Lemur tailThe web is becoming a very busy place and attention spans only seem to be getting shorter. There’s a lot of competition out there.

In this post I’m going to explain what long tail keywords are and how you can use them to reach visitors that no one else is reaching to get more traffic to your website. This is an amazing tip for people with low traffic websites that haven’t yet built up a strong presence on search engines.

What are long tail keywords?

In SEO jargon we talk of head keywords and long-tail keywords. This terminology comes from a book called The Long Tail by Chris Anderson.

I feel like busting out a little graph:

Long tail keyword chart

If we plot the number of monthly searches for all keywords in a graph (green, above), head keywords are at the head of the pack, the spike on the left. They tend to be comprised of simpler words or phrases and there will be many websites that mention or are optimised for them, so the higher competition around them makes it harder to get web pages to rank well for head keywords.

Long tail keywords are named after the longer trailing line that represents the bulk of less searched keywords. Their lower demand means there’s less competition for those keywords too. These keywords are often (but not always) made up of longer bunches of words and tend to be much more specific, which means the people using those words in searches are much more likely to convert into customers, subscribers or fans as they’re searching with more intentionality.

By ‘intentionality’ I mean someone searching for the long-tail keyword “Dell XPS laptop for sale in London” probably has a much stronger intention of buying soon than someone who searches for just “Dell laptop.”

For a website that doesn’t already enjoy a strong performance in search engines, the most effective keywords to target are those for which the number of searchers is as high as possible and the competition for those keywords is as low as possible, and these tend to be long tail keywords.

This is the power of long tail keyword optimisation – hoovering up traffic from searches that are more specific and have lower competition than head keywords. The search volume may be lower but there’s some low hanging fruit here.

Of course some long tail keywords will be useless – have you heard of Googlewhacking? Long tail keywords aren’t the holy grail of SEO optimisation and I’m not promising overnight success, but if you don’t optimise for them you’re basically missing out on free beer. This is one tool you can use to reach untapped groups of web users and it doesn’t cost a thing.

First Big Tip: Use Google’s related search suggestions

When you type a search into Google it shows up related search terms as suggestions. These are based on popular searches that other people make related to the term you’re entering. As these suggestions add to what you type they also make your searches more long-tail, so therefore more conversion oriented.

This is a great way to find new content ideas. Say you’re an expert on making ice cream at home and you’d like to write about it on your blog. You could just write a post called “how to make ice cream” or you could take Google’s suggestions and break this topic out into a few posts:

Google related searches

You can also use this method to optimise content you’ve already written. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Start a Google search using the title of a piece of content you’ve written that you’d like to optimise
  2. Click through each of the suggested similar searches, making a note each time of how many of the results that then appear directly answer the question of the new suggested search term
  3. If you find a related search suggestion on a topic that isn’t too far off the content you’ve already written and has only a few competing results that directly address the search query, then:
  4. Fill the gap by changing the title of your published content to match that new suggested search query. Also weave some of those new suggested words into your content
  5. Then when you’ve edited your published content don’t forget to ask Google to recrawl it

Second Big Tip: Write how people search, not just how other writers write

OK, this is more like three related tips so consider two of them a bonus.

Use other ways of titling common media

A few years ago I managed a website that published live recordings of song performances along with the lyrics of the songs. For the web page of one of these songs, a cover, I set the first line of the song’s lyrics as the page title. I was surprised when that page quickly rose to become the website’s third most popular song page, even though it was only one cover among many online. I realised that the song was officially known by another name so most other websites referred to it using that name, however many people were searching for the song by its first line so my page was picking up those searchers as the title matched their searches exactly.

So you should write using the phrases that people actually use to search, though making sure you still make sense of course. This leads us on to…

Experiment with multiple phrasings

For instance, say you have a website that sells high visibility safety clothing. You probably have a technical name for what you sell but when people search for it online they could be using all kind of language:

  • Hi-vis jacket
  • High vis
  • Highvis shirt
  • Hi-viz tops
  • High visibility clothes
  • Visibility safety wear
  • Etc…

Vary the language you use for particular things so searchers online can find your content however they express their search queries.

Of course if Google’s natural language processing (known as BERT) is up to scratch it probably won’t have much trouble understanding the equivalency of the various terms people use for things, but having that variety in your page can only give search engines that much greater certainty as to the relevancy of your page to people that search with a corresponding variety of words.

Don’t begin with overly technical language

Technical terminology can help provide clarity and educate when used sensibly. If you’re writing for other techies who will search using technical language then write at that level. But if you’re writing for less techie readers then shape your content according to how people actually search.

This is especially important for page titles as they need to convey as much helpful info as possible without relying on context for explanation. When you do use more technical terminology make sure to mix in the natural language of your audience to bridge the gap with your potential readers.

To give an example, if you write content that’s intended to be read by people that search Google for “How to increase website speed” then “Systems for curtailing laggy DOM load” probably wouldn’t be the best page title. In your article you may explain why bloated web page code will slow things down and you may even use jargon like “DOM” and “lag”, but your page title should be suited as closely as possible to the natural language of your audience.

 

There you go. If you found this post helpful or you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or share it on social media. Ciao.

Author: Aidan Ashby

Aidan is a web and branding designer living in Northampton, UK. He’s a cautious optimist and is loathe to discuss himself in the third person. He loves pancakes and has a perpetual desire to just be sat in the woods with his feet up in front of a bonfire.

Connect with Aidan on LinkedIn.

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