One of the toughest aspects of working in SEO is convincing clients that what you’re doing will pay off. Choosing to optimize for long-tail keywords can be a tough fight to win, with some clients not immediately understanding why we’d opt to target lower volume keywords.
While it might seem totally counterproductive to optimize for less popular search terms, the truth is, targeting long-tail keywords results in increased traffic and conversions.
Pages optimized for long-tail keywords have a click-through rate up to 19% higher than those optimized for short-tail keywords. More clicks mean more traffic and more chances to turn visitors into customers.
The statistics are tremendous, obviously. But this article will really prove to you the benefits of optimizing for long-tail keywords, along with the most effective ways to find them.
What Are Long-tail Keywords?
Long-tail keywords are low volume, less competitive search terms. As they are super-focused search queries, long-tail keywords generally convert better.
It’s important to note that the length of the search query doesn’t determine whether or not it’s considered long-tail. An Ahrefs study showed that 29.13% of keywords with a search volume of 10,001+ contain three or more words.
Hence, around a third of high volume search queries are actually longer phrases, rather than just one or two words.
Remember that longer keywords might not necessarily be less popular keywords. Do your research to determine volume and competition.
Why Are Long-tail Keywords Important?
Long-tail keywords are important because the large majority of online searches are long-tail. They make up around 70% of search traffic. The other thing about long-tail keywords is that they are easier to rank for. Think about it: if you only go after popular keywords you’ll be constantly battling with major brands for a top spot on the SERPs.
What did you search for last? I searched “what to do for a strained neck”… Ahh, the joys of laboring over a computer all day. Anyway, this is a low volume keyword with low competition:
Chances are your last Google search comprised a long-tail keyword, too. Because the large majority of online searches are long-tail. They make up around 70% of search traffic:
This proves that if you overlook long-tail keywords you could be missing out on a lot of potential traffic.
The other thing about long-tail keywords is that they are easier to rank for. Think about it: if you only go after popular keywords you’ll be constantly battling with major brands for a top spot on the SERPs.
These big brands have been at it for a while and they have a lot of authority on the web. To be in with even a chance of ranking alongside them would take a lot of time and effort on your part.
But, if you optimize for less competitive, long-tail keywords, you’ll rank and increase traffic much quicker. Then, as you build momentum, increase traffic, and prove your authority on the web, there’s a chance you’ll start ranking for popular, high volume keywords, as well. Win.
Not only are long-tail keywords easier to rank for but they also bring in qualified traffic. When users make specific, intentional searches, they’re much more likely to convert.
According to Google’s advice on improving your conversion rate,
Generally, more specific keywords like “Acme 710c” tend to lead to a better conversion rate than general keywords like “Acme.” That’s because people searching for specific models or product numbers have typically already researched their product and want to make a purchase.
How does this work in a real life scenario? Well, let’s say a user searches “hairdressers that do box braids”, (which is a long-tail keyword):
Obviously, there’s a crystal clear objective behind this search query. If your page is optimized for this query and satisfies the user’s objective, then it’s more likely to result in a salon visit.
Pages optimized for short-tail keywords suit broader audiences. While those optimized for long-tail queries serve the needs of a specific audience. And as a result of you serving the needs of searchers better, you’ll get more customers.
Now you understand the value of long-tail keywords, but where do you find them?
1. Audience Questions
Nowadays, Google’s main concern is satisfying the needs of the user. As such, a key pillar of their mission statement is “Focus on the User”.
Here, they explain how they perform testing and make changes to the search engine so that they always provide the most useful and relevant results for the user. And, of course, we know they’re referring to those pesky algorithm updates.
So, SEO these days is less about traditional keyword research and more about providing value to the user. Which means you have to create content that is rich in the information that real users are searching for.
To do this, consider what questions users ask in relation to your product or service, as well as your industry. This is an easy way to generate long-tail search queries that respond to the information they most desire.
Thankfully, there are several ways to find question-based long-tail keywords. The first place to look is Google’s “People Also Ask” box. This SERP feature generates tons of questions related to the main search term.
For example, if you type in “counselling services”, these questions pop up:
It illustrates the type of information those who search for counselling services also want to know. To show Google that you care about the user, you’ll need to answer these questions somewhere within your content.
Other places where you can find real user questions are forums and platforms where people tend to ask their peers questions. Find industry-specific forums through a simple Google search – “your niche + forum”:
The most useful forums will have high membership numbers and lots of recent activity. This is because older questions don’t represent current trending search terms or topics.
Larger platforms with multiple categories, such as Reddit and Quora, are also good choices. Let’s say you run a careers service. A quick search of Reddit reveals a relevant subreddit r/careerguidance.
The page features questions, such as “How to get remote jobs?” and “How do you deal with career FOMO?”
These are great long-tail keyword ideas. But, to get even more value from a forum page like this, look out for similar questions that appear multiple times, as well as the questions users engage with most. On Reddit, this would mean the most comments and up-votes. This indicates what kind of information your audience is looking for most.
Another useful resource is AnswerThePublic. Type in one of your main keywords and you’ll receive a chart packed with all of the questions search engines autosuggest in relation to your keywords.
For example, here’s what a section of the chart looks like when you type in “florist”:
There are questions, such as “where to buy florist supplies”, “when to do floristry for the wedding”, and tons more great suggestions.
Click “Download CSV” to get a spreadsheet containing all of the search terms. Sort through these terms and delete those which are not relevant to your niche or the services you provide.
Once you have a list of relevant, question-based long-tail keywords you can begin to target them.
These keywords make for excellent blog post topics. Or you can create dedicated support pages around the keywords on your website.
For instance, the following flower delivery service has dedicated FAQ pages for each of their main categories. Here, they answer questions about the type of flowers you should send for new baby, whether it’s okay to deliver flowers to a hospital and so on:
Like this company, you can serve your audience’s needs by seeking out and answering their most pressing questions. As a result, you’ll also please Google and likely see a rise in rankings.
2. Google’s Suggestions
If you want to find long-tail keywords closely related to your niche or topic, it makes sense to go straight to the source.
There are two main spots where Google makes suggestions. The first is via their autosuggest function. Here’s an example:
Type in “hire a contractor” and you see more specific, less popular search terms, such as “hire a contractor app” and “hire a contractor to build a house”.
The next option is to look at the related search section at the bottom of the SERP. Here we have even more related long-tail search queries:
When you perform this kind of keyword research, the trick is to take similar keywords and bundle them together. The reason being, many are so similar that it wouldn’t make any kind of sense to create dedicated pages or blog posts for each. Neither from a business perspective nor an SEO perspective.
But your keyword bundles are still extremely useful. You may be thinking… Ahh, because of LSI keywords. Well, I’m going to bust another SEO myth wide open and say LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords aren’t really a thing.
There’s no such thing as LSI keywords — anyone who’s telling you otherwise is mistaken, sorry.
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) July 30, 2019
Experts tend to agree that although LSI keywords don’t technically matter, Google does require synonyms or related words and phrases to understand what a web page is all about.
So, take a bundle of long-tail keywords and integrate them into one page or one piece of content. It’s an efficient way to optimize your content for the long-tail and it’s super beneficial for your overall SEO strategy.
The added bonus here is that content can rank for multiple, even hundreds of long-tail keywords. In one case study, an agency found a rather tasty piece of low-hanging fruit in the form of a content gap for one long-tail keyword: “What happens to your old number plate when you change it?” And their blog post ended up ranking for another 594 search terms.
Anyway, your key takeaway here is to go straight to the horse’s mouth and see what Google thinks the best related search terms are. Then, integrate them into your content to rank for multiple terms at once.
For instance, if you wanted to create a post on the dangers of vaping and Google suggests these terms:
It wouldn’t be difficult to integrate “vaping dangers”, “vaping health risks” and “harmful effects of vaping” into one piece of content.
You simply need to combine the terms which fit together naturally.
3. Google Tools
Google’s own tools should be a part of your SEO toolkit. You may have your fave research tool. But we like to kick it old school with Google tools because they’re accessible and free.
Keyword Planner is a natural place to do keyword research and analysis. Head to Keyword Planner and type in one of your overarching keywords. Switch Avg. monthly searches to ascending order. Sort through the results to find keywords with a low search volume (up to 1,000). And finally, pick out those with low or medium competition.
For example, when you type in “accountant”, there are heaps of great suggestions, such as “sap financial accounting” and “chartered tax advisor”:
Don’t worry if there’s a low search volume. Remember that specific searches like these are more likely to result in a conversion. So, using such keywords is still worthwhile.
Another Google tool you can utilize is Google Analytics. Within Analytics head to Acquisition > Search Console > Queries. Here you’ll see the keywords that you currently rank for.
Go through these results with a fine-tooth comb. You may find some low-hanging fruit of your very own. In other words, long-tail keywords that you have ranked for accidentally.
Then you can go back and refresh content with a relevant section on the search query. By optimizing old blog posts, HubSpot increased organic search views by 106% on average. Which shows just how fruitful historical optimization can be.
Essentially, you should use the tools and data at your disposal for research and analysis. It removes guesswork when it comes to choosing long-tail keywords that are going to perform well for your site.
Long-tail keywords have a serious advantage over short-tail keywords. There’s a higher search demand for them, they’re easier to rank for and they generate qualified traffic that lead to more customers.
Once clients start seeing their traffic increasing, they’ll too understand the value of optimizing for the long-tail.
To find long-tail queries, you first need to look at genuine questions that your audience are asking. If you can create pages that answer user questions and satisfy their needs, you’ll get a gold star from Google.
You can also go straight to the search engine itself to find related terms suggested by Google. These make excellent synonyms to sprinkle throughout your content, which will ultimately lead to higher rankings.
And finally, there are the tried and tested tools, Keyword Planner and Analytics. They will help you take a data-driven approach to keyword research.
Now it’s over to you to start targeting long-tail keywords. The first step is to head over to Google, type in your main keyword and see what insight the PAA box holds for you.