Ranking well for common, general keywords is tough, especially if your business is new or small. If you want to increase your traffic and conversions more quickly (and with less effort), using long-tail keywords is the way to go. While choosing the right long-tail keywords isn’t always easy, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, either. Below outlines examples and tips on choosing keywords that get you results.
First, What Are Long-Tail Keywords?
Long-tail keywords are keywords that don’t get searched as much as other, more popular terms; usually, because they are very specific. Most long-tail keywords are at least three words long, however, length itself doesn’t define whether a keyword is considered long-tail or not.
Long-tail keywords are usually much easier to rank for than general keywords, which are sometimes called “head keywords.” If your site is new, or if you’re not highly ranked right now, it can take years of hard work and continuous improvement to rank for a head keyword like “coffee” or “marketing.” By targeting less frequently searched terms, such as “make filter coffee at home” or “content marketing for software companies,” you can get on Google’s first page much more easily.
Long-tail keywords take their name from a graph of Google’s search results. A few terms (the “head” of the graph) are searched frequently, but the majority of searches (the “tail” of the graph) are for longer and more obscure keywords. Here’s a great illustration from Moz that sums it up well:
Long-tail keywords aren’t searched much individually, but taken together, they make up the majority of search traffic.
Why Long-Tail Keywords Are Key for Boosting Traffic and Conversions
By targeting long-tail keywords instead of head keywords, you’re more likely to bring in visitors who are interested in your site, product, or service for a couple of reasons:
- It Is Easier to Rank. First and foremost, it’s easier to rank for long-tail keywords. There is a ton of competition for common head keywords, but much less for specific long-tail keywords. For instance, it’s hard to rank for “sushi,” but easier to rank for “vegan sushi restaurant chicago.”
- More Targeted Audience. Second, because long-tail keywords tend to be very specific, someone who searches for one is probably ready to make a purchase or commitment. They already know what they want; they just need to find it. Someone who searches for a general keyword, on the other hand, might just be doing preliminary research or weighing all their options. Of the two searchers, the first is the one you want on your site.
- Less Expensive Advertising. If you use Google AdWords, long-tail keywords will also help you get more bang for your advertising buck. Competitive keywords tend to have a high cost per click, but keywords with a lower search volume are both cheaper and more targeted.
How Can You Find the Right Long-Tail Keywords?
Now that you know why long-tail keywords matter, how can you start using them? Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for finding long-tail keywords that will draw in traffic and conversions, and you may have to try a number of keywords before you find one that clicks. However, there are some principles you can use to create good lists of keywords to try:
Know Your Unique Selling Proposition
To find keywords that pay off for you, start by thinking about your business. Ask yourself what makes your product or service uniquely desirable or useful. What kind of people need what you’re offering? Why should they choose you over your competitors?
Keep these unique benefits in mind when you choose your long-tail keywords. Ideally, your keywords should highlight what you do best and why you’re different from the competition. That will help you reach searchers who need what you’re selling. Remember, the more unique the fewer viewers, but it’s the conversions that matter.
Use Tools to Find Lists of Potential Keywords
There are a number of online tools you can use to find lists of long-tail keywords in your niche. Google AdWords Keyword Planner is a good place to start. To use this tool, log into your AdWords account and look for “Keyword Planner” under the Tools tab.
After that, select the option to search for keywords by phrase, website, or category.
Type in your product or service. You can include other parameters like category or location if you want to for an even more targeted search for even for long-tail keyword ideas.
The tool will generate a list of keywords for you. It also tells you how much AdWords competition there is for each keyword and how much you can expect to pay per click. Even if you’re not planning to run an AdWords campaign, this gives you a good idea of how much each keyword is worth and how difficult it will be to rank for each keyword in organic results.
Google’s keyword planner is the best place to start, but there are a number of other helpful keyword-generating tools around the web, too. If you need more ideas, try these sites, all of which are free to use:
Use Other Methods to Expand Your Keyword Lists
Keyword tools can give you lots of good ideas, but don’t stop there. A little old-fashioned digging can help you come up with long-tail keywords that you might not be able to find in online generators. Here are some other places you can look.
1. Look at Google’s autocomplete feature. When you start typing something into Google’s search box, it will show you a drop-down list of terms people are searching for. Add extra words to your search term to generate more possibilities, or add an extra letter after your search term to see different autocompleted keywords.
For instance, if you’re looking for long-tail keywords related to content marketing, you might type something like “best content marketing p” into the search box and get the following list of suggestions:
Here’s a tip: if you don’t want to look through Google’s autocomplete suggestions by hand, try using keywordtool.io. This free tool generates autocomplete keywords for you.
2. Look at related search terms. Try searching for either a head keyword or one of your long-tail keywords, and see what kind of related searches Google suggests at the bottom of the page.
For instance, if you search for the keyword “content marketing for businesses,” you might also want to use related keywords like “small business content” and “benefits of content marketing.”
3. Look at what people are saying about your topic on the Internet. Visit message boards and forums related to your topic, and pay attention to the questions people are asking. Consider borrowing entire questions or phrases as your long-tail keywords.
For instance, a search for content marketing on Quora might inspire you to use the long-tail keywords “beginner mistakes in content marketing” and “examples of corporate marketing.”
Keep User Intent in Mind
After you’ve made a list of long-tail keywords you might want to use, go over them again and think about why people would search for those terms. What are they hoping to find? What stage of the buying process are they at? When you use your keyword on your site, make sure your content provides the information those searchers are looking for.
Whatever you do, don’t use long-tail keywords that aren’t a good fit, even if you think they’ll be easy to rank for. Visitors will be annoyed if your site or product doesn’t actually address their needs when they get there.
Using Long-Tail Keywords Effectively
Finding good long-tail keywords is only half the battle. Once you’ve chosen your keywords, you’ve got to use them the right way. While this topic could be an article on its own, here are a few tips that will get you off to a good start with your new keywords.
- Use your keywords naturally. This is probably the most important thing to keep in mind. Some keywords may not be easy to use in a sentence, so you might have to get creative with punctuation or adjust your keyword a little.
- If you can, include your long-tail keywords (and variants of them) in your page’s title, headers, and sub-headers. Use it in your first paragraph, too – preferably in your first sentence.
- If your keyword won’t fit somewhere like a header, though, don’t worry too much. It’s better to keep your copy natural and grammatically correct than to force a keyword in where it sticks out like a sore thumb. Use your keyword where you can, but don’t sacrifice your content’s usefulness and readability.
Keywords may not be everything in the SEO world anymore, but they’re still a crucial part of good SEO. If you haven’t been ranking well for head keywords, switch your focus to long-tail keywords instead. Once you find keywords that work for you, you could see a ranking boost (and a corresponding traffic boost) within a week or two.
How do you find profitable long-tail keywords? Tell us about your strategy in the comment section below!