If you're like many people starting out on the Internet...
...you do your keyword research and choose the keywords that best fit your web page.
Then you run into a massive wall of competition and decide that SEO is just too difficult.
But there's another way to get page #1 rankings, and that's what I'm going to show you in this post.
What You'll Learn
In this short tutorial I'm going to show you:
- What are Long Tail keywords
- Why they are easier to rank for than normal keywords
- Why Long Tail keywords will bring people to your site looking for exactly what you're offering
- Where and how to find Long Tail Keywords for FREE
- Some powerful (paid) tools that will save you a ton of time and find you some awesome Long Tail keywords.
Let's Get Started
Let's say your website sells shoes. You might think that shoes, or even men's shoes or women's shoes, would be good keywords to target.
But the competition to get a page #1 ranking for those keywords will be enormous and if your site is new and you don't have hundreds of high quality backlinks, the task will be almost impossible.
If you’re doing Pay Per Click (PPC) and you’re a small business, you simply won’t have the budget that the big companies are able to throw at those keywords.
But what about ‘men's Nike tennis shoes’?
That’s a good example of a long tail keyword and you've got a much better chance of ranking quickly for that keyword than for a shorter, more generic keyword. If you’re doing PPC, that’s a keyword you can probably afford to bid on.
Theory of Long Tail
Before we go any further let's talk about the theory of the long tail.
Chris Anderson is a journalist who has worked for the Economist and WIRED magazine. In 2001 he wrote an article titled ‘The Long Tail’ in which he argued that our economy is shifting from a mass market focused on ‘one-size-fits-all’ products to a market dominated by millions of niches.
Anderson coined the term ‘Long Tail’ as a metaphor for the distribution graph of demand in the new economy.
Traditional retail economics, where bricks-and-mortar stores had limited shelf space, meant that retailers could only stock big-selling items.
But with the emergence of Amazon and other online retailers, shelf-space was a thing of the past.
It was a game changer - infinite storage meant infinite supply. And that’s what the theory of the long tail predicts: that when supply is not constrained by distribution and storage factors, the overwhelming weight of demand shifts away from the ‘head’ towards the ‘tail’.
And when there are no restrictions on shelf-space and supply, the tail is very long indeed.
In other words, the market has changed from a focus on relatively few ‘best-selling’ items to a market that serves millions of individual niches.
Each of those niches might be quite a small percentage of the total demand but the sheer scale of the internet means that it is now profitable to service those niches.
Basically, long tail keywords are niche keywords. The theory of long tail predicts an explosion in niche markets.
Keywords and The Long Tail
How does this apply to keywords and the behaviour of customers searching for your products?
Well, it means that the shorter keywords, the ones that everyone is competing for, are not the juicy prize that we thought they were.
The head of the curve, where the ‘best-seller’ keywords (sometimes called 'direct keywords') are located, accounts for only 10% to 15% of searches. Another 10% to 15% of searches come from medium length keywords.
And here’s the kicker: a whopping 70% of all search terms are long tail keywords.
As you move along the distribution curve, from left to right, demand decreases but your share of that demand increases because there is less competition.
Brian Dean of Backlinko, a leading authority on SEO, puts his finger on a major problem in keyword research. Almost everyone is using Google’s Keyword Planner and while the Keyword Planner is an excellent research tool, as Brian points out, it has one major flaw:
And that's where long tail keywords (LTKs) come in.
LTKs will take you away from the page #1 feeding frenzy of direct keywords and into the calmer waters of the long tail.
It's true that the traffic from a long tail keyword will be a fraction of the traffic from a Direct keyword.
But it comes down to this - would you rather have 1% of 100 or 10% of 50?
If you target enough LTKs the traffic can quickly add up. Some websites get over 80% of their traffic from long tail keywords.
For example, Neil Patel, who founded Quicksprout.com generated over 260,000 organic visitors in February 2014. And out of those, close to 240,000 visitors came from long-tail keywords. His article on long tail keywords is a great read.
Long Tails on the Great Barrier Reef
Not long ago I was doing PPC keyword research for a travel site selling tours to the Great Barrier Reef.
The keyword we wanted was ‘Cairns snorkeling tours’. But it was very competitive and the minimum bid price was too high for our budget.
So we started looking at long tail keywords. Pretty soon we came up with ‘cairns snorkeling tours for non swimmers’ and ‘cairns glass bottom boat tours’.
The demand for these keywords was nothing like the demand for ‘Cairns snorkeling tours’ but the bid price was much lower and well within our budget.
Long tail keywords are more affordable (if you’re doing PPC) and easier to rank for (if you’re doing SEO). But there’s another advantage that makes long tail keywords absolute winners.
The more specific a keyword is the more the searcher knows what they are looking for.
Going back to our example at the beginning of this article, someone who types in ‘men's Nike tennis shoes’ has a much clearer idea about what they're looking for than someone who types in ‘men’s shoes’.
Likewise, a searcher who types in ‘cairns snorkeling tours for non swimmers’ has a very specific requirement. That person is much further down the buying funnel than the person who types in ‘Cairns snorkeling tours’.
The buyer intent in the long tail keyword is much stronger than in the general keyword.
And that means that not only is your page going to rank quicker and more easily for long tail keywords, it also means that the searcher who finds your page is much closer to making a purchase.
So while the volume of traffic for a long tail Keyword is lower, the quality is much higher. You need much less of that long tail traffic to produce a sale.
How To Find Long Tail Keywords
Back to our main topic: how to use Long Tail Keywords to het more traffic to your website. There are a number of tools for finding long tail keywords. Some of these tools are free, others are paid.
Google Auto Suggest
My favourite free tool for finding good long tail keywords is Google Auto Suggest.
Have you ever noticed that when you start typing in a search query Google comes up with suggestions even before you’ve finished typing?
Let’s take the example of ‘mens shoes’. Go to Google and type in ‘mens shoes’.
Google Auto Suggest creates three possible long tails for you: ‘mens shoes online’, ‘mens shoes brisbane’, and ‘mens shoes australia’.
Here’s a neat trick: put a space and an underscore between two of your keywords and Google will insert a suggested term for you.
In the example below, I typed in ‘mens nike _ shoes’ and Google came up with four possibilities:
- mens nike running shoes
- mens nike basketball shoes
- mens nike tennis shoes
- mens nike golf shoes
You can use the underscore anywhere you like. Try putting it at the beginning of your search query:
Or at the end:
If you want to drill down deeper and get a longer, more specific long tail keyword, click on one of the Google Auto Suggestions. In this instance I'm going to click on 'mens nike shoes sale'.
Place your cursor back in the search box and you'll see that Google has come up with some even longer keywords:
You can keep doing this to get longer and more descriptive keywords.
It’s good to remember that these Google Auto Suggest keywords are not simply hypothetical possibilities - they are keywords that searchers have actually typed into Google.
Another way to use Google Auto Suggest is to type in your root keyword and then start a new word beginning with the letter 'a'.
For example, type in ‘mens tennis shoes a’:
- mens tennis shoes Australia
- mens tennis shoes amazon
- mens tennis shoes adidas
- mens tennis shoes asics
To come up with some great options for long tail keywords, simply go through the alphabet doing this:
Google's 'Searches Related To'
Another tool for finding Long Tail Keywords is the ‘Searches Related To’ box at the foot of the Google Results Page:
I typed in ‘mens nike tennis shoes’ and the Google gave me eight related search terms:
- nike womens tennis shoes
- nike tennis shoes sale
- nike tennis shoes clearance
- nike tennis shoes classic
- nike tennis shoes kids
- adidas tennis shoes
- nike tennis shoes india
- nike tennis shoes australia
Soovle is an engine that combines the Auto Suggestions of Google, Bing, Amazon, Answers.com, Yahoo, Wikipedia, and YouTube.
It’s a powerful tool for coming up with yet more long tail keywords.
Uber Suggest basically does the process I described for using Google Auto Suggest but does it on steroids.
It takes whatever keyword you type in and goes through the alphabet, adding a letter at the end.
Again, it’s a very powerful tool and will save you masses of time.
Answer The Public
Answer The Public is a really interesting keyword tool and is based much more on semantics, or the rules of meaning, than other keyword tools.
It combines your root word with prepositions to come up with a huge array of logical possibilities.
For example, if you type in ‘mens shoes’ Answer The Public combines that keyword with the prepositions ‘how’, ‘are’, ‘where’, ‘which’, ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, and ‘why’, and comes up with categories of suggestions based on those prepositions.
The keyword Scraper Tool in ScrapeBox basically does the same as Uber Suggest but comes back with much longer lists of keywords.
Hit Tail is relatively new on the scene and its unique in what it does.
It’s the only tool I know of that analyses your own traffic and then provides you with very specific long tail keyword suggestions that are tailored to your audience.
Hit Tail works well on WordPress, and its easy to use. It basically works in the background, leaving you free to get on with other things.
Long Tail Pro
Long Tail Pro has been around for a while and has a solid reputation as one of the best Long Tail Keyword research tools. This software allows the user to generate hundreds or thousands of unique Long Tail keywords in a matter of minutes based on a single root keyword.
I hope this quick tutorial helps you. The take away? Don't go head-to-head with the big guys for the obvious keywords, especially if you're starting out.
Go for the gems hidden in the long tail that everyone else has ignored. You'll get highly targeted traffic to your site quicker than you thought!