The Case for the Long-Tail
A lot has been written about the importance of long-tail keywords for SEO campaigns. As an SEO, I know it’s hard to convince clients that pursuing long-tail keywords that result in less search volume is actually a better long-term strategy than pursuing more appealing core terms with high search volume.
But with a proper set of data and analytics based on the usage of long-tail keywords, it’s possible to persuade your clients (or yourself) that a long-tail keyword strategy is the path to success. But how do you identify and leverage long-tail keywords?
People’s keyword searches are increasingly moving toward long-tail because natural language search is becoming more popular and pervasive, especially with the momentum of mobile technology and search. But unlike the fiercely competitive field of core keywords, it’s hard to precisely identify the right long-tail keywords to focus on for your SEO campaigns.
That’s what I’d like to cover in this article: how to search for, locate, and identify long-tail keywords for your optimization campaigns and content strategies.
Where to Get Long-Tail Keyword Suggestions
There are many places where you can find excellent candidates for long-tail keywords. Money is not a prerequisite; you don’t have to shell out anything if you rely on Google’s Keyword Tool or other free services… and there are plenty of them.
Below are some of the most popular sources from which you can mine long-tail keyword suggestions.
Google Suggest & Related Keywords
Google’s very own Suggest and Related Keywords offer some insights into the most-used long-tail keywords in search. Google Suggest is the auto-suggest that automatically drops down when you start typing keywords into the search field.
Most of the keywords that appear there are what real people have actually searched for. Once you type in a search query, Google provides a set of related keywords at the end of the page, including a few that are long-tails and potentially worth pursuing. Of course, you’ll want to vet them before you take it any further.
In all probability, your competitor has been using long-tail keywords already, which makes your job a little easier. In order to leverage this, check out the keywords your competitor has targeted. You can find them in the meta tags in the source code, from keyword density checking tools, or from a general scan of the content on the website/blog of your competitor.
Be sure to look closely at the titles and the snippets. The long-tail keywords are most likely going to turn up there.
Natural Language: Forums, Comment Threads, E-mails
People’s queries often contain the precise terms (i.e., keywords) they would use in a Google search. So when you pick queries out of forums and comment threads, you’re also picking rich long-tail keywords that real people are undoubtedly using on Google.
Most SEO experts miss this because it goes beyond usual convention, but it’s naturally intuitive. I’ve picked dozens of long-tail keyword ideas straight out of comment threads on a few authority blogs. If you run a blog where there’s already a certain level of substantive interaction — where people are asking you about issues related to your area of expertise — you are most likely seeing a steady stream of long-tail keywords you can target.
And of course, there are lots of professional tools (both free and paid) on the web that can help you find related long-tail keywords for the keywords you are targeting. Some examples of these include Ubersuggest, Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool, Google Analytics, and Google Webmaster Tools, which contains a goldmine of information.
As with any keyword research, identifying long-tail keywords for your campaigns shouldn’t end at simply finding them. Integrate them into your text copy so they can work their magic. It’s important be very picky here, because you’re dealing with keywords that already have a lower search volume.
How do I Identify a Good Long-Tail Keyword?
Step 1. Once you’ve identified a potential long-tail keyword, head over to Google’s Keyword Tool and acquire Broad and Exact match search volume for it. Here’s a walkthrough on how to do that. This will pull up another set of (related) keywords with all the data you need about the search volume, the estimated competition, and the average CPC, which will give you a sense of how profitable that particular keyword is likely to be.
Step 2. Long-tail keywords are often grammatically / syntactically incorrect. In other words, they shouldn’t be used in your content “as is.” You’ll have to find creative ways to derive a slightly modified version of the keywords to be used in your content, while keeping them mostly intact.
Step 3. Not all long-tail keywords with decent search volume and competition numbers attached to them can be used to generate high-quality, lengthy, and informative content. Some of these are going to be intensely specific — which is to say, content that focuses on this topic would form the basis of no more than a single blog post. You’ll have to be creative here too, and devise keyword sets that can be merged and used together in order to be productively targeted in your content.
For Long-Tail, It’s Hard to Go By the Numbers
Often, long-tail keywords have little or no search volume according to Google’s Keyword Tool. However, in my experience, they can still pull quite a bit of traffic. It’s a bit of a guessing game, which is why it’s difficult to go simply by the numbers when it comes to long-tail keyword research. Trust your gut, write your blog posts around your long-tail keywords, and most importantly, analyze and address user intent.
These are some of the things that should guide you in identifying profitable long-tail keywords that will not only help you rank higher, but also convert better. As with other keywords and their associated content strategies, choosing the right set of long-tail keywords doesn’t guarantee you traffic or rankings automatically; it’s a long-term time commitment that should be treated as an investment. With enough time and consistency, your keyword research and content strategy will pay off.