Long-tail Keywords in SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an important and foundational piece of any digital marketing strategy. In simple terms, the purpose of SEO is to make sure the website appeals to search engines and therefore ranks higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). The result of good SEO is an increase in quality and quantity of traffic to a website via organic search. The strategies for accomplishing this are multifaceted. One strategy is keeping the structure of the site organized in such a way that it is simple for Google (the benchmark search engine) to crawl and index. Another is filling that site with relevant and rich content. Developing this content is something of an art and one tool of that trade is utilizing what are called long-tail keywords.

What are long-tail keywords?

It’s important to understand what long-tail keywords are in order to grasp the strategy behind them and effectively leverage them. To do so, it will help to clear up some common misconceptions. The misconception is that “long-tail” refers to the volume of words in the query. This is only partially true, and the difference is key in the strategy. The meaning behind “long-tail” refers to a keyword’s placement in the “tail” along a graph comparing search volume to the relative specificity of a keyword. In other words, what makes a keyword “long-tail” is how many times a query is searched combined with how specific that query is.

Long Tail Keywords

Typically, the more specific a query is, the more words are used within that query. However, it is critical to understand that there are exceptions to this trend, and word volume does not always equate to specificity. Focusing solely on the number of words in a query could potentially stop you from considering very specific, shorter phrases. Just be sure to take all aspects into consideration. Now that we understand what a long-tail keyword truly is, we can discuss why they are so valuable.

The value of long-tail keywords

Higher Propensity to Convert

The first reason long-tail keywords are valuable is that due to their being highly specific, users entering those queries are demonstrating they are more informed, have a higher level of intent, and are therefore more likely to convert than those entering broader queries. This means that despite the lower volume in overall searches, the quality of the traffic coming from those searches drastically increases. Putting this into practical terms, which is more valuable?

  1. Having 100 visitors to the site from a broad keyword with only 5 converting?
  2. Having only 15 visitors to the site from a long-tail keyword but 10 of them convert?

The latter will be the more valuable traffic.

Lower Competition

The second reason is that owing to the varied nature of long-tail keywords, there is far less competition than more generic keywords with higher search volumes. The idea being, the pool of users searching for “tents” is far larger and more competitive than those searching for “wind-resistant lightweight backpacking tents.” While search volume will surely be lower for the latter keyword, the competition for that term will be substantially lower, thereby increasing a site’s likelihood to rank higher in search results. This strategy also requires that pages are optimized and organized to be targeted toward specific topics. That’s not to say every page on a site needs to be hyper-niche but simply, every page should be optimized to serve a specific purpose. A top category page should have broader information that touches on, but doesn’t go into detail about, its subcategory pages. Those subcategory pages should then, in turn, have purposeful and targeted information therein, and so on. But that’s another discussion. Suffice it to say that when using long-tail keywords, the way in which the site and individual pages are organized assists with the ability to send a specific message and therefore rank higher in search results. Knowing all of that, what’s next? How can one find long-tail keywords?

Finding long-tail keywords

Putting on your “User” Hat

First, simply try putting on the hat of the user and getting creative with how one looks at search behavior. Think along the lines of what a user who is ready to purchase would search. Would someone who fits this bill be more inclined to search for “capacitors,” “flux capacitors,” or “1.21 gigawatt flux capacitors?” Movie references aside, the level of detail in the final search term suggests that the user is past the browsing phase and is ready to convert. The first two queries are not unimportant, but they’re likely to be more difficult to rank highly on and less likely to end in a valuable conversion.

Research, Research, Research

Second, when in doubt: research. Read more about the company or product, or even better, ask the client to sell you on their product. They will surely use some great terms to roll into your long-tail keywords. Ask them about those terms. Ask about niche, industry terms. All this information is excellent to use when developing highly specific long-tail keywords that will rank above the competition.

Find your Tool of Choice

Finally, there are numerous tools out there to help, and fortunately, many of them are free! Search Console can be used to discover what terms are being searched by users who land on your site. WordCounter can be used to see what the current keyword saturation on a page is. It can also be used to see what keywords are being used on a competitor’s site that may be ranking higher in search results. Also, Keywords Everywhere is a plug-in that, as you enter queries into Google, provides an idea of the forecasted volume of monthly searches for that term. It also will provide similar queries that can help with brainstorming variations of a keyword. As with most tools, these things should be taken with a grain of salt and are no substitute for just researching and getting creative with keywords.

Putting it all together

Now we have our list of well-defined, and specific long-tail keywords. The next step is to implement these into relevant and valuable content for the user. Even with the best long-tail keywords, if the page doesn’t have good content and isn’t organized in a way that is easy for the user to digest, the likelihood of conversion will drop, and a user is prone to bounce from the page. Once the copy has been updated, it’s important to then go to Search Console and request that page is indexed by Google. This is done automatically on a somewhat regular basis, but why wait? From there, pay attention to terms being searched and thereby showing up in Search Console, track the progress and effectiveness of your long-tail keywords and adjust accordingly. You’ll find that some will convert better than others and can roll that information into future optimizations.

Recapping the Big Picture for Long Tail Keyword Usage

So, while working through your SEO strategy and doing keyword research, be sure to apply long-tail keywords. This can seem daunting but by using the information provided here, the process can be simplified and in turn serve to improve page ranking in search results, quality of traffic to the page, and converted users. After all, knowledge is power!

Written by: Kyle Warner, Digital Marketing Specialist, Ecreativeworks

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