What Are Long-Tail Keywords? And How to Use Them

Keyword research is an essential part of any SEO strategy.

Trying to rank for highly competitive, high search volume keywords can sometimes feel like a never-ending battle for that sweet number one spot in the search results.

This is where long-tail keywords come into play.

Although long-tail keywords get less search traffic than commonly used head terms, they are a powerful addition to your SEO strategy. This is because people using long-tail keywords generally have a good idea of what they are looking for, meaning they have a higher search intent. In turn, traffic from long-tail search terms is likely to have a higher conversion rate due to this increased intent.

Long-tail keyword research is vital because it allows you to connect with your ideal audience whilst they are actively searching for the things you offer.

Keep reading to find out how you can use long-tail keywords to tap into your audience’s collective psyche and make use of this information as you build a successful SEO campaign.

What do we mean by long-tail?

The term long-tail was first coined by Chris Anderson in his book The Long Tail. It refers to a business strategy that emphasises the power of selling less popular products that are in lower demand. This logic can also be applied to consumer search behaviour.

We like to use the analogy of a box of chocolates when explaining the term ‘long-tail’. Think about a box of chocolates containing 15 different flavour chocolates. In this box of chocolate, three of these chocolates are customer favourites. As a result, these three chocolates are in high demand and are usually the first to go.

The remaining 12 chocolates might not go as quickly. But the demand for them does exist and eventually, all of the chocolates will be eaten. Despite their high demand, the popular chocolates only make up a small percentage of the chocolate box. Meanwhile, the less-favoured chocolates make up the rest of the box, meaning they have a higher share percentage.

 

This is similar to how short-tail and long-tail keywords work. Short-tail keywords have higher search demand, shown by their high monthly search volume.

However, the number of long-tail keywords greatly outweigh the number of short-tail keywords. So, although long-tail keywords have lower search volumes and aren’t in as much demand, they still make up a larger percentage of search results meaning you have the opportunity to reach more people.

Another way the difference between head terms and long-tail keywords can be described is by using the brand “Nike” as an example. Search terms such as “Nike” or “Nike Trainers” are considered head terms. These short-tail keywords have a large number of monthly searches with the search term “Nike Trainers” having a monthly search volume of 301,000.

Meanwhile, the long-tail keyword “Nike Air Jordan 1 Red and Black” has a much lower number of monthly searches, with an estimated search volume of 260. However, the specificity of the keyword means it has a higher purchase intent than the aforementioned head terms.

 

 

What are long-tail keywords?

Now that we’ve covered what we mean by the phrase ‘long-tail’, what is a long-tail keyword?

Unlike short-tail keywords, these are keywords that are more in-depth, specific, and targeted: they are likely to have extra information attached, or ask a question.

Some long-tail keyword examples include:

  • Used cars for sale in Oxford
  • Best SEO tips for beginners
  • What are the best vitamins for women
  • Free accounting software for small business

As you can see in the above examples, long-tail keywords tend to be longer (obviously) than more commonly used short-tail keywords – and, as a result, they tend to be much more specific.

Finding more qualified traffic with long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords might also be location-specific, or time-sensitive. Whereas a short-tail keyword might be something along the lines of ‘Rome tours’, a corresponding long-tail keyword would be something a lot more detailed like ‘private Rome tours at night’.

With the first (short-tail) keyword we only knew that the user wanted a tour in Rome. Now, with the help of the long-tail keyword, we know that the user is searching for a private tour of/in Rome, and one that can be booked on an evening for that extra slice of magic. Using this long-tail keyword means that a tour company would show up when people are looking for this specific type of tour!

Long-tail doesn’t always mean more words

Long-tail keywords don’t always have to have a long word count. Shorter keywords can also be long-tail keywords.

Rather than judging whether a keyword is long-tail or short-tail based on its word length, you should focus on its search popularity. Keywords that have a lower search volume can be considered long-tail keywords, regardless of whether they contain one, three, or fourteen words!

Some common features of long-tail keywords, which we have already touched on, include:

  • Having a lower search volume
  • Being more specific
  • Including highly targeted information
  • Having less competition in terms of ranking

When to use long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are most often used in blog posts and articles, like this one. Having a blog section on your business’ website provides you with space to produce content that offers visitors more information than is perhaps possible in ad copy or product descriptions.

Maintaining a blog on your website allows you to build trust and a relationship with your audience by showing them what you can do, what you know, and how you can help them as a brand. It is also a space where you can use long-tail keywords and rank in search. Blogs have many incredible benefits!

Any long-tail keywords you use should be longer variations of the primary keyword(s) you already use.

As a salon owner based in Oxford, your primary keyword may be ‘Oxford hairdressers’ which has a search volume of 2,900 monthly searches.

A long-tail keyword variant of this primary keyword could be ‘cheap hairdressers Oxford’ or ‘Oxford hairdressers student discount’ which both have a search volume of 10 monthly searches.

 

Using the hub and spoke strategy

An effective strategy that we use as part of our content marketing process is the hub and spoke strategy.

When developing content using the hub and spoke strategy, your hub should be your main page of content – this should contain your primary keyword and will cover a broad topic.

The spokes are supporting content that provides additional information and drive readers to your hub content. Spoke content will likely use long-tail keywords as these cover more specific topics than your hub content.

By internally linking your spoke content to your hub content, you are able to create a reflective hierarchy for both search engines and website visitors.

How to find long-tail keywords

Keyword research is a vital part of any successful SEO strategy. This is the bottom line and something that cannot be ignored or disregarded. And that is the answer when it comes to knowing how to generate long-tail keywords. You have to do your research!

While using a paid tool will provide you with more in-depth information, there are several free keyword research tools that you can use.

The following tools and techniques are also a great way to get started with long-tail keyword research.

Google autocomplete suggestions

By simply typing your primary keyword into Google, you will see a drop-down list of autocomplete suggestions in the form of long-tail keywords. This will give you an insight into real Google searches that people are making in relation to your chosen topic. Google autocomplete suggestions are one of the quickest and easiest ways to conduct your initial long-tail keyword research.

However, you will not be able to capture search volume data by just using autocomplete suggestions. So, we recommend using this alongside tools that provide more in-depth data in the keyword profile such as search volume, competitiveness, trend, and keyword difficulty.

Google Search Console Performance Report

When looking at your Google Search Console Performance Report, you may see that you are ranking on the 3rd or 4th pages for long-tail keywords that you had never even considered creating content for.

This Performance report will also let you analyse the clicks, impressions and average click-through-rate for each of these search terms, helping you to determine it’s traffic potential.

You can then use this report to analyse your existing website content to improve the SEO of these pages, or create new content, and eventually hit the first page of search results for these keywords.

AnswerThePublic

By typing your primary keyword(s) into AnswerThePublic, you’ll be met with related long-tail keywords. This is laid out as a visual representation of the aforementioned hub and spoke strategy. You’ll see your primary keyword in the middle, with branches that lead to long-tail keywords.

This visual format is great for finding sub-topics or long-tail keywords that you may not have already captured in your initial keyword research.

SEMrush Keyword Tool with Questions Filter

When it comes to keyword research, we recommend using a Paid tool such as SEMrush or Ahrefs.

Using the SEMrush keyword tool with a questions filter is an ideal way to find out what questions people are asking online.

To use this tool, simply type in your primary keyword into the SEMRush Keyword Tool, then navigate to the Questions column to explore the list of questions that people ask in relation to this topic.

With this tool, you can then see important search information for each keyword including search volume, keyword difficulty, competitive density, SERP features, and the total number of search results. This will allow you to build a greater understanding of the traffic potential for these keywords and whether they are worthwhile including in your SEO strategy.

Forums and Boards


When it comes to finding what real people want to know, forums and message boards are a great way to do so. Type in ‘keyword’ + ‘forum’ and head to a forum where people are talking about this topic. From there, you can generate long-tail keywords inspired by user-generated content.

This method for long-tail keyword research can be time-consuming. But the information acquired can be valuable for developing a deeper understanding of user intent and how to best satisfy the needs of your ideal audience.

How to use long-tail keywords

Once you’ve found your long-tail keywords, it is important to use them correctly. Write a blog post about the topic, and optimise it around this specific term. So if your long-tail keyword is something like ‘film locations in Miami’, you might want to write a blog post about all of the films set in Miami and the locations that people can visit.

We use a specific performance-based SEO model for all of our clients. As part of this, we will conduct keyword research and implement a strategy for how to best incorporate these keywords into your website. This is done by analysing the current search framework for each keyword, allowing us to determine what content type will perform best for your business.

By analysing the current top-performing content for your long-tail keywords you will be able to understand what content type you need to be creating for this particular keyword. You will also want to conduct competitor research and do a content gap analysis to close any gaps where they may be ranking for long-tail keywords that you do not yet rank for.

With this said, make sure you aren’t just recreating content that already exists. Firstly, this is plagiarism and, secondly, this will lead to low-value content. Instead, you should focus on creating high-value content that satisfies the intent of the keyword.

You can also incorporate long-tail keywords into existing website content, like on your landing page and in product descriptions. This means your pages will be ranking for more keywords, and will be visible to more people!

However, you choose to use keywords, keep the keyword density natural and avoid keyword stuffing.

Final thoughts on long-tail keywords

Incorporating long-tail keywords into your SEO strategy can be a powerful way to connect with your ideal audience at a time when they are ready to convert – be that by making a purchase or submitting an enquiry.

There are various tools for finding the perfect long-tail keywords to help you rank highly in search results and drive the ideal traffic to your page. However, you want to make sure you are gathering as much data as possible to get a thorough understanding of which keywords will harness the best results.

Finally, you need to establish a clear content marketing plan, ensuring your keyword research comfortably fits in with your wider SEO strategy.

Here at Common Ground, we will help you develop a content marketing strategy that works – not just by using these important long-tail keywords, but by ensuring these fit into a performance-based SEO strategy that is specifically tailored to your business.

 

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