Long tail keywords come from an old illustration comparing a lizard or dinosaur tail to the peak and curve of traffic by word for SEO keywords.
The concept is simple: hyper-generic keywords, things like “shoes” or “computers” tend to have very high traffic. They’re also very, very hard to rank a site for, and they have a lot of competition. You can’t rank a site for “books” when sites like Barnes and Noble and Amazon exist.
As you go down the curve, you end up with more specific keywords. Things like “running shoes” or “children’s books.” These are more specific, and thus have less competition and are easier to rank for. On the other hand, they’re also lower traffic, so it’s harder to pull in the high volumes of traffic you need to make a successful site.
Go even further down the curve and you have much more specific keyword terms. Things like “two year old black Nike running shoes” or “that one children’s book I saw at a garage sale that one time.” These are way more specific and thus have much less traffic and much, much less competition. It would be incredibly easy to rank for those keywords, but you have to deal with yielding virtually zero traffic.
Naturally, you want to target keywords in the middle. The generic keywords are too high competition for you to ever get a share of the pie. The super-specific keywords have such low volume that they might as well not exist. It’s the middle of the road where the money lies.
The hardest part of all is identifying which of these long tail keyword phrases are perfect for you. You need to find phrases that are:
So, how do you locate these keywords? There are a number of options available, so try them out.
When you start typing something into Google, Google comes up with half a dozen ideas of what you might want to search for. Typically, these are related long-tail keywords. So if you were to type in “running shoes” Google might present you with “Running shoes reviews” or “Running shoes for women” as suggestions. These are ideas you can use for long tail keywords. However, Google doesn’t give you a traffic estimation along with these suggestions, because they’re meant to be user queries, not keyword research.
Similar to these suggestions, when you run a query, you can scroll down to the bottom of the page. You’ll see “searches related to…” with a bunch of longer keywords. These will be other related searches you can use as long tail ideas.
If you want something a little more automated and a little more widespread, try out SEOChat’s keyword suggest tool. This tool allows you to plug in a search term. It will then run a number of searches through Google, Bing, Amazon and YouTube, harvesting their suggestions. It will then run searches that plug in each letter of the alphabet and harvesting those suggestions as well, so you end up with a page of hundreds of search suggestions. At least a couple of them should be worthwhile.
There are a number of sites out there, like Quora and Answers.com, where users can go to ask questions and receive answers. Run searches on these sites for keywords in your industry and look at the sorts of questions people are asking.
Questions are the best sorts of long tail keywords. You already know people are asking for that information, but you can be the only one providing it, if you know how to target a post. They’re also extremely specific, more so than you would usually want in a long tail keyword, but they work because they’re specific questions looking for specific information.
You can gain some content insight by scrolling through Wiki articles involving your industry as well. A lot of times, the subtitles of subsections in Wiki pages are topics you can write about. You won’t necessarily be covering the information any better than Wiki, but because you’re an industry source rather than Wiki itself, you’ll be able to earn more specific search rankings and trust.
There are two ways you can go about “stealing” keyword research. The first is to watch your competitors and see what they’re targeting. You can often target the same phrases, working up better content to try to one-up them. Remember, stealing research is fine; stealing content is not.
The other is to monitor the SEO juggernauts that try to get away with the lowest possible effort. Sites like eHow – or any of the Demand Media properties – or Hubpages are good examples. These sites live and die by their keyword research, so they direct writers to put a lot of effort into research before they write and publish anything. They also tend to have low quality content, so it isn’t hard to out-do them.
Twitter is a surprisingly good source of keyword ideas as well, all because of hashtags. You can plug in industry-specific hashtags and scan through the tweets that come up. You’ll see what real people are saying using those tags, and you can leverage those ideas into keywords. Use their advanced search to add in sentiment, language, geolocation and other factors as well.
You can do much the same thing with Google+, another social platform that implements hashtags. Instagram is also good, if you’re easily inspired by images, though they don’t always work for content ideas.
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