Long-tail Keyword Basics

If you’ve been thinking about SEO, you’ve probably started thinking about keywords. Often times, website owners start coming up with keywords and their list includes generic, single-word options. For example, a contractor might think up words like: construction or contractor. And these aren’t bad keywords, but they are fairly broad but more importantly, they are going to be very competitive.

That’s where long-tail keywords come in. A long-tail keyword is a longer, more specific keyword phrase. These keywords typically have less search volume, meaning they are being used less than the broader or generic keywords, but they are less competitive and easier to attain. However, the great thing about long-tail keywords is that people who are using them tend to be closer to their point of purchase, meaning if someone comes to your site for “custom bathroom remodel” (search volume 180, keyword difficulty 38) they are much more likely to be ready to take the next step than if they searched for “contractor” (search volume 196,000, keyword difficulty 64.) The latter keyword has a TON more search volume, but is going to be super hard to attain and those who are searching for it are probably in the earlier stages of their search.

Don’t discount the value of the long-tail keywords when it comes to optimizing your website.

The Benefits of Long-Tail Keywords

  • Less competitive
  • Less expensive
  • Higher conversion rate
  • More likely to answer voice searches
  • Drive new, original content

I’ve seen sites where the owner is super focused on one keyword, and they use it over and over and don’t create any new content based on other keywords. That’s a big mistake. You are missing out on lots of potential traffic that you could be coming your way and bringing you business.

Over the last three months, the keyword phrase that’s brought the 4th most traffic to my website is “how to take down a website.” Nobody would optimize their homepage or services page for that, but our website showed up 1,711 times in the SERPS (search engine results pages) for this phrase. And that’s because I wrote a blog post on what to do with your website when you no longer need it. And this post on its own has brought us business from people who needed help in that regard.

How to find long-tail keywords

One of the easiest places to start when looking for long-tail keywords is Google’s autocomplete. Go to Google, and start typing in some words and see what comes up. Going back to my example from the start of this post, for a contractor, I went to Google and typed in “finding a good contractor” and look at the different autocomplete options Google gave me.

Example from Google Autocomplete

Look at all those options! Those are great ideas to start with. It gives you various options, and some may or may not apply to your business, but it gives you ideas with potential topics you may not have considered.

However, don’t just take that list and run with it. Those are just ideas. The next thing we have to do is look at those options, eliminate any that don’t work for your business, then research the rest to see if they are viable. For example, the one option it gives me is “finding a good hvac contractor” and if I’m an HVAC contractor, that might be a good keyword. But I want to make sure that people are actually looking for that term.

The next step is going to the keyword research tool of my choice (like Moz, KWFinder, Ahrefs, or SEMRush) and plug that phrase in to learn more. In this example, I’m going to use KWFinder to research my long-tail keyword. And in this example my contractor probably doesn’t need to know national results because it’s probably not worth it to offer HVAC services in another state. Say our contractor is in the Atlanta area. I can plugin my phrase, my area, and see the results.

KWFinder Results

After performing my research, I can see that I get an N/A for search volume, which means there isn’t enough data on that keyword to have a search volume. It doesn’t mean that nobody is looking for it… it just means that not enough people are using it in the designated area to give us data on it.

Even though that long-tail keyword may fit my area, it may not be worth it to write new content or optimize for it, since there isn’t much data on the search. It probably won’t draw much new traffic my way.

The great news is that most keyword research tools are going to give you a list of related searches that might be useful. Here’s the list I got on my initial search.

Keyword research results

From this, I can see that the keyword “hvac professional” has a low keyword difficulty and a search volume of 10.

You may see that search volume of 10 and scoff. You think, “That’s hardly worth the effort.” But look at this another way. If you could drive 10 new people to your website that were looking for exactly what you offer, that’s 120 new potential customers in a year.

A low search volume isn’t going to drive hoards of users to your site, but if you can rank well for that term, it’ll drive some and those users are probably highly motivated to search for what you already offer. That’s a possible 10 hot leads a month. That doesn’t look so shabby now, right?

How to rank for long-tail keywords

Now that you’ve picked your keyword, you need to get ranked for it. And that won’t happen just because you picked it out. Your site has to be optimized for that keyword and it has to be relevant. You have to convince Google that your site’s answer for that keyword is relevant to what the person doing the search is looking for.

The way to do that? Through excellent, optimized content. Writing content can be hard (check my last post) but it’s worth it because it draws new traffic to your site.

Keep in mind that not everyone will enter your website on the homepage and that each new page or post of content you write creates one new indexible URL for Google to share with searchers.

Tips for creating content that ranks

  1. Start with just writing out the content you want to share. If your keyword is hvac professional, think of a question that uses that keyword, and then try to answer it. For example, I might write a post titled, “Why hire an hvac professional?” It uses my keyword, and asks a question that I can answer.
  2. Write the answer to your questions. Do it thoroughly. 200 words is not enough. Google wants strong, relevant content. Think of all the reasons why hiring an hvac pro is a good idea. Don’t just list them – expand on them.
  3. Use your keyword in the text. If you want to rank for a keyword, you have to use it on the page. And more than once. The number of times you use it should be correlated to the length of your content. It shouldn’t just be paragraphs of the same keyword, it needs to be used appropriately throughout the content. Some folks will tell you the magic number is FIVE, but if your post isn’t that long, that may be too many times.
  4. Add an image to your post and change the filename to your keyword, and add alt text to the image that uses your keyword.
  5. Change the permalink of your page (or URL slug) to your keyword.
  6. Share your post on social media.
  7. Look for opportunities within your site to link to that post and use your keyword. For example, maybe on your services page you could add a call-to-action that says, “Find out why using an hvac professional is important!” and link that keyword in the text to your blog post. Internal linking is important!

Keep in mind that your rank doesn’t change overnight. You can write a post and optimize it, and it can take months to start seeing results. But if you write regular posts using long-tail keywords, you are creating lots of opportunities to draw new traffic to your site for exactly the services you offer.

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Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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