This past week I had a discussion with a prominent company in Tampa.  They had their website developed by an agency that works exclusively with companies in their industry.  Their frustration was that they couldn’t seem to get their website to rank well on the search engines even though they were working with a company that specialized in their “niche”.  I have this conversation often with companies that decided to work with a niche company and aren’t getting results.

The reason is because many niche companies in our industry build a (rhetorical) box and then put every single one of their customers inside that box.  Why?  Because it’s more profitable for them.  Build one solution and then re-sell it to as many companies as you can.  Otherwise they would have to do what real marketers do:  uncover what makes each of their clients unique and then leverage that information through blogging, social media and traditional SEO tactics to get qualified traffic to their websites.  That’s hard work!

After I found out our potential client had their website built by a niche company I began my investigation the way I always do when I know that is the case.  I began by looking up their website IP address, and then seeing how many other websites share that IP address.  Thousands. 

Next I looked at the text on their website to determine if it was written uniquely for them.  Nope.  It was the exact same text that can be found on hundreds of other websites with only the company name and city changed.  So for example, their website may contain the following sentence:  “Acme Widget Company knows our customers in the Tampa area and provides top-notch services in the widget-making industry.”  Another company website would have, “Delphi Widget Company knows our customers in the Clearwater area and provides top-notch services in the widget-making industry.”  (In extreme cases I’ve even seen misspellings get spread across many websites.)

That means the one thing that Google considers most valuable–uniqueness–has been severely diminished from the very start.  Now I have the difficult job of trying to explain even though they spent thousands of dollars they were sold a terrible solution and if they truly want their campaign to work they may have to essentially start over.

As internet marketing has popularized we have seen niche marketing companies crop up in almost every industry you can think of:  legal, real estate, insurance, restaurants, even churches and hair salons.  On the surface hiring a company that “specializes” in your industry sounds like a good idea.  However you need to be aware that many of these companies use shortcuts to make their jobs easier so they can sell high volume with minimal work involved.  Their clients buy the idea of working with a niche company that should be able to understand and help them.  Unfortunately what they think they’re buying and what they receive is often two different things. 

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