One of the best benefits of SEO when done well is the amount of long tail keywords you can rank for and the traffic that comes from them.
While you often go after the top keywords in your industry – ie. the keywords that have the most searches and commercial intent – if you are doing SEO right, and are building content in your site consistently and strategically, you will end up ranking for and getting traffic from many more (multiples more) longer tail keywords.
In fact with pretty much every campaign we work on, the bulk of the traffic comes from long tail keywords and sometimes keywords we hadn’t even considered.
Plus, you also end up with longer tail traffic much quicker that your short tail / prize keywords due to the competition difference – the longer tail keywords have much less competition.
Note: This article pertains to SEO mostly, not PPC. We take a much more targeted approach to bidding in Google Ads (Adwords), particularly with some of the insane CPC we see in some of the industries we work in.
Here are a few key points on long tail keywords from our experience:
Intent, The Buying Cycle and Conversion
I’ve put these 3 topics together because they are all cross over somewhat and we have some interesting observations based on different industries.
I often read blanket statements on SEO blogs and site that “long tail search traffic converts better”. Now, this can be true – but I stress – CAN be true.
It’s good in theory, and the examples given when people say this are usually sound, but as with a lot of things in SEO, it all depends on the industry, specific terms and if the business / website is following a sound content strategy.
For example, we’ve worked with a client who does conveyancing for people buying and selling property. They’ve been fairly consistent over the years writing and publishing content to their blog.
One of their articles – which had become responsible for upto a third of their organic traffic – is about the importance of getting a building inspection. It’s related to a service they do not provide (building inspections) which is at a different stage of the property purchase. And it results in little to no enquiries.
It can also vary from industry to industry. I’ve found personally that trades in particular convert faster and better with shorter keywords than some industries – probably due to the quicker buying cycle. (Yes, I know there are exceptions, but that’s my experience)
But I’ve found with some industries – particularly higher end b2b / consulting type businesses – the longer tail terms, particularly terms people are searching in the research phase of the buying cycle can be very effective.
This is likely due to the research involved and the longer buying cycle and due to the fact that the user landing on a well written, informative article shows that the business knows what they are talking about.
The user experience can also be enhanced when someone visits your site as a result of a long tail search. If they entered a longer query to make the search, it is likely very specific. This means if they find your site, it is likely to be exactly what they are after – thus providing a better user experience to the visitor.
Long Tail Keyword Examples
Here are a few more examples of longer tail keywords with varying levels of buying intent and conversion potential:
Example: The client is a business that provides concrete floor painting services to industry:
Keyword: concrete painting
Search Results: Quite broad, returns results varying from painting services to products listed on the Bunnings website.
*** will likely convert quite low.
Keyword: concrete floor paint services for warehouses
Search Results: Returns only businesses that do exactly that. Especially in the organic search results – the exact service pages are displayed for warehouse / factory floor painting.
This keyword will convert well.
Competition and Position
The competition for longer tail keywords is often lower for a number of reasons, including that most people overlook them. And unfortunately, and a lot of SEO companies don’t bother because of the effort involved in finding good ones.
As there are far fewer people chasing these longer tail keywords, you can rank for them much quicker – sometimes the same day as the page being indexed if the competition is low enough.
A lot of the short tail, prized keywords have a much higher volume of searches, so everyone wants to rank for those. You end up having everyone working towards the first position for those keywords, increasing the organic competition significantly – making it harder to rank for them.
And a lot of people are bidding on them in Adwords – meaning the top 4 positions are Ads, pushing the organic rankings down the page. This, along with the addition of maps and other widgets, has decreased the traffic / value of the number 1 organic position for these high volume keywords.
Here is an example of the same business being #1 for the main short tail keyword and long tail keyword.
Key Word: HR consulting Melbourne
3 Adwords Ads, Maps (With an Ad), then the organic listing. They are well below the first fold.
KW: how to deal with abandonment of employment in your workplace
No Ads, No Maps, first result is the site / article.
It’s A Numbers Game
I mentioned before that the shorter tail keywords have higher volumes. And this is true, you’ll often find the main keywords of a particular niche getting thousands of searches per month, while the long tail words may only get 10. Or even just 1 or 2 searches per month.
But, there are only a few of these main short tail keywords in any industry. While the number of long tail keywords for most niches is massive – almost limitless – and growing all the time. Take this article for instance: 15% of searches are new, never been searched before . New, unseen queries are coming up all the time.
Now, when actually putting this into practice: While it may not be worth creating a blog, page or piece of content to go after just one keyword that only gets a few searches per month, it becomes extremely worthwhile doing thorough research and optimising a page correctly to pick up a range of long tail keywords – and this can be done very well due to the low competition.
Avoid Being Filtered By Google’s Personalisation Algorithms
One other important factor to consider that’s becoming more and more pervasive is Google’s personalisation algorithms.
These are what change the results based on the specific users attributes and these are having more impact as time goes by as Google’s user tracking abilities get stronger.
A user’s location is one of the more obvious factors that change the search results (And has for a long time now), but many other factors are now coming in to play age, sex, interests and much more.
Longer tail keywords are more likely to avoid these filters due to the specificity of the actual search.