Searching for the Long Tail

Searching for the long tail

I have two mantras with all my clients and it comes up on my blog a fair amount too:

  • Know your customers

  • Work your niche

Being specific, targeted and highly focused about finding your customers is the key to building a business where you stand out from the crowd.

There are, of course, many factors and components to making this work but one key aspect to maximising your online presence is search marketing.  And one of the biggest components of search marketing is search engine optimisation (SEO) and one of the most critical aspects of this is - keywords.

But any old keywords won’t cut the mustard.  Precision in choosing and using keywords is essential.  And to get the most out of building your niche and getting in front of your customers you need to be using long tail keywords.

Long tail keywords are basically longer search phrases (min 3 or 4 words) that are focused on what someone is really looking for.  And the upside is the more specific you get, the less competition there is.

To illustrate a point, I did a few searches about puppies (which caused some alarm in this household as the prospect of another mad 4 legged family member is not universally popular!)

Using the single word “puppies” returned over 86 million results.  I think you would agree that it would be pretty hard to leverage any sort of visibility with that competition. 

Long tail graph

“Puppies for sale” 31 million, “Puppies for sale UK” 6 million.  The odds are coming down nicely.

But it is still a pretty steep hill to climb to get in front of a customer.

Getting more specific, “puppies for sale Herefordshire” returned 186,000 results and “Labrador puppies for sale Herefordshire” 38,000 results.  Unsurprisingly a search for working sheepdog puppies in Herefordshire returned an increase in results.

While the numbers may still seem really high, 38,000 results represents 0.04% of the original figure.  Using carefully targeted long tail keywords is going to increase your chance of getting in front of your ideal customer significantly.  

Assuming you aren't selling puppies in Herefordshire, how are you going to make this work for your business?

The trick is to combine a widely used search term with some specific variables.  

Doing it this way covers a range of search queries that people are likely to use as they research and refine what they are looking for.  And it helps those who know exactly what they are after get to you much faster.  

For the sake of argument, if you have a self-catering holiday cottage - what specifics would you add to get to your ideal customer?  If you have good contact with your customers, the chances are they are telling you what is important to them.  For example, family friendly, dog-friendly, peace and quiet, rural location etc. This provides vital insight to start your research on long tail keywords for your online presence.  

I recently did some research for a company and could see that a couple of tweaks to their search terms would increase their visibility 3 - 6 fold simply by adding  “where to” to the term “buy product x” because that is what people are looking for.  To give you an idea of search volumes - this would provide a monthly increase from 300 searches to about 1200 searches.  For an eCommerce business that represents a significant potential to increase sales. 

One word of caution though.  If Google can’t find an exact match then it will return results for pages that have all those words, however random they might be.  I tried a few searches for rare or unusual breeds of dog and the results started going through the roof again because there simply weren’t any Mudi puppies for sale in Herefordshire!

So how do you work out what search phrases to use?

There are a few useful tools out there but the best starting point is one you probably see and use every day. 

It’s called….  Google Autosuggest. 

Whenever you start typing in the Google search box, it will start to return search terms.  Play around with these and see what comes up. Don't forget to scroll down to the bottom of the search results to see the other search terms that Google suggests as well.  

Then head over to Ubersuggest and dig a little deeper.  Ubersuggest uses a range of sources to come up with all sorts of long tail keywords.  The challenge then is to select, verify and test a range of long tail keywords and monitor the impact on your search traffic. 

Of course, getting the traffic to your website is only the first stage, after that you need to persuade them to take action.  But that is a whole different topic….

©Polly Hearsey 2019

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