Usually, when clients identify search engine optimization (or SEO) as one of their top online marketing goals, they envision obtaining a top ranking for a high-traffic search phrase. That’s a good goal, and one that any marketer or business owner should shoot for. However, we also advise the people we work with to pay attention to the long tail of search. Sometimes, it can provide the easiest and most profitable sales opportunities.
If you haven’t targeted long tail SEO in the past you might not know where to begin, or even what the term means. That’s not a problem, though, because today we are going to give you the basic information you need to develop a smart search strategy for 2018 and beyond. Let’s begin by making sure we are all speaking the same language…
What is the Long Tail of Search?
If you think about search engine queries (like the kind you enter into Google) as a chart, on one side would be all of the terms people search for very frequently. For example, in our industry a common Google search query might be “Web Design Company”
These types of phrases are used many times and may even be auto completed by a search engine because of their popularity. As a result, the top results for these searches might be seen hundreds of times a day. That’s why marketers tend to focus in on them.
However, if you were to follow the chart farther out, you would find other search strings – usually word combinations that are longer and more specific – that aren’t searched as often. To stay with our example, a search string like “Long Island small business web design and online marketing” probably doesn’t get nearly as much volume as the first phrase we introduced. And yet, it’s more specific, reveals more buying intent, and probably has a lot less competition. In other words, it represents low-hanging fruit for a smart marketer.
The long tail of search is made up of similar search strings. They may vary from one industry to the next, but there can be hundreds or thousands of them.
How Big is the Long Tail Search Market?
It’s tough to know with any certainty just how many long tail searches are performed every day. However, Google itself has reported processing more than 5 billion requests each 24 hours and has estimated that almost one out of every five of these queries – that is, 1 billion searches each day – represent an entirely new string the engine hasn’t seen before. That’s a lot of unique requests that fall at the far end of the long tail.
Additionally, it is known that long tail searches are increasing as a percentage of Google’s volume. It’s safe to guess that the same thing is happening at Bing and Yahoo, as well. There are two factors driving the trend. One is the increased popularity of voice -assisted search apps that encourage users to speak longer and use more precise phrases. The other has to do with SEO competition. Because more marketers are optimizing their sites research, consumers have more choices. They are responding by being more precise about what they are looking for on the web.
The bottom line here is that there are already more than a billion long tail searches being processed every day, and there may be a lot more in the future. That’s a big chunk of the market you don’t want to just hand to your competitors.
How are Long Tail Searches Different?
While you might not have ever thought about long tail searches specifically in the past, you have undoubtedly performed dozens or hundreds of them already. Perhaps you aren’t satisfied with the first set of results you got when looking for a specific product, service, or piece of information. Or, perhaps you needed a precise answer, so you ignored Google’s suggestions.
In either case, you already know what makes long tail searches different from other Google inquiries. Namely, they have more of a tight focus and a sense of intent around them. They tend to lead to fewer results and generate more leads and sales.
These outcomes benefit searchers and marketers alike. Those who are looking for the right piece of information, or a very specific solution to their problem, can bypass a lot of unrelated material. Likewise, businesses that serve niche markets and small communities can reach them very effectively.
Can You Target Long Tail Searchers Directly?
Although some search engine optimization consultants will tell you that it’s difficult to target long tail traffic directly, that’s not necessarily the case. It’s true that some search strings are hard to anticipate. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave this portion of your online marketing plan to chance.
The first way to target long tail searchers directly is by simply brainstorming specific keyword combinations, or plain language search terms, and incorporating them into your website content. You can also find good keyword targets by studying your analytics package to see how recent visitors have come across your pages and emphasizing the same (these or similar) terms as the one(s) they used.
The second and smarter way to bring long tail search traffic to your website is by simply implementing a content strategy that revolves around producing longer articles and ideas that naturally produce natural-language phrasing. To put it another way, you can publish pieces like this one. That allows you to hit a number of potential longtail search terms while at the same time improving the authority and relevance of your website which can be the key to securing search traffic from Google when an exact match isn’t available.
What Else is There to Know or Do?
It can take a while to build a consistent flow of long tail search traffic to your business website. And, the results can be up and down, particularly during the first few months. However, we still think it’s worth pursuing. That’s because the work you do to attract longtail visits your website will also pay off when you’re trying to target more traditional search terms, as well.
The big secret here is that even though the long tail of search represents a much different market than the one offered by high-traffic search terms; a lot of visitors end up on the same few websites anyway. Because content marketing benefits you in both areas, you’ll get a lot of expected and unexpected traffic to your articles and pages when you’re continually posting new ideas and generating engagement in the form of likes, shares, and comments.
Know who you’re trying to reach and where it makes sense for you to compete – both in terms of traditional search engine optimization and with more specific longtail or niche strategies. Then tailor your content in a way that lets you take advantage of both.
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