What if I told you that there’s a way to get targeted organic traffic that’s actually easier than driving a ton of random page views?
We’re all familiar with the race to the top of Google for high-volume keywords, but throughout that race, long tail keywords can get overlooked.
If you ask me, this makes no sense because long tail keywords make up 70% of all searches.
You don’t want to miss out on 70% of the potential traffic, do you?
In this guide, I’m going to run through everything you need to know about long tail SEO, including:
- What are long tail keywords?
- Long-tail keywords Examples
- What are the benefits of targeting long tail keywords?
- How to find long tail keywords
- How to use long tail keywords in your content
What are long tail keywords?
Let’s get started with a definition. Long tail keywords are search queries usually consisting of two or more words that narrow down the focus of the search results and bring up more specific results.
Long tail keywords are also often lower difficulty and lower volume.
To understand this better, let’s also define head keywords.
A head keyword is usually a high traffic, high difficulty term that constitutes an entire topic.
While they’re searched for often, they’re not always 100% specific to what you’re promoting with your content.
Long Tail Keywords Examples
I know that beginners to SEO may have trouble understanding what exactly long tail keywords are, so let me demonstrate this with a real example.
Let’s take the keyword “SEO”.
This is a very popular keyword and according to SEMRUSH it has more than 110,000 exact keyword searches per month.
It is also a highly competitive keyword with an average CPC of 14.82 USD.
If you search for this term on Google.com you will find in the first positions websites like Wikipedia.org, moz.com and Google websites, which makes it almost impossible to outrank them with a normal website or blog.
So, if it is impossible to rank for “SEO” what is the next step?
You go one step further by adding tail or tails to the existing keyword so as to narrow down your competition.
If you add the word ‘tips’ your keyword now becomes “SEO tips”, which is less competitive than the head keyword (SEO), but it is still very difficult to target.
Top results are dominated by large and well-known websites.
So, what do you do?
Add another word and it becomes “SEO tips for beginners”.
Certainly, the number of people searching for this keyword per month is less compared to “SEO” and “SEO tips” but the benefits gained from ranking long tail keywords are much more than the traffic difference.
What are the benefits of targeting long tail keywords?
Now you’ve had a crash-course introduction, let’s run through the benefits of targeting the long tail.
To understand the benefits of long tail keywords, you need to understand the concept of intent.
Long Tail Keywords Match the User Intent
Put yourself in the shoes of the searcher for a moment while you think about the customer journey.
A section of it might look something like this:
- The prospect becomes aware of their need, and searches head keywords to find out more.
- The prospect becomes aware of a potential solution and searches a long tail keyword with the intent to buy it.
This is a dumbed-down explanation, but it sums up the idea of intent nicely.
Basically, considering the intent of a keyword is considering the mindset of someone who would search the keyword.
For example, someone looking for ‘SEO’ is probably looking for a broad definition while someone looking for ‘SEO Services’ has the intent to click on your search snippet listing, and buy your services.
Through the long tail specificity of their search, they’re expressing their intent to buy exactly what you’re selling (or at least read exactly what you’re writing).
For this reason, it’s worth targeting long tail keywords because the traffic that they bring in is targeted and will be far more likely to convert.
The searchers are no longer in the ‘discovery’ mindset. They’re ready to move into buying mode, and even though the volume won’t be as high, it’s well worth it.
Head keywords have lower intent
What’s the intent of someone searching ‘marketing’? Who knows. It’s probably to find out a definition or to read some kind of encyclopedic article, which shows why Wikipedia and the Business Dictionary rank highly.
Narrow it down, however, and target ‘marketing agency London’ (instead of just ‘marketing’) and the intent is much, much clearer. And you’re way more likely to rank for it.
In fact, the major problem with going after head keywords is that you’ll be putting a ton of work into driving the wrong kind of traffic. And, when you drive traffic that doesn’t stay long on your page, you’re telling Google that you don’t deserve to rank, and that’s all your work wasted.
A good rule of thumb is to Google the keyword you’re targeting before you target it, and ask yourself whether your article would be out of place in the results. If it would be, then don’t bother.
Long Tail keywords are easier to rank compared to non-long tail keywords
Provided that you are having a high-quality web site long tail keywords are easier to rank especially if you choose low competition keywords.
There are more long tail keywords than head keywords
There are nowhere near as many head keywords out there as long tail.
And that means that at some point, you could theoretically run out of big meaty keywords to target, and find yourself thinking “phew! I’ve targeted ‘marketing’, I’ve targeted ‘SEO’, I’ve targeted ‘business’ … What’s next?”.
When you’re going after the long tail, you’re not only giving yourself more chances to put optimized content on your site, you’re creating more pages.
It only makes sense that sites with more pages rank for more keywords and drive more traffic, especially if they’re ranking for juicy long tail keywords.
This is probably best described simply as covering your bases. Targeting both ‘green tea smoothie ideas’ and ‘green tea smoothie recipes’ in two separate posts and getting both of them ranking is a way to make sure you’re scooping up whichever search term variation that gets typed in.
And remember how I mentioned long tail keywords make up 70% of all searches? Here’s a visual of that:
If you think about it for a second, those users that use long tail keywords to search for something can be considered more targeted because they already made the effort to make their search terms more specific.
If we are talking about ‘buying’ or ‘action’ keywords then those are more likely to convert or perform an action.
Consider the following example:
“Cars” <- General search
“used cars for sale” <- looking for used cars
“used cars for sale in florida” <- looking for used cars in florida
“used ford focus for sale in florida” <-looking for used ford focus cars in florida
Long tail keywords help you build website authority and trust
Having a first-page ranking of any keyword is an indication of website authority and trust.
One of the ways to get your website ready to target more important keywords is to get as many first placements as you can for long tail keywords.
Of course, this is not the only factor that will help you build authority but a number of first place placements together with a solid SEO strategy can work towards that direction.
You will get more traffic than the suggested volume
The various keyword research tools give an estimate of the traffic you can get if you secure a top position for a specific keyword.
When it comes to long tail keywords, their estimates are not 100% correct. This is because the volume for long tail keywords is low and so is their sampling so they under-estimate.
I have many examples of long tail keywords that bring in 10 times the traffic shown by the keyword tools so never reject a keyword because the traffic in the tools is low.
How to find long tail keywords?
“Ok, ok! I’m sold”, I hear you say. “How do I find these high-converting long tail keywords?”.
Well, like it always is with keyword research, it’s a mix between a manual and an automated process.
Manually – Researching suggested terms, reading posts on Quora, reddit, and forums. Getting together a list of head keywords and commonly mentioned phrases.
Automatically – Using tools like SEMRush to generate a list of semantically relevant terms and different permutations from your head keyword research.
How to manually find long tail keywords
Google search box suggestions
A great way is to start typing keywords in the google search box and see the ideas suggested by Google.
When you find a nice long tail keyword you can check it with the keyword tool of your choice (I use SEMRUSH) and decide if it is worth targeting or not.
Google ‘People Also Ask’ and ‘Related Searches’
Another manual method is to Google the topic you have in mind and check the “People Also Ask Section and the “Related Searches”.
Bing / Yahoo suggest
Bing and Yahoo also make suggestions as you are typing a search term. You can use that as well since in almost all cases the suggestions made are different from Google so it’s worth exploiting.
Another goldmine is reddit. I headed over to /r/brewing to find out what people are talking about.
If I was blogging about beer brewing, these people are my target audience. I’ve highlighted some viable keywords:
Finally, search for keywords in Quora. People are answering questions that you could answer with your ads or content:
Note: Quora is actually a fantastic source of inspiration for blog posts, too. You can usually just grab the questions as a title and use the content in the answer plus your own original research to create winning content.
There is no niche without competition so it’s not a bad idea to take a look at what your competitors are doing in term of long tail keyword targeting.
Register to their newsletter and RSS feed and if you like a keyword they have used, check it with SEMRUSH and see if there are any variations or similar keywords you can target.
To avoid any confusion, competition analysis does not mean copying your competitor’s ideas or stealing their work but simply means keeping an eye on what other websites in your niche are doing.
How to find long tail keywords using a tool
Long Tail Keyword Research with SEMRUSH
As well as being a complete platform for managing organic and paid SEO campaigns, SEMrush has a quality keyword research feature.
For finding long tail versions of a particular head keyword you’ve researched, use the Keyword Magic Tool.
Look at these great long tail keywords I found in just a few clicks:
How to use long tail keywords
Let’s say you’ve found a long tail keyword and want to start creating content to rank for that term. Great! What now?
Well, the first thing to do is to choose one major target. As you’ve seen, by ranking for one keyword you scoop up a lot of long tail variants, too, so it isn’t like it’s the one chance you get to rank for a single term.
Here’s a quick checklist to follow adapted from this post to include only keyword placement:
- Put the keyword at the start of the headline (and title tag!)
- Use the only the keyword as the slug (the part of the URL after the domain — com/this-is-the-slug)
- Make sure your title is in a H1 tag
- Use the keyword throughout your H2 subheadings
- Use the keyword in the first 100 words
- Use a few variations of the keyword throughout the body of the article (you should have plenty from your research)
And, of course, you should always make sure your entire site is optimized to be SEO-friendly.
Long tail SEO tips and tricks
I have said above that long tail keywords are easier to rank but that does not mean that you just throw text on a page and it will get a top position because it is a low competition long tail keyword.
You need to do a lot more than that in you want to rank higher in Google or any other search engine.
Content still matters
Content not only matters but it’s the most important factor for achieving and maintaining a good ranking in the long term.
Make sure that your content rocks both in quantity but most importantly in quality. Use proven content marketing tips and try to publish content that answers the question in the long tail.
When writing content, you should follow some simple but yet every effective SEO copywriting rules for making your copy friendlier to search engines and users.
Thinks like post titles, content freshness and formatting do matter and once you learn the basics they are very easy to follow.
On-page SEO is a must
Don’t forget the rest of the on-page SEO factors that can help you achieve better rankings. Besides the keywords and content, there are other ways to make your website more attractive to search engines.
Promote, Promote, Promote: When you hit the publish button you don’t sit back and relax but you start promoting your content in social media and using other white hat techniques.
Getting started with your long tail SEO strategy
What’s the next step you can act on right now?
Well, I’ve given you a reason to do it, as well as the tools and methods you need to get started.
The only thing that’s left is to get going.
Pick a head keyword, find the low-hanging long tail fruit, and get targeting with content or ads that recognize the intent behind the search term.
For new websites or for not so big websites there is no other way to get traffic and good rankings than working with long tail keywords. The competition for high volume keywords is so huge and it is very difficult to win one of the top positions.
The best way to start building a strong website is to provide top quality content for long tail keywords consistently so as to start gaining rankings and traffic and then gradually move on to more general terms and establish your presence.
How have your results been with targeting long tail keywords? Let me know in the comments!