When it comes to keyword research, the top 30% of search terms may be less useful to marketers than the 70% in the long tail...
Given a choice, who would you prefer coming to your website - millions of visitors who’ve se arched for generic keywords in your sector, or a few thousand whose search terms are much more precise?
Of course, an audience in the millions is great. But think about where those more precise searchers are on the customer journey. They’ll be further down the sales funnel - no longer researching general information, but searching with pinpoint focus for what they actually want.
They’ve done their preliminary research, and whether or not your website answered them, they’re now in buying mode. Even if you missed them before, you’ve got to be there for that.
That’s why there’s value in long tail keyword research - the lesser-used, but often more relevant search words and phrases that make up 70% of the total. But search engines - Google foremost - make it hard for marketers to see which keywords actually delivered prospects to their site.
How can you fix this?
Here are four steps that will help.
1. Discovering the core set
The long tail doesn’t exist separately to the major keywords - they’re connected to the mainstream terms. So the first step is to track down the major generic terms your customers search for at the beginning of their customer journey.
Remember, search terms are the words your customers use - which may not be your preferred words for what you do.
Review “metadata” - the parts of a web page not seen by humans - for ideas. Do this on your own site and your top competitors’ - that’s 20 sites to start with! Search engines tend not to look at “keyword metadata” these days, but countless home pages still have a list of preferred words and phrases in their headers. That’s your core set.
2. Expanding sideways
Long tail keyword research involves looking laterally at data: the phrases conceptually “around” the core set. So if “estate car” is a core term, its long tail relatives might include family estate, towing car, large capacity car.
A quick and dirty method is to switch on “Show search suggestions” in your browser, and look at what similar searches other people have made for the same general subject - the list of half a dozen or so can yield real insights. Write them all down.
3. Finding proxies for popularity
The next job is to bring order to your list, by finding out which phrases are most popular. Google AdWords, the largest web advertising network, can help - by showing you how many searches were made on each word or phrase. (It can also tell you how much they’d cost if you bid for them in an AdWords campaign!)
The killer combination is words with a relatively high number of searches, but a low bid price. This means the terms are in use by customers, but they haven’t been noticed by advertisers yet.
Another method is even quicker and dirtier: simply type the search term into Google. The first page of results will tell you approximately how many results there are for it. Of course, if your company’s on the first page, half your job’s already done!
4. Get the drop on your competitors
The last step in this brief run-through is to see how much traffic your competitors are getting from those keywords! While there’s no foolproof method, there are plenty of useful tools around.
One such tool is the paid-for SEMRush. It lets you enter the web addresses of your competitors and shows you its best guess at which search terms are delivering visitors to it - with hundreds of millions of sites in its database, these guesstimates can be pretty accurate.
You can then cross-reference your long tail keyword research with how valuable those terms are to your competitors… and how much competitive damage you could inflict! Well, if business is war - then keyword research is defending the castle.