I’m constantly referring to long-tail keywords when discussing SEO strategies because they are a very important part of attracting quality traffic to your website that converts. But I am convinced that the majority of business owners aren’t aware of just how important long-tail search terms and phrases are in terms of their overall traffic volume.

While a “main” keyword might have 6,000 monthly searches, there could be 100 different long-tail variations that have an average of 750 monthly searches. In total that is 75,000 monthly searches as opposed to 6,000.

In total, the long-tail variations account for more than 92% of the total searches and potential traffic. When you look at it this way you see how important optimizing for long-tail keywords is, yet most SEO campaigns just focus on optimizing for main keywords.

I want to make it very clear that long-tail keywords account for the majority of your traffic. Now that we have that established, let’s dive into what a “long-tail” keyword is, aside from being a buzzword in the SEO industry.


What is a Long-Tail Keyword?

If you read any link-building or search engine optimization blog article you are going to see long-tail keywords referenced multiple times, especially when it comes to local SEO. It seems that everyone has a different definition of what they are and I have seen many SEOs flat out explain them incorrectly.

Every main topic will have a list of keywords that are relevant to some extent. At the end of that list – or “tail” of the list – are the keywords with less search volume. If you zoned out of the entire list, these would be at the end of the chart with the least amount of traffic potential based only on volume.

But, we know that volume alone isn’t how you determine what keywords to target in your SEO campaign. If a term has 10,000 searches but the top of Google is dominated by Amazon and Walmart it’s unlikely you will be able to tap into any of that search traffic.

On the other hand, if a term has only 200 monthly searches but no competition, you can rank on top for that long-tail keyword and attract the majority of that search traffic with the correct optimization.



Common Long-Tail Keyword Myths

There is a lot of misinformation regarding what long-tail keywords are. Many people think – and repeat – that long-tail keywords are simply keywords with additional words added to create a ‘long’ search phrase.

So, if the main money keyword was “debt consolidation” they would consider “best debt consolidation company” or “debt consolidation company in Seattle” to be long-tail variations. This is not correct as they are also more money keywords than anything else.

A better example of a true long-term keyword would be “what are the disadvantages of debt consolidation” – it’s a more specific search query yet still relevant.

Another thing that many people assume is that long-tail keywords have to be very specific, which isn’t always the case. For example, you might have a blog about bird watching, with the main target keywords being “bird watching” or “bird watching tips” – but there are other keywords that can attract quality traffic that are fairly broad.

An example would be the thousands of different bird species and further using them as seed terms to pull more long-tail versions from.


Why Does Your SEO Strategy Need to Optimize for Long-Tail Keywords?

Focusing on long-tail keywords ensures that your SEO effort is constantly attracting quality traffic to your website. The biggest benefit of search engine optimization is that organic traffic hits your website around the clock – it essentially allows your business to operate worldwide around the clock.

You can then convert leads and sales on autopilot, and as your SEO improves and your traffic volume increases, your conversion rates should follow suit. By constantly targeting long-tail terms you will build your traffic volume month after month.

Since long-term keywords tend to attract very specific traffic, you can create your content on each page to convert based on consumer behavior, emotions, and the promised offer or benefit of clicking on your website in the SERPs. Let’s dive into a few more reasons why long-tail keywords need to be a priority for every SEO campaign.


Long-Tail Keywords Have Extremely High Conversion Rates

If someone types in “sneakers” into Google search and another individual enters “Nike Airmax 90 mens orange and blue size 10” what search has more purchase intent? The second one is very specific, meaning they know exactly what they are looking for.

Even if your website is found for the term “sneakers” there is zero intent behind it. They might simply be looking for some pictures of sneakers to use for a project. There is nothing about that search that implies the person performing it wants to make a purchase.

Long-tail keywords are typically very detailed in terms of what the person is seeking. In the example above they are looking for a specific brand of sneakers, a specific model sneaker, as well as a specific size. If you are found for that search term there is a high probability of a conversion occurring.


There is a Massive Inventory of Long-Tail Keywords

No matter how small of a niche you might be involved in, you will never run out of long-tail keyword possibilities. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of keywords that a website could target and pull traffic from.

I often hear people say they are already targeting the best keywords and they stay focused on just optimizing the pages for those terms and never venture out to chase others. This is mainly because the search volume is lower for long-tails.

But, at scale, the more long-tail terms you are targeting, the more traffic your website will attract. Look at monster websites like Amazon. They pull traffic forms millions of keywords and their traffic grows exponentially as Google shows them in the SERPs for more search terms.

You should always be taking notes and writing down potential terms related to new products or services, as well as common questions asked by your customers. Task your customer service team with writing down common questions, which you can then create content around. Not only does this help to answer common questions and free up your CS team, but it will also attract more quality traffic to your website.


Competition for Long-Tail Keywords is Low

As mentioned above, most SEO campaigns are targeting the “money” keywords – those with high search volume. Long-tail keywords will generally have lower competition, meaning you can rank for them with much less link building and off-site optimization.

Rank for as many keywords as possible, even if the monthly search volume is just 60-80 visits. While many will overlook that as not significant, consider that ranking for 100 keywords with that search volume would equal 6,000 to 8,000 additional searches per month.

Set out to rank for as many keywords as possible. Also, you never know when the monthly search volume for one of the low competition and low volume terms will spike.



You Can Easily Create Content Around Long-Tail Keywords

It’s much easier to create content for long-tail keywords because they are more specific than generic and broad keywords. Let’s use the sneaker keyword examples above to showcase this. A blog post targeting the word “sneakers” is difficult because it leaves the door open – there is no direction.

But, for the specific model sneaker, you can create an in-depth review of the particular sneaker, complete with product images and features. You can then work in additional long-tail variations related specifically to that model, including sizes, specials, pricing, etc.

You can then add a perfectly timed call-to-action at the bottom of the content, which should convert very well if your flow is very specific – keyword, landing page, content, offer.


4-Step Process to Implement a Winning Long-Tail Keyword Strategy

Ok, so you know you need to incorporate long-tail keywords into your SEO strategy, but how do you find the best ones? Let’s quickly look at four steps you can take to ensure you take full advantage of this opportunity.


1. Study Buyer Personas to Identify Keyword Topics with Conversion Intent

You first need to realize what type of buyer persona you want to attract to your website, and this has a lot to do with your conversion intent. Not every website’s goal is to generate a sale upon the first visit. This seldom happens, as it will often take multiple touches in order to get a consumer to finally pull of their credit card and make a purchase.

Half of your campaign might be targeting ‘buy now’ keywords and the other half might be targeting keywords that are more information seeking to put the prospect into a marketing funnel.

Regardless, there is a conversion that occurs, whether it’s a sale, lead, or newsletter subscriber. Who is your audience? What are they likely to be searching for in order to arrive at what you are offering?

There is no formula or tool to use to uncover this information. Your firsthand knowledge of your industry, as well as your target audience and customer, comes into play here.


2. Use Keyword Tools to Validate the Potential of Your Research

After brainstorming a list of long-tail keywords you will want to try to dig up as much information about them as possible. You can use Google’s Keyword Planner tool, which is designed for paid ad research, but it will still give you an idea of whether or not there is any search volume for your keywords.

Also, use Google autocomplete to see if they show up in the suggested search terms before you finish trying each one out fully. There are also dozens of keyword tools that use a mix of data available, and while none of them are 100% accurate you can use the free ones to see if they kick back any information.

A simple Google search will turn up the latest ones. They tend to come and go often and I wouldn’t suggest using a paid tool as nobody can get the true data from Google – it’s all a big estimate and guesses. Use what is available free, and use a mix of that information and common sense to determine a realistic reach volume for each long-tail keyword.



3. Look at Your Competition for Potential Long-Term Keywords

You should always be monitoring your competition, but when most SEO campaigns are researching their top competition they are focused on the main search terms. They ignore the low-volume keywords – and end up leaving a vast amount of traffic on the table.

Find every single search term your competitors are ranking for and what pages are showing up for each term. You will often discover that they are ranking without any SEO effort – without even targeting the terms.

These are great keywords to create content for and optimize each page specifically for – you can often outrank your competition with strong on-site optimization alone. Make sure your on-site elements are perfectly optimized and then drive some authority to these new pages via interlinking from your posts and pages with the most authority.


4. Create a Long-Tail Keyword Optimization List and Rank According to Immediate Impact Potential

Ok, now that you have all of your potential long-tail keywords you need to organize them and structure them in an order in which you will work on ranking for each one. Don’t just focus on the amount of potential traffic each can bring.

Instead, focus on how quickly you can rank for each one. If you can rank for a low competition keyword in a matter of days, make it a top priority, even if it will only bring in an extra dozen visitors monthly. Over time this equates to a much larger number across all of your long-tail keywords.

Once you have your list, commit to publishing new content pieces optimized specifically for each keyword. Whether you do this yourself or hire a content writer, just be consistent. You can publish one post a month, two, five, ten, etc.

A constant influx of new content, all targeting long-tail keywords, will help your organic search traffic scale quickly. The key is to not take your foot off the pedal once you hit the gas.



Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this has helped you better understand what a long-tail keyword is and what you can do to rank for more of them and take your traffic numbers to the next level. Some of the largest spikes in Google Analytics graphs occur when the long-tail optimization efforts begin to pay off.

I have seen clients from e-commerce merchants to informational blogs take advantage of long-tail traffic, helping them to drive conversions and scale their business. Many SEO strategies are constantly looking for loopholes, tricks, and secrets – when the biggest opportunity is with long-tail keyword campaigns.

Are you going to take action and try to scale your traffic with the suggestions mentioned above? Let me know in the comments below. Additionally, if you have any questions related to long-tail keyword SEO, drop those as well and I will do my best to help you out.


Tommy McDonald

Tommy is an SEO professional with years of experience running highly successful SEO companies, founded SerpLogic after noticing there was a major void when it came to options for SEO agencies needing a reliable and professional one-stop outsource solution.You can read all about me in the “About” page here on our blog!

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