Think about the last time you used a search engine. Not because you were working on keyword research or doing competitor analysis, but because you were actually looking for answers to a question. Were you thinking about the exact words you wanted to use? Or did you just think about the question you wanted to ask?
If you’re anything like most users, you probably just asked a question—that’s what normal people do when they’re using search engines. So, how do you create content that doesn’t just have the ranking potential, but answers these questions as well? With long tail keywords.
Long tail keywords are the best tool you have for attracting relevant website visitors to your site. They’re targeted to specific problems, more attainable than short tail keywords, and closer to the natural language we all use to search.
In this article, we’ll break down what makes up a good long tail keyword, why they’re valuable, and a few ways you can incorporate them into your SEO strategy. And, as an added bonus, some tactics for sourcing those long tail keywords you can use right away. Let’s jump in.
What are Long Tail Keywords?
Long tail keywords are specific phrases, typically three or four words long, which are hyper-targeted at bottom of the funnel website visitors. Unlike their short tail cousins, long tail keywords are less competitive and easier to rank for. While this does mean that there’s typically less monthly search volume, using long tail keywords in your SEO strategy is one of the best ways you have for creating relevant content that actually ranks.
Why are Long Tail Keywords Valuable?
SEO marketing is rife with competition. Everyone dreams of capturing a first result on Google for that 40K per month keyword, but rarely is that the case. With long tail keywords, it’s much easier to find yourself on the first page of results. Companies of any size can bring in valuable traffic that’s relevant to their product or service and create content that’s targeted to the specific needs of their website visitors.
Part of what makes long tail keywords so attainable is how easy it is to match searcher intent. Instead of writing a 10K word skyscraper article that covers every possible aspect of a short tail keyword, you can go deep on a long tail keyword and create a targeted article that’s more manageable in size. Not only does this cut down on the work required to create the article, it’s a better experience for readers.
Here’s an example from our very own SpyFu blog, How to Find Long Tail Keywords: Here are the 9 Most Effective Ways. At around 2,000 words, it provides a lot of relevant information on finding long tail keywords without taking too much time to read.
We’ve seen consistent traffic coming in from this article since being published earlier this year.
In just over four months, this article alone has brought in over 1000 unique website visitors to the SpyFu Blog. And that’s coming from a keyword that sports approximately 320 total monthly searches.
Now, that might not seem like a lot at first, but considering that the article only just makes it on the first page of Google (10th result at the time this article was written), that’s a pretty substantial amount of traffic.
This just goes to show that, while lower in volume, long tail keywords typically make it easier to rank on the first SERP. It can mean they’re cheaper from an advertising and PPC perspective as well. Instead of going up against a myriad of different advertisers, all going after the same short tail keyword, you’ll tend to find less competition for long tail keywords.
Ranking for multiple long tail keywords can also have a compounding effect on the overall strength of your domain. Our example article targeting how to find long tail keywords also ranks for 139 organic keywords. Combined, those bring in a significant amount of consistent, relevant traffic to our website.
While some of the more competitive keywords see rankings on the second, third, or fourth SERP, each brings in a small amount of traffic that contributes to the success of the article. Tracking how rankings fluctuate over time gives us insight into long-term performance as well, which can signal the overall strength and authority of our domain.
When you incorporate long tail keywords into your SEO strategy, you’re able to tap into the beneficial effects of a more well-rounded marketing approach. Creating content becomes easier with more specific targeting and ranking can happen faster with less competition. Now, let’s see how to implement this strategy for your company.
How to use Long Tail Keywords in Your SEO Strategy
A well-balanced SEO strategy combines both long and short tail keywords to make a net positive impact on the ranking of your website. By incorporating long tail types of keywords in your content, you’re able to target more specific visitors that are further along the buying cycle than people searching for short tail keywords. And, you’ll have the benefit of less competition, making it easier to stand out.
There are a number of different ways to use long tail keywords in your SEO strategy, from both a technical and structural perspective. We’ll start with some technical best practices:
- Use long tail keywords in your H2 and H3 headlines as well as your title. This is a great way to bring in syntactical variations that search engines look for as signals of well-rounded content.
- Include your target keyword in the introduction to set the tone of the article for your reader.
- Pepper in long tail keywords as natural language to make it easy for web crawlers to understand.
- Use long tail keywords as anchor text to related articles, like what we did with our example article targeting how to find long tail keywords from earlier.
- Find ways to use similar keywords together in the same post to tap into their compounding growth effects.
- Target long tail keywords in both the headline and copy sections of your ads.
Each of these best practices helps your article rank well and appeal to website visitors. As you’re building long tail keywords into your SEO strategy, think about how they can be used to create support for other content on your website as well.
There are two great SEO frameworks you can use to think about how to do this—the hub and spoke model and the keyword batch strategy.
The Hub and Spoke Model
This SEO content strategy uses long tail keywords to bolster your ranking potential for a short tail keyword. By creating spokes that target long tail keywords, all linking to a hub article targeting a short tail keyword, you build a structure that’s more appealing to search engines and easier to browse by website visitors.
This is an incredibly valuable strategy for building domain strength as well. Each spoke links to the hub and transfers some of its link equity, which is returned when the hub links out to each spoke. This internal linking shares the volume from monthly searches while at the same time making it easier for visitors to go deeper into your site.
From a search engine perspective, this organizational structure also makes it easier for crawlers to do their job. You’re giving a clear and easy-to-parse structure that both humans and robots can follow.Just keep in mind that the long tail variations in this image above are all related to the short tail hub. For example:
- Hub article targets the keyword, long tail keyword
- Spoke 1 targets how to find long tail keywords
- Spoke 2 targets how to use long tail keywords
- Spoke 3 targets using long tail keywords in SEO strategy
With each subsequent article, you’re going deeper and deeper into the topic the hub targets and positioning your company as the subject matter expert. Used correctly, the hub and spoke model can be a valuable addition to your SEO strategy.
The Keyword Batch Strategy
This strategy takes a bit of a different angle at how to target long tail keywords. Instead of focusing on a hub article that goes after a more high-volume, competitive short tail keyword, you’re using the compounding effects of long tail keywords to build strength with every new article.
The goal here is to create a batch of long tail keywords and go after them systematically, from lowest volume or difficulty to highest. In doing so, you’re not only making it easier on yourself to rank faster; each new article that you write builds on the strength of those before it through internal linking. This increases your domain authority incrementally, signaling to search engines that you’re creating a comprehensive resource on the topic.
When you’re structuring your batches, just make sure you define parameters for volume and difficulty. You want to make sure that every new article you create not only builds on the topic you’re writing about, but is slightly more competitive than the previous.
The keyword batch strategy is somewhat more straightforward than the hub and spoke model, and requires a little bit less work to accomplish. You also don’t need a high-level short tail keyword to build the hub around, so the topics you’ll be writing about are, while still connected, not tied to a single target. Each subsequent article you create links back to older content, sharing link equity and domain strength between them all.
Whether you use one strategy or the other, the most important thing you need to understand is how to find the most relevant and targeted long tail keywords possible. We’ll talk through some strategies and an example in the next section.
How to Find Long Tail Keywords
Sourcing long tail keywords is a vital step of your keyword research. More specific than short tail keywords, finding the right long tail keyword phrase requires an in-depth understanding of both keyword intent and what’s attainable for your company. Getting started, the best long tail keywords have a volume in the several hundred range and a difficulty that’s 30 or less.
Maintaining this volume to difficulty ratio ensures that the effort you put forth to target these keywords is worthwhile. You don’t want to spend a bunch of time coming up with long tail variations, creating content, and promoting it, if the keyword is too difficult for your brand to feasibly obtain.
To find good long tail keywords, we suggest you start with a general topic or high-volume short tail keyword and look for questions or phrases that are relevant, but more specific. One way to do this is by searching the topic or short tail keyword in Google. Then, using Google’s search features to identify syntactic variations.
In our example, we’re searching for long tail keywords, which has a monthly search volume of approximately 3,200. On the results page, you’ll want to check out the “People also ask” search feature:
And the related searches:
Both of these will give you a bit more information on what kind of questions searchers ask Google that share similarities to the original search. As this is the first step in refining a more specific keyword list, the variations you’ll see aren’t necessarily all going to work.
That’s why we suggest using a keyword research tool as well. Once you have a short list of topics from Google, use a tool like SpyFu to flesh out your search even more. You’ll have access to more data much faster when you utilize features like Similar keywords and Questions.
Not only do these features flesh out a comprehensive list of potential long tail keywords for you to use, they provide insight into how searchers speak about your topic. In the Questions box, for example, what are long tail keywords and what is a long tail keyword are strikingly similar, but the first question has a volume of 840 per month as opposed to just 630.
Understanding how people search for these long tail keywords makes creating content to target them much simpler. Just take a look at the first section in this article, we’re using an H2 to target that keyword directly. It’s important to speak the same language as your audience.
You’ll be able to source related topics and get a sense of how competitive the space is with the Also ranks for and Also buys ads for features as well.
Each of the keywords you see in either of these two features provides valuable context about what brands who go after your long tail keywords are talking about. Whether you’re building out an advertising campaign or looking to beef up your content marketing, knowing what other types of content exist in your market help you make your campaign more competitive.
Now, we’re not saying that you need to go after every keyword sourced through these methods, that would be downright intimidating! But each additional piece of context helps make it easier for you to see how people talk about a topic you’re targeting and where your opportunities lie.
Once you have your list of long tail keywords compiled, it’s off to the races. You can start prioritizing them based on the hub and spoke model or keyword batch strategy and create a strategy that not only helps your content ranks, but provides valuable information to website visitors as well.
Use Long Tail Keywords to Your Advantage
When you incorporate long tail keywords into your SEO strategy, you’ll be able to create content that’s more targeted to your audience, more relevant to their interests, and with more ranking potential. There’s less competition for these types of keywords and you’re providing valuable answers for visitors. This all happens at the same time, incrementally increasing traffic to your site, so it’s a winning situation across the board.