93% of online experiences today start with a search engine, with Google alone handling at least 2 trillion searches every year. 70% of those interactions end with someone clicking on an organic link, making SEO a central component of any digital marketing strategy.
The vast majority of SEO efforts today focus on short, high-volume keywords such as “buy trainers” or “best movies”, with marketing teams everywhere understandably wanting to lure in a slice of the incredibly high number of people searching for these terms.
Who wouldn't want a slice of this audience, after all?
A huge number of searches like this for terms relevant to your business can lead many people to believe that if you’re not ranking for them, you’re not going to succeed. And naturally, it is an incredibly difficult, lengthy process to achieve this. There is a better way, however: long-tail keywords.
What are long-tail keywords?
Long-tail keywords are keywords which are longer and more specific than traditional keywords, typically defined as being keywords which are made up of a minimum of three or four words.
Using our “best movies” example from above, a long-tail variation of that search would be “best action movies released in the 1980s”. Naturally, the number of people searching for the long-tail term will be orders of magnitude lower than the first, so why should you take the time to target them as part of your SEO strategy?
Why you should be targeting long-tail keywords
Improve your ROI
As fewer companies will be targeting your long-tail keywords you will naturally find it a simpler proposition to rank highly for these keywords than shorter, traditional keywords. Alongside being easier to rank for, research has also shown that conversion rates for long-tail keywords can be as high as 36%.
In comparison, the top 10% of landing pages for short keywords convert at a rate of 11.45%, with the average being just 2.35%. So, although you may receive fewer monthly visitors for your long-tail terms, they will convert at a much higher rate, dramatically improving your ROI for your SEO efforts.
They’re how people search
When search engines first started to break into the mainstream they weren’t the most intelligent of beasts, with people reliant on putting in very specific strings of keywords in order to receive the results they were looking for. And even then, it wasn’t a guarantee.
Over the years, however, search engines have grown up. They’re now smarter than ever before and seem to grow more intelligent with each passing day, meaning people no longer have to wrestle with finding the perfect keyword to find what they’re looking for and can simply ask naturally instead.
This has led to a growing expectation that people can type in a question they have and the search engine will be able to parse the question and provide them with relevant results, as shown by the fact that the majority of users now use three or more words in searches on average.
By focusing on the long-tail, you’re building your SEO strategy around how people are actually searching for information, not what specific keywords you think your audience may be using.
Voice search is growing
The rise of the virtual assistant and increase in voice recognition has caused voice search to explode in popularity in recent years. 55% of teens and 41% of adults in the United States now use voice search on a daily basis, and this number is expected to continue to rise rapidly over the coming years as more people embrace products such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
Indeed, the total voice assistant market is expected to reach 30 million in the US alone by the end of 2017.
As this market continues to grow and talking to your devices becomes more natural for people, voice search will also grow. And as voice search grows, we expect long-tail searches to grow as well. After all, when you’re quickly asking a question out loud you’ll be asking it naturally rather than changing your speech patterns to mention keywords you think search engines may need to hear.
By focusing on the long-tail now, you can get in on the ground floor of this growing market, driving more people to your business by encouraging these systems to read your results out to people searching for relevant information.
They’ll help you to rank for single keywords
SEOs focusing on long-tail search have been given another boon thanks to the increasing intelligence of search engines: they now recognise context.
It used to be the case that when search engines crawled your page they would pick up on specific keywords used regularly throughout your content and categorise it accordingly, meaning that if you were promoting your financial planning services you would need to mention the phrase ‘financial planning’ liberally throughout all of your content to have a chance of ranking.
Now, however, search engines recognise content which is related to the service and categorise accordingly, meaning it understands that your blog focused on investment advice relates to financial planning and can categorise accordingly. Indeed, you will now be rewarded for having a broader spread of content relevant to your product or service.
Building up a variety of in-depth content focused on long-tail terms will therefore provide you with the dual benefit of ranking for search terms you would otherwise find difficult to rank for.
Although it may seem like an impossible task to rank for a keyword such as “cats”, focusing on long-tail content around different breeds of cats and their care will show search engines that your website is a quality resource for this search and shows your content to searchers, even if you barely use the term “cats”.
Build a strong sales funnel and increase your conversion rate
Generating quality traffic and leads is the main focus of any digital marketer, but increasing levels of competition has made this more challenging than ever before. Indeed, a recent Hubspot survey of high-level marketing professionals has shown that 63% of people think that this is their companies biggest marketing challenge.
A large part of this challenge comes from the fact that no two customers are alike, and each customer searching for the products or services you sell will be at a different part of their buying cycle.
Creating long-tail content focused on targeting people at each part of the sales funnel will not only make your brand visible throughout the customer’s buying cycle, but also provide customers with valuable insight and develop your reputation as a knowledgeable, trustworthy brand.
Although it is still important for your product pages to rank highly, meeting people at earlier stages in the funnel and providing valuable information will lead them to be more likely to come back to you and convert when they are ready to buy.
Even if they don’t specifically search for your brand at the point of purchase, they will recognise your name when it appears in the SERPs and be more likely to choose to buy from the business they recognise.
Provide more value to your users
Long-tail keywords can do more than strengthen your SEO and CRO campaigns. They can also ensure that every page you create provides real, tangible value to your users.
Content marketing is the top digital marketing technique of 2017 according to a study by Smart Insights, and the key to high-quality content marketing which drives long-term ROI is providing a massive amount of value to your users.
Thinking about the long-tail will help you do this and put you ahead of the competition.
Build your blog
Content marketing is the top digital marketing technique, and blogging is the number one content marketing tactic used by businesses.
Studies have shown that companies with blogs produce 67% more leads a month than those without on average. Alongside this, the average word count of top ranked content on Google is between 1,140 – 1,285 words, making comprehensive blogs a great way to have your site rank highly for a number of key search terms.
A major issue with writing blogs is a simple one: running out of ideas. With most businesses focusing on a very specific set of keywords it quickly becomes nigh-on impossible to create original, useful content targeting these keywords.
Making the decision to alter your keyword strategy to focus on the long-tail immediately does away with these issues and provides you with the perfect platform for building up your blog.
One blog about washing machines is great, but a wide range of blogs detailing the pros and cons of different brands along with information on how to perform common fixes is infinitely better. Researching long-tail keywords will give you hundreds of ideas for new articles in a few short minutes.
Outrank your competitors
In time, all of the blogs you’ve worked so hard on, your detailed product information pages, in-depth FAQs and other content will all begin to work together to ensure you outrank your competition for the majority of keywords in your industry.
However, before you can get this far you need to find some long-tail keywords to target…
How to find long-tail keywords
Although pursuing a long-tail keyword strategy provides you with a huge amount of choice on content creation, it can sometimes be even more difficult to develop your strategy as you get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of options now available to you. Alongside this, it can also be difficult to establish exactly how people are searching for these long-tail phrases.
Fortunately, there is a wide variety of tools available to help you create the perfect long-tail SEO strategy.
Google Keyword Planner
Although it may not be the best place to find long-tail keywords, Google Keyword Planner is always a solid starting point for your research and will prove to be a valuable tool throughout your research by giving you information on the search volumes for keywords you may be interested in pursuing.
To start your search, simply go into Google Keyword Planner and type in a broad keyword you are looking to rank for. Alongside providing information for this keyword, Google will also give you a wide range of suggestions related to this keyword, which can often contain a few good ideas.
It is important to remember that Keyword Planner will typically not provide you with the best ideas for content but will provide you with suggestions which it feels may be valuable to bid for on AdWords.
Google’s ‘Searches related to…’ feature
This suggestion is an incredibly simple, obvious one. In fact, it’s so simple that a lot of people miss it completely.
Whenever you Google something it will show you a few related searches at the bottom of the first page. As you can see, the majority of these are long-tail keywords, with this search alone providing three great long-tail article ideas related to public relations.
Although you will only get a limited number of ideas from this method, Google will have suggested them as alternatives specifically because it sees a lot of people searching for information on that topic are searching for those terms.
Armed with this information, you are then able to quickly create content focused around these longer keywords, safe in the knowledge that they are popular searches and have the potential to drive a good volume of traffic to your website.
And once you have ideas from your initial search, you can then search for one of the phrases suggested by Google and look at the ‘Searches related to…’ for that phrase to build up an even biggest list of keywords to target.
Forums and message boards
An incredible way to look for new keywords related to your industry is to head to a popular forum which solely discusses that industry.
Popular forums will consist of hundreds upon hundreds of people asking questions about, and passionately discussing, everything within your industry. These are the people who will be your prime target audience and thus the people you will be required to provide value to as you grow your business.
To find forums relating to your niche simply head over to Google and type ““keyword” +forum”.
For example, let’s say you were tasked with creating content for a site focused on giving people financial advice, searching for ““saving money” +forum” brings up a forum which has over 161,000 members discussing everything to do with saving money. The board breakdown alone should provide you with a mountain of potential content ideas.
Heading into the Personal Finance section immediately gives a ton of different ideas for long-tail content, and you can guarantee that if someone is asking on a specialist forum people will be searching for it online.
Spending time here pulling out various topic titles could potentially provide you with months of content ideas in just half an hour.
Who knew coming up with ideas for content could be so easy?
Ubersuggest is an easy-to-use, free tool that is essentially Google’s ‘Searches related to…” feature on steroids.
If you type your keyword into Ubersuggest and hit ‘suggest’ it will proceed to load up suggestions for long-tail keywords from every letter of the alphabet for that keyword.
Your website, for example, might focus on electronics. If this is the case, ‘Samsung’ would typically be one of the keywords you choose to target. Going into Ubersuggest and searching for Samsung provides you with 357 keywords which you are then able to download in .csv format and search through to discover long-tail searches related to Samsung and build up a bank of more content ideas.
Answer the Public
A favourite of SEOs everywhere, Answer The Public is a tool used to discover question-focused keywords. Much like Ubersuggest, using it is as simple as typing in your broad keyword and hitting go.
Once you’ve done this, the tool will pull up a list of questions that people tend to ask about the topic.
Q&A content is a great way to provide value to your users and build up your long-tail content base. This tool is the easiest way possible to discover common things people are asking about your industry.
Google Search Console
If your business is already established you may well find that you are ranking at a high-level for long-tail keywords you are not even optimising for. And if you’re already ranking between pages 2-5 for a long-tail keyword without trying, imagine what you could do if you put the work in to optimise your pages.
Google Search Console makes it easy to discover what keywords you are ranking on pages 2-5 for, allowing you to quickly focus on getting some quick wins in your SEO campaign.
To find these searches you need to login to your Google Search Console account and click on “Search Traffic”, then “Search Queries” on the left sidebar.
You will then be shown a list which starts from the keywords you rank on the first page for. You should sort this list by “Position”, set the number of rows to 500 and start scrolling to the keywords you’re ranking for on the second and third pages.
You can then take any potential keywords, check their search volume and optimise the content for any keywords it makes sense for to give you a quick jump up the rankings. This method could potentially boost you to page 1 for a handful of keywords in a matter of weeks.
Quora is an extremely popular crowd-sourced Q&A website which is similar in some ways to a forum.
To use Quora you must first set up an account. Once you’ve done this you can then enter a broad keyword into the top of the page. You will then be provided with a list of popular questions on the topic, meaning the service will function for you in a similar way to forums.
Although the full questions may not be relevant to use as keywords, the essence of them will provide you with a range of ideas to follow up on. You can then look these up on Google Keyword Planner to discover how popular the topics are before coming up with your content plan.
Your own knowledge
Finally, an incredibly simple way to find ideas is to simply use your own knowledge of your niche. Sit down, scribble some ideas based on questions you regularly get asked, and see if they could potentially form the basis for a piece of content.
After this work you should have a relatively chunky list of long-tail keywords to base your content creation strategy off, and now’s the time to sit down and prioritise which keywords you want to create content around and establish your content plan.
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