There is a lot of talk about them in keyword research and SEO, but are long tail keywords really worth the effort?
If long tail keywords don’t receive much traffic and are less likely to be searched for, then what exactly is the purpose of using them?
So in this article I have looked at how to use long tail keywords, to achieve the most from their better ranking potential, and also see whether they have a better click through and conversion potential.
Why Do We Use Long Tail Keywords?
Ordinary keywords are usually made up of 1-3 words, any longer and the phrase is referred to as a long tail keyword.
The difference with a long tail phrase is that it is very detailed and is designed to answer a specific search query. For this reason it receives a lower number of visitors and clicks than shorter keywords or phrases, since less people will be looking for this exact phrase.
The advantage though is that usually when searchers see this phrase it is close to an exact match for their query, and so it is more likely to achieve a click through.
For example if I’m searching for – ‘beds for older dogs‘ and I see the following two options;
- dog bedding
- beds designed specifically for your older dog
It is likely that I will pick the second option to click, because I know it will be focused specifically on what I am looking for.
In this diagram below you can see how the relationship between keyword length and competition works, which specifically shows advertising PPC conversion and cost but it is the same for SEO and ranking.
This diagram clearly shows the correlation between conversion and length of keyword. The shorter the keyword the more competitive it could become, and the harder to achieve a click through.
This information has become very useful to advertisers because highly competitive keywords will cost more in order to appear in the higher ranking ad positions. Similarly long tail keywords are a particular favourite in SEO because they are also the gateway to getting ranked and appearing high up in the organic search engine results.
Both groups of content writers, whether it is writing for advertising positions or SEO ranking, can take advantage of this knowledge.
It is also a great advantage for new sites, since they will naturally have lower levels of authority and will therefore be struggling to rank highly for the more competitive and shorter keywords and can benefit from the longer keyword phrases.
Selecting Long Tail Keywords
Now that the case has been made for using long tail keywords, the next stage is to decide which ones to use.
There are still a number of factors you need to consider when choosing a long tail keyword, since the aim is still to achieve some level of traffic (even if it is a lot lower than the more competitive phrases and keywords).
In the following list are items that are important, to ensure that the best possible keyword option is chosen.
- need evidence that people are looking for or likely to look for this phrase.
- needs to remain narrow in focus so the search engine is very clear about the topic
- can contain shorter competitive keywords as well, in the hope of ranking for these eventually.
So in my example of the dog beds earlier, the long tail phrase still has the competitive keywords words dog and bed in the name, which gives it the potential to rank for these terms as well.
Tools for Keywords
Like mainstream keyword research there are a number of options for discovering possible long tail keywords and these include;
- using specific long tail keyword tools
- using general keyword tools
- using Google autosuggest
- using Google Webmaster tools / Google Trends
Keyword Research Tools
There are several different types of keyword tools on the market (aside from free or paid), which can help to find keywords for advertising, SEO, affiliate products or product searches.
Using these tools for long tailed keywords is another way to use the results and develop some relevant and specific content aimed at ranking highly in the SERPs. Some of the main keyword tools to use are;
- Google Adwords keyword planner
- Bing Ads keyword planner
- Keyword Eye
- Keyword Spy
- Semrush Keyword Tool
- Wealthy Affiliate keyword Tool
Many of these tools can show long tail options for major keywords such as the example shown here, where the search term that was used was ‘long tail‘
For long tail keywords the same rules apply as for regular keyword searches.
- there needs to be a reasonable number of searches and potential traffic
- competition levels need to be low enough to ensure a ranking position or a reasonable cost for PPC
- slight variations in the phrasing can result in larger traffic and searches, because that is closer to the language that your target audience is actually using.
In addition to the professional keyword tools, there are also other ways you can use to generate potential keyword ideas and develop new writing topics. This stage is useful before moving onto a keyword tool to check the competition.
This tool is often overlooked because it is so obvious and simple. We take advantage of it everyday, because in every Google search we are often given prompts as to what other searchers are looking for.
One of the advantages of Google autosuggest is that it shows current search requests that have been made. This therefore provides us with potential areas of interest that our own target audience may have within our niche.
This is a useful starting point for developing a long tail keyword, although a keyword tool is still needed in order to determine competition or advertising potential.
This can be useful to see the types of requests that might link to a general topic idea that you may have. For example if my site was about animals here are three topics that I may not have considered, according to the autosuggest.
- animals and hibernation
- animal types kept in zoos and conservation parks
- mating patterns of various animal species
You can keep repeating this exercise until you narrow down the interest areas and you finally settle on a particular theme. However before deciding to write an article on the topic there are still some other checks you can make to look at the potential interest in the subject.
Using Google’s Other Tools
As well as the autosuggest Google has other tools that can be used in the keyword research stages, in particular these two are very useful;
- Google Trends
- Google Webmaster Tools
Google trends can be used to highlight topics that are either retaining interest or increasing in popularity over the years.
Here I have looked at search interest in the term long tail keywords versus LTK tools. This shows me that even though there was a dip in interest about 12 months ago, it is a topic that has re-emerged in popularity.
If the topic you are writing about is showing a declining interest it doesn’t mean you can’t write about it, it’s just that keyword results for potential traffic might be over estimated. Since what happened in the past will not necessarily be repeated in the future for this phrase.
Google Webmaster Tools can be used to highlight which search requests you posts are currently being shown for.
In your own console results you will see the option of query results or page results. The query results will give you an idea of what is being searched for within you own niche area and what Google is showing to match that query, from your current content.
In the screenshot on the right here you can see a sample of some of the query results that Google is showing for this site.
By seeing the exact phrases that people are using in their search requests, I can see what kind of titles might attract a click through from them.
I can also check that the articles that should be showing against these search requests are being shown.
Many people assume that long tail keywords are simply used by new websites and eventually they will be replaced by more competitive and shorter keyword phrases.
But that isn’t the case, long tail keywords will always be used by searchers, and as the amount of information on the internet continues to expand then search requests will need to become more specific and longer.
The future of keyword search is always going to be about matching searcher requests to relevant articles, the more you can help search engines and searchers by explaining exactly what you are writing about, the greater the chance you will have on achieving that all important click through and conversion.
Further Reading on Keywords
Some other articles that may be of interest, on keywords are;
If you want to know about using SEO keyword research tools then try here.
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