Sep 14, 2015

Long-Tail Keyword Research Guide

by Digital Marketing Institute

Search Engine Optimisation brings in 49% of business blog traffic, while social media accounts for less than 7% of traffic. But how many of us digital marketers make search a top priority when it comes to creating an effective content strategy?

Well, here’s why you should re-examine your content strategy: studies have shown that long-tail keyword research can significantly increase the organic reach of your content.

Digital marketing influencer and co-founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, Neil Patel increased his organic reach by 206% and generated over 200,000 monthly visitors when he began targeting long-tail keywords.

In this article, we dive into long-tail keywords to ensure your blog posts and web-pages rank higher organically in search results through the strategic use of long-tail keyword research.

What are long-tail keywords?

Long tail SEO

A long-tail keyword contains a minimum of three words and is effective at targeting niche audiences with specific terms. The value of using long-tail is that they are more specific and less competitive than generic terms.

The benefit of the specificity is that they help you to rank highly in search results for popular topics and tend to engage qualified traffic that’s more likely to convert to leads.

For example, if you work for or run a company that sells cars, it’s likely that your pages are not going to appear near the top of an organic search for “car” as there’s too much competition (particularly if you’re a small company or startup). However, if you specialize in,automatic cars, then using keywords such as “classic and modern car supplier specializing in automatic cars is likely to appeal to customers looking for that product.

The key is to match your long-tail keywords to consumer search intent – essentially your content needs to be readable for humans, but optimized for search engines.

Step 1 – Consult Your Personas & Brainstorm Relevant Long-Tail Keywords:

To master consumer search intent and select the perfect keywords for your target audience, you need to first be clear what your content is trying to achieve and who it needs to reach and appeal to.

You can brainstorm and select a few keywords you would like to rank organically for by consulting your target personas. Target personas are a fictional representation of your ideal target buyer based on real insights, research and data-led assumptions about their biggest problems and deepest desires.

Once you’ve chosen your desired keywords based on your target persona information, you’ll need to ensure they definitely match your consumer search intent. To do so, simply read your list and ask yourself the questions outlined below. If you can answer yes to every question? Then you know your keyword is good to go and it’s time to start generating long-tail ideas.

Ask Yourself:

  • Does your keyword help you achieve your content objectives and align with your mission?
  • Will consumers and prospects find what they want and need on your blog post when they search for these terms?
  • Will ranking organically for this keyword help you convert interested consumers at a later date (is it a term that’s relevant for your business objectives?)

Step 2 – Use Google AdWords Keyword Planner:

The next step is to use Google’s free Keyword Planner tool to help you generate high traffic terms your prospects are searching for on a monthly basis. You’re looking for long-tail (about 4 words) low competition terms with high traffic. Below, I’ve outlined the steps to help you generate high traffic, low competition long-tail keyword ideas using the tool.

How to use Google AdWords Keyword Planner:

Sign in to your Google AdWords Keyword Planner.

  • Under the ‘Find new keywords’ section click the option to ‘Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category’.
  • Enter your desired keyword into the box provided – for example, ‘interview tips’ (take a keyword from the list you created above based on your target persona information).
  • Fill out all the targeting information you would like taken into account (on the left hand side of the form), including which country you would like to assess the traffic for and whether you would like to include negative keywords you don’t want to rank for.
  • Select your desired date range.
  • Click the ‘Get Ideas’ button (you’ll find it by scrolling down to the end of the form).
  • Click the ‘Keyword Ideas’ tab at the top of the table.
  • You will be provided with a list of keyword suggestions – look at the column representing ‘Average monthly searches’ to determine high traffic keywords and look at the ‘Competition’ column to determine low competition keywords.
  • The secret? Select keywords with high competition and low traffic and those with 4 or more words (these will identify as long-tail).
  • Ask yourself, ‘Is this keyword relevant to your content strategy objective and target persona search intent? If yes, proceed. If no, try again.

From the list below ‘interview questions and answers’ might be a good long-tail keyword to select (as traffic is high and competition is low):

Google’s algorithm means that the best blogs and websites with high domain authorities will find it easier to rank higher for keywords they choose to target. That’s why it makes sense to target low competition keywords – otherwise you’re going to have to work tirelessly to rank for the one keyword (and results aren’t guaranteed as your competitors with higher domain authorities could be working even harder).

Targeting low competition keywords allows you to possibly own a space on the first page of Google where your high intent prospects are searching for relevant terms – now that’s what you want. When it comes to search it’s best to choose your battles wisely.

Step 3 – Create a Ready-to-Use Spreadsheet of Target Long-Tail Keywords:

Long tail keywords spreadsheet

It’s best practice to start your research before you write your article. You can even consider beginning your long-tail keyword research before you craft your content strategy and content calendar. How? Create a spreadsheet of terms you would like to target (based on the long-tail keyword research you conducted in the previous step) and place it in your content strategy – this serves as a reminder to use these terms and can even inspire customer-pleasing ideas for your upcoming blog posts. Simply pop your keyword-rich ideas into your content calendar as you think of them.

The Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool lets you download your spreadsheet of keyword ideas (follow the steps outlined above to generate this). You can download your list as an Excel CSV file by clicking the ‘Download’ button at the top of your table. You can then select your desired keywords from the list or eliminate the ones you don’t want. If you conduct your keyword research a few times for a few different terms you’ll build up a list of competitive and relevant long-tail keywords in no time.

Step 4 – How & Where to Use Long-Tail Keywords

It’s important not to over-do your keyword placement (Google views this as keyword stuffing and you make become penalised for it). However, below is a guide to help you strategically place your keywords into a few important elements of your blog post to help it rank higher organically for your chosen term.

When crafting your optimized headline remember you’re writing for humans, not search engines. Your headline, therefore, needs to be readable, engaging and enticing – but above all it needs make sense to your target audience. Often the keyword ideas you retrieve from Google can sound quite stiff or don’t flow well and sometimes they don’t make sense to your readers exactly as they are.

Here’s where you can get clever though – using a colon or dash to break up your keyword could add a whole new meaning and ensure it makes sense to your readers. The good news is Google will read it and rank it the same as your original keyword (without the punctuation mark). Let’s take the ‘interview questions and answers’ example generated above and see what that might look like. To make your headline more engaging and human-friendly you could try something like:

‘Nail Your Next Interview: Questions and Answers to Help You Land Your Dream Role’

Now Take Your Long-Tail Keyword & Place it in the Following Areas:

  • Your blog post’s URL.
  • Your meta description.
  • The first paragraph of our blog post (only place it where it makes sense to your readers).
  • Use once for a sub-heading (if appropriate).
  • Use once in anchor text (if appropriate).

So there you have it. That’s how you choose and use long-tail keyword terms to help you optimize your content strategy and win organic traffic for specific and relevant terms that appeal to your audience’s search intent. Do you have any long-tail keyword research tips of your own you’d like to share?

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