In the digital marketing world, the following saying continues to ring true, Content is King! After all, in order to find new customers, they must find you. This means, you must pay to play and engage in serious paid search marketing (aka Google Ads) or invest in search engine optimization to appear in search results (aka SERPs). As a result, search terms remain at the core of all digital marketing activities. However, for new sites or existing sites looking to re-engage, the main search terms are highly competitive. Plus, in most (if not every) industry, there is an 800 pound gorilla that captures the most prominent terms. For example, how is a local accounting firm going to compete against H&R Block? The answer, long tail keywords (and local SEO).
What are long tail keywords?
Long tail keywords are detailed search terms. For example, in accounting, then tax prep or accountant would be considered main keywords. A local or small accounting firm would find it very difficult to create organic content that would outrank H&R Block (or general information from sites like Wikipedia). However, terms like tax prep for freelancers or tax prep for small businesses in Farmington would be long tail keywords.
Generally, long tail keywords take more time and effort to develop. Conversely, these terms are more relevant and tend to be closer to the point of purchase. For example, potential customers looking to gain information start with main keywords as they conduct their research. As they move down the funnel, they start searching for more specific bits of information.
Enter long tail keywords!
How to Identify Long Tail Keywords
Conducting long tail keyword research mirrors the routine keyword research process. The main difference resides in seeking for some of the lower search queries. As a reminder, conducting SEO keyword research follows a fairly routine process.
Identify Competitors and Publishers
You know your main competitors, but look for your “smart” competitors that appear in more search terms than the size of their business. Every industry has a leader and it is likely, they appear in lots of SERPs due to brand recognition. Look for the competitors that are outkicking their coverage and research their activities and target keywords.
Check Site Authority
Narrow down your list of competitors and focus on the sites and/or blogs with the highest domain and page authority. These form the core of your online marketing competition and you’ll want to find niche long tail keywords that will outrank the content on these sites. After all, the main objective is to increase the power of your site and drive more traffic to your site. In turn, more relevant traffic means more customers. Plus, as your site power grows, you’ll see an increase in traffic for your main keywords.
Identify Relevant & Related Topics
At the core of any successful SEO content strategy is keyword research because it remains one of the most effective methods for identifying and developing blog topics. This step is the crux of identifying long tail keywords as well. It requires lots of manual work and planning thinking about content ideation that aligns with your initial data pull. For example, while conducting your keyword research and noted topics on competitor sites (along with your own ideas), note some of the following:
- Gauging Demand – look for keywords with significant and proven search demand.
- Understanding Intent – reviewing search queries provide insights into whether searchers are gathering information, trying to solve a problem or looking for a product.
- Measuring Difficulty – each search query has different search volume, so measuring the difficulty of terms helps understand if you can outrank competitors.
Match Keyword Research to Blog Topics
Finally, map the keywords to potential topics. To help, create a content calendar and list some actual blog topics. Interestingly, people conduct searches for two main reasons:
- To find information.
- To make transactions.
Yes, people search to buy something or find something out. In fact, about 80% of search queries are informational, where the users are looking for facts or answers to a question. Most of these search queries relate to main keywords. However, if you find a long tail keyword that is also informational, then that is a golden term and really create a detailed post around it.
Tools to Find Long Tail Keywords
Like everything in the digital marketing world, there are plenty of long tail keyword tools that help SEOers and content marketers find these magical terms. Any platform that offers SEO solutions likely includes keyword features, which by default include long tail keyword tools. However, these are some of the most used and helpful keyword tools on the market.
Ground zero of keyword research remains the Google Keyword Planner. After all, marketers are taking all of this effort to improve SERPs and Google is the main search engine. To start, log in to Google Ads and navigate to Keyword Planner under Tools. Enter up to 10 main keywords and Keyword Planner populates the search volume and competition (along with average CPC). Depending on the initial search terms, Google provides an exhaustive list and even suggested Ad Groups, which allow for additional filtering of individual search terms. Finally, although the competition relates to paid search, it offers a decent indicator of organic success.
Moz offers a variety of SEO products that help marketers understand the strengths and weaknesses of their sites. In particular, the Keyword Explorer starts as a free SEO tool that provides an organic difficulty ranking. For finding long tail keywords, understanding the difficulty makes a huge difference because the more difficulty, the more effort. And, with long tail keywords lacking significant search volume, marketers want to find less difficult terms. Additionally, Keyword Explorer also offers related terms, so you can start to build out your long term keyword content.
SEMRush is one of the leading search and marketing tools available today. Although the platform offers a range of features, the software powers a lot of keyword research. For example, the software analyzes over 120 million keywords and 39 million domains making it an ideal starting point for keyword research. Simply type the term you want to rank for in the search bar. SEMRush provides a keyword overview that shows search trends, CPC, and organic search volume, in addition to phrase match keywords, related keywords, organic search results, and the ads that appear for the term you entered.
Another simple, yet powerful search tool is Autocomplete. As we all know, Google automatically populates suggested search terms. In the digital marketing world, we can leverage this free SEO tool to find long tail keywords. Simply enter the main or seed term and review what Google suggests. For a more effective search, clear your browsing history or use Incognito mode because your personal search history will impact the results. Additionally, use some intro phrases like Why does X or How does Y in order to help drive more unique search phrases.
How to Create a Long Tail Keyword Strategy
Creating a long tail keyword strategy extends your current SEO activities. To start, the bulk of your site likely includes the best available main keywords. For example, successful SEO strategies would leverage high search terms as part of their on-page SEO for the home page, along with service and/or product pages. Additionally, the blog should cover the main keywords. However, extending blog topics into long tail keywords is a terrific use of developing your keyword strategy. Alternatively, if you are a local company, then creating town pages is another example of leveraging long tail keywords.
As part of routine keyword research, we recommend seeking “sweet spots.” Essentially, terms with significant search volume and limited competition (or difficulty). Generally, in seeking content around main keywords, we recommend terms with at least 1K monthly search terms and low to medium competition, along with more advanced keyword research takes a step further and determines the keyword difficulty. However, extending this strategy into long tail keywords naturally means reducing the minimum search volume.
Instead of targeting terms over 1K monthly searches, reduce the threshold to terms with at least 100 monthly searches. Likewise, look for difficulty metrics that are also less competitive as well.
Ultimately, finding the sweet spot balances art and science.
Next, map the identified long tail keywords to potential blog topics or additional pages on the site (if applicable). For reference, many long tail keywords yield themselves nicely to glossary style blog posts. Or, if you are in a niche field with lots of potential terms, create a main glossary page with one sentence definitions and even link out to the longer posts! For example, healthcare, insurance and finance companies may find this strategy useful because many of the core activities don’t lend themselves to blogs due to privacy concerns.
Developing potential topics based on competitors results, along with your ideas remains formulaic. Keyword research tools provide rankings, search volumes and related terms that provide a foundation for potential topics. For example, if your competitor ranks well for XYZ, but the Keyword Planner tool shows a related ABC topic, then add it to your list. If you develop an equally informative piece of content on the related term, then it will help drive traffic to your site and take traffic away from your competitor.
Finally, identifying long tail keywords remains very similar to finding main or seed keywords. However, a long tail keyword strategy elevates your current on-page SEO and content marketing strategy by adding more relevant content to your site. Additionally, these more niche terms are more consumer driven and generally these search terms target customers closer to making a purchase decision. As a result, long tail keyword strategies help gain more visibility, increase your site power and find more ready to buy customers!