in this.
Because what they offer is both unique, and focused on a very specific niche, there was little to no competition for relevant Google searches.
We were able to rank them very fast, using basic SEO techniques over the course of six months. By then, they had increased sales by over 1000%, thanks to their newfound organic search traffic.
You can easily dominate in a space where there isn’t much competition, as you can easily imagine. There are plenty of things out there that people are searching for, but that no one is optimising for.
Ever done a Google search, only to find yourself disappointed that all that comes up are ancient forum threads from 2003 that never got an answer?
That kind of thing is a huge opportunity. That’s a sign of low competition. If the keyword has commercial intent, or at least fits well into your overall sales funnel, it’s definitely worth creating some in-depth content that answers that particular query.
Local Brick & Mortar Businesses
In many cases, local SEO can be “easier” in some ways than national SEO. Results are quite personalised, and the “map pack” at the top of the page takes precedence these days.
If you’re a local brick and mortar kind of business, SEO can be a great source of brand new customers.
Let’s say you just moved to London, and you’re looking for a good Thai place that’s within walking distance of your new flat. What do you do?
Chances are, you grab your phone and Google something like “thai restaurants in London,” or “thai restaurant near me.”
This kind of thing is why SEO can be indispensable for getting people in the door.
Here are just a few examples to illustrate what I mean.
- Local service companies. When a pipe breaks or the toilet overflows, people grab their phone and Google the nearest plumbing service. Being on the first page for local searchers is a major asset. This also goes for services like residential landscaping and lawn care, which are arguably a bit more discretionary.
- Bars and restaurants. Looking for a good place to get an American-style cheeseburger, or a place that offers something specific like Thai or Cuban cuisine? Whether your restaurant offers high-end fine dining or casual fare, Google can get people in the door.
- Hotels. When people travel, they need a place to stay. If you run a hotel, SEO is a great way to get new guests in the door. It’s also a great way to connect with people who need a venue for events like weddings and conferences.
- Speciality shops. There are always things people prefer to buy in person, rather than online. Apparel is a good example because for a lot of people, shopping for clothes is an experience in itself. The thrill of the hunt, finding a great bargain, coming across things you didn’t realise you wanted — you don’t get that as easily from an online store. For a boutique, a high Google ranking for the right keywords can go a long way.
Niche Online Retailers
When it comes to eCommerce, everything about your business is basically online, other than shipping logistics and things of that nature.
There’s no physical storefront where pedestrian passers-by can wander in to browse. So, to drive traffic and make sales, you rely almost entirely on digital marketing.
SEO can be a big part of that. Naturally, most online stores out there aren’t like Amazon or Ebay, where they’ve got a bit of everything. Instead, they specialise in something that’s a lot more specific.
Within various specific areas where you can sell products — sporting goods, scented candles, clothing and jewelry — there are even smaller sub-niches, and for enterprising online entrepreneurs, these little niches can be surprisingly profitable.
And for niche online retailers, SEO can be a great way to gain new customers. Chances are, you’re selling something that’s hard to find, or that no one else is specialising in. So in many cases, the competition is actually pretty manageable.
SEO strategies for online stores are a bit different from doing local SEO for a brick and mortar shop. Location loses its importance, at least when it comes to specific cities and towns.
Instead, other factors like great, shareable longform content take centre stage, acting as a gateway into a well-designed sales funnel that ultimately leads to a purchase.
Let’s say you’re someone who’s getting on the dropshipping gravy train. (That’s a form of e-commerce where you don’t have to deal with mailing your own packages or keeping inventory. Usually, people source the products directly from China through Alibaba or AliExpress.)
So you have a great little store set up, and you’re selling glow in the dark LED dog leashes.
Let’s also imagine this is something people definitely actively search for. You’ve done your keyword research, and you’ve figured out that people are actively searching for the product you’re selling.
Looking at the SERPs (search engine results pages) for relevant queries that have clear commercial intent, you find that not a whole lot comes up.
Maybe a couple of Amazon listings, maybe some tangentially related post on a pet blog that mentions them in passing. But no one out there is really focused on it. No one’s creating rich long-form content. It’s not something other people are actively optimising for.
This indicates that SEO is something that’s worth investing in, even if you’re a smaller player who’s new to the scene.
SaaS & Online Service Companies
Another space where companies can benefit a lot from SEOs is “software as a service,” better known as SaaS.
This is also a great example of a type of company that can benefit from international SEO, which is something you don’t hear about as often in SEO blogs.
For SaaS products, it’s important to focus on buyer intent. You’ll want to focus on the SEO value of your product pages themselves, not just your upper funnel content marketing materials.
SEO Can Be a Solid Investment
This is just a selection of examples of industries where SEO can be very, very effective. It’s far from an exhaustive list, and many brands prosper when they put time and money into making sure they rank for the right queries.
Which Companies Don’t Do As Well with SEO?
There’s a flip side to every coin. We offer several kinds of digital marketing services at Finetune, but I’m primarily an SEO specialist.
It’s in my interest to extol the virtues of SEO, and in most cases, SEO is a great marketing tool.
But I’m going to be 100% transparent with you: there are also situations where it’s not the best place to invest your money.
Digital marketing involves a lot of trial and error, a lot of experimentation until you figure out what really works for your brand. But at the same time, you don’t want to pour a ton of money into a marketing channel that just isn’t going to pan out for you.
Because SEO is a long-term game, and it tends to be quite costly in terms of either your money or your time, I think it’s important to talk about the edge cases where I actually wouldn’t recommend a focus on SEO.
Companies Selling Low Margin Products
When it comes to any and all forms of marketing and advertising, it’s absolutely essential that you’re ultimately making more than you’re spending on it.
Otherwise, it’s a moot point. You’re trying to make money, not lose money.
If you’re selling products that are particularly low margin, the cost of SEO could certainly outweigh the benefits.
It’s always wise to be mindful of whether or not you’re getting a substantial ROI. If not, it’s time for a change of focus.
Companies in Super Saturated, High-Competition Industries
There are also industries where SEO is a fantastic idea in theory, but out in the real world, it’s just too saturated and too competitive for the vast majority of companies to even begin to compete.
Insurance is a good example. Do people Google it? Absolutely. Do relevant keywords express commercial intent? Definitely.
But it’s a shockingly crowded space in the UK, as well as in other countries. Unfortunately, the odds may be against you, at least for national search terms — that is unless you have a pretty sizeable budget to play with.
If money’s not an object, have at it. But for a small local agent with an office in Kent, general national insurance terms are dominated by big companies with astronomical marketing budgets.
The good news is that if you narrow things down to your local area instead, you’re far more likely to see success with SEO. Unless you’re offering a form of insurance that’s particular niche and that’s not very common, then chances are, nearly all of your clients are local to you
It All Comes Down to One Thing: Your Bottom Line
So is SEO for you, or should it be an afterthought? It all comes down to the bottom line. In some industries, SEO has a huge potential to generate a substantial ROI that makes it well worth the effort.
If you’re not quite sure whether SEO is worthwhile for your business, or you’re not sure how to figure out how competitive it might be, feel free to reach out to me at Finetune. I’m always happy to offer a bit of my time to help point you in the right direction.