Long Tail Keyword Search: Small Businesses Can Compete

What is a long tail Keyword search?

Long tail keywords are phrases usually made up of three to five words that users more commonly search for when they are close to the point of purchasing an item or service. These phrases may be searched less often, but can be extremely valuable especially for small businesses where keyword search volume may be lower.

Take for example a local gun shop. There is almost no chance that the site for the local shop will ever appear near the top of an organic search for “AR-15” because there is just too much competition. However, by targeting searchers looking for “AR-15 for sale in northern Utah” the shop will significantly improve their chances of ranking for the more specific long tail keyword search.

The phrase “long tail” describes the shape of the distribution created by graphing the search terms by popularity (See image below).Long Tail Keyword Search Graph
Terms such as Youtube and Pandora fall within the high frequency searches at the head of the graph where a search for “shooting ranges in Utah with metal spinner targets” would be included in the long tail to the right of the graph.

The crux to long tail keyword search: Know your customer

People searching for these more specific terms are more likely to transact or make a purchase. It is also easier and less expensive to target longer more specific keyword phrases. The big challenge comes when trying to figure out which long tail keywords to target.

In order to find effect long tail search term it is essential to know your customer. One of the common pitfall that comes with knowing your customer is the temptation to make assumptions. Any assumptions about a customer’s wants, preferences, and beliefs must be thrown out. A strategy that was successful last year may be disastrous the next.

To find the best way to connect with the customer generic assumption must be ignore and research into the current desires and preferences must be discovered. Social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest provide a window into the customer’s life that reveal their likes, habits and what they are buying. That is why it is essential for any business to actively manage a social media account and encourage interaction with their customers. These accounts not only help manage relationships with current customers, but also provide opportunities to connect with prospective customers.

One of the biggest benefit of social media is having the opportunity to talk directly to your customers. Many companies skip this basic strategy that provides valuable knowledge about what the customer really wants and how companies can better serve them. The various social media platforms also serve as a place for customers to share product and service reviews. Honest reviews can provide important feedback to a company that helps refine and improve the customer experience. It also often gives companies that chance make amends with customers who may not be satisfied with their experience.

Events also offer companies a chance to not only gain knowledge about their customers, but to also gain knowledge about those who they associate with as well. A well planned event can also help companies develop a profile for the target market through observation of their behaviors in a social setting (see 10-ways-of-getting-to-know-your-customers-better for additional information)

How to find long tail keywords?

Once a company starts to know and understand its customers they can start to form long tail keyword searches that may appeal specifically to them. There are many tools that can aid long tail keyword research however most people begin by using Google Keyword Planner or Google Adwords keyword tool as their keyword suggestion tool of choice. The major problem with this strategy is that google gives the same exact long tail keywords to everyone who uses it that includes competitors. Some have speculated that Google intentionally does this to drive up the competition and price of the long tail keywords. There are however, several alternatives to Google Keyword Planner that can be instrumental in finding long tail keywords.

Google’s related searches can be a good starting point for your long tail keyword search. Start by googling terms related to your company, product, or service and take note of the terms that show up at the bottom of the SERP under the “Searches Related To…”. These suggested will usually be a mix of alternate phrases of your main long tail keyword. Another strategy is to take one of the related searches and enter it back into the google and see what additional “Searches Related To…” result for the secondary search.

Forums and Q&A sites, like Yahoo! Answers, can also be a good long tail keyword tool. Chance are that there are many people on these sites that have questions that can be addressed by the product or service provided by your company. Scanning related questing will help you understand how some people start their search process. The answers can also give you insight into how other are solving the problem or give you a chance to post a better solution. Another Q&A site that can be helpful is AnswerThePublic. This tool will show you questions that people tend to ask that are related to your business. These make good keyword ideas for site content or improve on long tail SEO.

UberSuggest is a time saving long tail keyword research tool that can quickly help you explore the Google Suggest functionality. What Ubersuggest does is take a provided keyword and adds every letter in the alphabet after it to create a list of hundreds of suggested keywords. For example entering the search term “Britney Spears a” into google returns short list of phrases that contain a third word that begins with “a” such as “Britney Spears age”. When “Britney Spears b” is entered an entirely different list of phrases is generated. UberSuggest is a great shortcut in long tail keyword analysis compared to the alternative of manually adding each letter of the alphabet.

Google Correlate is another possible long tail keyword generator tool that indicates words that tend to show up with one another. To search a keyword simply enter it into the search box and click “Search Correlations”. The words that are returned will have a number next to them and the closer the number is to one the higher the correlation between the two. These correlated words can then be entered into other tool such as UberSuggest to find phrases that include both.

What to do next with long tail keywords?

You don’t have to be a professional keyword analyzer to use one or many tools to generate long tail keywords, but the next step is where the real work begins. Long tail keywords can be used to develop quality content, start an advertising campaign, or structure a web site. With all of the tools available to find long tail keywords the very real challenge becomes figuring out which one appeal more to the target customer and how can they be used to drive traffic to your site?