In the previous articles in this series on search engine optimization (SEO), we’ve briefly touched on SEO and how it can help your business online.
Today’s post takes a deeper look at the role of keywords in SEO.
What are SEO Keywords?
Most simply, keywords are the individual words or phrases users enter into search engines like Google to find what they are looking for. They can be one word (“snowplows”) or, more commonly, a multiple-word phrase (“Used snowplows Duluth MN”).
It’s important to be aware of the keywords relevant to your business.
Different businesses and products will have their own sets of keywords that are relevant to what they offer their audience. It’s important to be aware of the keywords relevant to your business—that’s the first step in competing for them in the search engine results pages.
Which Keywords to Aim For
If you have a website selling jewelry, getting your site to rank in Google for the keyword “jewelry” could result in thousands of new visitors every day. However, as “jewelry” is a very popular keyword, getting searched for many times each day, the big brands in the jewelry sector will be investing considerable resources into ranking highly for that keyword.
So where does that leave the small business owner, just starting out online?
Thankfully, there is still plenty of opportunity to rank your content in the search engines for relevant keywords. However, you’ll need a bit of creative thinking and an understanding of the opportunity provided by long tail keywords.
The Power of Long Tail Keywords
Long tail keywords generally contain more words than regular keywords.
Long tail keywords are search terms or phrases which people search for far less often than their more popular counterparts (the “fat tail” or “fat head” keywords). Long tail keywords generally contain more words than the head tail keywords, although this isn’t the defining feature of a long tail keyword.
Examples of these two types of keywords would be:
- Non-long tail: “jewelry” – 201,000 searches per month in Google
- Long tail: “men’s silver jewelry” – 260 searches per month in Google
“Men’s silver jewelry” is an example of a long tail keyword as it gets searched for less than the more generic “jewelry” keyword.
As these long tail keywords are searched for less often, they can be less attractive for large and successful websites with big marketing budgets to try and rank for.
This is great news for those just starting out, with little to no budget for SEO.
This is great news for those just starting out, with little to no budget for SEO. While all the big players in your field are trying to rank for the keywords which are searched for the most, you can start focusing on trying to get your content listed in the search results for long tail keywords.
Long tail keywords can be considered low-hanging fruit.
While individual long tail keywords don’t get searched for as often as the most popular keywords, collectively they can add up to a greater number of daily searches. By going after the low-hanging fruit and ensuring that each piece of content you publish is focused on a handful of related long tail keywords, you can stand a good chance of having that piece of content be listed highly in the search engines for those search terms.
If you do this on a continual basis, publishing content focused on the long tail keywords people in your field are searching for, you can start increasing the number of visitors that find their way to your site via search engines.
Long Tail Doesn’t Always Mean Less Competition
One important point to be aware of is that long tail keywords aren’t always uncompetitive. Despite some long tail keywords only being searched for a small number of times each day, the search engine results for those long tail keywords might be populated with the websites of big names in your field, who will be difficult to outrank.
This means that when you compile your list of long tail keywords, you’ll want to take into consideration the sites ranked in the top 10 by researching how well your industry is represented online.
However in most cases you will find the long tail keywords easier to rank for than the alternative, more popular keywords.
Long Tail Keywords Deliver More Targeted Traffic
Long tail traffic is more likely to convert into customers or clients.
Another benefit of focusing your attention on long tail keywords is that the visitors they send to your website are often more targeted and therefore more likely to convert into customers or clients than more generic keywords.
If you did manage to rank highly for the keyword “jewelry,” you might experience an increase in visitors, but many of those visitors might not become customers: perhaps they are looking for a specific type of jewelry you don’t have, or they just want to learn more about jewelry before making a purchase.
By focusing on the long tail you can target visitors who are further down the buying journey.
However, if you rank for a long tail keyword, such as “men’s silver jewelry,” the content of your website will be highly targeted to the visitor. By focusing on the long tail you can target visitors who are further along the buying journey and are therefore more likely to become customers or clients.
In sum, the major advantages of focusing on long tail keywords are as follows:
- Easier to rank for as are often less competitive
- Traffic is more targeted to your service or products
- Collectively they can deliver more traffic to your site than the more popular keywords
So now we know the advantages of working with long tail keywords, it’s time to look at how to find the relevant long tails for your website and how you can rank for them in the search engines.
How to Find Long Tail Keywords for Your Market
The products or services you offer can provide you with the long tail keywords to focus on.
Finding the long tail keywords for your market often isn’t difficult. If you start with the main keyword that describes your business, for example “jewelry,”” and then get more specific in terms of what products or services you offer, such as “handmade silver men’s jewelry’ and then start creating a list of those long tail keywords, you can quickly start building a list of what topics to write about on your website.
Another way to find long tail keyword ideas is to type your main keyword into Google and then see what their autocomplete or suggest tool lists.
The more you type, the more focused and long tail the keywords will become. These are actual keyword phrases that people are searching for, so by focusing on trying to rank for these keywords you can increase the number of visitors your website receives.
Another option is to do a search for your main keyword and then scroll down to the bottom of the results page and look for the related searches. Again these are actual terms that users have been searching for, and which Google classifies as being related to your main keyword.
By doing the above with a range of source keywords you can quickly build a list of long tail keywords to focus on when writing content for your website.
How to Optimize Your Website for Long Tail Keywords
Once you’ve gathered your list of long tail keywords, the next step is to start optimizing your website and its content around those keywords.
The first step is to try and group those keywords into small batches of around three to four related keywords.
Include one long tail keyword in the post or page title.
Then it’s a case of writing a blog post or page on your website about one of those small groups of keywords. To let the search engines know this piece of content is related to those keywords, you should include each of them once or twice in the article, with one used in the post or page title.
For example if one of your keywords is “handmade men’s silver bracelet,” the title for your post could be “Our Most Popular Handmade Men’s Silver Bracelets.” This more descriptive title will do a better job of letting people searching for this keyword know what your page is about as they scan search results, increasing the number of targeted visitors who will click through to your site.
Keyword Targeting: A Word of Warning
Search engines used to only look at the frequency of a keyword in a piece of content.
When search engines were in their infancy and had only just begun using keywords to determine where to rank a website in their results, they just looked at the frequency of a keyword in a piece of content to establish how relevant the content was to that keyword.
Therefore it was possible to simply include a keyword many times in an article to increase its chances of ranking in the search engines for that particular keyword. This led to some highly unnatural looking pieces of content—which were virtually useless to actual readers—ranking high in the search engines.
This practice was known as keyword stuffing, and while it did work for a while, the search engines were able to eventually refine their algorithms to begin penalizing websites that were over-optimized.
Understanding Keyword Density
Over the years the search engines have gotten better at stamping out keyword stuffing. This means a “less is more” approach is definitely required when focusing on keywords in your content.
Try to include variations of each keyword to avoid keyword stuffing.
For an article of around 500 words, aim to include each long tail keyword once or twice at most. To avoid overusing a keyword, try to include variations of that keyword by changing the order of the words or using synonyms for individual word to convey the same meaning.
Remember to focus on the reader’s experience, rather than trying to unnaturally shoehorn keywords into your content just for the sake of ranking for that term; the latter does more harm than good.
Tips to avoid unintentionally keyword stuffing:
- Be mindful not to overuse your keywords – once or twice can be enough
- Include related terms such as synonyms to avoid over-optimizing your content
- Write for your readers and not the search engines
- Make sure your chosen keywords are relevant to your site and its overall theme
By being aware of the keywords you are including in your content and understanding the “rules” of keyword optimization, you should be able to increase your chances of ranking for your desired keywords, while reducing the risk of over-optimizing your content and falling afoul of the search engines.
You should now have a good understanding of how keywords work in relation to SEO and how they can help improve the rank of your website in search.
Focusing on long tail keywords will allow you to start ranking for multiple low-volume keywords.
By taking advantage of the opportunity presented by long tail keywords, you can avoid competing with the big names and global brands operating in your field, and start ranking for multiple low-volume keywords.
Traffic from long tail keywords can have higher conversion rates.
Over time, you can bring in considerable site traffic from visitors to each piece of content that focuses on these relatively uncompetitive long tail keywords, potentially surpassing the traffic generated by the more popular keywords in your niche. Furthermore, as the visitors these long tail keywords deliver are often more targeted, you are more likely to experience higher conversion rates from them as well.
Thanks for reading!