How to Choose the Right Long-Tail Keywords

Ranking well for common, general keywords is tough, especially if your business is new or small. If you want to increase your traffic and conversions more quickly (and with less effort), using long-tail keywords is the way to go. While choosing the right long-tail keywords isn’t always easy, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, either.

What Are Long-Tail Keywords?

Long-tail keywords are keywords that don’t get searched as much as other, more popular terms; usually, because they are very specific. Most long-tail keywords are at a minimum, three words long. However, length itself doesn’t define whether a keyword is considered long-tail or not.

Long-tail keywords are usually much easier to rank for than general keywords, which are sometimes called “head keywords.” If your site is new, or if you are not highly ranked right now, it can take years of hard work and continuous improvement to rank for a head keyword like “coffee” or “marketing.”

By targeting less frequently searched terms, such as “make filter coffee at home” or “content marketing for software companies,” you can get on Google’s first page much more easily.

Variations of long-tail keywords work as well (Google is capable of understanding related keywords and variations). Examples: “homemade coffee filters”, “Content marketing for SaaS”, Content marketing strategies for software”.

Long-tail keywords take their name from a graph of Google’s search results. A few terms (the “head” of the graph) are searched frequently, but the majority of searches (the “tail” of the graph) are for longer and more obscure keywords.

Long-tail keywords aren’t searched much individually, but taken together, they make up the majority of search traffic.

Why Long-Tail Keywords Are Key for Boosting Traffic and Conversions

By targeting long-tail keywords instead of head keywords, you are more likely to bring in visitors who are interested in your site, product, or service for a couple of reasons:

1. It Is Easier to Rank. First and foremost, it is easier to rank for long-tail keywords. There is a ton of competition for common head keywords, but much less for specific long-tail keywords. For instance, it is hard to rank for “sushi,” but easier to rank for “vegan sushi restaurant Chicago.”

2. More Targeted Audience. Second, because long-tail keywords tend to be very specific, someone who searches for one is probably ready to make a purchase or commitment. They already know what they want; they just need to find it. Someone who searches for a general keyword, on the other hand, might just be doing preliminary research or weighing all their options. Of the two searchers, the first is the one you want on your site.

3. Less Expensive Advertising. If you use Google Ad, long-tail keywords will also help you get more bang for your advertising buck. Competitive keywords tend to have a high cost per click, but keywords with a lower search volume are both cheaper and more targeted.

How Can You Find the Right Long-Tail Keywords?

Now that you know why long-tail keywords matter, how can you start using them? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for finding long-tail keywords that will draw in traffic and conversions, and you may have to try a number of keywords before you find one that clicks.

However, there are some principles you can use to create good lists of keywords to try; let’s look at each of them.

Know Your Unique Selling Proposition

To find keywords that pay off for you, start by thinking about your business. Ask yourself what makes your product or service uniquely desirable or useful.

What kind of people need what you are offering? 

Why should they choose you over your competitors?

Keep these unique benefits in mind when you choose your long-tail keywords. Ideally, your keywords should highlight what you do best and why you are different from the competition. These factors will help you reach searchers who need what you are selling. Remember, the more unique the fewer viewers, but it is the conversions that matter.

Tools to Find Lists of Potential Keywords

There are a number of keyword tool options you can use to find lists of long-tail keywords in your niche.

Let’s start with the Keyword Magic Tool. 

You can input keywords and select your country, and it will provide a list of keywords where you can modify the match type by broad, phrase, exact, or related keywords.

You can also select individual keywords and add them to your keyword manager — a great place to keep a record of all the keywords you want to monitor or use.  You can also export the keywords in the list to Excel.

For More Long-tail Ideas: the Topic Research Tool

You can search for a long-tail keyword, and the tool will return a collection of related topics and information in different formats. You can use the information here to get more long-tail ideas.

Initially, you are given related keywords and recent headlines related to your keyword in a card format.

When you click on a card, you are given recent headlines and questions related to the topic of your keyword and the topic of the card. These questions can give you many long-tail keyword ideas and help you determine questions you need to answer for your audience.

Check Competitors with the Keyword Gap Tool

With this tool, you add your domain and can enter up to 4 competitors at a time. The tool will show you keywords you both rank for, but in what SERP position.

Google Ads Keyword Planner

Inside your Google Ads account, Keyword Planner presents you with the two options – Discover new keywords and Get search volume and forecasts.

Side Note: If you have a paid Google Ads account, you will get better data and information than free accounts.

With these two options below, you can gain insights into different search terms and see the estimated volume of clicks and impressions you could receive if you ran ads with these keywords.

When using for keyword research, you can search for terms and brands, enter a domain to use as a filter, and use other filters if you want to for an even more targeted search for even for long-tail keyword ideas.

The tool will generate a list of keywords for you. It also tells you how much Google Ads competition there is for each keyword and how much you can expect to pay per click. Even if you are not planning to run a Google Ads campaign, this gives you a good idea of how much each keyword is worth and how difficult it will be to rank for each keyword in organic results.

Google’s Keyword Planner is the best place to start, but there are a number of other helpful keyword-generating tools around the web, too.

Other Methods to Expand Your Keyword Lists

Keyword tools can give you lots of good ideas, but don’t stop there. A little old-fashioned digging can help you come up with long-tail keywords that you might not be able to find in online generators. Here are some other places you can look.

1. Look at Google’s autocomplete feature. When you start typing something into Google’s search box, it will show you a drop-down list of terms people are searching for. Add extra words to your search term to generate more long-tail possibilities, or add an extra letter after your search term to see different autocomplete keywords.

2. Google’s People Also Ask. If Google is showing you what people ask, there is something to learn. When you do Google searches, always review this section of the SERPs.

When you click on a question, the box expands and provides more questions to get keyword ideas from.

3. Look at related search terms on Google. Try searching for either a head keyword or one of your long-tail keywords, and see what kind of related searches Google suggests at the bottom of the page. For instance, if you search for the keyword “content marketing for businesses,” you might also want to use related keywords related to small business content or explain why content marketing works.

4. Look at what people are saying about your topic on the Internet. Visit message boards and forums related to your topic and pay attention to the questions people are asking. Consider borrowing entire questions or phrases as your long-tail keywords.

Keep User Intent in Mind

After you have made a list of long-tail keywords, you might want to use, go over them again and think about why people would search for those terms. What are they hoping to find? What stage of the buying process are they at? When you use your keyword on your site, make sure your content provides the information those searchers are looking for.

Whatever you do, don’t use long-tail keywords that aren’t a good fit, even if you think they will be easy to rank for. Visitors will be annoyed if your site or product doesn’t actually address their needs when they get there.

Using Long-Tail Keywords Effectively

Finding good long-tail keywords is only half the battle. Once you have chosen your keywords, you have got to use them the right way. While this topic could be an article on its own, here are a few tips that will get you off to a good start with your new keywords.

Use your keywords naturally. This is probably the most important thing to keep in mind. Some keywords may not be easy to use in a sentence, so you might have to get creative with punctuation or adjust your keyword a little.

If you can, include your long-tail keywords and variants of them in your page’s title, headers, and sub-headers. Use it in your first paragraph, too – preferably in your first sentence.

If your keyword won’t fit somewhere like a header, though, don’t worry too much. It’s better to keep your copy natural and grammatically correct than to force a keyword in where it sticks out like a sore thumb. Use your keyword where you can, but don’t sacrifice your content’s usefulness and readability.

The Takeaway

Keywords may not be everything in the SEO world anymore, but they are still a crucial part of good SEO. If you haven’t been ranking well for head keywords, switch your focus to long-tail keywords instead. Once you find keywords that work for you, you could see a ranking boost (and a corresponding traffic boost) within a week or two.

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