written by
Ilias Ism

Long-Tail Keywords: What Are They & How to Use Them

Search Engine Optimization 8 min read

If you want your website to rank well in search engines and attract qualified traffic, it's crucial to target the right keywords.

While many people focus on short, popular keywords, savvy marketers know the value of long-tail keywords.

In this in-depth guide, we'll explain what long-tail keywords are, why they are important for SEO, and how you can find and use them effectively.

What are Long-Tail Keywords?

long-tail keywords
Source: SEMrush

Long-tail keywords are longer, more specific keyword phrases that visitors are more likely to use when they're closer to making a purchase or using voice search.

Most long-tail keywords have lower search volume than generic short-tail keywords.

They are a little bit counter-intuitive at first, but they can be hugely valuable if you know how to use them.

For example, "shoes" is a very broad head keyword.

In contrast, "best price on running shoes for flat feet" is a long-tail keyword.

It's much more specific and targets a narrower search intent.

The term "long tail" comes from the book The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. If you were to plot all keywords by their search volumes, you'd end up with a graph with a "long tail" of keywords that are searched less frequently.

These long-tail keywords in aggregate can actually make up the majority of searches performed on the web. According to Backlinko's analysis of 306 million keywords, 91.8% of all search queries are long-tail keywords.

The Benefits of Targeting Long-Tail Keywords

There are several key reasons why focusing on long-tail keywords is a smart SEO strategy:

1. Less Competition

The main benefit of long-tail keywords is that they are less competitive. Trying to rank for broad head keywords like "shoes" or "insurance" is extremely difficult. Even if you manage to rank, you'll be battling with huge brands for clicks.

Long-tail keywords have lower search volume, so fewer websites are competing to rank for them. That means you have a much better chance of ranking on the first page for long-tail terms.

For example, a small shoe store could never rank well for "shoes" but they may be able to hit the top spots for "handmade leather oxford shoes."

Read more: Keyword research 101

2. Higher Conversion Rates

Long-tail keywords also tend to have higher conversion rates. That's because people who search for something very specific are usually further along in the buying cycle.

Someone searching for "running shoes" is probably just browsing.

But someone searching for "best price Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38" practically has their credit card out! Targeting that long-tail keyword means you'll attract visitors who are ready to buy.

Read more: Clever Keyword Research Examples for SEO

3. Better for Voice Search

Optimizing for long-tail keywords is also important for voice search SEO.

When people use Siri, ChatGPT assistants, Alexa or Google Assistant to search, they use longer, natural language phrases.

For example, someone might type in "weather" on their phone. But if they're using voice search, they'll probably ask a full question like "What's the weather forecast for today in Boston?"

Targeting those longer, conversational keywords helps you capture the growing voice search market.

4. Rank New Content Faster

Trying to rank for head keywords requires a lot of time, effort and backlinks.

But you can often rank new pages for long-tail keywords much faster, even if your site is relatively new or has lower domain authority.

Of course, not all long-tail keywords are easy to rank for. But in general, you'll be able to get traction much quicker by going after less competitive long-tail phrases. Then you can use that initial traffic to build momentum.

How to Find the Best Long-Tail Keywords

Hopefully you're convinced of the power of long-tail keywords! The next step is actually finding the best ones to target. Here are a few effective strategies:

1. Use Keyword Research Tools

Keyword research tools like StoryChief, Semrush, Ahrefs, and Moz Keyword Explorer are very helpful for finding long-tail keywords.

Just enter a broad keyword and they'll provide a list of related long-tail variations along with their search volumes and ranking difficulty.

keywords everywhere: long-tail keywords

For example, if you put "content marketing" into Keywords Everywhere, it will suggest long-tail keywords like:

  • what is content marketing
  • content marketing examples
  • content marketing strategy template
  • benefits of content marketing
  • types of content marketing

Look for long-tail keywords that have decent search volume (at least 50-100 searches per month) and low keyword difficulty scores. Those will offer the best opportunities to rank.

2. Analyze Your Search Query Report

Source: StoryChief Rank Tracker

Your Google Search Console account contains a treasure trove of long-tail keyword data. Go to the Performance report and look at the queries that are driving impressions and clicks to your site.

You'll likely find long-tail keywords that you're ranking for accidentally just by creating relevant content. If you optimize your pages to target those keywords more directly, you can quickly boost your rankings and traffic.

Use the StoryChief Rank Tracker to get opportunities with AI using your Google Search Console data.

3. Use "People Also Ask"

People also ask for how to make cold brew coffee

Whenever you search for a keyword on Google, you'll usually see a "People also ask" box pop up with questions related to your original query. These questions are great long-tail keyword ideas.

For example, if you search "how to make cold brew coffee", the "People also ask" box shows questions like:

  • What is the ratio of coffee to water for cold brew?
  • Why is my cold brew bitter?
  • Can you use regular ground coffee for cold brew?
  • How long should cold brew steep?

Each of those could be a great long-tail keyword to target with a blog post or FAQ page. And you can click on the questions to reveal even more related queries.

4. Mine Forums and Q&A Sites

Ahrefs Top Pages for /r/coffee
Source: Ahrefs Top Pages for /r/coffee

Forums like Reddit and Quora, as well as Q&A sites like Stack Exchange, are gold mines for long-tail keyword research.

People ask very specific questions on these sites that reflect the kind of long-tail searches they do on Google.

For example, if you sell coffee equipment, you could look at the /r/Coffee subreddit and find long-tail keywords like:

  • best budget coffee grinder
  • how to clean a French press
  • pour over vs French press taste
  • how to make iced coffee with Keurig

If people are asking about these topics on forums, you can bet they're searching for them on Google too. Create content optimized around these long-tail keywords and you can attract that traffic to your site.

How to Optimize for Long-Tail Keywords

Once you've found relevant long-tail keywords, the next step is to actually use them in your content. Here are some best practices for on-page optimization:

1. Include the Exact Keyword Phrase

Make sure to include your exact long-tail keyword in your content verbatim. Use it in the title tag, meta description, URL, H1 heading, and a few times in the body content.

For example, if your keyword is "how to clean a French press", your H1 heading could be "How to Clean a French Press: Step-by-Step Instructions".

2. Use Variations and Synonyms

You should also include variations and synonyms of your main keyword phrase. For the "how to clean a French press" example, you could use related phrases like "cleaning a French press coffee maker", "washing a French press", "French press cleaning instructions", etc.

This helps you rank for long-tail variations and tells Google that your content comprehensively covers the topic, called Entity SEO or Semantic SEO.

3. Optimize for Search Intent

When targeting long-tail keywords, it's important to match the search intent behind the query. If someone is searching for "how to clean a French press", they want a step-by-step tutorial, not a product page selling French presses.

Look at the pages that are currently ranking in the top 10 results for your keyword. Make sure your content aligns with the dominant intent.

If the results are mostly blog posts, create a blog post. If they're product pages, create a product page, and so on.

4. Build Internal Links

Linking to your new long-tail optimized pages from other relevant pages on your site helps them get indexed faster and rank better.

Find pages on your site that are topically related and add links pointing to your new page with the long-tail keyword in the anchor text.

For example, if you have a blog post comparing French press vs pour over coffee, you could add a link to your new "how to clean a French press" post using that keyword as the anchor text. This passes more authority to your new post and helps it rank.

The Long-Tail of SEO Success

Targeting long-tail keywords is one of the most effective SEO strategies, especially for smaller websites that can't compete for the big head keywords.

By going after less competitive, more specific search queries, you can attract highly qualified traffic that is more likely to convert.

Finding the right long-tail keywords takes some research and analysis. But with the strategies outlined above, you can uncover great opportunities to rank, drive traffic, and grow your business.

The key is to create comprehensive, intent-optimized content that matches what searchers are looking for.

Over time, you can build up a large portfolio of long-tail optimized pages that rank well and deliver steady organic traffic.

So don't overlook the power of the long tail! Make it a core part of your SEO strategy.

Now is the time to shift towards a customer-first, content marketing mindset - before your competitors do. Want to learn more about content marketing?

To discuss how content marketing can transform your marketing performance, request a demo or start your free StoryChief trial (a content marketer’s secret weapon!). Our team would be happy to give you a walkthrough.x

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