There are numerous situations in life when size just doesn’t matter. There are also situations when less is far better than more.
When selecting keywords for search engine rankings, however, more is the gold standard.
Keyword research still applies in today’s SEO. The more detailed and extensive your keyword phrase, the better your chances of not only snagging some prime search engine real estate, but also attracting the type of premium, engaged users who will make your blog successful.
The following facts will help you understand exactly what long tail keywords are, and show how you can maximize their effectiveness and make your blog successful.
What is a Long tail Keyword?
The term ‘long tail’ is a metaphor for the long, bottom end of a distribution curve representing search engine frequencies.
The definition of a long tail keyword is 3 or more keywords used together as a phrase to create a more niche focused search (query). The more keywords used, the more hyper focused the target and audience.
The top of the graph or the head (Picture a tall animal with long tail like a dragon or a dinosaur) represents the most common and basic keywords used to begin a search. This is known as the head term. When using this head term for keyword research, many call it a “seed keyword”.
Head terms count for .05% of all queries. This makes sense when you figure people have learned that the more complete they search, the more relative the websites returned.
Let’s take a real estate website for example and we will put ‘HOMES’ as the head term.
The next section of the graph is the middle or ‘the belly.’
Here, the keyword terms narrow a bit but are still broad enough to lack any type of specialized information.
Instead of simply searching for ‘HOMES,’ the user is now searching for ‘HOMES FOR SALE.’ Since real estate has an extensive geographic range, this is still a pretty broad term.
Belly keywords only account for 20% of all searches.
The 800 lb. Gorilla on that distribution graph is the dragon’s tail. Popularly known as “long tail keywords,” these are very narrow, descriptive and specialized keyword phrases.
The long tail example of the ‘Homes’ keyword might be ‘HOMES FOR SALE IN LAS VEGAS’, then ‘HOMES FOR SALE IN LAS VEGAS UNDER $300,000″, and even longer “HOMES FOR SALE IN LAS VEGAS UNDER $300,000 WITH A POOL”.
People who use long tail keyword searches aren’t just browsing; they know exactly what they want. While these users represent smaller numbers, since their searches are so specialized, they also represent focused, attentive, and receptive visitors who are looking for specific products or content.
long tail marketing strategy
In a recent study, Exclusive Concepts found a 64% higher click through rate in their example comparing head terms vs. long tail keywords.
Users who search for broad keywords tend to jump around from website to website, not remaining on any particular page for long.
These folks carry very high bounce rates.
Long tail users, however, are likely to stay on the site that has exactly what they are looking for.
Not only will there be a very low bounce rate, but they are also likely to complete any needed transactions there as well.
In terms of web traffic, long tail keywords are far less competitive than head or belly alternatives.
Since they are so specialized, the competition won’t be the same formidable, high-authority professionals normally found in the head or belly range.
As a result, long tail keyword searches offer the chance for a higher SERP rank (Search Engine Results Page), a higher conversion rate, and greater link building potential.
A steady influx of greater numbers of mobile users has been a boon to the long tail keyword approach. Voice search apps, which allow users to issue searches in their own words, favor long tails.
When choosing long tails, be as specific and detailed as possible. The more specific and on-target your phrasing, the better your chances of ranking and attracting premium users to your website.
Another bonus to long tail keyword use is that you can rank on the search engines without backlinks at all if the keyword is not very competitive.
It’s a best practice to use internal links wherever they make sense. An internal link is when you choose a phrase you have used on your page, and add a link to it going to another page on your own website.
Notice the example above where we chose the phrase ‘Internal Link’ and attached a link sending it to an internal page on this website.
Long Tail SEO
Once you understand the demand curve and how people search using long tail keywords, you can implement long tail SEO into your content marketing strategy.
Many beginners make the mistake of believing they need to go after the more popular keyword (head term) because it has more searches. This can be a very costly mistake.
Let’s take a look at an active real estate website that is generating hundreds of leads every month, organically earned from the search engines. (Organic traffic is earned in rankings rather than bought in such as pay per click).
Using the maximum provided time frame of reports, which is 90 days, we can see that the long tail keyword phrase ‘New Homes in Las Vegas Under $200,000‘ has the most earned clicks on this website.
It holds a 1.8 average position for that phrase and has a 29.52% click through rate. This means out of all of the impressions (times the web page is shown on the search engine results page (SERP), the visitor clicks through 30% of the time. This is a great percentage.
Here’s a break down of what this would look like using a Keyword tool to discover search volume, keyword value ( cost per click), competition and so forth.
➡ If we were to find the head term in this phrase, we’d start with “New Homes”.
Using Google Keyword Planner, We can see that:
‘New Homes’ has 27,100 searches in the United States each month. While you might think “That’s Great”, think about how relative that would be for your searches.
Here’s the SERP for that keyword. Take a look and see how related the page one listings are to your business. While you may see some local responses, you are likely to see many broad locations as well.
If you are a local real estate agent, chances are you’ll want to be much more local.
Looking at more data around the keyword phrase “New Homes”, in our favorite Keyword Tool, we can see that the keyword difficulty score is 74.27 out of 100 which is very competitive.
This means, to rank on the search engines, you are going to have a lot of work ahead of you to beat out any of the current page one competition.
The cost per click for this keyword is $4.50 which is high for keywords in Las Vegas. The advertising landscape is also very competitive at a score of .82 out of 1.
This is not an ideal keyword for a local real estate agent.
➡Let’s go more long tail.
Taking the longer tail phrase “New Homes in Las Vegas“, we are now able to get more specific by location. In our example, using a local real estate agent, this will better serve the brand.
Our monthly search volume decreased to only 880 searches. The competition is still high (Organic Keyword Difficulty: 73.03 out of 100 and pay per click: .85 out of 1). Not much change there from the head term. Cost per click is lower, at $3.17.
While it would be great to rank on the top page of Google for this term, it’s going to be challenging to get there. Not impossible, challenging.
➡ Let’s go longer tail: New Homes in Las Vegas Under $200,000
This is our example for what’s working on the website we pulled a report for. Although search volume is low, it’s generating traffic and leads.
Clicking through to the SERP, from our location, our website example is in the #1 position today as we created this blog post.
Search volume for this keyword phrase has now dropped to only 210 searches a month. The Keyword difficulty is down to 64.12 out of 100 while the pay per click competition is higher at .98 out of 1.
This means, it could be easier to EARN IN than BUY IN. The advertisers have figured out that this is a valuable keyword.
If this website were to spend it’s way to the same amount of traffic it is gaining now, it would spend $457.00 a month on average to earn what it’s already getting to this one page each month.
What’s more is that this page from our example is the 7th highest traffic earning page on this website.
What’s more is that this page ranks for 65 related long tail phrases besides “new homes in Las Vegas under $200,000”.
⭐️ In this example, our long tail keyword contains 7 words and is winning on the search engines.
How to Find Long Tail Keywords
Before we head into the keyword research tools, let’s start with what we can generate for free from our Google AdWords accounts.
If you are running any kind of PPC on Google, there’s amazing data in there to use for your SEO where you can earn in organic traffic.
It might even be worth it to run an ad or two, just to collect the keyword data.
Let’s say you are a Realtor® wanting your real estate agent website to rank for the term “Las Vegas Homes”. Looking it up on Google Keyword Planner shows us a search volume of 1,600 a month for the United States, high competition and $3.28 per click suggested bid.
While you can certainly target this head term, it will be very competitive. As we head over to create an ad for “Las Vegas Homes, the following longtail keyword phraes appear as additional suggestions.
And there are hundreds more where these came from.
Let’s go ahead and look at the suggested longtail phrase ‘downtown las vegas homes for sale’.
Google Keyword planner shows us it only has 20 searches a month, yet has medium competition and is only $.86 a click.
Since building an IDX page for properties in downtown Las Vegas only takes a few minutes, I’d do it.
A page title of ‘Downtown Las Vegas Homes For Sale’ would be advised based on this match. If your website has search visibility with Google, you could rank for that page within hours.
While some of these suggestions will show high competition for cost per click, this does not mean they will be as competitive in the organic space. Earning In could be easier and of course cheaper than buying in.SEMrush offers a KD score (Keyword Difficulty) between 0 and 100 for measuring how competitive the organic search engine rankings are. This is one reason I believe SEMrush is the best long tail keyword tool.
Now, let’s assume you have already placed an ad. Your account will now store search data from queries people have used related to your ad phrases.
The idea is to add more keywords to an Ad Group, or begin a new Ad Group around that keyword phrase.
Here, the ad group is “Las Vegas Horse Property”. Based on actual searches, Google is suggesting that we add the term ‘Ranches for Sale in Las Vegas’.
Using the planner, we can see that there are 90 searches a month for the phrase “Ranches for Sale in Las Vegas”. Now, I can head over to my website and see if I rank for that keyword phrase.
If not, I can start a new IDX page, assuming Ranches and Horse Property are not the same things.
The best way to get this keyword data is by running “broad search” keyword ads.
Keep in mind that Google AdWords will lean towards showing you more commercial data that have higher search volume.
A longtail with zero search volume can still be very valuable. They may be trending, have little competition, and a low barrier of entry.
Using SEMRush, I can see what keywords my website ranks for.
long tail keyword tools
Wherever data is available, there’s a map. One of the best ways to find these keyword phrases is through competition that is already ranking on Google for them.
The best tool for this that we have used is SEMrush.
Step 1: Enter a keyword phrase into the search bar that you would like to rank for on the search engines.
Step 2: Scroll down to view the list of websites with the most traffic for that term.
Step 3: Click on one of these websites to open more details.
Step 4: Open their organic keyword report.
Step 5: Your report should be automatically sorted by highest traffic to lowest.
This is going to show you which keywords, ranking in the top 100 positions on Google for that website are bringing them the most traffic.
Step 6: Export this list of keywords and go to work building great content your website!
Keyword RESEARCH tools
You can start with Google and use the suggestions to find a few long tail phrases.
As you begin to type a keyword into Google, it will suggest other phrases people have also used recently giving you more longtail ideas.
You will not see search volume here unless you are using Chrome and install the extension Keywords Everywhere.
While free tools are great, paid tools with all the bells and whistles can help us get the job done better. If you have it in your budget, check out SEMrush for keyword tracking, SEO content templates, competitive research and more.
⚙️ Another popular Keyword tool is Spyfu which has a great user interface and projects.
⚙️ Google Keyword Planner is a free tool you can use, but you must have Google AdWords set up to access it.
⚙️ The Free tool LSIGraph is a keyword generator that will show you semantically related keywords and many long tail variations (without the search volume, competition, and traffic value).
Longtail keywords have been around for nearly a decade now, but many companies are still confused as to what these specialized keywords are and how to use them effectively. The term long tail keyword was coined by the editor of Wired, Chris Anderson, after he realized the power of more specialized keyword placement.
The theory is that by not focusing on generating the most traffic to your website, but rather bringing the most valuable traffic to your website, you will be more successful. These keywords consist of three to six specialized words together that create a longer key phrase.
Use 4 + Keywords for a more specific, hyper-localized, hyper-targeted phrase that bring in more niche focused customers that convert higher.
Get Ideas for Longtail Keywords from:
- Google Suggest
- Keyword Tools
- Google AdWords
- Competitor Research
Keyword Tools such as Semrush can help you find more long tail keyword opportunities.