long-tail keywords

How to identify long-tail keywords that drive traffic

Ranking high in search engine results demands a search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy that’s consistent and targeted. There’s a lot of competition for the first page of search engine results, particularly the highest three positions. If you want to get your brand ranking in the top spots, long-tail keywords are your best friend. Long-tail keywords have less competition, drive traffic to your website and increase conversions. What exactly are long-tail keywords, how do they benefit your website and how do you identify them?

What are long-tail keywords?

Long-tail keywords are very specific search terms. You’d assume the majority of searches are made up of general queries, but 92% of all keywords that users type into search engines are long-tail. Long-tail keywords are usually made up of three or more words as opposed to one or two general words. Long-tail keywords usually take the form of statements, phrases or questions. When people use long-tail keywords, they’re looking for a website that instantly solves their problem. They have a very high searcher intent and know exactly what they want to find before finding it.

Long-tail keywords have much less competition, as fewer websites can provide answers to specific queries. With less competition, it’s easier to rank higher. Take the word ‘keyword’ for example. In Google, this brings up about 1,750,000,000 results. That’s billions of websites you have to outrank. Lengthening this to ‘long-tail keywords for SEO’ brings up 2,850,000 results. Targeting the long-tail keyword dramatically reduces the number of websites you have to compete with to reach the top. 

How do they differ from short-tail keywords?

Short-tail keywords are broad, general terms. They usually have one or two words and return a high volume of results in search engines. Short-tail keywords are highly competitive and notoriously difficult to rank for. However, the websites ranking high for short-tail keywords will gain a great deal of traffic. That’s more awareness, views and clicks for your brand. People using short-tail keywords are usually unsure what they’re looking for. They don’t have a clear direction so it’s difficult to know when they’ve found the answer they’re looking for. This makes it difficult for businesses to target the right users that will engage with their brand.

It’s not always true that the shorter the keyword, the higher the number of search engine results. Businesses often avoid targeting general terms that are too broad as they won’t lead to conversions. Let’s look at an example that’s common in retail. The keyword ‘Trainers’ returns 865,000,000 results, whereas ‘White Trainers’ returns 976,000,000 results. People searching for white trainers show higher search intent. This is more attractive to businesses as targeted users are more likely to make a purchase from their brand.

How do long-tail keywords help your SEO?

Short-tail keywords aren’t necessarily worse than long-tail keywords. They just provide different benefits. If you’re looking for general brand awareness and a high volume of traffic to your website, then short-tail keywords should be the most prevalent in your SEO strategy. The problem with this approach is that while you may get a lot of visitors, you might not get many conversions. If your website doesn’t give users what they’re looking for, they won’t click, engage or make a purchase.

People using long-tail keywords are more qualified and ready to purchase. If you want to gain a lower amount of website traffic but more engagement and conversions, long-tail keywords will achieve that. People using targeted queries know what they want and are looking for a website that provides it. Your website will have less awareness and visitors but the return will be greater.

How to identify long-tail keywords

You need to choose your long-tail keywords carefully. You shouldn’t assume what your audience is searching for as it may be far from the truth. If your audience isn’t searching for the keywords you’ve decided to target, you won’t get traffic or conversions. Here’s how to identify long-tail keywords:

1. Begin with your short-tail keywords

Start by identifying your main, short-tail keywords. This will be your main areas of business, service, industry, market or product. For example, bolt’s could be growth marketing, website development, branding agency and CRM agency to name a few. You should also target areas within these more general keywords. For example, within growth marketing you have SEO, social media, email marketing and content marketing. These terms are still broad but you’re getting into more specific areas. You can choose related questions, phrases and queries that users want to know within each topic area.

2. Identify your audience needs

Find out what your audience needs and wants from your business. What are their challenges, pain points, goals and decision making process? You should have this information already as it guides all of your marketing and sales communications and buyer personas. If you don’t have this information, you could speak to your sales team and use your social media channels to find it. You can understand whether the keywords you’re targeting will fulfil your audience needs. You may need to be even more specific to make sure they find what they’re looking for.

3. Conduct keyword research

Don’t just guess which keywords you’re going to target. They need to be underpinned by research to make sure they deliver the results you want. You could do this manually by typing your short-tail keywords into Google and seeing which autocomplete results appear. This will show you the most common search queries related to the keyword. The ‘People Also Ask’ and ‘Related Queries’ boxes will give you some related questions too.

Try using a keyword research tool like SEMRush, Moz, Answer The Public or Google Trends for detailed research into keywords. Enter your keywords and see all the suggested search queries related to them. You can see the search volumes and keyword difficulties to know how many searches each keyword gets and how difficult it is to rank for. You can then decide which keywords are worth targeting.

4. Compile and implement your long-tail keywords

You want to make sure you’re targeting areas of specialism in your long-tail keywords. This is what you can offer your audience when they search for a term you want to rank for. You have to be able to provide a solution, information or entertainment to ensure users convert. There’s no point targeting a keyword that you have nothing to show for. With your list of long-tail keywords based on your areas of specialism and audience needs, you can implement them across your website in conjunction with your short-tail keywords.

Ranking for the top spots in search engine results has become extremely difficult. There are billions of websites you have to compete with to ensure users find your brand. Long-tail keywords should be the focus of your SEO strategy. They’re specific, targeted terms that users with a high intent search for. They have much less competition and are easier to rank for, meaning your website gains more conversions and greater return.

Written by: Thomas Coughlan
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