How to SEO

Long-tail keywords: why you need them and where to find them

Identify long-tail keywords with this SEO strategy

Ranking organically can take a while.

It’s an unfortunate but unavoidable truth.

It’s all well and good identifying the best-case keywords and search terms you want to top the Google search pages for. But unless your business is at the forefront of some new, previously unheard of innovation that is taking the search world by storm, many other sites will have beaten you to those keywords.

Don’t be alarmed, however: this is not a crisis, but an opportunity.

Why do you need long-tail keywords?

The fact is that everybody wants to rank for high-volume keywords, with good reason. The more people are searching for a term, generally the larger the potential customer base. Why wouldn’t you want a piece of the pie?

But for the vast majority of new businesses, websites and blogs, it’s far from a straightforward process.

For example, if you put ‘long-tail keywords’ into your search bar and tap ‘enter’, Google will fetch 81.3 million page results, at the time of writing. While we back this blog to outrank several million of these other posts (we aren’t bragging, it is our job), it gives you an idea about what we’re up against.

The temptation then would be to plough your energy and resources into PPC and other paid search channels, particularly in the early stages of your digital marketing strategy. This comes with its own set of problems.

For example, at the furthest end of the spectrum, 2019’s most expensive single keyword ‘insurance’ will return you more than 4 billion page results and set you back more than £40 per click.

To put that into context, if you wanted to grab just ten clicks per day at that level, you’d be looking at a rough investment of:

  • £400 per day
  • £12,000 per month
  • £144,000 per year

I doubt you need me to tell you this is a) not sustainable and b) unattainable for the vast majority of businesses.

Even phrases with much more reasonable pay-per-click rates add up over time.

So what’s the alternative?

Value in low-volume keywords

Luckily, there’s a simple solution: adding long-tail, low-volume keywords to your SEO strategy. 

To many people, the phrase “low search volume” may appear synonymous with “nobody cares”, but if identified properly, the exact opposite can be true.

Think about it: which of the following search terms suggests an author with a greater sense of purpose and interest?

  • ‘insurance’
  • ‘how to claim on insurance for a 20 year old Nissan Micra in an accident that was absolutely someone else’s fault, don’t tell my wife’

It’s an extreme example, but you take my point, however daft. The above is an example of a ‘long-tail’ keyword phrase: a search term which has a low search volume but a much higher conversion rate or purchase likelihood within that term.

Here’s how you can identify and rank for some ‘real’ long-tail keywords.

How to identify the right ones

A note of caution before you go anywhere though: you need to be very selective in the low-volume keywords you choose.

Target them like any other keyword (you can read more tips on how to do this in our ‘How to: write ebook), but look for examples that will come with lower competition but a higher conversion rate.

Here are three ways to get into the heads of your target audience and discover the right low-volume keywords that will support your SEO success. I know that these aren’t fully-formed keywords, but it’s a great way to pull out interesting low-competition keywords and ideas to check on the search engine results pages (SERPs):

1. Search where your customers search

Yes, we all know that everyone on earth uses Google to find answers. But for instances such as the Nissan Micra incident mentioned above, users often look for more specialist advice.

Quora, Reddit: these are all moderated platforms with engaged communities, based entirely on peer-to-peer advice, information sharing and honest assessment of issues.

They also have very little tolerance for BS, hence why so many people turn to these forums for specific issues.

Locate your most relevant forums and analyse the most relevant topics/questions. Look for patterns in the terms they are discussing/searching for. This is a great way of refining your long-tail keywords.

2. Go to your customer service channels

The way your customers interact with your business is obviously pivotal in a number of different ways. One of which is as a pre-sale keyword resource.

For example, I recently had to contact a well-known printing company to get some inflo.Ai stickers made up, but they came out in the wrong colours. 

It turned out that I was my fault: I was using the wrong colour code. Admittedly, I probably should have known this already, but I doubt I was the first person to encounter this problem or contact the business for a solution.

This information can prove valuable in identifying valuable long-tail keyword phrases. Phrases such as:

“Can I print in RGB colour codes?”

or

“Recreate RGB colour codes in CMYK for printing”

These may not rack up millions of monthly searches, but the ones who do are almost certainly interested in purchasing (I ended up paying for a pack of 60). If you can funnel them to your advice page or a blog showing how you recreate RGB in CMYK, you could be on to a winner.

3. Take to social media

Social media channels have been at the vanguard of customer service and feedback for more than a decade now, so its inclusion here should come as no shock. 

Relevant Facebook groups or LinkedIn forums can function as a goldmine for trending long-tail keywords and creative content ideas, as can furious customer tweets @ your competitors.

YouTube is worth particular mention. The sheer number of advice videos, ‘how to’ guides and expert resources across its platform is vast. Many users also find it much easier to follow instructions when they can watch, listen and pause a video while following it.

You don’t really want to be constantly scanning through reams and reams of text if you’re trying to unblock a toilet without a plunger. 

At least the 2 million people who watched this video didn’t: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddWHeXSxHlo

Again, the above has a very specific keyword phrase title, but one which has a very engaged audience who needed help in a hurry.

Key tips and takeaways

  • Don’t run before you can crawl: Organic ranking is a process, but long-tail keywords can be a gateway to quicker wins without a ridiculous paid ad spend
  • Don’t rely solely on keyword identification tools or your own instincts: Exhaust your potential resources and don’t be put off by low search volumes
  • Think like your audience: Their language and habits are much more important than yours, make sure your content is operating on their level 

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