The Internet is a popularity contest—everyone wants a spot at the top. In highly competitive markets, getting your site to show up in the top of search engine results is tough. Really tough.
Popular keywords like “vacation” and “ecommerce,” also known as short-tail or head keywords, get a lot of attention in the SEO world. Everyone wants to rank for those coveted keywords, but competition is fierce. Search algorithms factor in site traffic, relevancy, and credibility to determine rank—meaning well-established businesses with big marketing budgets will continue to outrank smaller companies.
So as a business, how can you stay competitive and reach the people who actually want to buy your products? Get specific with long-tail keywords.
We’re All Searching for Something
Start typing anything into Google search, and the autocomplete suggestions that pop up might surprise you. A search for “red” suggests Taylor Swift’s hit album Red, perhaps, or information on Pokémon Red: the first generation of Pokémon games.
“Does anyone actually search for red fire truck pajama pants?” you might wonder.
The answer is yes. These highly specific autocomplete suggestions are a form of long-tail keywords, and they account for nearly 70 percent of search traffic. Long-tail keywords are specific, generally containing three or more words, and therefore attract less traffic than broader searches. But that’s no reason to ignore them!
Why Target Long-Tail Keywords?
Specificity in search can offer a surprisingly high value for your business. The benefits of optimizing your site for long-tail keywords while delivering killer content are plenty:
- Higher conversion rates: Not all customers are ready to buy. Someone searching for “shoes” is a lot less likely to find your product—and less prepared to buy—than the person searching for “Adidas Performance Men’s Energy Boost 2 running shoes size 10.” The more specific the search, the closer the searcher is to making a purchase, and the more likely their searches will lead to conversions on your site. A casual browser will generally use more generic search terms than the person who’s done his research and is ready to buy.Note: Solid site structure matters here. If a visitor can’t find content or is forced to put up with lengthy page load times, they’ll probably take their business elsewhere.
- Less competition: Highly specific keywords or phrases narrow the playing field by reducing the number of competitors offering those same products or services. The number of businesses selling “spark plugs for Ford F-150” is far fewer than the businesses selling “auto parts.”
- Improved search ranking: The more tailored your content is to your target market—or the better you address the needs of your customers—the higher you’ll rank in SERPs. No, you won’t show up in the top five results for general search terms, but you can rank high for more specific searches since competition is low.
- Lower cost: Keyword tools like Google AdWord’s Keyword Planner charge more for broad, popular keywords. Everyone wants them. Long-tail keywords will cost you less because less people use them. They’re the low-hanging fruit that you can’t afford to ignore.
Here’s the key: Even though they cost less, long-tail keywords ultimately lead to more conversions by attracting the right customers who are ready to buy your products.
The Future of Search and Long-Tail Keywords
The rise of mobile and voice search will add to the value of long-tail keywords. Why? Speaking is more efficient—and more conversational—than typing. Bottom line: We’re willing to say more than we care to type. While we might ask Siri, “Where is the closest gas station,” a typed search is more likely to look like: “Gas Raleigh NC.”
How can you keep up with the changing trends in technology and outrank your competitors in search engine results? You already know the value of long-tail keywords—here’s how to use them to boost your SEO and stay competitive online:
- Answer questions: Voice searches are often posed in the form of questions. Answering the questions, “Who, what, where, when, why, and how” in your website copy (think FAQ and About Us pages), meta descriptions, blog posts, and social media will increase your chances of ranking higher for voice searches and searches containing long-tail keywords. By addressing needs, you’ll also make your customers happy, which should be your bottom line. Answer the Public is a great tool for keyword research that offers content ideas.
- Focus on good content: Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Long-tail keywords attract the right kind of customers, but you need the right kind of content to make sales. Why are your products or services different? What problems do you solve? Know your unique value proposition, and weave it into the fabric of your business. Everything from beautiful, high resolution images to thoughtful product descriptions should resonate with your target customer. The better you know yourself and your customers, the easier it is to draw a connection between their needs and your solutions.
While it may be tempting to cast a wide net with your keywords, you could have more success by focusing on long-tail keywords.
A word to the wise: Whatever you do, do not keyword stuff your website! Not only will you sacrifice the quality of your content, you’ll likely get penalized. Focus on strong, compelling copy, and use long-tail keyword research as a guide.