The days of casting a wide-net to trawl for any ol’ fish in the search ocean are long gone.
You could liken the latest SEO strategies with using very particular flies for fly fishing, that are designed to attract particular fish in a particular river.
Obviously, with the seemingly exponential rise in the pursuit of the long tail keywords, competition for that traffic catch is pretty fierce, too.
Everyone is probably going after the same, or similar, group of visitors — and the focus is on uncovering profitable long tails versus just any old 3-word combination.
You know, the kind that are not pursued by everyone just yet, and while not yielding a large volume of traffic, they’re channeling profitable visitors to your site.
As data-driven as you need to be about trying to capture the segment of searchers that you want to convert, you should add a heavy dose of agility to the mix as well.
Because search terms, keywords, patterns of search, news, trends, habits all conspire to one day elevate a search term to the Google stratosphere, only to within a few weeks or months almost disappear completely.
Keeping up with changes in search trends and keywords — being pro-active — can be hard to do though.
This is where SEO sometimes seems like a very reactive strategy for attracting traffic. You’re always seeing what people have already searched for, in the past (however immediate it may still be).
Wouldn’t it be nice to not always have to play catch-up with search phrases and words?
How To Stay Ahead Of The Long Tail
Sure, you will always have to find out what the long tail keywords are after the fact, to some degree. We won’t know what people will search for until they actually perform a search, obviously.
But what if you could calculate an educated guess?
What if you could do this before you open up a keyword search tool?
What you need to keep in mind is that different types of keywords often represent the different levels of buying interest of the potential customers.
Consider that customers who are looking for brand and product keywords are in a much different place as compared to those who are just generally searching for product information, reviews, and so on.
People who are searching for a specific brand or a specific product benefit are the customers that you would want to get in front of.
As you know, Long tail keywords are absolutely perfect for this.
But here’s the the jedi-mind trick that will help you uncover more long tails than the number stars in the sky: Ignore the long tail.
Just Ignore The Long Tail For More SEO Wins
Let’s get the basics out of the way…
You know all about long tail keywords and search phrases, right? Here’s a quick refresher:
Photo credit: KISSMetrics
Any SEO professional worth their monthly retainer know all about the tails and which ones to look for — and they’re all trying to rank for the same keywords, too.
You can easily stare yourself blind on this and start thinking that unless a term, word, or phrase shows up in a 3-or-more-word-combination, it may as well not exist.
And that’s all fine and dandy, until you realize that you’re so dependent on long tails that they’ve effectually become the new head or short tail.
You know, the keywords that everyone is competing for, just like the good ol’ days.
All clear? Good, let’s move on to more pertaining things…
You + Target Visitors = Best Friends Forever!
You need to truly understand your target market.
Yes, I mean understand.
And to do that, you need to get hyper-specific about who they are (or might be).
This kind of knowledge will actually help you stay in front of the long tails.
Let me explain…
Looking to sell more of a product (like, dog hair removal) and need to increase traffic to your site to do so?
You’re looking for keywords that will help you sell more.
These keywords are typically going to be the buying and intent keywords that customers who are ready to pull the trigger are searching for.
If you show up in the SERPs for these, you’ll absolutely get a bunch of clicks.
Long tail keywords have two big benefits that go hand in hand with targeting an audience.
They are generally easier to rank for but more importantly: they are automatic search qualifiers.
Let’s say we’re targeting customers who want to use our dog hair removal services to clean carpets and furniture.
A good strategy is to target the long tail keywords like this:
- How to remove dog hair from carpet
- How to clean dog hair off couches
- Remove pet hair from furniture
When you are targeting customers who are actively looking for a solution they have already pre-qualified themselves. Chances are someone who does not own a dog won’t be searching how to remove dog hair from the couch.
If you look at long tail keywords from the customer side of the table, you can see a ton of targeting potential with content as well.
Imagine, just this small list provides a minimum of four pieces of content you can tap into to catch search traffic.
The people who are looking for a way to remove dog hair would probably need someone to tell them how to do it. They want a solution to their problem.
Crafting your article to provide potential customers with the very specific information they are after can easily transfer into clicks.
Yes, the market is going to be a lot smaller but the click through rate is going to be much higher.
And here’s the next jedi-mind trick: Even if the search volume is small for any particular long tail, imagine what else these searchers (you know, real people) would want to know or see.
Dog hair removal, by all means — but that certainly strongly suggests that you actually own a pet (or know someone who does).
What else would these potential dog owners look for, need, or want to know?
What else would they search for?
And why don’t you give it to them?
In other words: don’t just go after the most obvious long tails.
Tap into search terms and phrases that might not be very similar on the surface, but could help you get in front of the right kind of visitors.
So, if a dog owner who searches for how to remove dog hair also searches for cleaning dog fur or hair, then you have an opportunity to get in front of them for two different search phrases.
And if both phrases are relatively moderate to low competition, it’ll be a nice double-win.
Yes, this also means you could find valuable insights on the language they use to find additional information by utilizing a search function on your site, along with Google Analytics.
The Knockout Punch Happens Before The Search
Beating your competitors to the long tail happens long before you start to build links and use other SEO strategies and tactics to show up in the SERPs.
Understanding who your target and ideal visitors are will help you anticipate and make educated guesses on what you need to do to get in front of them.
Even pursuing search terms and phrases that are non- or semi-related to your particular keywords can yield the right kind of visitor.
The goal is always to get the right visitor on to your site. What keyword gets them there matters to a degree, but don’t limit your on-site SEO efforts to just a bunch of specific keywords.
To be clear: that’s where you start and you should never skip that.
But, once that’s taken care of, rethinking and reframing your long tail pursuits can open up to far more search potential than what you first imagined.