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Is It Too Late to Enter the SEO Game as a New Competitor? Not If You Know This. SEO is a cost-efficient and valuable marketing strategy -- it's always a good time to capitalize on this tactic.

By Timothy Carter Edited by Russell Sicklick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Even if you're a skeptic about the potential results, it's hard to ignore the allure of search engine optimization (SEO). You know that most people in the developed world use search engines multiple times per day. You also know that getting to the top of the search results could lead to an incredible surge in traffic to your website.

The problem is readily available if you conduct a search for the products and services you're currently selling. In a fraction of a second, you'll be confronted with thousands, or maybe millions, of different businesses doing what you do. And all of them have spent more time on SEO than you have.

Competition is fierce. SEO is getting more difficult. There's a learning curve to get through.

Is it too late to enter the SEO game as a new competitor?

The early days of SEO

Modern SEO is a totally different animal than early-day SEO. In the early days of Google, it was somewhat easy to exploit the search engine algorithm. There weren't many other businesses to compete with. The path to earning a higher ranking was fairly straightforward; stuffing your site with keywords and spamming backlinks would have been enough to support you.

Today, SEO is much more difficult — and for several reasons.

Related: Trends in SEO that Will Affect Every Industry

Modern problems for new competitors

These are some of the biggest modern problems for new competitors trying to enter the game:

  • Entrenched competition: The biggest obstacle is probably your entrenched competition. It takes a long time to develop the authority and recognition necessary to climb to the top of the SERPs. Some of your competitors will have been spending money and effort on this endeavor for years. Meaning, you'll have to rival those efforts if you want a chance to overtake them.
  • An oversaturated landscape: The web is a busy and crowded place. These days, most business owners are familiar with search engines and, by extension, search engine optimization. Even if you operate in a specialized niche, there are probably hundreds of people writing content about your field, which means it's hard to stand out.
  • New tools and technologie: Tools and technologies have emerged to make SEO easier and more accessible for the businesses following this strategy. But in some ways, new tools and new technologies make things harder. There are more decisions to make. There's more money to spend. And there's greater room for error than ever before.
  • General marketing woes: Marketing is getting harder, in general, for most businesses. The field is growing more complicated and more technical. Competition is increasing and it's harder to perfect your strategies, even with an abundance of data helping you objectively analyze your results.

Related: 10 Fundamentals to Understanding SEO

Why it's not too late: how to compete in SEO

Reviewing these potential challenges, you might feel discouraged. But it's definitely not too late to enter the SEO game. Here are some of the most important things to do if you want to be competitive:

  • Start small: You don't have to get to rank one overnight. This would also be impossible, even if you were an SEO legend. It's much better if you start small. Focus on developing good content and establishing a presence online, one step at a time. As you learn more, you can step up your efforts.
  • Target a narrow niche: If you can't tackle the competition directly, make it a point to avoid them by targeting a narrow niche. Don't try to compete in an area where there are already thousands of businesses; instead, find a way to distinguish yourself.
  • Focus on long-tail keywords: Long-tail keywords are a perfect opportunity for newcomers to climb the ranking ladder. They're much more detailed and much less competitive than their head keyword counterparts.
  • Get local: In line with the specialization approach, consider getting more local with your strategy. Instead of competing on the national scene, you can merely compete with businesses in your city.
  • Study your competition in depth: A simple, entry-level competitive analysis probably isn't going to be enough for the type of competition you're facing. It's important for you to understand all your major competitors, including their distinguishing characteristics and their approach to search engine optimization.
  • Remain patient: As a newcomer in this field, you're going to make mistakes. It's inevitable. Exercise caution and remain patient as you learn new things and experiment with new strategies. In time, you'll see the results you want.

SEO is going to remain a cost-efficient and potentially valuable marketing strategy for years, and possibly decades, to come. Accordingly, it's never going to be officially too late to capitalize on this tactic. The best time to start an SEO strategy may have been several years ago — but the second-best time to start one is today.

Related: 7 Reasons Why SEO Matters for Every Startup

Timothy Carter

Chief Revenue Officer of SEO.co

Timothy Carter is the CRO of the Seattle digital marketing agency SEO.co. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO & digital marketing leading, building & scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and driving growth from websites and sales teams.

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