Obviously long tail keywords are at the very heart of what we do.
So it goes without saying that we believe that long tail keywords are key (see what I did there?) to growing your organic traffic. If you’re just starting out and still looking for a niche, you should probably read this article, then move on to our guide to discovering ideas for profitable website niches.
Let’s start with a brief review:
What Are Long Tail Keywords?
Perhaps the best way to define what a long tail keyword is, is to give an example. Let’s assume you own a small butcher shop in Atlanta and you are ready to bring your business into the 21st century.
You start by building a website, and then you decide to take it a step further and start blogging with the hopes of pulling in visitors to your site via Google traffic and other “organic” sources.
The types of things you write about on your blog will have a huge impact on how successful you are at pulling in that free, organic traffic. If your topics are too general, it’s likely that you’ll be lost in the ocean of millions of blog posts that are published each day. The keywords “steak” and “filet mignon” may well be things that you’d love to have your little butcher shop on page 1 of Google for, but the odds of that happening are similar to the odds of Kobayashi the hot dog eating champion going vegan.
Both “steak” and “filet mignon” get searched over 60,000 times per month, on average, as shown below in Long Tail Pro.
There is also quite a bit of competition for these types of keywords, as you might imagine.
So while your little butcher shop may never be the top result when people search “filet mignon,” there are still tons of opportunities to get traffic from Google by targeting long tail keywords.
For instance, “how to cook a steak on the stove” gets searched an average of 3,600 times per month and has much lower competition. Maybe you have a killer technique for preparing steaks on the stove and could post written instructions and maybe even a video to answer this exact question!
To break it down further, here’s another example for this same scenario:
Medium: Grilling Steak
Long: Best Steak For The Money
Looking for more specific search terms with less competition is what long tail keywords are all about.
Exclusive Access: Watch our free video on how to find more long tail keywords than you’ll know what to do with!
Do Long Tail Keywords Still Work?
If you follow any SEO blogs, it seems that “change” is the only constant. Techniques designed to move your site to the top of the search rankings that worked a few years ago, or even a few months ago, may be a terrible idea now.
However, long tail keywords are here to stay. that’s one of the reasons why great keyword research software is worth paying for.
Google processes about 3.5 billion searches per DAY.
I’ll let that sink in…
So with 1.2 trillion searches per year, you can bet that a huge chunk of those are long tail keywords. In fact, according to John Wiley at Google, about 15% of those searches are unique. That means that 15% of the searches on a given day have never been searched before.
But don’t just take my word for it.
I’ve put together a list of industry experts who agree that long tail keywords still matter, and perhaps matter more today than ever before.
Marcus Sheridan – The Sales Lion
If you aren’t familiar with Marcus’ story, he stumbled upon the power of inbound marketing when running his swimming pool business. By blogging and creating content that their customers were looking for, they saw explosive growth in traffic and ultimately sales. It’s really a powerful story about how the use of long tail keywords and good inbound marketing can make a huge impact for a small, local business.
Marcus shares a great story about how long tail keywords made the difference for his pool company: “Let me give you an example from my business. My partner Jason once wrote an article entitled, “Top 5 Fiberglass Pool Problems and Solutions”. Immediately, this article captured the first spot on Google for many long-tail keyword phrases such as: “Fiberglass Pool Problems” , “Problems with Fiberglass Pools”, and many others…”
“Although such phrases might not register that high for monthly searches on Google, the blog article has now been read over 5,000 times this past year. Think about that for a second….The average pool builder gets about 5,000 visits a year on their website and this ONE article garnered our website over 5,000 views alone!”
Don’t be afraid to write about the “problems” of your product or industry. People are searching these very specific questions and if you give a great answer, you can control the conversation and earn their trust.
Marcus is always insightful and entertaining! His videos telling his story and explaining how content marketing works for businesses are “must see” in my book. Check it out here and Keep up with him on Twitter.
Caroline Melberg – Small Business Mavericks
On the topic of long tail keywords, Caroline wrote an article titled “Why The Long Tail Is Still Important” and in it she stated “If you are still targeting generic keywords, chances are you aren’t going to get a lot of traffic to your blog. But if you go after a couple of hundred long tail keywords, you’ll stand a much better chance at attracting readers, links, and attention to your blog.”
If you write an article for a keyword that isn’t searched very often, that is okay. The key is to keep adding great content and eventually the numbers add up to a lot of targeted traffic.
For more small business marketing insight, follow Caroline on Twitter.
Nick Stamoulis – Brick Marketing
Nick is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing, which has been in the SEO business since 2005. One reason that Nick is a believer in the importance of long tail keywords is the fact that they tend to convert better.
In his article on the importance of long tail keywords he wrote “People that search using long tail keywords typically are looking for something very specific and have already spent the time doing research and narrowing down their search. Broad keywords don’t convert as well because searchers are still typically in research mode and might not even know what they want. If “polka dotted cocktail dresses” brings someone to your page that is full of pretty polka dotted cocktail dresses, there’s a good chance that they will convert.”
Focusing on long tail lets you bring in visitors that are closer to making a purchasing decision. Provide an insightful and thorough answer and you have a great chance of turning that visitor into a customer.
To keep up with the latest from Nick Stamoulis, follow him on Twitter.
Neil Patel – Quick Sprout
Neil is co-founder of several companies including Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics. His Quicksprout blog is chock full of insights that small businesses and online marketers can use to increase traffic and conversions.
As Nick mentioned above, long tails convert better than more generic search terms. But how can you make sure that your website is converting those visitors?
Neil Patel suggests “The best way to optimize your landing page conversions when it comes to long tail SEO is to provide the users with the answers they were searching for and then add a call-to-action button that nudges them to sign up or buy.”
Visitors are great, but it’s critical that they don’t slip through the cracks. If you aren’t a conversion expert, you can start by checking out these tips from KISSmetrics.
Click here to find Neil on Twitter.
Brian Dean – Backlinko
In his guide to on-page SEO he makes the following comment regarding long tail keywords: “Adding modifiers like “2014”, “best”, “guide”, and “review” can help you rank for long tail versions of your target keyword.”
He explains further by using his own post as an example: “Notice that I made the title of this post nice and long: “On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Page”. These modifiers aren’t targeting any particular long tail keyword. But that title will bring in a few more visitors every day than if I simply used “On Page SEO””
If you’ve done a poor job of this in the past, go back through your old blog posts and see if you can make your titles more search engine friendly by including long tail keywords.
Marieke van de Rakt – Yoast
If you do have a WordPress site, you’ve likely heard of the great SEO plug-ins by Yoast. They are super helpful for making sure your posts are doing all they should when it comes to focusing on your target keyword.
Marieke talks about focusing on your mission, and what makes your company unique.
Whatever that is, write it down!
Then, those words and phrases that best describe your company and what makes it stand out can be used to filter down the keywords you focus on. Here is an excerpt from Marieke’s article: “Trying to make your website rank for a specific term can be quite profitable, as long as this specific term closely resembles the product you’re selling. The terms you have used to describe your mission can be nicely used to focus on in your SEO strategy. These words should be central in the long tail keywords you aim your website to rank for.”
Using our butcher shop example, you can provide any meat a customer wants. But do you have specialty item or service? Maybe you ship frozen steaks around the country. Maybe you artistically create an all-meat Edible Arrangement… (that’s a business idea right there!) – Whatever your specialty, look for long tail keywords that focus on that.
Find more from Yoast on Twitter.
Barney Garcia – Vertical Response
Barney is a Paid Media Marketing Manager for Vertical Response and addresses some of the perceived negatives of focusing on long tail keywords. One of those is the idea that you are limiting your traffic potential because less people search these phrases.
Barney’s response is “This is not necessarily a bad thing. It might not bring you the amount of people you would ideally want, but it will help you find qualified people and not spend your marketing dollars on those who aren’t likely to purchase.”
Having huge traffic numbers are nice, but getting conversions are better. Consider the potential return on investment, whether it be your time or the cost of a PPC ad campaign, before you put together a piece of content.
For more insights on email marketing, social media and more – check out Vertical Response on Twitter.
Matt Bailey – Site Logic
We’ll admit that concentrating on keywords that are searched a relative few times seems counterintuitive. Matt Bailey wrote the following in his article for SearchEngineGuide.com about the long tail keyword strategy. “Conventional thinking applies the 80-20 rule that the top terms provide 80% of the business, but in evaluating multiple sites, this has proved to be the opposite…”
Matt goes onto say “In other words, the terms that are most popular, most managed by site owners, are rarely those that provide the most business. In most studies, the success of the site was from the hundreds or thousands of referrals outside of the most popular terms.”
He concludes with a story from one of their clients: “An initial report showed that his top 10 terms brought in over half of the site’s overall search referrals. However, when looking at sales generated by search terms,18.6% of conversions were from top 10 keywords. Conversely, 81.2% of the conversions were from hundreds of other search terms outside of the top 10. The 80/20 rule works in reverse, providing a sweet spot of opportunity.”
When thinking about long tail keywords, you’ve got to flip the 80/20 rule. When executed properly, many of your conversions will come from people who started by searching for something very specific.
Matt is the founder of Site Logic. Get more of his online marketing insights by following him on Twitter.
Shannon Hernandez – The Writing Whisperer
Shannon spent 15 years teaching a classroom of students and now spends her time helping small businesses use content to their advantage. She wrote a guest post on the Huffington Post entitled “Dominate SEO With Long Tail Keywords“
Her last tip in the article is one I strongly agree with: “Don’t be afraid to put three or four long tail keywords into each blog post. The more specific and targeted you become, and the more you think like your ideal clients and customers, the more your blog posts will be found and read.”
If you are writing an in-depth post focused on a long tail keyword, consider using your sub-headers to focus on even more specific keywords that fit with the content. When following this approach, consider the table of contents WordPress plug-in which automatically creates a table of contents so readers can quickly skip down to a sub-header.
Jeff Haden – INC. Magazine
Jeff is a ghostwriter and contributor to INC.com, among others. In his post called “8 Ways to Find the Best Long Tail Keywords” he starts by pointing out that “Ranking well for competitive keywords is incredibly tough for the average small business. That’s why more specific and less competitive keywords can make a huge difference. For many, long-tail keywords (in aggregate) add up to the majority of their website’s search-driven traffic.”
He goes on to give some very helpful suggestions for your keyword research and brainstorming, you should definitely check it out.
Take a holistic approach to your content marketing. The little things add up, so don’t be afraid to start small and specific.
Jeff has a lot to offer entrepreneurs, so don’t miss him on Twitter.
Steve Scott – SteveScottSite.com
Steve has had a ton of success writing and selling Kindle books and his website is a great resource for SEO in general. Steve also understands the importance of long tail keywords as a part of your marketing strategy.
He has a must-read post on long tail keywords which includes ideas for how to use them and the kinds of posts to write. In it he gives a great reminder: “The best long-tail article is written for the reader, not the search engines”
While search engine traffic is great, you need to think about your human readers first. Ultimately providing the most value and best content to address the things people search for will be a winning formula for Google and for your visitors.
Steve talks about Kindle publishing, successful habits, and more on his Twitter account.
Adam Stetzer – HubShout
Adam Stetzer is co-founder of HubShout, a marketing and SEO company. He and fellow co-founder Chad Hill record a “Daily Brown Bag” session where they chat about a particular topic in the online marketing industry.
They recently talked about why long tail keywords are important for small businesses. You can watch the video here.
One comment that I’d like to highlight is when Adam said “I think getting these long-tail phrases on your site will help the head turn and will help you develop overall authority on many different variations of keywords, and as you said, you have to pick them wisely so they’re not too hard, but they do have some value, they’re in the right ballpark.”
A nice side benefit of creating great content focused on long tail keywords is that eventually you start picking up links, social shares, and credibility/authority with Google. The result is that you’ll start picking up traffic from keywords you didn’t specifically target and even become more competitive for those short-tail or “head” keywords.
HubShout has an infographic that helps you visualize the importance of long tail keywords:
Julia Spence-McCoy – Express Writers
Julia has been writing for awhile. According to her bio she wrote her first novel at age 12, and started Express Writers at the age of 20. She authored a guest post at sitepronews.com which has some fantastic ideas of what to do (and not do) with long tail keywords.
Here are 2 of my favorites:
On the topic of figuring out what to write and focusing on the right keywords she said “…who better to hand you keyword ideas than your customers? How did they find you? What search terms lead them to your doorstep? You can get a great response by simply asking your customers these questions via a survey. It can be a great way of lighting up your social media channels and getting people involved in an active discussion.”
On the topic of what not to do, I like this tip: “Don’t use any keyword that is a stretch… Every keyword should be 100 percent relevant and on topic for YOUR business. Don’t go off topic. It will not help your rankings.”
Remember who your core audience is and don’t try to be something you’re not.
Keep up with Julia’s company, Express Writers on Twitter.
Next Steps For Your Business
Hopefully by now you’re convinced that long tail keywords can play an important role in your online marketing strategy. But you might be wondering…
“Where do I start?”
The first step is to start brainstorming and doing keyword research so you can come up with a list of good, long tail keywords for your business. The next step is to start filtering and prioritizing so you can come up with a content strategy for your business. Use a tool like Long Tail Pro or Ubersuggest to start generating keyword ideas.
Next Step: Watch our free video on how to find more long tail keywords than you’ll know what to do with!