In the competitive world of SEO, businesses are constantly looking for ways to get their pages to the top of the search engine results page (SERP) heap. The days when you could stuff your pages with keywords or try other sneaky tricks to ensure users see your pages are long gone. In fact, if you try any of those techniques today and not only will you not land on the first page of search results, but there's a good chance that Google will actually penalize your site and you'll be lucky to get any traffic at all.
That doesn't mean that you should abandon keywords altogether, though. In fact, they are still the cornerstone of any SEO strategy. However, many businesses focus their attention on the top keywords for their business to the detriment of other strategies that could potentially produce better results. One of those strategies is the use of long-tail keywords.
Long-Tail Keyword Review
You've probably heard the statistics: the first five results on any search result page receive 75 percent of the traffic. For that reason, your SEO strategy should focus on landing in those first five results. The problem? There is a lot of competition for those slots, especially when your business is in a crowded field with several major competitors. For example, if you are a realtor or travel agent, building your content strategy around keywords like "real estate" or "vacation" is probably not going to create the results you want, because well-established sites tend to have better rankings, and therefore receive more traffic.
Using long-tail keywords, though, helps solve that problem. A long-tail keyword is a longer phrase (usually 3-5 words) that is more specific, but a less popular search. A keyword like "vacation" might have a couple hundred thousand searches per day, but "Boston-based vacation planner" or "Caribbean vacation specialist" might only have a few hundred searches per day or fewer. The trick is to find the niche keywords that your audience might search for, and optimize your pages for those phrases.
3 Reasons Long Tail Keywords Matter
"But wait. Why would I optimize my page for terms that no one is searching for?" If you're like many marketers, you might think that optimizing your pages for terms that no one ever searches for is counterintuitive.
However, incorporating the right long-tail keywords can actually boost your SERP rankings and put you among the first results. This happens in three key ways.
1. Less competition. When you identify the right niche keywords for your business, there isn't as much competition for the search results. Less competition equals higher search rankings - which equals greater likelihood of users clicking on your page.
2. Improved SERP rankings for all of your pages. One of the most significant trends among search engines in recent years is a focus on more intuitive and natural searches. In other words, search engines are better able to process natural-sounding searches; a user can type in a search query that sounds like something they would say such as "can you find a vacation planner in Boston?" and get results that are better matched to the query. If your pages are optimized for "vacation planner in Boston," you'll show up higher in the SERP than a page that's optimized for just "vacation" or "vacation planner."
3. More Conversions. While long-tail keywords are important to overall SEO strategy, they also have the added benefit of a higher percentage of conversions than other keywords. Long-tail keywords target buyers who are in the later stages of the buying process, who have already done a lot of research and have a clear idea of what they are looking for - and are likely to buy when they find your page. So while the long-tail phrase may not drive droves of traffic to your site, they will drive higher quality traffic. After all, which is better: one keyword that drives 50,000 visitors to your site, none of which convert, or a few targeted phrases that only drive 500 visitors to your page, but 250 of them buy?
It's been nearly a decade since long-tail keywords rose to prominence as an SEO strategy, but many marketers have been distracted by the other shiny new toys and techniques designed to improve SEO performance. Using long-tail keywords has been proven effective time and again, and deserves a spot in your SEO toolbox.