Have you ever traveled off the beaten path? Didn’t you enjoy escaping those crowds of noisy tourists, finding entire beaches all to yourself? If you’re interested in SEO, sometimes it’s also better to walk the lesser-used paths to reach your goals. This means exploring the surprisingly lucrative land of long-tail keywords.
According to Compare Camp, 50% of all organic search phrases are composed of four or more words. These longer keywords are known as the long-tails. They tend to be very specific terms, easy to create content for, and also far easier to rank for. So why do so few small businesses target them?
Are You Following the Herd?
When a small-business owner first learns of SEO, their eyes usually go straight to the primary keywords of their industry. They see tens of thousands of monthly searches and start salivating, imagining the copious floods of traffic, if only they can make it to page one.
If your market was Persian rugs, for example, the primary keyword would likely be ‘Persian rugs,’ and a few similar rug-related words.
The thing to remember, however, is that every other rug dealer in the country is looking at that same keyword. They’re all competing for it. And the companies that have already battled their way to page one have enormous SEO budgets, well-established national brands, aged domains, and backlinks galore.
It would cost you an arm and a leg to get anywhere near page one for ‘Persian rugs,’ or whatever the primary keywords of your market are. Most likely, you’d never make it. But don’t worry. There is another way.
A Shift in Your SEO Mindset
Rather than trying to be a small fish in a big ocean, become the big fish in a small pond. Or rather, become a big fish in many, many small ponds. Our intrepid rug merchant would be better served to create content that targets dozens of phrases like these:
‘Best Persian rug for a small room’
‘Traditional Persian rug with tassels’
‘How to clean stains in a Persian rug’
These are his market’s long-tail keywords. Each phrase may only get 10 or 50 or 100 searches each month, but they’re easy to rank for. If he followed the five tips below, then over time he’d certainly gain his floods of targeted traffic and leads, all from long-tails.
This is how small business owners are successfully competing in SEO today. And you can do the same. Here are five important strategies when seeking to dominate the long-tail keywords of your industry.
1. Target Large Quantities of Long-Tails
You can use keywords tools such as Ahrefs, SEMRush, and KWFinder to find hundreds of suitable long-tails in your niche. When you really start researching and digging down to uncover these gems, you’ll be surprised at how many excellent long-tails there are.
Go after the best of them, one by one. Treat this as a long-term project. Keep pumping out high-quality content, week after week, where each new post targets one particular long-tail keyword. Aim to slowly take over your market in this way, keyword by keyword. So, don’t just myopically chase trophy keywords and ignore the long-tail ones.
What you’ll find is that a single page will suddenly start ranking well for a few other, similar long-tails that you hadn’t thought of. So even though your main targeted keyword may only have 40 monthly searches, you’ll gain extra traffic from other keywords as well. This can really add up.
With patience, as you keep publishing and publishing, and the traffic starts flowing, Google will begin to recognize you as a reputable brand and site. Once this happens, you’ll find it easier to rank for even tougher, higher-volume keywords.
2. Go After the Very Least Competitive Keywords First
Even among long-tails, there are more competitive keywords and less competitive keywords. When you’re just starting out, go for the very lowest hanging fruit. These are the keywords no one else is paying any attention to.
Ahrefs provides a keyword difficulty (KD) rating for keywords. Go for phrases with under five KD. Other tools provide similar metrics to guide you. Many of these lengthy keyword phrases are under-served by Google, and so over time, you can often get to page one even without any backlinks.
3. Provide Top-Notch Quality
This long-tail strategy is not a case of quantity over quality. Rather, you need to have both quantity and quality. For every piece of content you create, analyze the content that already exists on page one for the targeted keyword. Think of how you can do better than the competition.
Write posts that are ‘complete guides’ to the topic. Make sure your posts are 10 to 50 percent longer than your competitors. Include images, links to extra resources, tables of content. Give your readers a great experience and they’ll stay to explore more of your site. Google will see this and reward you with a higher ranking.
Backlinking is a powerful part of any SEO strategy, even with long-tails. You’ll find, however, that you need far fewer backlinks to rank with these low-volume phrases. Better yet, if you’re creating truly high-quality posts on these rare topics, then people will start to share them and your backlinks will grow organically.
4. Try a Different Seed Keyword
Searching for long-tails is like digging for gold. It’s often best to take your spade to a slightly different location from all the other miners.
With keywords, this means considering your seed keyword. This is the keyword you type into Google Keyword Planner or Ahrefs to see what comes up.
Most other business owners and SEO experts aware of this long-tail strategy are inputting the same seed keywords (like ‘Persian rugs’) into Ahrefs, and then seeing what long-tails they can find in the results provided.
Append Extra Words and Phrases
Instead of doing the same as everyone else, change your seed keywords by appending common words onto them, at the beginning or the end. For example, you might search for ‘best Persian rugs’ or ‘best Persian rugs for.’
The simple use of ‘best’ and ‘for’ will likely uncover many interesting long-tails in your niche. For example, you might come across:
‘Best glue for broken watch strap’
‘Best case for Kindle reader’
‘Best travel insurance for elderly couple’
‘Best Halloween costumes for plus-sized people’
There are endless other extra words to append, which vary depending on your niche. If your niche is ‘plumber,’ then your appendage words might include, ’emergency, in my area, DIY, qualified, for leaky pipes, to check boiler, etc.’
As you begin searching, you’ll come across many ideas for appendage words as you see what people are really searching for. Collect these extra words and use them to dive deeper and deeper into your goldmine.
5. Borrow Keywords From Your Competition
The final tip is to study your competition. Use Ahrefs or SEMRush to find which long-tails they are already ranking for. Take a good look at those keywords, and see how good their content is. If you think you can beat it in length and quality, then go for it.
Another twist to this technique is to find competitors in your niche with a lower domain authority website. This means their website isn’t yet old or established, and doesn’t have many backlinks. See which long-tail keywords these weaker websites are already gaining traffic from.
Those keywords are almost guaranteed to be easy to rank for. You can then create better content and swoop in to steal their lunch. It’s a rather sneaky tactic, granted. But all’s fair in love and SEO.
Put these five strategies into action, and you’ll soon be laying claim to the long-tails of your industry. Your website will be popping up everywhere. Best of all, your competition will have no idea how you’re doing it.