In our experience, many people talk about “long-tail keywords,” but most companies don’t utilize their full benefits. Specifically, a good long-tail keyword strategy should include two things: 

  1. Targeting keywords that are easy to rank for because they have low search volume and therefore low competition, i.e., low keyword difficulty (KD).
  2. Targeting more specific keywords because they tend to convert better.

But from what we’ve seen, most marketers seem to limit the benefits of long-tail keywords to the first item above: that you can rank more easily for them and therefore can build large amounts of traffic by targeting multiple long-tail keywords without the challenge of trying to rank for broad keywords with more traffic and competition. 

However, what so many overlook is the second benefit above: that long-tail keywords also tend to convert at a much higher rate. Since leads (not traffic) are the true end goal of most marketing strategies, we think it’s much more effective to focus on conversion rates and total leads rather than traffic.

With that in mind, in this article, we cover exactly how to get more conversions from SEO via long-tail keywords. 

Table of Contents

What Are Long-Tail Keywords?

The term “long-tail keywords” comes from looking at a graph with volume on the vertical axis and keyword specificity on the horizontal axis. 

Long-tail keywords have high specificity and low volume relative to more general, high search volume head terms (i.e., short-tail keywords). 

We acknowledge that this is a vague definition — i.e., what counts as low volume? How specific do they need to be to count as long-tail keywords— but that’s one of the challenges of targeting long-tail keywords. What counts as low volume and highly specific will differ between industries. 

Some marketers try to define it further by saying that long-tail keywords need to be at least a certain number of words (i.e., 3+ words = long-tail), but those rules are arbitrary.

At the end of the day, if you think it’s a fairly specific keyword with lower volume than other obvious head terms in your industry, it probably counts as a long-tail keyword. And as we’ll cover next, it doesn’t really matter whether you call a keyword “long-tail” or not, what matters is that you use the principles of a long-tail keyword strategy to target keywords that are relatively easy to rank for and that generate high-converting traffic. 

What Is a Long-Tail Keyword Strategy?

An SEO strategy in general is any way of identifying and prioritizing keywords to target.

So, a long-tail keyword strategy simply means you’re trying to find and target long-tail keywords over other types of keywords, namely head terms. And the idea behind using a long-tail keyword strategy is what we covered in the intro:

  • If you target keywords with lower search traffic (and therefore low competition/KD), it will be easier to get good rankings.
  • If you target more specific keywords (in particular those specific to your product, features, and benefits) you’ll get more conversions.

While this sounds fairly straightforward, there are two issues: 

Issue #1: Not All Long-Tail Keywords Produce Useful Business Results

While we agree that keywords with less competition are by definition generally easier to rank for, this isn’t helpful unless those are actually keywords you want to rank for.

Most marketers choose keywords based on traffic (i.e., high search volume = keyword that’s useful for our business), however, one of the defining characteristics of long-tail keywords is that they have low search volume. 

So, how do you decide if these keywords are worth targeting and which ones to target first?

In our experience working with tons of SaaS, B2B, and B2C eCommerce companies, the end goal of investing in SEO for most businesses is to increase leads

So, you should prioritize the long-tail keywords with the highest conversion potential… which brings us to the next point. 

Issue #2: Higher Specificity Doesn’t Always Mean Higher Conversion Rates

When it comes to long-tail keywords, a common line of logic is that the more specific the keyword, the closer the reader is to making a buying decision, and therefore the better your conversion rates will be. 

For example, someone typing in “sneakers” hasn’t decided what type of sneakers they want, but someone typing in “blue nike look-alikes for women” knows exactly what they want. And, if you offer what they’re searching for, the chances are pretty good that they’ll buy from you. 

For the most part, we agree. But let’s look at another example.

The keyword “how to cook turkey tail mushroom kabobs over a fire” is very specific. However, nothing about it indicates that the searcher is looking to buy mushrooms. So, the chances of that searcher converting are quite low.  

On the other hand, “turkey tail mushroom spawn” is less specific but is still a long-tail keyword that shows that the searcher is looking for places that sell mushroom spores. In fact, that buying-intent is confirmed by the SERP — the top result is a product page from a company where you can buy mushroom spawn. 

Google SERP example for "turkey tail mushroom spawn"

So, while “turkey tail mushroom spawn” is less specific than “how to cook turkey tail mushroom kabobs over a fire”, it has much higher buying-intent and therefore much higher conversion potential. 

And there are many examples like this. For example, “car insurance”, “buy flowers”, or “baby stroller” are extremely competitive keywords with tons of search volume that most people would consider “head terms,” but they also have very high buying-intent. 

This illustrates our key point: Buying-intent and long-tail are two independent characteristics of a keyword. 

In our opinion, finding and targeting keywords with both of these characteristics is the most powerful keyword strategy for businesses to use. 

The Solution: Long-Tail Keywords + Buying-Intent = More Leads

The screenshot below shows a Google Analytics report of a past client of ours where each row is a unique blog post and the columns show stats for each post, including the number of new user signups for their software (far right column) and the conversion rate to those signups (second from right). 

You can see that the three boxed keywords generated far more conversions (30–50 trial signups each) than the rest (between 0–8 signups each).

Conversion focused SEO driven content

All three of those articles had much higher buying-intent than the other seven articles. 

And, this isn’t true for just these ten articles or just that client. In a separate analysis, we compared the average conversion rate of different types of keywords across 95+ articles that generated thousands of conversions for multiple different clients. 

To pull one example out of that study: We looked at “jobs-to-be-done” keywords (what we call keywords that indicate the searcher is looking to solve a specific problem, rather than searching for the solution directly). In this category of keywords — which are almost always long-tail keywords — we often find both keywords with high buying intent and keywords without buying intent (e.g., ‘best tools for building a deck’ vs ‘how to build a deck’). 

When we compared the conversion rates of posts in either bucket, we found that keywords with high buying-intent convert at a much higher rate. 

Keywords and Buying Intent Graph

We’ve noticed this trend across multiple clients for all types of keywords — high buying-intent keywords convert at a much higher rate and produce more total leads overall compared to low buying-intent keywords. 

So, while we often target long-tail keywords, we always prioritize keywords with high buying-intent over keywords with low buying-intent(even when those low buying-intent keywords have higher traffic). We call this Pain Point SEO

Pain Point SEO is a strategy that we coined describing how to prioritize content ideas around high-intent keywords over high-volume keywords with the goal of driving conversions.

4 Tactics for Finding Long-Tail Keywords

With that in mind, your goal with long-tail keyword research should be to find search terms that:

  • Indicate the searcher is in the market to buy your product.
  • Highlights the strengths and/or differentiators of your product/service that make you stand out from your competitors. 

For example, if you offer HR software for large companies but small companies aren’t great clients for you, you might target ‘HR software for enterprise’ but not ‘HR software for startups’. 

While you might be able to list off what makes a good customer and what your differentiators are, we find that it’s very helpful to talk to your sales team and customer success team. They know first-hand what challenges your ideal customers face (that your product solves), what aspects of your product/service immediately resonate with your target audience, and what makes a good customer. 

The answers your sales/customer success teams give should be the foundation of your keyword research.

With that in mind, here are some ways to brainstorm and find long-tail keyword phrases. 

1. Add Layers of Specificity to Your Main Category Keywords

Your main “category keywords” are any keywords that indicate the searcher is looking for your exact type of product (think “time tracking software”, “time tracking platform”, etc.). 

For most products, those shouldn’t be too hard to come up with. 

To turn these into a long-tail variation, you would add adjectives or layers of specificity (…for ‘X’). 

For example:

  • Time tracking software for personal use
  • Time tracking software for construction sites
  • Time tracking software for remote work
  • Easy to use time tracking software
  • Online time tracking software
  • Secure time tracking software

You can usually find a lot more keywords than you think just by using this one tactic of brainstorming all your category keywords and then adding layers of specificity. 

To learn more, you can check out these articles: 

2. List Phrases That Indicate the Searcher Has a Question, Pain, or Job to Be Done That Your Product/Service Satisfies

If you don’t know exactly what the solution is but you want to solve a problem, you typically type in action keywords or ‘how to’ keywords (we call these “jobs-to-be-done” keywords). 

Here are some examples:

  • How to transfer money securely
  • How to get signatures remotely
  • Track invoices and payments
  • Meet CMMC compliance standards

As we cover in our jobs-to-be-done post, these keywords tend to have high buying-intent. 

What you learn from interviewing your sales and customer success teams (as we discussed above) is going to be particularly useful here. They can give you the exact phrases that potential customers use to describe their pain points.

3. Use Google Search Engine Features 

Google has three features that are helpful for brainstorming keywords: autocomplete, People also ask, and related searches. 

Google’s autocomplete feature for the search bar not only tells you what layers of specificity searchers often add to the main keyword, it also gives suggestions for other variations of those search queries (e.g., compliance strategy vs compliance guide). 

Google autocomplete/suggested search result for "compliance strategy for"

The ‘People also ask’ keys you into the exact words people use to talk about specific problems, and it tells you related problems they may be having. If you also solve those problems, it could open up a whole new bucket of long-tail keywords to target. 

Google's 'People Also Ask' results for "online payment software"

Finally, ‘Related searches’ is another way to find additional variations of the long-tail keywords you’ve identified so far. And, it’s also a great way to find keyword suggestions that have volume when the keywords you’re coming up with don’t have volume. 

Google's 'Related searches' for "it businesses in NYC"

4. Use an SEO Tool

There are plenty of keyword research tools available — Semrush, Ahrefs, etc. — that will generate long lists of keywords based on a starting keyword phrase that you type in. 

Ahrefs Free Keyword Generator Tool

Here’s an example of some of the suggestions from Ahrefs Free Keyword Generator tool for the phrase “accounting software for”:

Ahrefs Free Keyword Generator tool example for "accounting software for"

But an important caveat: Not every keyword they suggest will be long-tail or relevant to your business, so you’ll have to filter by buying-intent and use your best judgment. 

Many of these have free plans and paid subscriptions, so you can find the option that suits you best.

We cover this in more detail in this article: How to Rank for Long-Tail Keywords

Note: Some marketers will use the broad match feature in Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) to find related keywords to use for organic search. While you may be able to find a few ideas with this tactic, Google’s broad match feature often strays too far from the original keyphrase to make it useful. That’s one of the reasons we don’t use the broad match feature in our PPC service.

Check Volume + Keyword Difficulty (KD)

Once you have a list of long-tail keyword ideas, you’ll need to check for volume and KD. Again, tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, and Clearscope can help with this. Before moving on, there are two things to note here. 

First, if the keywords you’re targeting have high buying-intent, the monthly search volume can be quite low. 

In this article on mini-volume keywords (i.e., what we call keywords with 20 estimated searches per month or less), we cover why keywords with low estimated search volumes can still produce a good number of leads. We also share real results from clients.

But the main takeaways are: 

  • Estimated keyword search volume is almost always lower than actual search volumes.
  • If the keyword has high enough buying-intent, the conversion rates will make up for the lower search volume. 

Second, while we agree that it’s typically easier to rank on the first page of Google for keywords with low KD, we’ve helped websites with low domain authority (DA) outrank websites with high DA. 

For example, in this case study, we show how we were able to help our client Cognitive FX (a post-concussion treatment center) outrank the likes of WebMD and Mayo Clinic. 

Featured snippet for our client Cognitive FX for "concussion headache location"

We do this by using the same process we use for any keywords we target, which brings us to the next section.

How to Rank for Long-Tail Keywords: Create Dedicated Pieces of Content for Each Keyword

Many marketers and marketing agencies will tell you to sprinkle your long-tail keywords into existing product pages and blog posts and invest in on-page SEO optimization. 

However, in our experience, that rarely works for getting high rankings — even for keywords with low KD. 

We go into more detail about why the “sprinkle” approach doesn’t work in this article on how to rank for long-tail keywords. The main takeaway is that Google’s algorithm ranks posts that satisfy the search intent. And in order to satisfy search intent, you need to create dedicated pages for each keyword. But most importantly, those dedicated pages also need to be well-written. 

Here are a few articles to help you get started:

How to Work With Us or Learn More

  • Work with our agency: If you want to hire us to create and execute an SEO strategy by identifying your best keywords, creating content that is laser-focused on ranking and driving conversions, and link building to improve your ranking positions, you can learn more about working with us here.
  • Learn our methods in our content marketing course: Individuals looking to learn our agency’s content strategy and become better marketers, consultants, or business owners can join our private course and community, taught via case studies, and presented in both written and video content formats. We include several details and examples not found on this blog. Our course is also built into a community, so people ask questions, start discussions, and share their work in the lesson pages themselves, and we, along with other members, give feedback. Learn more here.


Source link