As the internet continues to change consumer behavior, more marketers are turning to content marketing to reach customers. But the rules for this new form of consumer outreach are different than those of traditional ads. Rather than creating a slogan or image to catch customers' attention, content marketing requires the careful use of long-tail keywords.
What are long-tail keywords?
Trying to figure out long-tail keywords can feel overwhelming, especially if you aren't a marketing professional. For instance, a simple Google search for the phrase returns more than 77 million results. At its core, long-tail keywords refer to a phrase or several words that indicate precisely what a user has typed into Google. If you tailor your SEO properly, you will rank high on the search results for the phrase that directly corresponds to what your customers are searching for online as it related to your business.
For example, say your Atlanta-based company makes doodads that are only meant for use within restaurants and bars. Someone looking to buy those doodads might search for "where to find doodads for restaurants in Atlanta." And if you're positioned well in search results (because you've made effective use of that long-tail keyword phrase on your website), you may show up in the first- or second-page search results.
To use long-tail keywords, you don't need to know everything about them. You just need to understand six things about the changing world of marketing, how long-tail keywords fit in that picture and where you can find them. The answer, generally speaking, is content marketing.
Content marketing has a low cost and high ROI.
Though you can still purchase ads online, one of the most cost-effective and valuable ways to reach customers is through content marketing. That involves creating online material, such as blog posts, website pages, videos or social media posts, that do not explicitly promote your brand. Instead, the messaging stimulates interest in your business and products by appealing to the needs and interests of your target customers.
Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing, bringing consumers to you and gaining their trust and loyalty. It generates more than three times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing while costing about 62 percent less.
However, blogging and other forms of content marketing aren't effective unless you make effective use of keywords, particularly long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords are essential to content marketing.
When creating online content, you want customers to be able to find it. The most common way that customers find content online is through search engines. The average business website receives more than three-quarters of its traffic from search, but that level of traffic is impossible without using keywords.
When you incorporate relevant keywords in your content, you optimize your website for search, making it more likely that customers searching for the keywords you have used will find your business. This search engine optimization, or SEO, increases your web traffic and exposes new audiences to your brand.
Just using keywords isn't enough. To create effective content that makes it to the top of a search engine results page, you need to use a specific type of keyword known as long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords attract customers who are ready to buy.
Long-tail keywords are phrases of three or more words, but their length isn't where the name comes from. Long tail describes the portion of the search-demand curve where these keywords live.
In statistics, the long tail is the portion of a distribution graph that tapers off gradually rather than ending sharply. This tail usually has many small values and goes on for a long time.
When it comes to online marketing, a small number of simple keywords are searched for very frequently, while keywords that fall into the long-tail are searched for more sporadically. For example, a simple keyword that is searched for hundreds of thousands of times would be "fitness." A long-tail keyword would be "dance fitness class in Boston." Because the tail is so long and there are so many of them, these keywords account for about 70 percent of all online searches, even though the individual keywords themselves are not searched as often.
Long-tail keywords are not searched for as frequently as simple keywords like "hotel" or "socks," because they don't apply to everyone. They're what a customer plugs into a search engine when they know exactly what they want and need an online search to help them find it. These search terms communicate a consumer's intent – especially their intent to buy – rather than their general interest.
This means that when you use the right long-tail keywords, you appeal directly to customers who are looking for what you are selling. You want to determine what your audience might be searching and then work those phrases into your content marketing.
Look for high search volume and low competition.
Because long-tail keywords are so niche, there is much less competition for them. If your long-tail keyword is "dance fitness class in Boston," you aren't competing for search traffic with every dance class out there or even every gym in Boston. You are only competing with Boston studios that offer dance fitness classes. That is a much smaller field.
However, you still need enough people to search for your keywords for your investment in content marketing to be worthwhile. The best long-tail keywords are low in competition but higher in search volume. High volume in this context doesn't mean thousands of searches every day. But several dozen to a couple hundred searches shows that many of your potential customers are actively searching for that keyword.
There are many tools to help you find long-tail keywords.
The best way to find low-competition, high-volume long-tail keywords is with a keyword tool. These tools allow you to plug in a seed keyword related to your business or audience, and they will return relevant long-tail keywords.
Keyword planners, such as Answer the Public and Keywords Everywhere, are free, though the number of keywords and the information they provide about them is limited. You can also plug seed keywords into a Google search and use the auto-complete and related search term features to find new long-tail keywords.
Paid keyword research tools, such as LongTailPro or Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, return not only thousands of relevant long-tail keywords but also statistics on the number of monthly searches and the level of competition for those keywords. They also include tools for project planning, search filters and additional traffic stats. However, these tools can be expensive, costing several hundred dollars to use.
The type of tool you select depends on your budget and the scope of your content marketing, and the keywords that get you the best results depend on your business and your customers.
Long-tail keywords tell you what content to create.
If you know who your target customer is, you can use their interests and concerns as seed keywords to find related long-tail keywords. For example, if you know that your customers are interested in travel, you can search for those words to find related keyword such as "which travel insurance is best" or "tax deductible travel expenses."
Once you have a list of these high-volume, low-competition keywords, they provide you with ideas for blog posts, social media, video content, web pages and more. You can create a series of blog posts comparing kinds of travel insurance. You can make an infographic about tax-deductible travel expenses. Rather than wondering what content to create, the long-tail keywords themselves can serve as your topics.
Creating content around these relevant keywords automatically optimizes your web platforms for search. And since your initial seed keywords were based on what you know about your target customer, you are designing content that directly appeals to the people searching for a business like yours. Using long-tail keywords effectively works with search engines to bring customers directly to your website, rather than hoping that they see an ad and decide your business is worth visiting.