Long-Tail Keywords: What They Are, and How They Benefit Your SEO

Even if you’re relatively new to the concept of search engine optimization (SEO), you probably already know that keywords play an important role. They help your website rank because they’re the same words that your customers will be searching for when they need information on products and services in your industry. Long-tail keywords are simply an extension of this concept, helping you to rank for specific phrases instead of just one or two words. But how much of an effect do they really have against your competitors? Read on to learn about their history, why you should use them, and their main benefits.

The History of Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are usually three or more words that are treated as a searchable phrase. They became more widespread as SEO algorithms began evaluating other factors in determining a website’s relevance. They were also used to distinguish websites from others that might be using misleading content practices like keyword stuffing, where keywords are used to outrank competitors’ pages by being repeated as many times as possible, without any regard to the quality of the content they’re being used in (otherwise known as spamdexing). 

Search engine algorithms have been updated to identify when keyword stuffing is taking place and penalize a website’s ranking for it. They’ve also been designed to look beyond simple keywords for determining how a website should be rendered, indexed, and ranked.

Keywords are still important – they are, after all, the point of why people are looking for you — they’re simply one of many ways your website can be found.

Why You Should Use Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords can boost your ranking because they offer a high degree of specificity for a segment of your target audience.

When you type a query into a search engine, do you use only one or two words, or do you enter whole phrases and questions? Probably a mixture of both. Because the latter is becoming more common, it’s good practice to write content that anticipates and includes these phrases and questions, thereby offering results that are either spot on or very close to the exact things that some of your leads are asking.

As more people rely on voice search — either through mobile assistants like Siri and Alexa, or through specific apps as an enabled feature — the more likely they are to speak their search queries as full sentences. While it’s generally a good idea to write like how people talk, in this case, it’s even more relevant for you to get noticed.

Should you focus on long-tail keywords over regular, one-to-two-word keywords (or, as some now call them, short-tail keywords)? Not necessarily — and we’ll discuss why later in this article. Right now, it’s important to note that both can be used strategically to grow your website’s organic search.

Benefits of Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are important for a few reasons.

First, they make it easier to rank your website for niche search terms. Say that you have a very particular offering in your industry. Narrowing down the scope of your content to write for that subject matter could easily help you stand out and increase your lead conversions. 

Second, it builds the foundation so that your website is in a better position to rank for broader, short-tail keywords over time. Say that you’re a small business in a large industry. Maybe you’re having trouble ranking your website against big-name competitors because your content isn’t as extensive as theirs, or hasn’t been around as long to establish itself higher up on a Google search. Using long-tail keywords that your competitors don’t can allow you to get a foothold with search engines, develop your website’s reputation, and then give you the means to incrementally build that ranking so that you can compete for those broader keywords.

Third, the less competition that you have for your chosen long-tail keywords, the less they will cost you if you use Google Ads.

After considering these benefits, the logical question is: are there any cons to using long-tail keywords? 

The main one that comes to mind is that your search volume will decrease, as the more specific you get with a long-tail keyword, the fewer people are likely to search for that exact phrase — while also substantially improving your odds of being noticed by those who do. If that doesn’t seem like an effective tradeoff, remember that it’s still an important part of improving your SEO on the way to short-tail keywords and a broader audience.

How To Identify and Rank For Long-Tail Keywords

As with most digital marketing efforts, the process of learning which long-tail keywords are right for you can depend on some trial and error. Typically, you’ll want to start small and branch out by first identifying which generic search terms are the most relevant to your industry. Then you can use research tools like AnswerThePublic to identify popular keywords and learn what related questions and phrases are typed into search engines that include them. Based on that reported search volume, you can craft long-tail keywords that make the most sense to your brand.

Once you choose your keywords, it helps to learn which associated keywords and content length will be in your favor to rank them. Semrush is a paid tool that will provide you with both of these pieces of information, and will present you with a basic framework that you can use to develop your content to meet them.

Sometimes the recommended content length for certain keywords may surprise you, or make you wonder if there’s really that much you could say that’s interesting enough to grab your leads’ interest. 

There’s certainly no shortage of advice out there when it comes to content strategy, but we will say this: while content length isn’t ranked as more important than content quality, there’s still the perception among readers that a comparatively longer document has greater value and more industry relevance.

This can mean that leads are more likely to spend additional time on websites that offer long-form content like blog posts, even if those leads are simply skimming through all of that information to find specific points that they need. The more people who do this, the lower your website’s bounce rate, and the greater likelihood search engines will rank it higher for that keyword.

Does this automatically mean longer content is always better? Hardly. Just as clickbait and keyword stuffing will quickly turn readers off and increase bounce rates, so too can poorly written or misleading content — regardless of how much is written. You may have the right search terms, but it has to make sense and offer value for people to stick around.

It should come as no surprise that AI solutions are also cropping up for digital marketers who are looking for assistance when it comes to identifying keyword suggestions and generating content. While they’re helpful tools for creating content frameworks, they aren’t replacements for your copywriters or your long-form content creation.

Do You Have Keyword Questions?

If you’d like assistance with your SEO strategy when it comes to identifying specific long-tail keywords, creating content that leverages them, and improving your website ranking, we’re ready to assist. Click the link below to schedule an introductory call.

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