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The Value of Long-Tail Keywords

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You already know that keywords are essential for search engine optimization. But do you really need to integrate long-tail keywords into your SEO strategy? Find out why long-tail keywords are so valuable for your SEO strategy and learn how to use them successfully.

What Are Long-Tail Keywords?

Image via Flickr by NDomer73

Keywords come in all shapes and sizes. Some of the most commonly searched examples appear in what’s known as the fat head of the search. Though these keywords are high-demand and very competitive, they make up a relatively small percentage of the search, usually less than 20 percent. They include just one or two words, and they’re often relatively generic, such as “SEO strategies” or “standing desks.”

In what’s known as the chunky middle of the search, you’ll find the nexus of competitive and non-competitive keywords. These usually include chains of a few words, and they’re natural keyword phrases that your target market uses on a regular basis. The chunky middle typically accounts for the smallest slice of the search curve, usually just over 10 percent.

The largest portion of search by far includes long-tail keywords, which account for about 70 percent of searches. Though each long-tail keyword might only have a handful of searches each month, they’re still crucial to identify, as together they make up such a large percentage of total searches.

Long-tail keywords usually include at least three terms, and they’re far less generic than head keywords. In fact, long-tail keywords, such as “standing desks for tall people open office plan,” are the most specific keywords you’ll find. Internet users who know precisely what they’re searching for tend to use long-tail keywords.

Why Long-Tail Keywords Boost SEO

You may have already incorporated head keywords or even chunky middle keywords into your SEO strategy, but you might be surprised at just how valuable long-tail keywords can be for your SEO. After all, each type of keyword is ideal for targeting searchers at different parts of the sales funnel.

For instance, those who type head keywords into Google are often in the awareness phase of the funnel. That means they’re just starting their purchasing journey, and they’re trying to learn as much as possible about brands and products to expand their understanding of the available options. Those who search for chunky middle keywords are typically in the interest phase of the funnel. They already have an awareness of what they’re looking for and they’re getting closer to making a purchasing decision.

In contrast, those who search for long-tail keywords are generally in the decision or action phase of the sales funnel. They’re narrowing down their purchasing options by searching for specific terms packed with relevant details, such as sizes, colors, prices, and other parameters. Since these users are ready to make a purchase and have a much higher chance of converting, you can’t afford to ignore their search terms.

Because long-tail keywords are so much less competitive than more popular phrases, it’s relatively easy to rank for these specific terms. That means if you use them correctly, your long-tail keywords may rank at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) quickly, even if your site is years away from ranking for the most competitive terms. While that long-tail ranking boost offers short-term benefits, it can also improve site rank in the long run, helping you win that long-tail search traffic as you make headway toward ranking for high-demand keywords.

If you’re using pay-per-click advertising to attract more potential customers to your site, long-tail keywords can prove even more valuable. Naturally, the most competitive keywords can be overwhelmingly expensive to target, while long-tail keywords can help you build a much more cost-effective PPC strategy. Since long-tail keywords also provide better targeting potential, they can give your PPC campaigns a significant boost.

Best Ways to Find the Right Long-Tail Keywords

The long tail of the search curve can easily include over a hundred million phrases, and many of the most specific terms aren’t easy to find. So how can you identify the most valuable long-tail keywords for your site without wasting resources on terms that will do nothing for your SEO? There’s no magic formula for identifying the right long-tail keywords for your site, but with an effective combination of analysis and tools, you can create a powerful list of keywords to target.

First, it’s important to reevaluate your company’s mission and what sets your brand apart from the competition. Consider what you bring to the market that no other brands can offer, whether it’s a completely unique product or service, a level of innovation that far exceeds the competition, a level of support that’s unparalleled, or a location that’s key for your local audience. These terms offer a great start to your long-tail keyword list, since they’ll help you target users who want exactly what your brand sells.

Next, you need a high-powered tool that can analyze the keywords you’re considering and offer suggestions for related phrases that you’ll also want to target. Start with a free tool like Keyword Planner from Google AdWords, which can expand your initial list of long-tail keywords. To use this tool, type in your terms, select relevant categories and locations if applicable, and start analyzing the recommended keywords. Keyword Planner reveals average monthly search volume and estimated competition on AdWords, which makes it easy to assess how well each term fits into your SEO and PPC strategy.

Keep in mind that the long-tail keywords you’ll want to target have next to no search traffic. In this case, you’ll want to ignore the terms with hundreds of searches per month and zero in on the keywords with no more than 10 monthly searches instead.

Consider supplementing your keyword research with manual efforts, too. Make a note of related search terms from Google and other search engines or use social listening tools to assess the kinds of terms that your target audience uses to discuss your brand. Make sure that each term you add to your list is something you really want to rank for, and carefully consider where each term falls in your sales funnel. After all, not every term you stumble upon will help you target potential customers in the decision or action phases of the funnel.

A PPC campaign can also help you identify long-tail keywords that you wouldn’t have found otherwise. Try creating a sample PPC campaign that targets a more competitive search term, and then assess the type of search traffic you’re attracting. This might not result in a traditionally successful PPC campaign, but it could introduce you long-tail keywords that are unexpected yet valuable.

After your initial list expansion efforts, use a paid tool like the Competitive Keyword Analyzer from LinkResearchTools to dig deeper into potential long-tail keywords. CKA gives you an in-depth understanding of the competition for each keyword and even identifies the top 10 results for each keyword you’re considering. After doing competitive keyword analysis, you can develop a comprehensive list of long-tail keywords to target, complete with a high-level understanding of what kind of competition you’re up against.

How to Create a Successful Long-Tail Keyword Strategy

Once you’ve found the ideal long-tail keywords for your site, you need to know how to get the most out of these specific terms. The most effective way to implement long-tail keywords is to develop a solid long-term content strategy. Of course, just any old content won’t help you meet your ranking objectives. Instead, you need amazing, high-quality content designed around your SEO strategy.

Get to work developing a strategy that incorporates your list of long-tail keywords into all types of content, including landing pages, product pages, short blog posts, medium-length articles, long-form pieces, and even expert-level content. To increase your chances of ranking, be sure to use long-tail keywords and similar terms in page and post titles, headings and subheadings, and in the content itself. Like high-demand search terms, long-tail keywords have the best chance of ranking when you use them as close to the beginning of the article as possible.

Although including the most important long-tail keywords in your content is critical, incorporating them in a natural way is key. After all, Google increasingly rewards high-quality content that provides unique value to readers over low-quality content that offers little value. That means if you can’t find a way to include a keyword in an organic and grammatically correct way, it’s probably in your best interest not to make it part of your strategy. Instead, create content that highlights the millions of other long-tail keywords that are more relevant to your brand and your content strategy.

Don’t forget to include long-tail keywords in the anchor text for your internal links, either. Your long-tail strategy doesn’t need many external links, but you’ll want to prioritize adding internal links to your site’s high-quality content.

Whether you’re new to SEO strategy or you want to stay on top of the latest research, you need the newest expert-level analysis on long-tail keywords. Download the white paper from CopyPress and LinkResearchTools to learn how to build the optimal link portfolio for your site.

About the author

Anna Sonnenberg