It has often been discussed at length that some industries are more competitive than others; to make use of WebmasterWorld lingo, it isn't difficult to rank for "Scottsdale blue widgets", but it can be difficult to rank for "widgets." In that particular discussion, the issue revolves around marketing for the long-tail of search, however there are some industries that are even more difficult to SEO for, to e-mail for, or even to run PPC ads for. What are they, and why is it so hard?
Why? Prior abuse, selective moralization, and subsequent abusive controls. As my friend Chris Hooley is fond of saying, "there are only 50 top 50 verticals"; since the best marketers and the biggest amateurs tend to gravitate towards where the most money is, one can imagine that a competitive marketplace will overtime see its fair share of e-mail spam, quite a few in-your-face-not-following-Google-guidelines tactics, and in some cases, outright fraud. Almost all competitive industries on the web go through this constant cycle of growth and purging, where the strongest survive and where the opportunistic money either vanishes when the latest tactic runs dry, or flourishes when that money is reinvested into establishing a long-term presence.
Okay you say, that might explain prior abuse: where there's quick money to be made, there's opportunistic and temporary thinking that falls outside of the tit-for-tat social framework that keeps competitive marketplaces somewhat decent in appearance. Does that mean that all top 50 verticals are stepchildren industries? No. Even though marketing flowers and gift baskets online to me is a top 50 vertical, I wouldn't consider it a stepchild industry, because it doesn't fall victim to selective moralization.
Selective moralization, if I can be so bold as to coin a proper definition of it on a blog that focuses on the how-to of selling payday loans, is the partial or incomplete moral stance taken, often for personal gain and/or out of fear of retribution. We're all seen selective moralization, but let's see it in practice by looking at five examples of stepchildren industries.
1. Adult Entertainment. Legitimate adult sites are difficult to get legitimate links for, and in some cases are even refused service that is available to any other industry, such as hosting. This is the easiest example of selective moralization at work, and is almost entirely borne out of fear of retribution. If a hosting company has an adult site that isn't playing by the rules, the hosting company fears that it might be shut down. Why are they afraid? Let's just say that at times some government officials have pornography on the mind - let's face it, cracking down on adult entertainment is a popular subject for many a politician.
2. Online gambling. This industry is oozing with hypocrisy and selective moralization both for personal gain and fear of retribution; Quadzilla said it best in his ongoing analysis of what has happened and what will happen with online gambling. In summary, the question to ask there is who will benefit the most from a
permanent temporary ban on online gambling.
3. Pharmaceuticals. Typing in a phrase referenced before in a previous post, we can see a few different things happening: 1)a whole lot of spam in the organic serps and 2)a whole lot of PPC spam that doesn't make a direct reference to the specific pharmaceutical being sold. So we can see that it is profitable and competitive, but is there any selective moralization taking place? You better believe it. Just reference this famous philosopher to see why a lot of people look at you funny if you push pharmaceuticals online.
4. Sub-prime financing (my favorite). Sub-prime loans can be difficult to market at times because they are looked upon less favorably by larger financial institutions, despite that some of the biggest banks make most of their money via hidden fees and other such trickery. Need more proof? Just try getting a link from a high profile site like Business.com if you're a payday loan site.
5. SEO. SEOing for SEO in an SEO adverse environment; it is true that a large majority of laymen and novice webmasters see SEO as nothing more than glorified spamming -- unfortunately, when industry partners such as search engines don't step in more to highlight the positive aspects of SEO and its benefit to the end-user, the spam label continues to grow, and SEO as an industry has a more difficult time attaining its legitimacy outside of its sphere of influence. If Wikipedians and top Diggers don't trust us, who will?
Are you in a stepchild industry? Is your site on this exclusion list? Taking an alternative approach to traditional online marketing is probably your best bet to get started. By focusing on the undeveloped and underdeveloped niches within your vertical, you can slowly creep your way into the primary phrases, or I suppose you could just settle for all the traffic that social media seems to be spinning off these days.