Long Tail Keywords: Create Content that Ranks and Converts

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Long tail keywords possess great potential to capture and convert traffic in your niche. Find the right one and you’re in business.

But before we get to that — real quick, let’s cover the basics.
 

What are long tail keywords?

Long tail keywords contain multiple keywords, often intermingled with filler words such as “of”, “the”, “you”, etc. They narrow a searcher’s intent, meaning the goal of a long tail search is typically clearer than the goal of a primary keyword.

Long tail examples:

“ranking for long tail keywords”
“driving traffic to generate leads”
“who won the super bowl in 2012?”

Primary keyword examples:

“keywords”
“restaurant”
“super bowl”
 

Why target long tail keywords?

Reason 1 - People search long tail keywords 70% of the time.

That’s right. Add them all up and long tail keywords surpass primary keywords in total searches. There is an infinite number of long tail keyword combinations, and we did the math to prove it. The trick is choosing the right ones (we’ll get there).

Reason 2 - Long tail keywords are easier to rank for.

Specific (long tail) searches require specific answers. The big boys can only create enough content to satisfy so many searches. Your job is to fill in the gaps, which are often more fruitful (higher conversion rates) than primary keywords.
 

Targeting the long tail — discovery + creation

Now that we’ve got the “what” and the “why” out of the way let’s get into the “how”. To simplify, we’re going to break the targeting process into two parts, discovery and creation.

Discovery

The discovery phase of choosing your long tail keyword involves brainstorming and whittling.

Brainstorm - Here’s where your keyword ideas and possibilities expand. The goal is to get as many possibilities as you can.

Whittle - After developing a long list of possibilities you narrow down your list until you’ve got a small collection of keywords which will form your topic.

Let’s get to it!

Brainstorm

Write down (or type) as many keywords as you can think of. Seriously, anything that comes to mind. There’s no need to get sidetracked on “bad ideas” which can inhibit creativity. Give everything a chance; you can cross off later. If at some point you get stuck, there are plenty of resources that can help you keep the ball rolling. Here are some ideas...

  • Use Google’s autofill to generate related keywords. Start typing something in, Google will provide more ideas. Google also provides “related searches” at the bottom of the page — use those too.
  • Use AdWords’s Keyword Planner. Type in your keywords, Google will find related keywords and combinations.
  • If you advertise in AdWords, use Google’s “Search Terms” report. Click “Keywords”, then “Search Terms”, and scroll through what the list of what people search. Disregard odd and unrelated queries, but keep an eye out for any gems and add them to your list.
  • Ask a co-worker to brainstorm with you. Adding another brain typically leads to ideas neither of you would have come up with on your own. The more ideas, the better.

That’s really what we’re after here. Maximize the number of ideas with potential you can create. An idea with potential will get organic search traffic. The best ideas convert that traffic. But even ideas that only get your foot in the door are valuable: these users might come back, maybe they link to you, and at the very least they make an impression, big or small.

Now, let’s talk about how we determine which ideas have the best potential.

Whittling

Here’s where we fine tune keywords, cross others off, and choose one (or several) to target.

In order to rank, drive traffic, and convert it — your long tail keyword must...

  1. Relate to your business. (To state the obvious) if you sell speakers, don’t target keywords like tadpoles or pizza — write about speakers. Write about anything related to music, sounds, and concerts. Heck, write about how the arrangement of speakers affects audio at rock concerts. But remember the sales funnel; the closer your target keyword is to the bottom of the funnel, the likelier it is to convert.
  2. Get searched. There are loads of possible keyword combinations. The one you choose needs to be searched considerably. If not, modify one of your keywords so that it is searched frequently. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to access any keyword’s search volume data. Enter all possible combinations of your target keywords, and find the combinations that get searched the most.
  3. Have reasonable competition. Your company won’t be able to rank for “hula hoops” if your competition is Walmart, Amazon, and Target. Explore Google’s search engine results page (SERP). If the competition is too stiff, add another keyword — try “hula hoops virginia”.

 

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Tip: Get MozBar if you want to get super accurate with gauging competition. It tells you how strong a website (or page) is by measuring domain authority.

Creation

Let the best content win.

Why? Because the job of Google (and other search engines) is to provide listings for the best content specific to any search. They aren’t always right, but they’re pretty damn good.

So, how do you create the best content? Here’s how.

  1. Understand user intent. A user’s intent is the goal of their search; it’s what they intend to find, learn, buy, etc. For primary keywords user intent is vague. For instance, the intent of someone who searches “computer” could be anything — from a simple definition of the word to small-sized-dell-laptops. For long tail keywords, however, the intent is clearer. Someone who searches for “apple macbook specs” wants to know about a MacBook’s display, its processor, its memory, size, etc.
  2. Provide quick answers for the swift browser. Many people want information as fast as they can get it. If you want your content to rank for “how to not lose my socks”, get down to it! There’s no need to waste time describing “the history of sock loss” or philosophical concepts like “why it’s ok to wear non matching socks”. Just tell them the secret to plentiful sock inventory!!
  3. Provide detail for the content mongers. Some people, however, want to digest all the content they can. They are interested in the — ahem! — “philosophical debate about how non-matching-sock-wearers are ever-so-subtly questioning the impact of society’s value to ‘look good all the time.’” But seriously, touch on related topics to provide enough content for those who want to take a deep dive.
  4. Use h2 subheaders. People do not read your content from top to bottom. With all of the content available at the tips of their fingers, many users scan written content like you scan Facebook. Keep these people in mind, and break up content with descriptive subheaders for scannable content.
  5. Be creative with delivery. Use images to enhance user experience. If your target keyword is really important, consider a video. Many well-ranked videos are short, sweet, and really low budget.
  6. Write like you mean it. Have someone read over your content. Get feedback. Check for spelling errors, edits, facts, and last but not least…
  7. Have fun! If you’re enjoying your time writing, chances are your readers will too. If you’re not, come back another day when your head is clear and you’re in a better mood.

Submit URLs to Google and Bing, play the waiting game

Don’t wait for Google and Bing to crawl your site; take action to speed up the process. Submit your content directly to Google and Bing. They will crawl it sooner, giving the ranking process a good kick-in-the-butt.

With time, quality content climbs rankings. Some content ranks within minutes of publication, but most of us need to be patient. I’ve waited as short as one day, and as long as five months to see my content rank on Google’s first page. The ranking timeline varies depending on your keyword, your site, niche and likely many other factors.

Remember: capturing traffic that converts only takes one piece of stellar content, targeting one long tail keyword, with one gap in the competition. It might take 5 months to rank, but for that one piece of content — trust me — it’s well worth the wait.