How to Do Keyword Research That Helps You Choose Long Tail Keywords

18 April 2017

Long tail keywords are those longer phrases that people use when search for information about a topic. They typically consist of three of four words or more, and often feel like a question. Phrases like, “how to get blood out of a carpet” and “where is good place to hide a body” are great examples.

To their detriment, businesses often ignore long tail keywords when planning their SEO strategies and tend to focus on common short phrases that epitomise their product or service, such as “carpet cleaning” or “cold storage”. This article will show you why that’s a mistake, before providing a useful start-up methodology for incorporating long tail keywords into your inbound marketing practices.

Why Long Tail Keywords Matter

When mapped onto a graph, the relationship between keywords and volume of searches produces an exponential, downward-sloping curve. This means that a small group of keywords attracts a huge amount of traffic, while —as more (and increasingly specific) keywords are used— the amount of SEO-driven traffic falls away sharply.

Many inbound marketing companies interpret this data as evidence to focus on optimising content so that they can cash in on high-volume keywords. However, they often do so at the total expense of the relevant long tail keywords available to them. Let’s have a closer look at why that counts as a missed opportunity.

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The Keyword Market is Overcrowded

It goes without saying that high search volume keywords mean high competition. However, search engine algorithms favour large companies who already have significant market penetration. They benefit from a virtuous cycle where their stature gives them high search engine visibility, which drives traffic to their websites and further increases their stature.

Their domination means that your methodology for penetrating the search engine market needs to be multifaceted. Instead of simply hoping that your high-volume keywords will out-compete your larger competitors (spoiler alert: they won’t), including optimised content to target long tail keywords can prove a fruitful way to hone in on specific, niche markets.

Long Tail Keywords Provide a Way Out

Long tail keywords are a collection of specific, lengthier phrases that help SEO specialists improve their site’s google ranking over industry competitors.

Long tail keywords also provide inordinately high conversion rates. This makes sense if you think about it: anyone who is so invested in a topic that they will search using highly specific ‘long tail’ terms is—in all likelihood—motivated to take the next step when they exactly what they’re looking for.

For example, let’s say you’re the owner of a vintage furniture store in Dublin. Now, looking to rank for high-value keywords, such as “furniture store” or “vintage furniture stores”, will see you competing in a large pool of companies selling furniture.

However, strategically augmenting high-ranking keywords with long tail iterations such as “vintage furniture in Dublin area” or “high quality vintage furniture” will go along way to capture those specific keywords many of your personas use in conjunction with high ranking ones.

Finding Great Long Tail Keywords

Let’s be clear: Google doesn’t just drive the SEO industry, it is the SEO industry. When we talk about SEO optimisation, that means optimisation for Google. When we talk about increasing visibility, a key part of this goal refers to being seen on Google.

To peek behind the curtain and see how the magic happens in Google Land, you need to sign up for an AdWords account. This is a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising service that has the enormous side benefit of providing metrics for keyword searches, including their frequency and competitiveness (i.e. how many rival business are also using those keywords).

There are alternatives, such as Keyword Tool, Ubersuggest, and Searchmetrics, but, whichever platform (or combination of platforms) you use, remember that you’re going to be using it ‘back to front’, in a sense. Instead of focusing on the high-ranking terms, you’re going to trawl through the possibilities until you find terms that attract only about 5-10 unique searches a month. You can capitalise on these by optimising content for your website to target these rare long tail keyword searches.

How Do I Optimise My Content For Long Tail Keywords?

This is, of course, a huge and complicated question that involves many different components, each of which needs to be adapted to fit your particular business’s needs and your overall inbound marketing strategy.

The following are the four best practices for optimising content for long tail keywords:

Search Frequency: Remember, in this instance, you’re not looking to cash in on the high-ranking, popular keywords. You’re actively seeking out ones that get a consistent amount of low-frequency searches.

Competitiveness: These low-frequency searches shouldn’t have a lot of competition. Don’t fall for any that have low-frequency rankings, but are highly competitive. That’s not solving your problem, it’s only making it worse.

Usefulness: Let’s imagine that you’ve successfully created some content that manages to attract a few of these ultra-specific searches. Well done! The key question is: does this content actually provide value to the user who has entered the search term? You’re not dealing with the mass market when using long tail keywords: this is niche stuff, and your content needs to address the actual needs of the potential customer who has sought it out.

Relevance: Your content must relate to the long tail keyword you’ve employed. This isn’t about pandering to the Google algorithm or trying to boost your SEO ranking by catching a few rare searches on the side. This is about business: capitalising on niche customers who actively seeks out content that you can provide.

This list says nothing about the standard best SEO practices you need to follow: integrated social advertising campaign, creating a network of online partners, etc. But since long tail keywords are a key part of any great SEO strategy, they’re a key part of what we do here at Storm ID.

Chat to us if you’d like some help getting started or download our “How to Run an Inbound Marketing Campaign” checklist to ensure your campaign is on point.

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