SEO Tricks & Tips: The Benefits of Long-Tail Keywords | premiumwd
SEO / Tips & Tricks

SEO Tricks & Tips: The Benefits of Long-Tail Keywords

by chris rodriguez on February 19, 2016

Everyone knows just how hard it is to rank for high-traffic keywords on Google and other search engines. The established players with lots of traffic, lots of backlinks, and lots of content tend to have a higher search engine results page (SERP) score, meaning they rank highly on the first page. This position inevitably leads to something like a "feedback effect," generating them more traffic, more backlinks, and allowing them to push more content to users. Much like real-world markets, we'll be focusing on long-tail keywords for our discussion.

Fortunately, dedicated attention to what are known as "long-tail keywords," infrequent searches used to find the same information as popular keywords, can help a website gain traction against a dominant market player. If you do not currently make use of an intensive long-tail strategy, believe your current program could use some fine-tuning, or simply want to keep up with the current of SEO best-practices, then read on.

Credit: Union Street Media

Why Long-Tail Keywords?

Simply put, popular keywords are difficult to rank for. Established players generate more and more traffic due to their market position, further entrenching their position. If you are to challenge these sites on popular keywords, your website need to not only be optimized for them, it also needs to gain ground elsewhere to increase its score enough to pose a real threat.

While large sites often purchase large PPC campaigns for popular keywords or optimize their site specifically for a handful of terms, they usually ignore those keywords that are searched less frequently by users looking for the same information as those searching the popular keywords. By ranking highly on a number of long-tail keywords, an upstart website can begin to grow the metrics that will give it a higher authority ranking, and thus a higher SERP score even for popular keywords.

Auto-Complete & Related Searches

The first stop for any long-tail keyword campaign is Google's search bar. After typing in popular keywords that you would eventually like your site to rank for, Google will begin to auto-complete the search with related terms, or sometimes whole phrases. Note these down and then proceed to try surrounding the popular keywords with combinations of different letters, e.g. "$searchterm a", "$searchterm b" and so on. More suggestions will appear, which you should also write down.

Another useful feature of Google's search engine is its "related searches" function. Search not only popular keywords, but also any long-tail keywords you have found, and then see if any related searches seem fruitful.

Both of these steps should be repeated for other search engines such as Microsoft's Bing.com.

Culling the List

The above method will undoubtedly leave you with an incredibly large list of potential long-tail keywords -- so long, in fact, that it would probably be impossible for you to try and rank for them all. To cull the list to a more manageable size, use Google's Keyword Planner to analyze how much traffic each potential long-tail keyword generates each month. Some keywords will probably turn out to be either popular keywords in their own right or so rarely searched that it is not worth the effort to try and rank for them. Those that have high traffic but low competition, however, are the long-tail gems which you can be highly successful at optimizing your website for.

Google Analytics

While auto-complete and related searches are good for sites that have not yet received much traffic, Google offers analytics of existing websites which can help to determine whether or not users are already finding your website through some long-tail keywords. Look for what popular user-queries led to your site and then see if you have any pages optimized for them. If you don't, be sure to add content specifically tailored to rank highly for them.

Real World Example

For example, if one were trying to rank their dentistry practice located in Portland, Oregon, the first step would be to look at popular keywords in Google. Typing "portland dentist" into the search bar auto-completes with both "portland dentist open saturday" and "portland dentist practice."

By going to Google's Keyword Planner and testing both of these terms, we see that the former receives only 10 hits per month, yet it has a high level of competition -- this is not the kind of long-tail keyword one wants. "Portland dentist practice," however, returns 170 hits per month and has low competition. This makes it a viable long-tail keyword that one might want to rank for.

The more specific your business' niche, the lower the hits-per-month on each long-tail keyword you might be willing to settle for -- the number from the example above ought not to be taken as gospel. For Internet businesses these long-tail keywords can average around 1,000 hits per month, while retail businesses are significantly lower.

Just remember: the more long-tail keywords you can rank for, the better a chance you have at overcoming the market incumbents.

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