Guest blog: Why long-tail searches are important for SEO

tagged with

When working on an SEO link-building campaign, it's important to focus on the 10 or 20 most relevant keywords for your site.

After all, these are the terms that are most relevant to your niche, and by increasing traffic to your site for these specific terms, you'll convert a larger number of those visitors.

Conversions are what you're looking for, no matter whether you define a conversion as a successful sale for your e-commerce site, a new client for your SaaS application, or a new reader for your blog.

However, a successful link-building strategy can't just rely on the top few keywords for your site.

Taking a look at your analytics data, you'll probably notice a lot of visitors that arrive on your site through a search you haven't been targeting - usually a multi-word keyphrase. These terms are part of the "long tail " and will typically make up the bulk of your organic traffic.

There are a few compelling reasons long tail searches can be more important for your business than the top keywords for your niche.

Long-tail searches are more specific

The long tail is generally more specific than the top terms you're likely interested in ranking for. A more specific search points to someone who is closer to converting, whereas more general terms often often come from users who are simply doing research.

A long tail search is any search containing three or more words, and is typically performed by a user who's already done their research and now wants to take action.

Long tail searches make for very little traffic individually, but when put together they become significant.

Long-tail keywords are less competitive

Long tail terms are less competitive than more generic terms, simply because these terms aren't used as often. This also means long-tail terms are easier to rank for, and are less expensive for PPC campaigns.

In general, the more specific a term is, the less competitive it is and the easier that term is to rank for. For example, suppose you run an organic bakery for cats in downtown Atlanta. A search for "Atlanta bakery" will likely be harder to rank for (and produce less targeted traffic) than a more specialized phrase such as "organic cat treat bakery in Atlanta".

This second term will naturally have less traffic than "Atlanta bakery", but will likely send more motivated users to your site - increasing your conversion rate from organic search.

After all, would you rather have 1,500 hits from people searching for "Atlanta baker", or 150 more motivated users who arrive at your site by searching for "organic cat treat bakery in Atlanta"? I'll take the more focused and qualified traffic any day of the week because this will lower my site's bounce rate and ultimately lead to more revenue.

How to take advantage of the long tail

One of the best ways to capitalize on the long tail is through the SEO optimized content on your site. Google loves to see unique, quality content, and your website is the best place to write about your niche in specific, concrete terms.

A good way to do this is to look through your analytics data for long tail searches that have converted, and work these phrases or similar phrases into the content on your site.

Keeping a company blog is also a good idea, and can provide a number of benefits for your long tail rankings. A blog can be syndicated in RSS feeds, and presents an easy way to generate fresh content. You can also target specific long tail terms more easily with a blog, driving more qualified users directly to the content they're looking for.

Tyler is an SEO consultant from Indianapolis, IN. Tyler works with DocRaptor, a web application used to generate Excel and PDF documents. DocRaptor uses an HTTP POST request to convert HTML to Excel or PDF format, producing fully functional, beautiful documents in a matter of seconds.