Traditional head keyword targeting is dead.
Okay, not really--head keywords can still be effective, but their cousins, long-tail keywords, are more practical for the majority of marketers. In case you aren't familiar, "head" keywords tend to be short, high-level words and phrases--usually less than five words--while "long-tail" keywords tend to be more sentence-like, with several words strung together in a more specific query.
Long-tail keywords, especially when used with Q&A-style content, can be extremely effective--but only if you know how to find the right targets.
Why Long-Tail Keywords Are Effective
Let's start by recapping why long-tail keywords are effective in the first place:
- Low competition. Head keywords tend to be extremely competitive since they offer such high search volumes; long-tail keywords are much easier to approach, especially for small businesses with limited budgets.
- High relevance. People who search for specific long-tail phrases tend to know what they want, and you'll be in an excellent position if you give it to them. Long-tail keywords also help you generate more precise audience targets.
- Semantic relation. Google's semantic search allows it to group lots of related keywords and phrases together by meaning; in other words, the relevance of search results is interpreted by the meaning and context of the content within pages, rather than the specific words. This allows long-tail keywords to cover more semantic ground than their head keyword counterparts.
- Unlimited possibilities. You'll never run out of possibilities for long-tail keywords to target. There will always be new territory to conquer.
One of the best ways to utilize long-tail keywords is to search for them as specific questions a user might ask. For example, your average visitor might search for a question like "where do gold and platinum really come from?" or "what's the best material for a cutting board?"
This is advantageous because long-tail questions allow you to target users who are searching for sentence-long queries, which are increasingly popular thanks to smart speakers and voice searches. It's also effective because you'll attract customers who genuinely want the answers to these questions, and aren't searching for a tangentially related subject.
Of course, framing long-tail keywords in questions like this also gives you the perfect springboard to write a piece of content; all you have to do is provide a detailed answer, and you'll naturally optimize your piece for semantically related keywords and phrases.
Practical Tips for Finding Better Long-Tail Keyword Questions
So what should you be doing to find the most relevant, valuable long-tail keywords for your campaign?
- Look up related queries. Start with a head keyword term, or a short long-tail phrase, and use a keyword idea generation tool like Moz's Keyword Explorer to come up with semantically related words and phrases. This will help you get a feel for the search volume and competition for your most relevant and appealing initial targets.
- Use Quora. Quora is an online platform designed to help users submit and answer each other's questions, on a variety of different topics. Check it out and start browsing through questions related to your industry. You'll likely find some common subjects that aren't covered as cohesively as they could be--which means they're ripe for your content marketing strategy.
- Browse forums and interest groups. Make sure to spend some time on online forums and interest groups related to your niche, or possibly ones frequented by your target audience. Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, and local forums are good places to start. See what people are talking about and take notes of commonly asked questions.
- Fill in holes left by the competition. Take a look at what types of long-tail questions your competitors have already answered in their content marketing strategies; are there any glaring opportunities they missed? This is a critical chance for your company's development.
These strategies are meant to get your brainstorming started--they're by no means the limit of sources you can rely on to find and research new long-tail keyword possibilities. Measure your results carefully, and make sure to update your strategy as you learn more and gain more experience.
Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.