My Personal Successes with Long-Tail Keywords
Long-tail keyword research might be the most important thing to understand when it comes to generating massive amounts of organic traffic.
By the end of this article you’ll know:
- What long-tail keywords are and why they’re important
- Exactly how I generate traffic with long-tail keywords
- The best tools for finding real keywords that people are typing in Google
- My step-by-step process for pinpointing long-tail keyword targets (with pictures!)
What Are Long-Tail Keywords?
It’s the specific keyword that a motivated, “buyer” for the lack of a better term, uses to find what they’re looking for.
Not a general one-to-two word query, but a detailed phrase the explains exactly what they’re looking for.
This is how to capture users with strong intent. Intent to take a specific action whether it’s to learn from you, making you an authority figure, or to directly buy something from you.
It’s important to understand INTENT.
A while back I found a graphic from Moz.com that made it much easier to wrap my head around the concept. Looks like this:
This chart represents a keyword’s demand curve so we can find the sweet spot between potential traffic, competitiveness, and the user’s intent.
For this example it’s described in three major sections. The fat head, a chunky middle and the long tail.
Here’s how it was described:
Google has said that 20% of all searches are unique. Meaning 1 of 5 queries have NEVER been typed… Click To Tweet
Terms like “watches” would belong in our fat head. That gets many tens of thousands of searches. It’s going to tend to have higher competition and less specific intent. We don’t know if someone is ready to buy watches or if they just want to see what watch brands are out there.
In the chunky middle there might be something like a brand of watches. Let’s say Skagen watches. In the chunky middle, I see Skagen watches, and that has maybe a few thousand searches a month. It’s in the middle on competition, but it’s fairly competitive still and the intent is relatively specific. We know that if someone is at least looking for that particular brand, there’s a higher likelihood they’re going to buy.
In the long tail, you get keywords like “men’s mesh band watches” or “Ziiiro watches on sale.” There’s a ton of keywords like it. It has a much more specific intent and a much lower likelihood of having competition.
This explains why there is so much potential for long-tail keywords.You can see from the chart there are LOTS of long-tail phrases being used, the competition is low, and the buyers intent is high.
Keyword Research Tools… and a bit of a rant
For any SEO professional keyword research is a critical process, but even the most elite marketers tend to follow the same routine for carving out the perfect phrase.
We compile a short list of generic keywords we think describe the product or service best.
Then noodle on some new and exciting ways of saying the same thing to broaden our list.
This is followed by dumping that list into a bunch of other tools that provide us more recommendations of keywords to include.
Then we take THAT list and all the data that comes with it and copy to an Excel file where we sort rows and columns until something “special” smacks us in the face.
Like we’re panning for gold or something…
At the end of the day we tend to prioritize the results based on our gut reactions and whichever result showed the greatest monthly search volume in the first place we looked – Google’s Keyword Planner.
The Results? Mediocre.
Currently even the top tools in our industry only offer “Fat Head” terms. They combine all the long-tail and chunky middle terms into the statistics for the Fat Head making it impossible to get the data I’m looking for.
All the time spent filtering these “generic keywords” with tools like Google & Bing’s keyword tools, keywordtool.io, Moz’s keyword explorer, SEMrush, Ahrefs and Majestic SEO could probably be spent on better things if there was a way to combine the best data from these tools into one!
Well, maybe that time has come. At least partially.
All those frustrations led me scouring the web in search of a better way. Eventually I was able to narrow down the most effective tools for finding the best information. My go-to tools still consist of:
- Google’s Keyword Planner
- Keyword.io (which is the same as Google auto-suggest)
- Google related searches
- Google Trends
- Even Twitter, monitoring conversations to see if people are talking about said topic
I was most impressed when I came across Long-Tail Pro in an interview with Pat Flynn who was hosting a podcast episode on the same subject.
Finally, there was keyword research software dedicated to solving my exact concerns and gave me a better starting point.
Too good to be true? I had find out.
The Results? Fantastic.
For one of my first experiments I was able to identify a long-tail phrase in the form of a question for the post I ended up titling, What Are Sessions and Users in Google Analytics.
I toyed with various ways of writing it, but long-tail pro helped solidify that this was the exact phrasing I should use. The results speak for themselves, you can this post has already generated over 60,000 visits.
Here’s another example with my post, “What Is Active Users in Google Analytics.” This was purposely a short post to capture the timeliness of the update. Something Google’s Fresh Content update rewards you for. First to market so to speak.
I thought the post should have been called, What Are Active Users…, but the research said otherwise – and it was correct!
My Step-By-Step Long-Tail Keyword Research Process
I was amazed at the results to say the least. Unfortunately, I didn’t record the process at the time because I wasn’t planning on writing about it over a year later.
This time I’m ready, follow along as I walk you through my research for finding my next topic.
I was looking for another topic that could illustrate my authority in the Google Analytics space, but also wanted to find potential “buyer” keywords. So for my seed keyword I used ‘google analytics’ so I find what topics around Google Analytics are popular, then also included ‘consultant’ to the seed keyword in case their were people seeking help.
Long Tail Platinum retrieved my results and I found there was a lot of interest around Bounce Rate. This also happens to be a topic I love debating because it is wildly misunderstood.
I found multiple long-tail phrases with high monthly search volumes, low costs-per-click (in case I want to bid for them on Adwords), and rank low in competition.
BINGO! Found my next target, but I don’t stop there.
Phase Two: Deeper Analysis
Long-Tail Pro gave me great direction on what my next topic should be, but I like to be even more thorough.
The autosuggest tool, Soovle, lets me take these keyword ideas and find all the autosuggest results across Google, Yahoo, Bing, Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube, and Answers.com. Keywordtool.io is also useful for this, plus it will show all the top question-based queries for the given keyword.
Now I have an even better idea for 1) details of my searchers intent and 2) more data to identify the best long-tail keyword to focus on.
Three topics I’m really excited about are bounce rate calculation, bounce rate vs. exit rate, and bounce rate on subdomains. These are all topics clients tend to have questions about so it makes perfect sense for an SEOsetups.com blog topic.
My topic is really getting dialed now, but I can take this even further.
I then take a topic like, “Google Analytics Bounce Rate vs. Exit Rate” and manually perform a Google search using that term.
I scroll all the way to the bottom of the search engine result page (SERP) and look at the Related Searches to see what else people are looking around this topic.
I’m intrigued by, “exit rate calculation,” and wonder if more people are interested in understanding Exit Rate than Bounce Rate.
Using Google Trends I compare the search data between the two topics to find out.
By default it’s set to show data over the past five years, but I’m more concerned with current search patterns so I change it to use the past 90 days instead.
Bounce rate is clearly the more popular topic, but I’m sure I can find even more direction.
Using SEMrush’s Keyword Overview feature I search, ‘bounce rate vs exit rate.’ One of the first things I notice is a slightly downward trend in popularity for the topic.
It’s still popular, however, so I pull the page one results for this search term to get a sense of competitiveness.
Saved all data so far, then began search number two, ‘Bounce Rate Calculation.’
Right away it’s clear there is less overall search volume, but a steep positive trend line which tells me popularity is on the rise.
Then I pull the page one results for this keyword to compare the competitiveness here to the previous search.
I immediately recognize there is respectable competition for both terms from companies that I’ve gotten to know personally over the years. All of which produce high-quality content.
That said, I know from experience that by using Brian Dean’s Skyscraper technique I will still have a chance at dominance. You can read about it here, but at the highest-level it’s about:
1) producing newer, bigger, better content than these current top-ranked sites
2) pulling the backlink profile for these pages and “stealing” their backlinks
I call it stealing, but I’m doing their audience a favor by letting websites that link to these articles know there is a higher quality, more recent and more informed article they could be linking to.
The Home Stretch
Here’s where I take everything I’ve learned I do a last sweep through Long-Tail Pro to identify any additional nuances in phrasing.
Focusing on topics around Bounce Rate Calculation I found the word ‘average’ is used a lot. A note that will come in handy during on-page optimization where I can tweak content on my page to assure that I rank for all the keywords below in addition my other primary focuses of, Bounce Rate vs. Exit Rate, Bounce Rate Calculations and Google Analytics Bounce Rate.
Notice the Avg. KC column on the right of these tables. Long-tail Pro offers a keyword competitiveness score to help me quickly identify which keyword I’ll have the best shot of ranking for. It’s based on a 1-100 scale and the higher the number the more competitive it is to rank for.
This makes my keyword selection process faster, smarter and easier. I included a full walk-through of how to use the keyword competitiveness feature in the video below.
Long-tail keywords are absolutely necessary in dominating organic search traffic, and there are by all means, a lot of options out there.
As you can see, there are a lot of free and inexpensive tools to help you perform thorough analysis. I suggest giving Long-Tail Platinum (LTP) a try as well as SEMrush. LTP offers a trial period to test it out for just $1. Even then, the $37/month plan allows for 10,000 different keywords and is far more affordable than other tools like SEMrush which provides a lot of the same long-tail keyword data. SEMrush minimum plan starts at $69.95.