Here’s how to leverage long-tail keywords for your SEO
When it comes to improving your SEO, you should be reaching for every opportunity you can. For most people, one of the first things they’ll think to do is to find keywords that have a high search volume. However, as most people know, this can make you a small fish in a very large pond. We’d all like to think that we’re able to compete with huge websites for high- or medium-volume keywords that are usually more generic terms, but it doesn’t usually pan out that way. Fortunately, there are a few simpler ways of ranking higher, including using more specific, long-tail keywords as primary keyword targets.
While it might be tempting to overlook long-tail keywords that have a lower search volume, they could be exactly what your SEO needs. These keywords might get less attention than broad keywords that more people are searching for. As you make high volume search keywords more specific, the number of people searching for those terms is likely to decrease. Since longer tail has a lower search volume, there’s naturally going to be less competition over them. Depending on what industry you’re in, you might have no choice other than to go after niche and long-tail keywords. The good news is that focusing on longer tail keywords allows the vast majority of businesses to set realistic expectations with regard to SEO success.
Don’t let the potential of these keywords pass you by. To get the full benefit of long-tail keywords, you do have to be a bit clever when you use them.
1. Appeal to local searches
Local business owners will be able to get far more out of utilizing long-tail keywords than they would with broad ones. Most local businesses struggle to compete with large companies for broad keywords; there are always going to be those industry giants that no one can overthrow in the SERPs.
Whether via Google Maps or Google Search virtually everyone looks up a local business before going to the physical location. When your searching for businesses near you, you might simply say something like “restaurants near me.” Alternatively, you might specify what you’re looking for by using local-intent keywords such as your city, zip code or even your state. Searching for a business before going there or before making a purchase has become a natural instinct for most people.
Almost half of all Google searches are local searches, and 76% of people who made a local search on a smartphone visited a business nearby within 24 hours. Since the chances of someone searching for a local business are strong, it would be in your best interest to go after local-intent keywords. If you own a car wash, using “car wash” will put you up against more competition, and much of it isn’t relevant to your users. It isn’t beneficial for you or the user to use broad keywords to appeal to a local audience. By choosing keywords that are geared towards your city and surrounding areas, competition will tend to decrease. Not only will you be competing with fewer results, but the searches you get will also have a good chance of being more qualified than someone searching broad terms. These are people who are already interested in patronizing a business near them, so if you can become more visible in local searches, you could easily see new customers starting to come in.
2. Focus on intent keywords
When compiling long-tail keyword research for your site’s SEO content, be sure to include “intent keywords.” Intent keywords are often commercial in nature and tend to represent the later stage of a sales funnel.
Whenever you’re looking to buy something online, you’re likely doing at least a little research before making a decision. Prior to online searchers reaching any final purchasing decision, they’ll go through the buyer’s journey for the information they need. This is when people begin to gravitate more toward long-tail keywords to get more specific results for a service or product they’re interested in. The right keywords will reflect what people are searching for during this journey. At first, people might search for something general, like “black turtleneck,” which would have a high search volume but is too competitive for you to rank for. Getting further into the journey, people are likely to get more specific with their searches, going for long-tail keywords such as “ribbed” or “cashmere black turtlenecks.” Eventually, they’ll narrow it down to the best ribbed black turtlenecks, the cheapest or ones that are on sale.
Intent keywords such as “best,” “cheapest” and “discount” will have a lower search volume, but the few people who are searching for them can be worth much more than a larger, less interested audience. As the searches get more and more specific with intent keywords, search volume will decrease, but the searches that a keyword does get will be more valuable. With fewer searches, you can end up having a better chance at ranking higher when people are closer to the end of their journey.
A good practice to get into is to check your organic traffic in Google Analytics regularly. See what keywords are leading people to your site, and to what pages specifically. Then check out those landing pages to see what worked to get users there. After that, maybe have a look at your low-traffic web pages that you’re hoping start to rank higher soon. Why aren’t they being found? How can you optimize them? If you can think like a human, you can likely figure out user intent from your ranking keywords. But those low-traffic pages probably aren’t addressing those intentions. Use the lessons you’ve learned about intent keywords on higher-traffic pages to fix up your pages still languishing without much traffic.
3. Use conversational language for long-tail keywords
It doesn’t matter if you’re asking Alexa to play a song or using Siri to find a place to eat, no one can deny the importance of voice searches. The ability to search verbally for something has likely made your daily life easier, but it might be causing some problems for your SEO. For years, voice searches have been making people in the SEO world feel uneasy. The fear is that they will take over consumer behavior and leave all traditionally optimized websites in the dust of the results you can get from a super-specific long-tail voice query. Of course, this isn’t necessarily true, as I have argued before here. However, as time goes on, it will be necessary for us to adjust to the changes happening in a digital community that is increasingly relying on voice searches to find websites.
The way people search for something verbally is going to have different verbiage than the way they would have had they typed it. Because of this, SEOs will have to rethink the way they choose keywords if they want to rank for voice searches.
For you to compete, you’re going to have to start using long-tail keywords. These keywords will be more conversational, as the person will actually be asking questions as they would to another person. Most voice searches are also local searches, which gives you even more of a reason to prioritize long-tail keywords with local intent. It’s important to keep in mind that you’ll have to create content that has the chance of ranking for both voice searches and traditional typed searches. Traditional searches are still going strong, so you don’t want to alienate those users to appeal only to people doing voice searches.
Long-tail keywords are a great example of the maxim that nothing should be overlooked when it comes to improving your SEO. They might not be the first thing to catch the eye of a busy SEO. But with the appropriate amount of work, long-tail keywords can give you an easy and relatively straightforward way of earning the higher ranking you’re already pursuing.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
About The Author
Kristopher Jones is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and best-selling author of “SEO Visual Blueprint” by Wiley (2008, 2010, 2013). Kris was the founder and former CEO of digital marketing and affiliate agency Pepperjam (sold to eBay) and has since founded multiple successful businesses, including ReferLocal.com, APPEK Mobile Apps, French Girls App, and LSEO.com, where he serves as CEO. Most recently, Kris appeared on Apple’s first TV Show, “Planet of the Apps,” where he and his business partner, comedian / actor Damon Wayans, Jr., secured $1.5 million for an on-demand LIVE entertainment booking app called Special Guest.