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Introduction to long tail keywords
Bringing traffic to your website is easier said than done. Without a long tail strategy, you are missing opportunities. This is a guide to SEO long tail keywords. It will explain its utility and provide help in picking keywords and phrases that enable you to sidestep competition and focus in on niche demographics—helping you:
- Improve search rankings
- Bring in more relevant traffic
- Stand out from market competition
- Increase click-to-sale conversion rates
Keyword Basics—the Original SEO
Keywords have long played a role in SEO strategy. The idea is very simple—Google partially calculates the relevance of your content to a search by cross-referencing the search term(s) and your text. The more matches (to a point), the higher your ranking.
That last point is critical. In recent years, Google has made changes to their algorithms to spot keyword cramming and downvote violators as spam. The exact threshold is unknown. However, a loose goal of 2% keyword density (one in fifty words) is a practical aim that will increase results without damaging your ranking or readability.
Broadly, if keywords get in the way of readability, you have already failed regardless of Google rankings. Shares and likes contribute to search rankings, and without quality and readable content, you are simply pulling people to your website to be disappointed.
Never lose sight of the real goal—monetizing clicks through either ad-revenue, audience building or sales conversions.
The longer your material, the more keywords you can fit in—Google likes length. Content in excess of 300 words improves your ability to increase keyword numbers without going overboard on density. However, if your article is too long, it may begin to discourage readers.
There are a number of tools that can provide metric based data on the most common phrases used to search for different subjects. Google Trends is a free option. Paid services such as Yoast can help you not only identify useful keywords, but also evaluate your writing to make sure that it is optimised for effect.
The Long Tail of Keyword SEO
The problem with a simple keyword SEO strategy is competition. If you optimise your content for the most popular phrases, you will still drown in a list of search results dominated by players that not only use keyword optimisation but have any number of other factors helping their placement—traffic history, paid advertising, links, etc.
Trying to compete directly with someone who can outspend you on PPC (pay-per-click) or SEO marketing is a losing battle.
Long tail is about finding a keyword niche that is obscure enough to sidestep the fiercest competition while focusing on the terms most likely to be used by an optimal customer. This often means focusing on intent.
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A Physical Analogy of a Long Tail Keywords Strategy
Imagine this. You manufacture and sell garden pizza ovens and decide to exhibit at a home improvement show. If your stand is randomly placed against all manner of household and garden items, not only is there competition, it is going to be hard for the people looking for a pizza oven to find you. The big shiny stands by the front doors (which cost 10 X your budget) will gain most of the footfall, while your smaller stand at the back will remain unvisited.
A smarter approach would be to position yourself in the ‘improvements for garden’ section, where people will come who are looking to spend money on garden improvements. You may get less visits, but at least they’re people who sit roughly in your customer demographic.
A smarter approach still would be to position yourself next to the pizza stand at the food court. Here, you know that the people passing your stand already have a fondness for pizza, and perhaps never imagined that they could invest in an ability to cook one at home. You are likely to get fewer visitors than with the other two options. However, by targeting specific demographics, and thinking about where you might be able to reach probable customers outside the noise of the most standard marketplace, you increase your chances of making a sale.
Most people gravitate towards obvious and generic keywords with broad appeal. A long tail keyword strategy involves taking more time to think about a wide set of specific keywords (or sentences) that will appeal to a narrower audience—but yield greater results due to a thinning of competition, hyper-relevance and increased conversion rates.
Tips For Generating Long Tail Keywords
It is important to remember that ‘keywords’ (especially in reference to long tail SEO) means key-phrases. It is a set of words that, when strung together, best represent what people might be typing into a search engine when looking for what you have to offer.
An easy starting point is to think about how you yourself might search for something online. Think about your product and its target audience. An engineer, an executive and a member of the general public are all likely to search for a product differently. Keep in mind who is buying your product or service and think about the demographics that you are looking to attract with the specific piece of content in question.
You would choose a different set of keywords for a technical article vs. a personal blog vs. the ‘about page’ for your company. Always know your audience!
It is also important to not get distracted by your own marketing. Giving your product a unique name or catchphrase (e.g. we don’t sell cybersecurity, we sell a human intelligence platform!) is a great way to be remembered. But, that is only after you have been found. If you optimise for terms no one is searching for—it won’t help you.
Once you have a set of core keywords, you can use tools like ubersuggest or yoast to help expand the keywords into a broader set of more specific phrases to build a long tail list that your prospects are likely searching for. There are premium tools like moz that can help speed up this process.
You should then actually Google the keywords you pick. Look at the volumes, relevance and dates of the articles you see. Think about how you would fit in. Are the results dominated by big brands that you know it would be hard to compete with, or does it look like you have a chance to rank somewhere? Do the results actually confirm that people are likely to be making these searches when looking for your product?
- Know your audience!
- Tailor keywords to the specific piece of content
- Start with popular keywords and then expand to more targeted and niche phrases
- Use keyword tools to aid your search
- Google the words and phrases you pick and analyse the search results
The Importance of Variety When Implementing Long Tail SEO
It is possible to pick multiple keywords for a single piece of content, or focus different articles on different subsections of your target audience. You don’t have to put all your eggs in the same basket, or rely entirely on long tail SEO at the expense of other keyword strategies.
For example, this article is optimised around the phrase ‘long tail SEO keyword strategy’ and ‘SEO long tail marketing help’. However, neither of those phrases are repeated exactly every time. There is still a reliance on a more general keyword emphasis on ‘SEO’, ‘keywords’, and ‘long tail’.
Being flexible with word order is also important. ‘SEO long tail marketing help’ vs. ‘marketing help for SEO long tail’ vs. ‘help for SEO long tail’—all get you to basically the same place. Using different variations enables you to fit key phrases in at a higher density without damaging readability. It is important to write naturally!
Remember subheadings and always use your long tail keywords
Headings help with structure and readability—but, they also help Google grasp the main topics of your article. Keywords within a heading will be elevated in importance when assessing the relevance of your content to given search parameters. You should use subheadings for this same reason.
Be conscious of the version of HTML you are using. HTML5 made changes to subheading structures. There are a number of resources that provide a detailed breakdown of HTML heading usage (hobo, yoast) and tools you can access to cross-check your code (W3 Validator, SEO Review Tools).
The basic rule is just to remember to use headings. Subdividing down to H3 is advisable in order to ensure that focus is properly weighted. Then, simply pay particular attention to the use of long tail keywords within headings and subheadings to maximise SEO impact.
Summary: The use of long tail keyword SEO as a strategy to help your business
Long tail is a great way to increase web traction, attract a relevant audience and improve click-to-sale conversion rates. There are a number of premium services available to ease long tail keyword implementation. However, it is a technique that can be employed without charge and should be baked into everything you put online.
The effectiveness of an SEO keyword strategy is dependent on the quality of research that goes into selecting keywords. If you optimise for terms that no one uses—it won’t help you. If you optimise for words that everyone uses—you will get lost in the noise. Long tail is about focusing on the edges of obscurity.
Remember that your keywords aren’t something that are noted and then never updated. At least once a quarter, dust off the list (especially your head keywords) and check that they are still relevant to the services you offer and the search patterns of the market.
Explore other areas of SEO. There is no reason to choose just one approach. Even when just looking at a long tail strategy, it is advisable to pick a couple of relevant keyword approaches ranging further and further into long tail in order to cast as wide a net as possible.
The further into longtail you go, the lower the search volumes, but also the less competition. If you get your terms right, you may end up at the top of a results list for that one person specifically looking for what you have to offer. Always think about your audience.
It is crucial to remember that keywords and SEO marketing help are just tools. The real goal is to monetise the clicks. For some businesses, that simply means continuing to drive traffic. However, even in that case, do not allow keyword strategies to supplant a focus on quality content or muddle its readability. Not only does good content increase traffic in the long-run, through generating shares and likes, overuse of keywords can get you downvoted by Google as spam.
Like the necessity to deliver a good product after a sale, bad content will only get you a bad reputation—no matter where your long tail SEO strategy lands you in search results. If your website does not entice a sale or a return visit—your keyword strategy will have been a waste of time.