• Robin Kastengren

Long-Tail Keywords: What are They and Why You Should Care

Long-tail keywords are the secret to SEO success for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

In the never-ending game of SEO, figuring out what you want to be found for is the most important step. Spending all of your time optimizing around a keyword and ranking highly for it is only worth your time if people are actually searching using that keyword. It may seem obvious to focus your efforts around a single popular word, but the competition is going to be tough and the results vague for the user. Enter the long-tail keyword. Using language that people use to ask questions or look for answers, you can gain access to a new avenue of inbound traffic.

Long-tail Keywords: What Are They?

A long-tail keyword is essentially a phrase and not a word. It is usually three or more word, and describes more specifically what the user is looking for. To see the difference between a single keyword and a long-tail keyword, let's start with the keyword “writer.” If you were to search Google for “writer,” you would get results that define what the word means, some news articles that contain the word, a link to a magazine for writers, and a couple of apps named “writer.” The results are all over the board, and as a user, they are not terribly useful.

On the other hand, if you add some clarifying words to that, such as “writers for hire,” or “what is a copywriter,” or “how do I become a writer,” the results will be far more specific. People are becoming accustomed to using these longer strings of words — especially when using any voice-commanded tools like Siri or Google Assistant — to get the best results from their searches.

Less Competition = Better SEO Results

Long-tail keywords have a lot less competition. Single keywords often have a higher search volume making them attractive for SEO campaigns. Long-tail keywords usually have a much lower search volume, so there are going to be fewer companies targeting them for SEO purposes. This means it is much easier to rank for these keywords. Rather than focusing your efforts on a single hot keyword, apply those efforts to several long-tail variations that are truly specific to what you do.

More Words = More Relevant

There has to be a trade-off to exchange those high-traffic keywords for lower-traffic long-tail keywords or nobody would be doing it. The payoff comes in the form of greater relevancy. If you're ranking number one for the term “writer,” you'll have people looking for apps, magazines, individuals, services, and definitions. Your business might be put in front of a few hundred thousand people every day, but only a small fraction of them are potentially interested in what you do. If you're ranking number one for “how to become a novel writer,” you can be pretty sure that every single person who types that in is interested in the process of becoming a writer.

The tangible result is a higher conversion rate, or a higher number of visitors who go beyond just visiting your website and actually take some sort of action. “Writer” may drive 10,000 visitors to your site, but most of them are not interested in writing novels. “How to become a novel writer” may only bring 100 visitors to your website, but most of them are at least interested in what you do. Add in a few related long-tail keywords like “what does it take to write a novel,” and “is writing a novel hard,” and “learn to write a novel,” and you'll bring in a steady stream of people who want to know more from you.

A Word on Keyword Research

Getting the right visitors to your site is the name of the game. It's not about tricking people who don't want your services to visit your website; it's about showing up for the people who DO want your services. Performing keyword research and coming up with a list of long-tail keywords that are likely to be successful can be a full-time task. You're probably aware of the many businesses whose sole existence is dedicated to this kind of research – and for good reason. If your business relies on search-driven traffic and online sales, knowing how to be found is the difference between success and failure.

Moz has compiled a list of resources to use as a starting point for your SEO keyword research, along with a host of tools and articles on how to use your own website's analytics to discover keywords. Some of the tools they list include:

Once you start getting into keyword research, you'll see just how expansive an SEO campaign can really be for those companies that rely on ranking highly. Even for those that don't, a little optimization will surely help to boost your sales.

When you've got a good set of keywords, give me a call. I can help you develop a strategy to integrate these keywords into a blog series, and develop copy for your blog posts and landing pages that incorporate these long-tail keywords seamlessly. That way, you can be sure that your optimization efforts aren't being undone by poor content.

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