Ranking a website for competitive (head) keywords has been almost impossible for small businesses. It could take months or years to see meaningful movement within the SERPs. But, times are changing in SEO.
With the explosive growth of mobile voice search, Google has shifted towards a more ‘conversational search model’. This has fueled the growth of long tail keywords, which now make up over 70% of all search queries.
What are long tail keywords?
A targeted search phrase consisting of three or more keywords. This search phrase will typically contain a more generic head keyword phrase. For example:
Head term: boat lights
Long tail term: buy underwater led boat lights
The difference between someone searching for “boat lights” and “buy underwater led boat lights” is this:
- When a user searches for “boat lights” you have practically no idea what their intention is. Do they want to buy a set of boat lights? Are they researching lights? Maybe they’re writing a paper on boat lights. You get the picture. We have no idea where they are in the buying cycle.
- When a user searches for “buy underwater led boat lights”, the user intent is crystal clear. This person is at the bottom of the buying cycle: their research is complete and they are ready to make a purchase. Content should be positioned towards making the final sale.
Why should you target long tail keywords?
- Targeted traffic and higher conversions
- Less competitive (easier to rank for)
- Limit risk in the SERPs
- Less expensive for PPC bidding
So, we know that long tail keywords should be the core of any online marketing campaign. But, how do we find these profitable long tail keywords? That’s what we’re about to cover.
- How to unearth hundreds of profitable long tail keywords
- How to assess the commercial intent of long tail keywords
- How to determine keyword competition
- How to leverage your competitors for profitable long tail keywords
- How to do it all without spending a penny
Lets jump in.
#1: SEO Search Terms Tagging Plugin
The SEO Search Terms Tagging Plugin automatically lists the exact search terms people used to arrive on a site. To date, this WordPress plugin has been downloaded over 466,000 times.
How do we use this plugin to uncover long tail keyword opportunities? By spying on our competitors, of course.
By entering a simple search string we can find the exact keywords that users are entering to find your competitor’s websites.
For example, when someone searches for “bed bugs” and lands on a given webpage the incoming search terms will be listed as shown below:
As you can see, you’ve already been able to unearth some targeted long tail keywords.
Here’s how to do it.
Head over to Google and enter the following search string “incoming search terms.”
Next, find a page that has list of incoming search terms.
Make a list of the search terms and use them as seed keywords in Google’s Keyword Planner:
Then, hit “get ideas” and navigate over to the “keyword” ideas tab. You will then see a list of long tail keyword ideas along with the competition level:
Focus on long tail keyword variations with a low to medium competition level.
#2: Search Terms Report
Another way to find a boat load of long tail keyword ideas is to leverage the Google AdWords paid search terms report. Once again, you’ll be able to see a list of the exact search terms people used to find your paid ads.
Here’s how to do it.
Open up your AdWords account and select an ad group related to the keywords you are researching:
Next, select the “Keywords” tab:
Hit “all search terms” from the “details” dropdown:
You will see a report listing all the search queries that triggered your paid text ads. This should expose you to some unique keyword variations.
Bonus tip: Make a list of your competitors that users are searching for. Then, build a competitor comparison chart that highlights how your offering beats the competition. This type of content is very powerful when positioned towards users in the middle of the buying cycle (research focused).
#3: Google Keyword Tool (with a twist)
Google’s Keyword Tool is the most popular tool when it comes to keyword research. However, many marketers and small business owners fail to use the tool to its full potential.
Think about this. A company that sells boat lights will likely head over to the Google Keyword Planner and type in a keyword they think their customers might use to find their product online, like “boat lights.”
Here’s what the tool returns:
As you can see, there are no surprises here. Each keyword is a close variation to the term “boat lights” we originally entered.
Further, these are the exact same keywords your competitors are seeing. Google wants this because if everyone is seeing the same keywords, then they are going to be more competitive, which will in turn increase the bidding costs associated with each those keywords. More revenue for Google.
Luckily, there are a few ways you can leverage this tool to uncover unique low compeition keywords that many of your competitors are missing.
Here’s how to do it.
First, head over to the Google Keyword planner and enter the URL of one your competitor’s landing pages into the “your landing page” field:
Hit “get ideas.”
Now, you will see a completely different list of keywords to the set of generic results you received from the initial keyword search.
These keywords are much more targeted. Someone searching for “underwater led lights for boats” is a perfect example of a long tail search whereby the user’s intent is very clear.
The best part, most of your competitors are not seeing these keyword variations.
Rinse and repeat for your top five competitors.
Bonus Tip: Head over to Pinterest and type in a generic term related to the product or service you are selling:
Next, copy and paste the URL of the Pinterest page into the Google Keyword Planner:
As you can see, we’ve managed to uncover some more targeted long tail keyword variations that most of your competitors are missing out on:
#4: Google Analytics
Even with Google’s recent “not provided” keyword encryption, you can still use Google Analytics to find some great seed keywords.
The best part, these are the actual search terms people are using to find your website.
Here’s how to do it.
Log into your Google Analytics account and navigate to the “Acquisition” tab.
Select “keywords” and then “organic.”
The majority of the keywords will display as “not provided”, however Google Analytics will still return additional long tail search terms users have entered to find your site.
Again, some new terms are surfacing:
As you can see, the term “underwater fishing lights” receives a thousand monthly searches. After a little research, you’ll learn that underwater led boat lights are fantastic for attracting fish to your boat at night. Booyah, you just found yourself another niche to tap into.
Now, use “underwater fishing lights” as a seed keyword to find additional long tail keyword variations:
Further, do a Google search with this search term and enter the URLs of the sites ranked on the first page back into the “landing page URL” field in the Google Keyword Planner.
Bonus Tip: If you have site search enabled, look at the “Site Search” >> “Search Terms” report to identify which keywords users are entering to find content on your site:
This report is great for identifying content weaknesses on your site. If you find a popular site search keyword, optimize a page on your site for that keyword, or add it to your FAQs page.
SEMrush is great because unlike the other tools mentioned in this post, it allows you to see which keywords your competitors are ranking for. These keywords are practically impossible to uncover anywhere else.
But, it doesn’t stop there. SEMrush also allows you to see which paid keywords your competitors are bidding on. This is valuable because it gives insight into the search terms your competitors view as having higher “commercial intent”.
After all, why would a business pay for keywords they didn’t think would lead to a conversion and positive ROI?
Here’s how to do it.
Head over to SEMrush and enter your competitor’s home page URL into the search box at the top of the page:
SEMrush allows you to filter results by country:
Click search and take a look at the “organic keywords” data:
The keywords overview will give you a list of the top 5 keywords your competitor is ranking for. To get more results , click the “view full report” button and you’ll get a list of all the keywords your competitor is ranking for:
This report will give a bunch of long tail keyword ideas. But, you can take it to another level by clicking the “competitors” link under the “organic research” tab.
This will give you a list of your top competitors in the organic search results:
Click on each of your top competitors and see which keywords they are ranking for. There will be a lot of overlap, but you’ll be able to find some new long tail keyword opportunities.
Another way you can leverage the tool is to enter a seed keyword instead of a domain into the top search box:
SEMrush will return a both a “phrase match” and “related keywords” report:
The “phrase match” report will return a list of long tail search terms that include the seed keyword(s) you entered in your original query. The “related keywords” report will return a list of long tail search terms that include keywords semantically close to the keyword your seed query. As you can see, the “related keywords” allows you to greatly expand you target keyword list. For example, “led boat lights” returns “marine led lights”, “waterproof led lights” and “nautical lights”. Use these terms as seed keywords to expand the list even further.
These reports will give you a competitive edge for two reasons:
1. You will get a list of related long tail keywords the Google Keyword Planner does not suggest
2. You can see the CPC bids for each keyword, which will indicate the level of commercial intent
But, it doesn’t stop there.
SEMrush also allows you to see which keywords your competitors are targeting in their paid search campaigns. This is great for assessing the commercial intent of the keywords you have found.
First, copy the URL of a competitor that is running a paid search campaign:
Enter the URL into the top search bar.
In the “paid advertising” report you’ll see the number keywords your competitor is bidding on:
Now, go through the list and identify any new long tail search terms.
Drill into the paid keywords report and you’ll able to view keyword-related search volume, paid search rank, cost-per-click, competitive density, as well as the landing page URL used for each keyword:
This will help you further assess the commercial intent of keywords – higher CPCs generally mean the keyword is more competitive and profitable – as well as identify the types of content your competitors are using to funnel users through the different stages of the buying cycle.
As with the “organic keywords” report, you can also view a list of top competitors running paid search campaigns. Click on each competitor and see if you can uncover additional long tail search terms with high commercial intent.
#6: Promediacorp Suggester Tool
Promediacorp Suggester is a great way to scale Google’s “suggested keyword” results.
Normally, when you enter a search query into Google you will see a list of suggested search terms:
These suggestions are generated based on the most frequently searched terms.
Although Google Suggest is a great way to uncover long tail keywords, it typically only provides a handful of results.
If you want to scale this technique, head over to Promediacorp Suggester and enter a seed keyword:
You will then see a comprehensive list of “suggested” long tail search terms. Pay close attention to the keywords with a higher degree of commercial intent:
Next, take the keywords and enter the into the Google Keyword Planner.
Check the “competition” and “suggested bid” metrics. The higher the competition and suggested bid, the higher the commercial intent the search term:
Note: The “competition” metric is not reflection of organic competition, but rather how many people are competing for the keyword in paid search. The “suggested bid” metric is an estimation of how much an advertisers should pay per click. Therefore, “suggested bid” is a strong indicator of how valuable a search term is.
That’s it for the first half of my article. Tomorrow, I’ll have SIX MORE ways for you to uncover profitable long-tail keywords.
Robbie Richards is a digital marketing strategist at Royal Jay, a custom software development company located in Boise, Idaho. Robbie specializes in SEO, PPC, CRO and social media marketing. He’s a scratch golfer, and writes about SEM at robbierichards.com.