What Are Long-Tail Keywords and How Can I Use Them?
Does creating a great SEO strategy ever make you feel out of your depth? You wouldn't be alone.
After all, how can you compete with huge companies like Amazon or international franchises, whose SEO budgets span into the millions?
The answer isn’t to put all of your marketing eggs into one SEO basket. But you'll see success (even as a small business with a modest budget) by focusing on long-tail keywords.
After reading this guide, you’ll understand what long-tail keywords are, how to target them, and how to grow your organic traffic exponentially through them.
Sound good? Let's dig in.
What are long-tail keywords?
Long-tail keywords are phrases or string of words that people frequently search for. Examples include:
- What are long-tail keywords
- How to fix a leaking faucet
- Start Facebook advertising
- What is SEO
- FIFA World Cup 2018
Google's been creating a more and more relaxed approach to keyword target, thanks to a surge in voice search, which makes long-tail keywords a fantastic way to help your website succeed in organic search.
Why are long-tail keywords important?
50% of search queries are four words or longer. They can help you skyrocket your search rankings (because you'll instantly appeal to all those searchers), but they offer other business-friendly benefits, too.
Long-tail keywords aren’t as competitive as their shorter alternatives. Think about it - which one of these keywords would be harder for a small business to rank for?
- How to create an SEO strategy
The first one, because it's much broader. You have to cover a lot more ground to rank for it, compared to the second and more specific option.
It'd be like trying to rank for "insurance" compared to "car insurance in Chattanooga." It's much easier to rank for a type of insurance in a specific town than to rank for all things related to insurance everywhere in the world.
But here's what's really important: long-tail keywords often don’t have commercial intent.
People searching for long-tail keywords are normally looking for information, not products. They're typing questions into search engines, not specific items.
Because of this, long-tail keywords work best with in-depth blog posts. Someone types a question into Google or Bing, they find your post, and then they get all the valuable information they need to move to the next stage of your sales funnel.
That's where the ROI comes from. Addressing long-tail keywords in your blog posts builds trust with viewers, who become much more likely to work with you than a competitor.
And, since long-tail keywords have less commercial intent, the SEO giants normally shy away from them. (Giants usually prefer - and can afford - conversion-dripping keywords, or search terms people use when they're ready to buy.)
How do I research long-tail keywords?
When you’re looking for long-tail keywords to target in your blog content, there’s one thing to remember: don’t guess at the phrases you should be targeting.
Guessing leads to bad targeting, and it won’t give you an accurate prediction of how likely you are to see success from a post. Instead, find long-tail keywords by using four these tools.
Google Keyword Planner
Have you ever thought Google Keyword Planner was just a tool to find keyword search volumes? I used to.
But Keyword Planner can be used to find related keywords, too, and the process is about the same.
Head to the Keyword Planner homepage and enter your main keyword. They'll give you a list of alternatives that could be even more valuable than your main keyword!
Keyword Planner won't always give you long-tail keywords, but you can (and should) use their suggestions to find more long-tail variations through the following tools.
Google Suggestions and Related Searches
Just like a normal Google search, begin typing a phrase/word that’s related to your business (from the Keyword Planner activity). But, instead of leaving it at that, add these variations to the beginning:
- How to
- Reasons for
- What is
The suggestions will show you relevant long-tail keywords that are likely good candidates for blog posts.
You could also use Google’s related searches tool to explore more ideas. Simply scroll to the bottom of your results page, and dig-out the long-tail phrases you could target.
Recently bought by SEO veteran Neil Patel, Ubersuggest is a tool which can find thousands of long-tail keywords – along with their search volumes and competition score.
It’s very similar to Google’s Keyword Planner, but it’s a great option for businesses who don’t have (or don't want to create) an AdWords account.
Plus, Ubersuggest saves you time. It collects data from both Google Suggests and Google Keyword Planner.
To find long-tail keywords for your blog content, simply type your industry and sift through their recommendations.
Take your spy game to the next level by looking at your competitors' SEO activity and target keywords. Just go to SEMrush and enter your competitor's home or product page URL.
Then, scroll down to “Top Organic Keywords” to see what that page is currently ranking for.
Using Moz’s blog post on What is SEO? as an example, you could unveil these long-tail phrases and target them in your own business.
Which long-tail keywords should I target?
Once you’ve noted all your long-tail keyword options, you want to look at which are worth targeting. You wouldn't want to spend time creating content for a phrase with no monthly searchers, right?
Run each phrase on your list through Ubersuggest or Google Keyword Planner. Then create content on keyword with:
- Medium search volumes – these still have a good number of people searching for it
- Medium competition levels – they’ll be easier to rank for
4 Ways to Target Long-Tail Keywords in Blog Posts
Targeting long-tail keywords is a great way for your business to rank high in search results, but it's not as simple as publishing a bunch of posts and praying for the best. You need to follow a strategic plan.
1. Group similar keywords together.
It’s not 2001 anymore. You can’t create a different page on your website for every keyword you’re targeting and expect it to help.
Google works with a more relaxed, intent-based approach to keyword targeting (thanks to progression in voice search), and you could be penalized for creating several pages to target specific keyword variations.
So take a look at the long-tail phrases you’ve collected. Do any of them have a similar meaning or user intent? Would someone be looking for the same answers whether they typed in one phrase or another?
If so, group them together. For example:
- Start Facebook advertising
- Create Facebook campaign
- First Facebook ad
These all have the same user intention. The person searching it wants information on creating a Facebook campaign, and since they don't already know how, it's probably their first time. So instead of creating one blog post for each, group them into one.
Grouping similar keywords also helps Google better understand the topic you’re writing about (thanks to Latent Semantic Indexing), which could take your pages higher in search results.
Once you’ve grouped your keywords, follow general best practices for writing 10x content. Make it bigger, better, and more action-packed than anything else available!
2. Optimize for on-page SEO.
You’ve got your blog post and you’re ready to see success in organic search. After all, you’ve done the hard work. Now it’s time to put your feet up, right?
Wrong. You need to do a bit more to rank highly for your long-tail keyword. It starts with optimizing your blog content for SEO.
In order for Google to understand what keyword you’re targeting (and what topic you’re discussing), you’ll need to add your long-tail keywords to:
- The page’s URL
- Meta title and description
- Heading tags
- Image alt text
- On-site content (body of your blog post)
(Here's a guide that covers each.) But it’s not as simple as stuffing the keyword in any ol’ place.
Successful SEO strategies focus on humans, rather than bots. Instead of cramming their long-tail keyword into places it doesn’t fit, they use the phrase naturally - just like you would if you were speaking to someone about it.
3. Test your headlines (article titles) for organic click-through rate.
Click-through rate (CTR) is a key factor in search engine algorithms. In Google’s eyes, a website with more click-throughs is more relevant to the searcher’s query, which is why you can peak in the SERPs by improving your organic CTR.
The easiest way to do this is to test your headlines and meta tags.
Before publishing your blog content, make a list of 10-15 headlines which include your key phrase. A few options for this article are:
- How (And Why) to Use Long-tail Keywords in SEO
- What Are Long-tail Keywords and Why Should I Use Them?
- 4 Tips for Optimizing Your Site for Long-tail Keywords
You can only use one headline at a time, but you ought to test a few over a period of months (maybe years) to see which is most effective.
A couple of months after you've tried one title, try another. Repeat until you either run through all your titles, or you've gotten really good results (like a 10% CTR).
4. Build backlinks with long-tail keywords in the anchor text.
Although these on-page SEO tactics will give you a head-start on your competitors, there’s one key off-page strategy that will really set you apart: link building.
Link building happens when you’re receiving links from other, relevant websites.
These backlinks are crucial for SEO - Google uses them as a reputation metric. Think about it, which one of these sites are you more likely to trust (and rank highly)?
- Option A: A site with 2 backlinks from spammy, low-quality websites.
- Option B: A site with 3,000+ backlinks from trustworthy, high-quality websites.
10 points if you guessed option B. Google would, too!
You can take your link building strategy a step further by building backlinks with long-tail keywords in your anchor text. Anchor text is the words or phrases used over the backlink - like anywhere you see blue text in this post.
Pptimized anchor text tells Google exactly what the linked-to page is all about. If you can sneak your long-tail keyword into the anchor text, you can be doubly-certain that your page will get an SEO boost.
Here’s how to do it:
- Find sites in your niche that accept guest blogs by searching: [INDUSTRY + “write for us”].
- Pitch a relevant, high-quality article to them.
- In your article, include a contextual backlink to your optimized blog post, with the long-tail keyword included in the anchor text.
For example, this article discussing how customer psychology can improve average order values links back to a site on my personal blog.
(FYI, the linked-to blog post’s keyword was “marketing psychology”, so it’s loosely-targeted in the anchor text.)
Not as tricky as you thought, right?
Now that you’ve found your long-tail keywords and have started targeting them in your blog content, you’re set to become an SEO pro. (Or at least to significantly boost your site's organic traffic.)
However, remember that SEO is a long-term game. You won't see results overnight, but don’t lose faith.
If you follow these four optimization steps (and put time into promoting your content), you’ll soon see the rankings you worked so hard to get.