Search engine optimization (SEO) is the holy grail for digital marketers and website owners. It is one of the most powerful ways of boosting website traffic and establishing brand authority. When executed correctly, your SEO strategy can also help you convert website visitors into paying customers. Every business, however big or small, has started recognizing SEO as an important part of their digital marketing strategy.
However, the growing popularity of search engine optimization techniques poses a serious challenge for digital marketers. As more websites compete for the topmost position in search engine results pages (SERPs), achieving a high search engine rank becomes difficult. A simple yet effective solution is to leverage long-tail keywords.
If you are familiar with the basics of SEO, you would already know that keywords are the life force of any SEO strategy. In the absence of proper keyword research, even your most beautifully penned blog post will fail to achieve traction. Long-tail keywords can refine the keyword research process and breathe new life into it.
Before we shed more light on the importance of long-tail keywords, let us understand the concept in greater detail.
What are Long-Tail Keywords?
Keywords are terms and/or phrases that are used by your audience to search for relevant information on search engines. Identifying the right target keywords is a crucial step in your SEO strategy. A long-tail keyword is longer than the regular head keywords (generic terms and/or phrases).
Let’s say you have started a blog about SEO. The first keywords you will likely pick are “SEO” and “search engine optimization.” While these keywords are extremely popular in your niche, they are associated with a high level of competition. Therefore, you need to refine your search and identify more specific keywords.
In this case, some of the other keywords you can target are “SEO trends 2019”, “latest SEO news,” “SEO guide for beginners,” etc. These are all variations of your head keywords but deal with more specific topics. An easy way to identify long-tail keywords is to utilize Google’s autocomplete feature. Simply enter your head keyword in the Google search box and take a look at the suggested search queries.
For instance, when you type “search engine optimization” in Google, here’s what it shows:
Image via Google
Depending on your target audience, you can pinpoint your long-tail keywords such as “search engine optimization course,” “search engine optimization for dummies,” etc to better fit their needs.
It is important to note that length is not the only factor you should consider while selecting long-tail keywords. The degree of specificity and relevance of the keyword is equally important. Long-tail keywords are extremely specific and relevant to your niche. They clearly convey what your brand/product is all about.
As the world of SEO gets increasingly competitive, most content creators and digital marketers have started leveraging long-tail keywords. When used judiciously, they can help your website achieve a higher search engine ranking. If you have been solely focusing on head keywords, it is time to redefine your SEO strategy.
Why Long-Tail Keywords Deserve All Your Attention
The final objective of your SEO strategy is to take your website to the top of SERPs and help it stay there. In today’s fiercely competitive online world, long-tail keywords can help you achieve this goal. Here are a few reasons why long-tail keywords must be a part of your SEO strategy:
1. Long-Tail Keywords Help You Outrank Your Competitors
According to HubSpot, SEO was the top inbound marketing priority for 61% of marketers in 2018. This is a clear indication of how competitive SEO is becoming. Your keywords are likely being targeted by a number of other brands in similar niches. The incessant popularity of SEO has only made this competition worse.
As discussed earlier, long-tail keywords are extremely specific to your brand or product. This means not many marketers or brands (including your competitors) might be using them. That is why they are associated with a lower level of competition than popular head keywords. Therefore, it is easier to achieve a better search engine ranking using long-tail keywords.
This is particularly useful when you are up against big and established brands. They have the budget and resources to target popular head keywords and outrank you. The only way you can get an edge over them is by identifying niche-specific long-tail keywords and using them in your content. Even if a competitor targets the same long-tail keyword, you can still outrank them with better-optimized content.
Let’s say you have started an e-commerce business that sells wellness-related products. The most popular and generic keyword in your niche would be “wellness products.” When you enter “wellness products” into Google Keyword Planner, here is what it shows:
Image via Google
Despite having a good number of average monthly searches, “wellness products” is a competitive keyword. If an established brand also targets the same keyword, your website may never see the light of the day in search results.
In such a scenario, you should take a look at the “Keyword Ideas” section. The key is to find keywords that receive similar search volume, yet are less competitive. Take a look at the screenshot below:
Image via Google
Target such low-competition keywords ensures that your website is featured above your competitors in relevant search results. It is, of course, crucial to ensure that the long-tail keyword is relevant to your brand and product.
2. Long-Tail Keywords Convey Clear Context to Search Engines
To better clarify this point, let us first understand how search engines operate. Typically, they use software called crawlers or spiders to hunt the internet for new content. Whenever these spiders encounter fresh content, they store it into databases known as indexes. They also check and interpret the content to understand what it is all about.
When a user enters a query, the spiders search the indexes and retrieve relevant web pages. These web pages are further sorted according to relevance and displayed to the user. During this entire process, it is extremely crucial to ensure that the search engines correctly understand the topic of your content. Long-tail keywords help you effectively communicate the context to search engine spiders.
Let’s say you have started a blog about homemade Korean food. Search engines won’t go through every paragraph of every blog post to determine the topic of your blog. Instead, they will likely scan through all your blog posts, paying attention to elements such as page title, meta description, introduction, URL, etc. It is your job to optimize each of these elements using the right keywords.
Image via Moz
While “homemade Korean food” might be a great keyword, you can’t optimize all your blog posts for it. Instead, you will have to work with other related long-tail keywords such as “homemade kimchi recipe,” “homemade Korean barbeque ideas,” etc. The most significant advantage of using these keywords is that they will help search engines understand what your blog talks about.
3. You Can Maintain a High-Ranking in Search Engines
The success of your SEO strategy is mainly dependent on search engine algorithms. Google often updates its algorithms to penalize websites that indulge in manipulative SEO practices. Long-tail keywords keep your content relevant and help search engines determine its context. Thus, if you want your website to reach the top of SERPs and stay there, you must use long-tail keywords.
This has become particularly essential since the introduction of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm. With Hummingbird, Google attempts to understand the real intent behind a search query and retrieves relevant search results accordingly. This is in sharp contrast to the algorithm that would focus on exact-match keywords. Thus, it is essential to let search engines understand the context of your content.
Similarly, Google launched RankBrain to leverage machine learning to determine the most relevant search results. It is no longer possible to manipulate Google’s algorithm using dubious practices such as keyword stuffing. The only alternative is to publish enriching, valuable, and relevant content using long-tail keywords.
4. You Can Optimize Your Content for Voice Search with Long-Tail Keywords
Voice search optimization is becoming an essential part of SEO. This is not surprising considering the immense popularity of virtual assistant-enabled devices. According to Statista, more than 3.25 billion digital virtual assistants are being used across the globe at present. This figure is projected to reach 8 billion by 2023.
Image via Statista
As a marketer or website owner, you can’t afford to ignore voice search optimization. What distinguishes it from traditional SEO is the type of queries used for voice search. Voice search queries tend to be longer and more conversational in nature. This is because users essentially talk to virtual assistants while using voice search, often asking for tips and recommendations.
The very nature of voice search queries demands that you use long-tail keywords. The key is to identify the questions your target audience will likely ask. It is also essential to understand the intent behind asking these questions. If you optimize your content using the right-long tail keywords, your website will be featured in relevant voice search results.
5. Long-Tail Keywords Let You Optimize for Local Search
Localized search queries are gaining increased traction due to the use of virtual assistants and smartphones. Consumers are always on the lookout for content on the go. They often use localized search queries such as “best Thai food places near me,” “best theme park in L.A.,” etc. These search queries, due to their very nature, often tend to be lengthier.
If you want your website to show up in relevant localized search results, you should focus on long-tail keywords. Using long-tail keywords gives context to search engines and helps them understand if your website satisfies a localized search query. This is particularly essential for local businesses.
6. Your Target Audience Will Likely Use Long-Tail Keywords
Let’s say you run a digital marketing agency in New York. You might use Google to stay abreast of the latest developments in the world of digital marketing. You will use search queries such as “digital marketing trends 2019”, “latest digital marketing statistics,” etc. What are the chances that you will ever run a search for “digital marketing” only?
Now think about your potential customers. If they are looking for digital marketing services, would they type “digital marketing” on Google? Or will they prefer to search for “digital marketing agencies near me”?
Here’s the thing – human users search using long-tail keywords when they are looking for specific information. In fact, 50% of all search queries contain four or more words. If you want to grab the attention of your target audience, you must optimize your content using long-tail keywords.
7. You Get More Qualified Website Visitors
Let’s continue with the previous example and understand this point. A user searches for “digital marketing,” finds your website on top of the search results and clicks on it. Another user searches for “digital marketing agency in Chicago” and lands on your website from the search engine results. Who is more likely to convert into a paying customer?
Long-tail keywords help you target the specific intent behind a search query. People who use long-tail keywords are sure of what information they are looking for and how they will use it. If you make the right sales pitch, such qualified website visitors will likely purchase your product or avail your services.
Thus, even when a long-tail keyword doesn’t drive as much traffic as a shorter keyword, it can help you drive conversions. This, in turn, helps you earn more revenue and improves the ROI of your SEO strategy.
8. Long-Tail Keywords Bring in Most of Your Organic Traffic
Previously, we have discussed how human users tend to frame their search queries using long-tail keywords. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most of your organic traffic comes from these keywords. To test this, you can take a look at the Google Analytics report of your website.
The report reveals important details about search queries that are driving traffic to your website. Likely you will find that long-tail keywords have higher impressions and click-through rates (CTR) than head keywords. Have a look at the Google Analytics report of Ogio Golf Bags:
Image via Neil Patel
It is high-time you identify the long-tail keywords with maximum CTR and optimize your content using them.
9. You Can Diversify Your Content Strategy
SEO best practices dictate that you use a variety of relevant keywords on your website. Targeting the same keyword using multiple blog posts isn’t recommended. Moreover, your content might become redundant and drive website visitors away.
So how do you make sure that your content remains relevant and meaningful? The solution is to use long-tail keywords. They breathe new life into your content strategy by providing you with fresh content ideas and suggestions.
Let’s say you have started a new blog that focuses on social media marketing. If every blog post targets the same keyword (“social media marketing”), your readers will get bored after a certain point. Moreover, search engines might take this as an indication of keyword stuffing and even penalize your website.
Mitigate this by entering your primary keyword in Google Keyword Planner and look for keyword suggestions. Picking the most relevant suggested keywords lets you add a plethora of variety in your content strategy.
Image via Google
If you fear your content strategy has hit a deadlock, it is time to start focusing on long-tail keywords. You can also utilize a keyword research tool like KWFinder to identify relevant long-tail keywords. All you have to do is enter your primary keyword or website URL.
Image via KW Finder
10. Provide More Value to Your Readers
When you optimize your content with long-tail keywords, it becomes more meaningful and relevant. This is because these keywords address the intent behind a search query. Content optimized with these keywords satisfies the purpose of a searcher. This makes your content more valuable and enriching.
Moreover, long-tail keywords target specific topics in your niche. Integrating these keywords in your content strategy helps you answer your audience’s questions and resolve their problems. If your readers are regularly rewarded with valuable information, they convert into loyal brand advocates.
Thus, apart from renewing your content strategy, long-tail keywords improve the quality of your content. This, in turn, establishes your brand as an industry expert and further increases website traffic. The use of long-tail keywords strengthens brand reputation and reinforces brand trust.
11. Long-Tail Keywords Help You Rank for Shorter Keywords
While long-tail keywords great for boosting organic traffic and driving conversions, you want to rank high for shorter keywords as well. This is one of the most highly-recommended SEO best practices. However, as pointed out previously, shorter keywords are associated with more competition. Instead, you can use long-tail keywords to rank for short and single keywords.
This works because long-tail keywords let you create multiple web pages containing optimized, high-quality content. When these pages receive more organic traffic, it tells the search engines that your website is a trusted and valuable source of information. This, in turn, helps your website achieve a higher rank for shorter keywords as well.
To understand this, let us take the example of Moz – an online authority in the field of SEO. Also consider using a tool like SEMrush to find the top keywords that Moz ranks for. Take a look at the screenshot below:
Image via SEMrush
The report reveals that Moz ranks in the first position for various short keywords such as “SEO” and “backlinks.” However, these keywords alone could not have taken established Moz as an authority on all-things-SEO. That task has been accomplished by numerous lower volume long-tail keywords among the 230,000+ organic keywords.
12. Long-Tail Keywords Are Cost-Effective
The use of keywords isn’t restricted to SEO. They are equally crucial for paid search ads such as pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. PPC campaigns usually require you to place a bid on your target keywords. The more competitive a keyword is, the more expensive it will be to bid on it.
Since long-tail keywords are less competitive than head keywords, the former is likely to be cheaper. Moreover, it is less expensive to outrank your competitors who are using the same long-tail keywords in their PPC campaigns. This comes in handy when your competitors include big brands with mammoth marketing budgets. While they will be busy targeting popular head keywords, your PPC ad can quietly sneak in by leveraging long-tail keywords.
13. Long-Tail Keywords Help You Get Featured in Google’s Rich Snippets
Search engines such as Google constantly strive to deliver the best search experience to their users. That is why they often incorporate new elements to help searchers find relevant and valuable information. For instance, the introduction of the Knowledge Graph and rich snippets has dramatically improved the search experience on Google.
Simply put, rich snippets are regular Google search results, albeit with some additional information displayed. They are a great way to outrank organic listings and search ads to reach the top of SERPs. The most common form of rich snippets include recipes, film reviews, definitions, etc.
For instance, when you search for “rich snippets” on Google, here’s what you get:
Image via Google
In the above example, the listing in the rich snippet is not at the top of the organic search results. However, most users will likely click on the rich snippet just because of its position. The rich snippet gets more traction than most any organic any paid listing. Long-tail keywords can help your website get there.
We have previously discussed that long-tail keywords make your content more meaningful, relevant, and valuable. However, when you add structured data to these keywords, they provide more context to search engines. This, in turn, helps search engines retrieve additional data from your content and display it in rich snippets. Thus, leveraging long-tail keywords and rich snippets can help you outrank all your SEO and PPC competitors.
You can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to check the schema on your website.
If SEO is the backbone of a digital marketing strategy, keywords are the fuel that keeps it alive. However, popular single-word keywords are often challenging to rank for. Long-tail keywords, powerful alternative to head keywords, can completely transform your SEO efforts.
Long-tail keywords help refine your keyword research process and renew your content strategy. Since these keywords are highly specific to your niche, they are less competitive and cheaper. They also help search engines correctly interpret the meaning of your web pages. Additionally, they facilitate the creation of a variety of top-notch, valuable, and unique content for your audience.
Long-tail keywords also improve the ROI of your SEO strategy by driving qualified visitors to your website. If you are new to SEO, you should focus on how to find and use long-tail keywords to increase website traffic.
Have you used long-tail keywords to improve your SEO strategy? What steps did you take to find these keywords and integrate them into your content? Share your views in the comments section below.
Richa describes herself as an avid dreamer and a curious soul! She is a certified Content & Search Marketing Specialist from Digital Marketer, USA. With an experience of 5+ years as a content marketer and researcher, she is in love with Digital Breakthroughs, Content Marketing, Startup Strategies and so much more.