November 07, 2018 in Strategy by

How long is it going to take for your SEO campaign to see results? Is SEO the best way to market your company? These are a couple of questions whose answers should consider the competitive nature of your industry. Updated for 2021.

A few years ago, I took some time to research how competitive many industries are on Google. I recently updated this information for 2021. Below is what I found. I hope this helps you set reasonable goals and expectations on what it might take for your SEO campaign to succeed.


  1. I took a list of all the Google My Business categories for 2021. I got this from Rocket the Rankings. I don’t know if this is correct or comprehensive, but it seemed like a good place to start.
  2. I collected keyword data from each. The data I collected was more than the “estimated searches” for each of these terms. I combine several factors (in my secret, proprietary formula) to show which is most competitive.
  3. I sorted them by most competitive to least.

The 25 most competitive industries in the US on Google are:

  1. grocery store
  2. gas station
  3. plumber
  4. flower delivery
  5. insurance company
  6. painter
  7. school
  8. moving company
  9. pharmacy
  10. locksmith
  11. furniture store
  12. bathroom remodeler
  13. winery
  14. mattress store
  15. dentist
  16. psychic
  17. bank
  18. electrician
  19. photo shop
  20. swimming pool
  21. hotel
  22. restaurant
  23. Toyota dealer
  24. Honda dealer
  25. pagoda

The chart shows how much more competitive some of these industries are, than others. As I mentioned, I’m using a proprietary metric I call “Oppprunity” to rank these. This considers the “Average monthly searches” but also factors-in competition and other paid search data. The theory here is: it’s one thing if people are searching for a topic but even more valuable if people are willing to pay for clicks (and how much they’re willing to pay for those clicks). That’s why some industries have high search volume but low “Opportunity” numbers- while people are searching for these industries, the industries are less willing to pay for those visitors.

This list is quite different from the top ten from 2018. I have to wonder how much the SARS-COVID-19 pandemic has affected this list:

  1. Hotels- if we only look at search volume, this would still be one of the most-searched industries. However, it’s clear that this industry is paying less in PPC- clearly due to the pandemic- so that’s reflected in the opportunity)
  2. Casinos- I imagine most are closed during the pandemic.
  3. Plumbers- still a top industry in search. People still need good plumbers!
  4. Flower Delivery- still in demand.
  5. Moving Companies- still in demand but not as much in 2021 as 2018. This is surprising since real estate is booming!
  6. Locksmiths- again, still in demand but less than the last time we pulled the data. I might suspect that, since many are staying home, they’re getting locked-out less.
  7. Furniture Stores- this was a big thing in 2020 (sorry- don’t have that data) as people started working and staying at home more. Still a pretty popular industry but I also suspect a lot of purchases have moved online (hence fewer people interested in visiting a store).
  8. Dentists- a significant drop, but still competitive. I know I’m hesitant to visit my dentist during the pandemic.
  9. Ford Dealerships- dropped off the top 10 (actually, it’s #32).
  10. Personal Injury Attorneys- not on the list. Interesting side note: Google is combining this phrase with other kinds of attorneys.

How can your company compete in Google for the most competitive industries?

Set realistic expectations

It’s going to take a lot to compete against similar businesses to you in SEO. It might take years. SEO is never a quick marketing channel. In these cases, it’s going to take a long time before you start to see significant results. If your company needs to ramp up fast, PPC might be a better solution.

It’s also going to take a significant financial investment to do SEO for one of these industries. This investment is not only an investment over time. Everything is going to cost more. I see this when it comes to lawyers. It costs a lot of money to get listed in some of the most respected legal web directories. Unfortunately, some of these directories charge a lot but offer little value. Use caution when spending money, or you could waste a lot at the same time.

Pursue the long tail

Sometimes companies that start an SEO campaign get obsessed with a particular keyword. This obsession hurts them in several ways. For one, they overlook the more achievable, long-tailed opportunities.

The long tail is a great way to compete against other flower delivery services. Sure, many people search for “flower delivery.” If you were to “rank” for that, you’d get a ton of traffic (and customers)! There are a lot fewer people searching for reasons you’d want to deliver flowers: a new baby, an apology, love, a funeral, a gift, etc. Of course, these phrases are also less competitive. The more specific and helpful content you can produce on your site, the more opportunities you’ll see. The long tail principal says there are many more customers searching for the infinite number of specific terms than are searching for the broad phrase.

Create a unique selling proposition

Why would someone choose your locksmith company over another? Do you offer 24-hour service? Do you promise to arrive in less than 30 minutes? What makes your company better? Feature these distinctions, and your company can stand out from the competition.

Target a specific, niche audience

Don’t try to be like everyone else. Focus on a specific group of people as your target audience. Sure, this might limit others from using your services. But, you could dominate a particular segment.

Take, for example, a dentist. What would it look like for a dentist to focus on Millennials? Perhaps they offer free Wi-Fi and have a holder for their cell phone hanging right above their seat (of course, I’m just speculating and stereotyping here). This strategy could attract many people that would otherwise not care about your dental practice.

I hope this isn’t discouraging. A successful SEO campaign in one of these competitive industries is achievable. It’s just going to take a little more time and a little more work.

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