March 07, 2024 in Strategy by

How long will it 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.

A few years ago, I took some time to research how competitive many industries are on Google. I recently updated this information for 2024. Below is what I found. This data can help 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 and got this from PlePer. They update this list regularly- so it’s accurate through March 2024.
  2. I collected keyword data from each. The data I collected was more than the “estimated searches” for each term. I combine several factors (in my secret, proprietary formula) to show the most competitive.
  3. I sorted them by most competitive to least.

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

  1. hotel
  2. restaurant
  3. plumber
  4. personal injury attorney
  5. bank
  6. moving company
  7. grocery store
  8. clothing store
  9. flower delivery
  10. furniture store
  11. electrician
  12. locksmith
  13. gas station
  14. dentist
  15. Toyota dealer
  16. Honda dealer
  17. insurance company
  18. playground
  19. bathroom remodeler
  20. lawyer
  21. mattress store
  22. jewelry store
  23. ford dealer
  24. liquor store
  25. Nissan dealer

The chart shows how competitive some of these industries are compared to others. As I mentioned, I’m using a proprietary “Opportunity” metric to rank these. This metric considers the “Average monthly searches” and factors in competition and other paid search data. The theory here is that 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, they are less willing to pay for those visitors.

This list differs from the top ten from 2021- during the COVID pandemic.

  1. Hotels have regained the top position as travel demand has increased after the pandemic.
  2. Grocery Stores have dropped to the 7th most competitive (replaced by restaurants) as people eat out more.
  3. Plumbers are still a top industry in search. People always need good plumbers!
  4. Personal Injury Attorneys have regained a top 5 position as people start to worry about other things besides a pandemic.
  5. Banks are now in the 5th position (previously 17th). Does this say something about the status of our economy?
  6. Demand for car dealership brands (especially Toyota, Honda, and Nissan) has grown significantly. These were previously outside the top 25. I know there were problems getting cars due to manufacturing and parts issues during the pandemic. People are interested in new cars again.
  7. Dentists are slightly more competitive than during the pandemic. People are still afraid of visiting them.
  8. Psychics perhaps predicted their decline in demand after the pandemic (dropping from 16 to 31st) as people are less worried about their future.

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

Set realistic expectations.

It will take a lot to compete against businesses similar to yours in SEO. It might take years. SEO is never a quick marketing channel. In these cases, seeing significant results will take a long time. PPC campaigns might be a better solution if your company needs to ramp up fast.

Doing SEO for one of these industries will also take a significant financial investment. This investment is not only an investment over time. Everything is going to cost more. I see this regarding lawyers—getting listed on some of the most respected legal websites directly costs significant money. Unfortunately, some of these directories charge a lot but offer little value. Use caution when spending money, or you could waste a lot simultaneously.

Pursue the long tail.

Companies that start an SEO campaign are sometimes 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 principle says many more customers are searching for an 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. This focus 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? They may offer free Wi-Fi and have a holder for their cell phone hanging right above their seat (of course, I’m speculating and stereotyping here). This strategy could attract many people who would otherwise not care about your dental practice. The StoryBrand framework can help you distinguish yourself from competitors in the same industry.

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

WordCamp Atlanta 2023

David spoke at WordCamp ATL in October 2023

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