Are keywords dead? Sure, there’s no denying semantic search and structured data markup are the way of the future, and that old school SEO strategies like keyword stuffing are about as useful these days as an 8-track tape player. Keywords themselves, however, are far from dead. Producing and publishing great content on your website doesn’t guarantee search traffic.
With so many different ways to say the same thing, choosing the right keyword phrases matters. In a world that’s drowning in content – we create an astonishing five exabytes of content each day – long tail keywords are your magic bullet for cutting through the clutter and connecting with the right audience.
Long tail keyword phrases are phrases that are four or more words and are highly specific to your business’s products or services. While these phrases may not generate high volumes of search traffic, they do generate high quality traffic, so you know the folks searching for them and finding your website are highly primed to take action. Half of all organic search links go to the first link, according to Search Engine Watch. But what about the other half? That’s a lot of traffic that’s still up for grabs! Organically integrating long-tail keyword phrases into your current website content is key to ranking higher in category search results and beating out the competition – even if you’re not the top result.
How to Identify Top Performing Long-tail Keywords
Do you know which phrases your customers are actually using when they search for the products or services offered by your business? Unless you’ve done your research, the answer is no. Consider this: let’s say you run an urgent care clinic and you want to target mothers who are searching for urgent care providers for their children. Which phrase would be better to use: “pediatric urgent care,” “walk-in urgent care for children” or “urgent care pediatrician?”
Now, let’s add your geographic location into the mix. Your urgent care clinic is based in Southlake, Texas, a popular Dallas suburb. Should you be using “Southlake pediatric urgent care” or “urgent care Southlake pediatrician?” Your clinic also sees a lot of patients from Grapevine, the community that neighbors Southlake. Should you include “Grapevine pediatric urgent care” in your content as well? The only way to know for sure is to conduct comprehensive long tail keyword research.
If you’re new to keyword research, Google Keyword Planner is a great starting point. Start with a seed keyword (e.g., “urgent care”) and enter this into Keyword Planner’s box for “Your product or service.” Next, click on the “keywords” tab to view all the keywords related to urgent care. Look for the most relevant keywords that match the produce or services you offer. Take these keywords and plug them back into the search box to generate long-tail variations.
In addition to helping narrow your focus down to the most popular and relevant phrases, Google Keyword Planner also provides valuable geographic segmentation, including data on a city-by-city level. The result: you’ll know whether “Grapevine pediatric urgent care” or “Southlake pediatric urgent care” (or maybe a different phrase altogether) is the right one for your content.
Identifying the phrases and search terms that are popular with your target audience will also help you gain a better understanding of who your customers are and what motivates them to search for your products and services online. This information is key to creating original, relevant and meaningful content.
How to Integrate Long Tail Keywords into Content
The authentic integration of long tail keywords into your content is key. Haphazardly inserting awkward phrasing isn’t going to cut it. This is especially true for the inclusion of long tail keyword phrases with geographic modifiers. Returning to our earlier urgent care example, let’s say the long tail phrase “pediatric urgent care clinic Southlake” ranked highly in Google’s list.
Unfortunately, that’s a pretty awkward phrase to organically include in written material. Keep this golden rule for long tail keyword best practices in mind: just because a phrase ranks highly, doesn’t mean it should be part of your content. Write for your audience first and search engines second. As Nate Dame argues, “user intent will forever inform keyword strategies.”
Long tail keyword integration is a smart SEO strategy only when you’re writing for your end user. With semantic search, Google is making a big push towards discerning user intent and then factoring this intent back into search results.
The good news is that decoding user is not a difficult process. In fact, if you’ve done your keyword research correctly, you should already have a clear idea of what your audience is looking for in searches and how to best create content that answers these questions. Still not sure? Google the long tail keyword phrases yourself and see what comes up on the search engine results page. The top results will give you a good idea of what information folks consider most valuable – and that’s exactly what your content marketing program needs to be creating.
Have you had recent success with long tail keywords? Let us know what worked for you in the comments!