Tools and in-depth winning strategies to increase SEO traffic with long-tail keywords
Before detailing techniques that can increase SEO traffic with long-tail keywords, it is imperative to understand two things – i) benefits of optimizing your site for long-tail keywords ii) latest changes in Google search engine algorithms specifically about keywords.
Importance of long-tail keywords
Long-tail keywords are usually longer and more specific keyword phrases – typically two to five words – than more commonly used similar head keywords. Short-tail keywords constitute a greater percentage of search engine traffic which means competition with established brands with high advertising budgets but low conversion rates. Whereas, long-tail keywords have little traffic but better conversion rates. Why is that?
To better understand why long-tail keywords lead to better conversion rates, we need to understand customer purchase process better. It is our opinion that keywords used in search engines are proxies to establish where customers are in their buying process. There are essentially five stages involved:
- Problem/need recognition
- Information search
- Evaluation of alternatives
- Purchase decision
- Post-purchase behavior
In the first two stages, a user might be searching for generic keywords. To better illustrate, let’s consider an example of someone looking for a Virtual Reality(VR) headset. Since VR is such a new technology, the user first searches for “Virtual Reality” to understand what pain points it solves and what the various use cases are. It can be assumed that there will lots of web hits for this keyword as many companies are working on this technology and there is no specific intent associated with that query. A quick search on Google for “Virtual Reality” yielded 92 million results with top three spots occupied by Wikipedia, CNET, and PCMAG – all of them are well-established websites. Also, a quick search in Google keyword planner which we will discuss in more detail in later sections showed that the competition is high and the suggested bid (CPC) is $1.30.
From the third stage on is where the potential customer is really specifying an intent. She may be searching for “Oculus Rift vs. Samsung Gear” or “Best VR smartphone headset.” Searching for “Best VR smartphone headset” yielded only 3 million web hits with a suggested bid of $4.48 as compared to 92 million hits and a bid of $1.30 for the keyword “Virtual reality.” The reason CPC is higher for long-tail keywords such as “Best VR smartphone headset” is because is close to making a decision on purchase and advertisers are willing higher bid as the conversion success is high.
Now that the importance of long-tail keywords in bringing “quality” traffic is established, we discuss latest changes in Google search engine algorithms about long-tail keywords.
Latest changes in Google search engine algorithms
Before we delve deeper into the search engine changes, a quick primer how search engines rank pages. Few years, Google search was all about finding the best matches for keyword searched and ranking pages based on several factors such as keyword density, the number of backlinks, and authority of the site. Exact keyword search was the holy grail of SEO strategy. What is Google been up to lately? As Matt Cutts says in his keynote at Pubcon 2013, “moonshot changes.” Some of the changes include Knowledge graph, Hummingbird, and Schema.
Hummingbird is a set of changes to Google’s search engine algorithm impacting 90% of all searches, per Matt Cutts. So, what is Google Hummingbird? Hummingbird is Google’s path forward to understand more human conversational style long-form queries and to provide relevant answers to them. Human minds work perfectly fine when confronted with ambiguity understanding question by using contextual cues. To achieve emulating humans, Hummingbird algorithm uses Semantic search with computers. Semantic search is a concept to improve search relevance by understanding user’s intent and contextual cues. With this change, Google will rank a page higher which it thinks answers the searcher’s question rather than just showing a page that has keywords matching the query exactly. For example, a search on Google for “How far is Earth from Sun?” gives the answer as 92 million miles.
How does this change impact optimizing pages for long-tail keywords? Now, content marketers will have to optimize content for queries that occur naturally – conversational questions using targeted phrases such as “Who, why, where, what, how.” Also, the content should be well round not just including keyword targets but also related words or phrases that are semantically close to the keywords. For example: how does Google know a particular page is similar to Python (a type of programming language) or Python (a type of Snake). Based on the content of the page, Google tries to understand if the other words mentioned are related to the searched keyword to make that determination. It is not just looking for synonyms of the keyword but also related concepts. In the example of Python, it is looking for concepts such as programming language, software, data science to determine how well-rounded the content is. In scientific terms, this activity is called Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). LSI is a mathematical method that determines the relationship between terms and concepts in content.
Another introduction to Google search engine is the support for Schema. Schema is an initiative from Google, Bing, and Yandex to create and support a common set of schemas for structured data markup on web pages. By defining schema on your pages, you can help search engines determine what your page is about instead of leaving that to its interpretation. You can tell the search engine that your page is an article and specifically a scientific article. This will help Google correctly classify your page and take your page’s contribute to rescue when a relevant question is asked.
Now that we thoroughly appreciate the significance of long-tail keywords to Google search engine, we will move forward with techniques how we can optimize the content.
Steps to Improve SEO traffic for long-tail keywords
Step 1: The first phase in this process is to identify head keywords that are relevant to your product or blog. For example: if you are in the business of selling VR headsets, your keyword will be “Virtual Reality.” Now, you have to brainstorm as many variations of long-tail keywords. If you have a thorough understanding of the business and talk a lot with customers of what they are looking for, you can quickly generate many variations yourself. Otherwise, there is software that can help you find long-tail keywords.
Ubersuggest.io is a free keyword suggestion tool that can generate many long-tail keywords. Taking our example of Virtual Reality, Ubersuggest was able to produce hundreds of long-tail keywords.
Another great long tail keyword generator is LSIGraph. It generates latent semantically indexed keywords as in below. As could see, even though we searched for Virtual Reality, the search results shows topics such as Oculus Rift and 3D Virtual Reality.
One another product that comes in the form of Plug-in for WordPress is SEOPresser. The plug-in is a great tool to have as the feedback to your content is real-time. It has a feature called “LSI Keywords suggestion” that generates keywords that are semantically close to your keyword and checks if your content contains those keywords or not.
Lastly, EventRegistry is worth the mention. EventRegistry aggregates millions of articles from thousands of sources. You can search for a particular topic and generate top concepts that are associated with that topic as shown in the picture below.
Step 2: Once you have identified some keywords that are relevant to your business, you have to determine which keywords will give the most ROI. To gather that, you need to assess the competition and suggested bid amount. Google keyword planner is a great free tool that can use. Google does not give the exact number but a range of the average monthly searches. It also gives the competition and suggested bid amounts. It is best to choose keywords that have low competition and high suggested bid. This strategy tends to attract potential customers who are in the final stages of buying process.
There are other keyword tools as well. SEMRush is a useful tool. It has useful features such as SEO keyword magic. With this feature, you can generate multiple variations of keywords and assess volume, keyword difficulty, and CPC.
Now that you have identified the keywords that will earn maximum visibility and also semantically close topics associated with the keywords, it is time to put into work. Google values in-depth articles or blogs over thin ones. For your content to rank in top 10, target at least 2000 words. It doesn’t mean you must have exact keywords all throughout the content but sprinkle them with variations. Make sure to mention keywords in the title tag and first/last 100 words of the content. Also, ensure that the content is readable. Readability is subjective, but you can quantify it to some extent. Flesch-Kincaid readability score is such a measure and is calculated based on some syllables in a word and number of words in a sentence. Try to use short sentences and short words to increase the readability of the content. Don’t worry; you don’t have to calculate manually. Tools such as SEOPresser have SemantiQ density that calculates semantic relevance and Readability scores.
Next step is to add Schema to your page. For illustration, how to define Schema is shown on SEOPresser. As you can below, you can set scheme.org data type which is either article, review, event, etc., In the case below it is an article, it asks me to select article type which is either a news article or blog. You can even input the publisher name.
I hope this tutorial will help you learn how to increase SEO traffic with long-tail keywords.