Optimizing your web pages for search engines is the key to drawing in traffic and growing your brand awareness. But to have a successful search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, you need to know how to find and incorporate the specific keywords your target audience is actually searching for.
Not all keywords are alike — some are more popular and competitive, while others are more specific and niche. This article focuses on the latter type: long-tail keywords. Continue reading for the ultimate guide to finding and using long-tail keywords to boost your SEO.
What Are Long-Tail Keywords?
Definition and Characteristics
So, what is a long-tail keyword? Long-tail keywords in SEO are searchable phrases with three or more words. These phrases are specific, have low search volume on search engines, and have high conversion rates.
Long-Tail vs. Short-Tail Keywords: What’s the Difference?
The difference between long-tail vs. short-tail keywords is that long-tail keywords are usually more descriptive and specific than short-tail ones. Short-tail keywords typically have only one or two words, high search volumes, and low conversion rates.
For example, “marketing agency” is a very broad short-tail keyword. Users will frequently search for this phrase, but it will also face stiff competition on search engine results pages (SERPs).
In contrast, long-tail keywords like “SEO marketing agency for startups” or “content marketing agency B2B” are much more precise. These niche phrases will have less SERP competition, and the user is more likely to find what they’re searching for.
Visualizing the Search Demand Curve
The search demand curve visually represents how search volume decreases as search queries become more specific.
When plotting a search demand curve on a graph, the Y axis represents the search volume, while the X axis represents the length (or word count) of the search query. The search demand curve starts out at a high search volume, exponentially decreasing along the X axis as search phrases become longer.
In the term ‘long-tail keyword,’ the ‘tail’ refers to the additional words surrounding and describing the phrase’s main or most searched keyword. The ‘tail’ also refers to the end of the search demand curve that stretches out — like a tail — as search queries get longer.
What Are Some Examples of Long-Tail Keywords?
Here are some additional long-tail keyword examples that you may use or find for a given niche:
- Small business: “Small business marketing strategies in 2024”
- Fashion retail: “Knee high boots under $100”
- Food recipes: “How to make pasta from scratch”
- Health: “What are flu symptoms?”
Long-tail keywords are phrases that users search for to find a specific result. They may be descriptive or in the form of questions and are less commonly searched for than broader phrases.
What Are Some Common Benefits of Long-Tail Keywords?
So, why should you use these targeted phrases, and what is a common benefit to long-tail keywords? Let’s explore some of these advantages below.
The Power of Specificity: Conversion and Intent
Long-tail keywords are associated with a higher conversion rate because they more adequately match the user’s search intent. According to the Revenue Marketing Alliance, long-tail keywords have an average 36% conversion rate. This is because users who search for long-tail keywords are looking for something very specific and are more likely to buy or sign up for the thing(s) they are searching for.
Competitive Advantage: Easier Rankings and Targeted Traffic
With the reduced competition of long-tail keywords, you’re also more likely to rank higher in search results. Targeting the niche phrases your audience is already searching for makes it easier to appear on the first page of their search results.
Conversely, short-term keywords can take months to years of back-linking, web page optimization, and other SEO tactics to even have a chance at ranking. As for how to rank for long-tail keywords quickly, look for phrases with lower “keyword difficulty” or “competition” scores.
The Majority of Search Queries: Why They Can’t Be Ignored
Long-tail keywords represent the majority of search queries on the internet. According to Ahrefs, 95% of all search queries are long-tail keywords with 10 or fewer monthly searches. This demonstrates that most people are proficient at searching online to find exactly what they’re looking for. It also means pinpointing the right long-tail phrases to use has massive potential for traffic and conversions.
Strategies To Identify High-Quality Long-Tail Keywords
Knowing how to target long-tail keywords that actually provide results can be challenging. Here are some tools and techniques to identify long-tail keywords:
Which Keyword Research Tools Should You Use?
Keyword research tools are excellent resources for identifying long-tail keywords and phrases to use in your written content. However, not all keyword research tools are alike.
Here are some factors to consider as you look for the right tool to use for your needs:
- Features: Does the tool offer a variety of features for enhancing keyword research, such as keyword data, recommendations, and analytics? A good keyword research tool should be comprehensive, including as many features as possible to help you find the best keywords for your niche.
- Database size: Your research tool should also have a large database of search queries to help you make the most accurate and informed decisions. Tools created by search engine companies like Google typically have the largest databases because they have direct access to search query data.
- Cost: The right keyword research tool should fall within your budget. Some businesses may need free keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner, while some may want to invest in comprehensive SEO tools like SEMRush.
Using Third-Party Tools Like SEMRush and Ahrefs
Some of the top-rated keyword research tools are SEMRush and Ahrefs:
- SEMRush offers a variety of keyword tools for digital marketers, including Keyword Overview, Keyword Magic Tool, Keyword Gap, Keyword Manager, and more. This software helps you research popular keywords, generate new ones, and provides insight into the rankings, competition, and cost per click (CPC) of each.
- Ahrefs is one of the highest-rated SEO tools on the market. It offers similar features as SEMRush, such as its Keyword Explorer, Content Gap, Site Explorer, and more.
SEO experts rely on these tools to find tailored phrases with low to medium search volume, low competition, and low CPC. You may even find that your competitors are missing out on using niche phrases you can capitalize on.
Leveraging Google’s Autocomplete and Related Searches
Google’s Autocomplete and Related Searches are two simple but effective ways to find long-tail keywords directly from Google’s search engine.
‘Autocomplete’ is the feature that shows you a list of suggested words as you type in the search bar. These suggestions are usually long-tail keywords that are also commonly searched. With this feature, you can see — for free — currently popular phrases you may not have thought of.
Google’s ‘Related Searches’ feature shows you a list of queries at the bottom of your SERP. These related searches are also usually long-tail keywords you can use as inspiration for your own keywords.
Use ‘People Also Ask’ To Find Long-Tail Questions
People Also Ask (PAA) is another Google feature that can help you find long-tail keywords in the form of questions. The PAA feature is located below the first one (or sometimes the first few) search page results, and it looks like a dropdown list of additional searches or questions.
This feature reveals additional topics and phrases related to your original search, giving you a better idea of other phrases to include in your content. For example, if you search “marketing expert,” the PAA feature lists these questions:
- What are marketing experts?
- How do you become a marketing expert?
- How do I become a sales and marketing expert?
- What are the benefits of being a marketing specialist?
Spy on Your Competitors
Another way to discover niche long-tail keywords is to figure out what queries your competitors are targeting and successfully ranking for. To do this, try using tools like Google Keyword Research to analyze your competitors’ URLs and see which keywords they rank for organically. This tool also gives insight into their traffic, position changes, and SERP features.
Additionally, try searching a variety of keywords and phrases and see which businesses organically rank for these terms. If your competitors consistently rank high for a variety of phrases, you might also want to utilize these phrases while making some unique tweaks to pull in traffic to your site.
How To Target Long-Tail Keywords in Your Content
Finding long-tail keywords is only half the battle. The other half is using them effectively in your content, not just to attract but also to retain and convert your new audience members. Here are some tips on how to use long-tail keywords in your content:
Match Content Type With Search Intent
When using keywords on your pages, ensuring they align with your content and search intent is essential.
Search intent is the goal or purpose of the user when they type a query into a search engine. It can be classified into four main types.
- Informational: To learn something or find an answer to a question.
- Navigational: To find a specific website or page.
- Transactional: To buy or sign up for something.
- Commercial: To compare different options or products before making a decision.
Each type of search intent requires different content to satisfy it. For example, if the user searches for “how to lower blood pressure naturally at home,” they have an informational intent, and they expect to see a blog post or an article that provides valuable advice.
However, if the user searches for “best blood pressure monitor 2024,” they have a commercial intent, and they expect to see a product review or a comparison page that showcases different features and prices. That’s why you must match your content type with the search intent of your long-tail keyword.
Strategic Keyword Placement for Optimal SEO Benefits
Another factor to consider when using targeted phrases is where you strategically place keywords throughout your content. Keyword placement can affect your content’s SEO optimization and SERP ranking.
You should focus on two keyword placement categories: (1) natural use that flows with the content and (2) placement in the title, headers, and meta descriptions.
Ensuring Natural and Organic Usage Within Content
It’s essential to use your keywords and phrases naturally throughout your content. This means not adding random phrases throughout but instead thoughtfully crafting sentences that naturally include your long-tail phrases.
Your content’s natural flow and quality are important because users must stay on your site long enough to improve your SEO. This ‘proves’ to search engines that your content is authoritative and valuable to users, bumping it higher up in SERP rankings.
The Role of Title Tags, Headers, and Meta Descriptions
Another focus point for keyword placement is title tags, headers, and meta descriptions. These elements of your page appear on search results pages (i.e., the clickable title of your article and the short description below it).
You want to optimize these areas of copy to target your audience as much as possible. This typically means using your main long-tail keyword in your article title and placing your secondary keyphrase in your meta description.
The Concept of Topic Clusters: Organizing Content for Better SEO
Your long-tail keyword usage should also go hand-in-hand with your organizational strategy. ‘Topic clusters’ refers to an SEO organization strategy that organizes related content around a central topic on your page.
This typically consists of three components:
- A pillar page is a comprehensive page that covers the main topic in depth and links to the subtopic pages.
- The subtopic pages are the specific and detailed pages that cover the subtopics and link back to the pillar page.
- Internal links connect the pillar and subtopic pages to create a connected structure.
Including long-tail keywords in your topic cluster organization draws in traffic and helps keep visitors on your website by bringing them to related pages. Your long-tail keywords can also be hyperlinked as internal links to highlight them and bring the reader’s attention further along the sales journey.
User Experience and Readability: Balancing SEO With Content Quality
Another important aspect of using keywords on your web pages is prioritizing content quality and readability. In short, make sure you don’t sacrifice the quality of your content to incorporate as many key phrases as possible.
For example, if a website randomly throws key phrases in places where they don’t fit, the reader will lose trust in that brand and view it as less authoritative and professional. In this instance, adding those few extra key phrases results in more harm than good.
However, maintaining this balance can be easier said than done. After all, if many users are searching phrases in question format, how can we naturally incorporate long-tail keywords throughout our content? Well, we just did exactly that.
Although it can be challenging, with a little creativity, it is possible to maintain a high-quality flow of content while incorporating all of your desired key phrases.
Remember, keywords help bring traffic to your website, but quality SEO content keeps those users around. So make sure to hook your readers with those targeted key phrases — and show them that they made the right choice by providing value on your pages.
Future Trends: What To Expect
Long-tail keywords are here to stay. However, as new technologies emerge, the strategies around utilizing longer phrases for SEO will change.
Let’s explore what to expect for the future so you can stay ahead of the curve.
The Evolution of Voice Search and Its Impact on Long-Tail Queries
Voice search, or the technology that lets users search for information using their voice, is on the rise. As technology like Apple’s Siri improves, this tool will become even more convenient for searching for products or solutions.
According to Demand Sage, 50% of American adults already use voice search at least once per day. Additionally, more than one billion voice searches occur monthly, and over 20% of all searches on the Google App happen via voice commands. While people used voice assistants 4.2 billion times in 2023, this figure will likely double to 8.4 billion in 2024.
SEO marketers must keep this in mind, as it affects what phrases users search. With voice search, people are more likely to search for answers using conversational language and longer phrases. This means voice search will increase the demand and importance of long-tail keywords and slightly alter their phrasing.
How AI-Powered Search Engines Will Make Long-Tail Phrases More Relevant
Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are revolutionizing many industries, including the search engine field. AI-powered search engines use machine learning, natural language processing, and semantic analysis algorithms to improve user search results. Thus, as AI technology improves, search results will become more tailored and relevant to individual users.
This also applies to using long-tail keywords, as users’ precise needs will require more specific phrases. AI will also be able to better interpret the nuance of search phrases and learn from user behavior, providing them with more specific answers. As a result, businesses should even more closely follow standard practices to find and utilize the right key phrases.
Search engines like Google and Bing are also using generative AI for search results. This means users can ask a question and receive a written response without even having to click on a search results page.
So, what does this mean for SEO marketers? For starters, it may become even more challenging to target audience members. As a result, the need for highly targeted long-tail keywords will become even more prevalent.
The Lasting Relevance of Long-Tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords are a fundamental part of SEO that will remain relevant for years to come. These phrases are critical to helping you achieve your SEO goals faster and easier, organically reaching your target audience by the most efficient means possible.
However, mastering SEO practices like using long-tail keywords can be challenging. With countless keyword research tools to choose from, a sea of competition on search engines, and new technologies emerging daily, finding and efficiently incorporating the right keywords can be tricky.
Luckily, working with the SEO experts at Sure Oak can help you take your marketing efforts to the next level. Sure Oak offers SEO services tailored to your business needs. If you want to learn more about how we can help maximize your long-tail keyword usage or other aspects of your SEO game plan, contact us for a free strategy session today.