Focusing on long-tail keywords is a great SEO tactic. Long-tail keywords are keywords or keyphrases that are more specific – and usually longer – than more commonly used keywords. Long-tail keywords get less search traffic, but will usually have a higher conversion value, as they are more specific. They allow you to gradually get more traffic to your site and be found by new and motivated audiences.

Book: The Long Tail

While preparing this blog post, Joost encouraged me to read The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. This book discusses the emergence of markets (especially, markets on the internet) with unlimited supplies. Chris Anderson discovered that the true shape of demand, not filtered by the economics of scarcity shows a very long tail. This means that demand exists for virtually every niche, although this demand can become very small. An example could be a jukebox with 10.000 songs. A very small number of songs are played very regularly, while a large number of songs are played very few times. However, research shows that virtually all songs (about 98 %) are played at some point. The demand for these songs (that are large in number) is very small, but it does exist. Almost every song will be played at some point. With the emergence of the internet, possible target audiences became quite large, even if the product is only wanted by a very small percentage of the people. The wideness of the internet makes your niche product profitable and the ranking on long-tail keywords important.

The long tail bookcover

Looking for keyphrase suggestions? When you’ve set a focus keyword in Yoast SEO, you can now click on ‘Get related keyphrases’ and our SEMrush integration will help you find high-performing keyphrases!

A long-tail keyword strategy can really help you out when there’s a lot of competition in your market. Or a lot of competition for the main keywords you want to rank for. That being said, most companies or blogs can benefit from this strategy as it helps you attract visitors with a very specific search intent. Here, I’ll explain what long-tail keywords are and how an understanding of your mission and product can help you set up a long-tail keyword strategy.

What are long-tail keywords?

Long-tail keywords are more specific and less common than other keywords. They focus more on a niche. The term long-tail keyword comes from the book The Long Tail by Chris Anderson (see aside). In this book, Chris Anderson shows that there’s a market for virtually any product. And although this market is really, really small in some cases, the vastness of the internet makes your niche product or blog post profitable nonetheless.

One head theme

Most blogs have one main topic – this is called the head term, or main keyword. For example, mom blogs are usually about family life and food blogs are about eating, restaurants, or recipes. Our blog at Yoast is all about SEO. We even named it SEO blog. So, all of our blog posts are about SEO or SEO related topics.

The main topic or theme of your blog or site is the number one keyword (or keyphrase) you want people to find you for. In our case, that keyword is obviously SEO. Someone with a food blog about homemade Italian food, will probably want to be found on the search term [homemade Italian food]. Making that search term the number one keyphrase of their blog.

Lots of tail topics

However, you can’t optimize all blog posts for the same term [homemade Italian food]. Even if all the blog posts you write are about homemade Italian food. Instead, you should write a whole number of blog posts about all kinds of long-tail variants of your main keyword. In the example of the food blog, you could write about all kinds of delicious things: homemade Italian pasta, homemade Italian salads, homemade Italian pie.

Your blog posts could even be more long tail. You could write about homemade Italian spaghetti bolognese, homemade Italian lasagna, homemade Italian penne carbonara and so on. You will find all of these long-tail keywords when you do proper keyword research. If you come up with a lot of very long focus keywords, you can use the keyphrase length check in our plugin to see whether it’s not too long.

If you optimize your blog post for different long-tail variants, you should link from these blog posts to your more ‘head’ category pages and from these category pages to your most awesome pages: your cornerstone content. Remember: always link from the tail to your head! That way, you show Google what your site structure looks like and which of your pages is most important. Make sure your most amazing pages rank high in Google! Read more about how to do this in our post on internal linking for SEO.

Why focus on long-tail keywords?

It’s much easier to rank for long-tail keywords than for more common keywords because fewer websites compete for high rankings in the result pages of Google. The longer (and more specific) your search terms are, the easier it is to rank for the term. Because of the vastness of the internet, it is easier to find your audience for your particular niche. Focusing on a group of long-tail keywords can result in a great deal of traffic altogether.

Another benefit of focusing on long-tail keywords is that, although these keywords are used less in search, the visitor that finds your website using them is more likely to buy your service or product.

Let’s say I’m looking for a new board game to have some family fun with my kids. I start my search with the term [board games]. After some searching, I quickly discover that I want a board game that’s both suitable for kids and has an educational element to it. My search continues, but now I use the terms [educational board games for kids]. Or when I know I’ll be in Amsterdam this week, I could even make it a local search term: [where to buy educational board games for kids in Amsterdam]. These are both long-tail keywords. Using these keywords, I will find new results that more closely resemble my search intent. The chances of me buying a board game have largely increased by this more specific search.

So, why is your mission important?

First of all, if you want to sell something, you should simply have a good product. And you should be well aware of what your product or website can offer your audience. What makes your product or blog special? If you know and understand this, it will be much easier to make your audience like and buy your stuff. So take some time to think about the uniqueness of your product or blog and write that down.

Perhaps you sell furniture. You offer unique pieces, made with recycled materials and that have a low impact on the environment. Offering quality furniture that helps people reduce their own impact on the environment could be the uniqueness of your service. This is your mission, your niche, this is what you have to offer your audience. Do make sure you write down your mission in words that are used and understood by your audience.

Read more: What is your mission »

Competitiveness of the market

In some markets, it’s really hard to rank. Some markets are just highly competitive, with large companies dominating the search results. These companies have a very large budget to spend on marketing in general and SEO specifically. Ranking in these markets is hard. You will be unable to compete on a small budget in a market like the furniture industry using search terms such as [quality furniture].

However, if you have your mission clear, you should be able to define what makes your product or website stand out from this market. You should be able to find your niche. And you should use YOUR mission in order to start ranking! Taking my example of furniture made with recycled materials would mean that you should focus on the less competitive term [furniture recycled material]. Again, use words that your target audience uses (and avoid difficult terms).

Use your mission to define long-tail keywords

Your mission, in which you make crystal clear what the awesomeness of your product, site or blog is, should be central in choosing the long-tail keywords you want to rank for. The terms you used to describe your mission can be nicely used to focus on in your SEO strategy. These words should be central in the long-tail keywords you aim your website to rank for.

With your mission written down, you’ve already completed the first step of your keyword research. The next step is creating a list of keywords. Try to get into the heads of your audience. What will these people be looking for? What search terms will they use when it comes to your product or site? Thinking of your main topic and head keywords will probably be quite easy, but finding your long-tail keywords may be a bit more challenging. Our plugin can help you with that!

Yoast SEO offers you suggestions for keyphrases related to your focus keyword. This tool is designed to help you use related keyphrases to strengthen your text, but can also be used to help you find those long-tail keywords. When you’re writing a post or page focused on one of the keywords you’ve already thought of, simply click the ‘Get related keyphrases’ button under your focus keyphrase-field. You’ll get a list of suggested related keyphrases that your audience uses, which can also be suitable long-tail keywords:

related keyphrase feature in Yoast SEO

The example above shows keyphrases related to the focus keyword [furniture recycled materials]. As you can see, the tool suggests related and more specific keyphrases that are actually being used by people searching online. It also shows you the search volume and search trend in the country of your choice. Quite a nifty tool right? So have a look at how the related keyphrase feature works!

The next step: awesome content

I hope this article has shown you the incredible potential of long-tail keywords. People using the terms of your mission and finding your website will be relatively small in volume, but these people do have the highest chances to buy your product or to become regular visitors. So making your website rank for a specific term can be quite profitable, but do make sure that this specific term closely resembles the product you’re selling to avoid disappointment.

You’ve already defined your mission, so let’s keep the momentum going! We still have some work to do before we can start with my favorite part of SEO: SEO copywriting. Before you start typing away at your awesome blog posts, make sure to check out the rest of the steps in our ultimate guide to keyword research:

Keep reading: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »



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