A long-tail keyword strategy is vital for SEO because there's a lot of competition in your target niche. A lot of the heavy hitters are targeting and ranking well for the high-volume keywords that you may also want to rank for, but aren’t able to because they’re so competitive. Most businesses or blogs will benefit from a long-tail keyword approach as it lets you draw users with a very particular search purpose.
Read our latest guide on what long-tail keywords are and how to establish a long-tail keyword strategy for your website.
Long-tail keywords are longer, more descriptive keyword phrases that users search for when they’re closer to converting (or low-funnel), or when using voice search.
These types of keywords have lower search volume and competition. They are also longer than 3 words.
Think of a Chinese Dragon - the “head” will consist of searches for “head terms” that are shorter in length, but are where most of the search volume is. The longer the length of your search query, the less volume there is for these types of terms, but the more likely you are to rank well for them because there’s less competition.
Most blogs have one main theme—this is called your header phrase, or a short-tail keyword. For example, this website is centered around SEO, so most of our posts are about SEO or SEO related topics.
Your header phrase is something that you want people to find you for. In our case, the keyword is specifically targeting SEO.
In the SEO world, you can’t optimize all of your pages to target the same term, which is why we write a bunch of content centered around the concept of SEO such as SEO best practices, setting up SEO tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console, SEO tool reviews, etc…
If you're optimizing your blog post for various long-tail keywords, you'll need to interlink with your 'head' pages, and from these pages to your “pillar” pages, or the main material of your website that you want to rank well for.
You’ll always want to link your “head” from the “tail”. That way, you'll show Google what the structure of your web looks like and which of your pages is the most relevant.
Looking to learn more about search engine optimization? Read our SEO beginner’s guide for everything you need to know about SEO and how to drive business results through search engines like Google and Bing.
There are many benefits to using long tail keywords, which we’ll cover below.
Simply put, long tail keywords are less competitive. Think of a chinese dragon - a bulk of searches may come from “head” terms, but these terms will be the most competitive and difficult to rank for.
While long tail keywords draw in less search volume, your chances of ranking for these terms is far greater.
Because long tail searches are more specific, there’s a higher likelihood that users will convert off of that given search term.
They're more descriptive, too.
People looking for long tail terms are usually a lot farther down in the purchasing cycle relative to people that are looking for header terms.
One example of a short-tail keyword is "SEO".
Someone asking for SEO is simply wanting to understand what it's all about or how it works, but they're aren’t necessarily ready to buy something.
For users searching for a longer variant of the word (like "SEO services near me" or “best keyword services for SEO), this signals that they are a lot closer to converting.
While I gave one example a moment ago, here are a few more long tail keyword examples.
1) Car Industry
A long-tail keyword could be “Chevy dealership near me” or “2016 Chevy Malibu for sale in Detroit, MI” because they’ve narrowed their purchase down to a specific brand or vehicle model.
2) Real Estate
A long-tail keyword could be “Get a mortgage pre-approval” or “Houses for sale in Detroit, MI $100,000”. Again, they’ve narrowed their search down to a specific price range and area, or they’re looking to take the next step to get pre approved on their mortgage.
A long-tail keyword could be “best inexpensive treadmills for sale” or “cheap gym memberships in Detroit, MI.” Again, this signals that they’ve narrowed their search down to a specific location/price point, or they’re looking to purchase an inexpensive treadmill for personal use.
Like I mentioned before, long-tail keywords typically consist of 3+ words in a search phrase. 1-2 keyword phrases are short-tail, 2-3 are mid-tail, and anything above 3+ are considered long-tail keywords.
I made a quick analogy of a Chinese dragon when describing long tail and short tail keywords. Here’s the main difference between long tail vs. short tail keywords:
Long tail: 3+ words. Lower search intent. Lower competition and search volume, but higher likelihood to convert in the sales funnel.
Short tail: 1-2 words. Higher search intent. High competition and search volume, but less likelihood to convert in the sales funnel (searchers are usually in the “research phase”).
Now that we’ve explained the basics of long-tail keywords, we’ll show you how to find and use them in your SEO strategy.
First, you can use the “Searches Related To” section of Google for long-tail keyword ideation.
Type in a head term that you want your website to rank for. At the bottom of Google, you should get a bunch of long tail keywords that you can target for your website. You can also plug in those long tail terms into Google and see more “Searches Related To”.
This is a great tool that will generate a list of questions for a given head term that you plug into it. Because question-related searches are longer, you can generate a lot of long-tail keyword ideas from the list of questions this tool will provide for your specific query.
Boards and forums are fantastic ways to find new keywords because of the number of people asking/answering questions. Here are a few ways to find boards and forums talking about your given topic:
Go onto Google and use the following search phrases:
Reddit and Quora are also great user-generated threads that you can leverage for your keyword ideation.
Google Autocomplete is another great option for long-tail keyword ideation because it will recommend a list of different searches based on what you’re trying to search for. My only complaint is it can be time consuming searching for keyword suggestions this way, which is why I recommend using an actual keyword research tool:
Simply type in your target keyword and these tools will provide hundreds of recommended keywords to target with actual search volume to ensure that your content will generate organic traffic.
Soovle is another free tool that curates keyword suggestions from other types of providers/search engines like YouTube, Amazon, and Ask.com
Another free option straight from Google, People Also Ask Boxes can provide good long-tail ideas depending on your topic. PAAs will not only display the answer to a given question, but it will also provide more questions when you open up a box.
By default, Google Search Console provides a list of queries that are driving traffic to your website.
Go into your Performance Report and look up the list of queries - you can discover new long tail opportunities by sifting through the list and identifying keywords that you may not even be deliberately targeting.
Then you can plug them into a keyword research tool like SEMRush or Ubersuggest to see if they have any search volume.
Go into Google Trends and search for the keyword that you want to rank for. Google Trends will show you user search interest over time based on the number of given searches in that time frame.
It also shows “Hot Topics” that are emerging/gaining traction in the SERPs for that given industry, as well as “Related Queries” that are also becoming more popular.
Now that we’ve shown you how to find long tail keywords, the next step is figuring out how they fit into your SEO strategy, which we’ll also cover below.
First, you can simply create content that’s centered around that term. One downside to this approach is that you may end up cranking out hundreds of articles that may only see a handful of conversions/traffic compared to ranking well for a head term.
Another option is to optimize content around a “short tail” or “medium tail” keyword and then include your long-tail keywords within that piece for a higher chance of ranking for both the long-tail terms, as well as the more highly search short/mid-tail keywords.
The third option is to create a topic cluster strategy (my personal favorite).
A topic cluster is a community of interlinked web pages. They are designed around one piece of “pillar content” that targets a short-tail keyword, which is interlinked with many similar yet narrower-focused content targeting long-tail keywords.
Not only do topic clusters establish your website as more of an authority in a given niche because of the closely-related content, but the interlinking strategy helps you to rank for those short-tail terms via a pillar page, and the authority of the pillar page is passed down to all of the long-tail content, which helps it to rank even better than it would by standing alone.