How to Optimize the Snot Out of Your Content for Long Tail Keywords

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by Chelsea Terris

With Google providing less and less keyword data, badass SEOs are doing their darndest to drive search traffic by hitting longtail keywords squarely on the head. Competitive phrases and link authority are vital, but this old chestnut is back and more essential than ever to effective on-page optimization of your website.

Will You Be My (Long Tail) Keyword?

Your first step to optimizing for these bad boys is to narrow down your keyword phrases for use. There are multiple approaches available, but you can’t go wrong by starting with traditional keyword research and analysis as a leaping-off point. Keep in mind that getting into the head of your target user is a great way to frame your search, so think like someone who is having a plumbing crisis (plug that leak!) or shopping for flattering bridesmaid gowns (nix that back fat!).

I Like My Coffee Strong and My Keywords Weak

Once you have generated a few likely phrases, run them through Google to see if their rankings are weak or strong. Be sure to do so while logged out of Google to avoid personalized results and utilize the MozBar browser extension, available to Chrome and Firefox users, to streamline your process. Your objective? To find weak keywords that produce search results that include low-ranking businesses.

Why search for weak phrases, you ask? The answer is simple. Phrases that pull up nothing spectacular are ripe with possibility. They can be used to target your business and product, free of competition, and will rank easily, as no one else is using them and Google’s choice for who to associate with the keyword is clear.

Weak keywords will bring up small, niche websites, Q & A sites, and forums, often with few page titles that target the keyword you searched. Another sign that your keywords are weak is that Google brings you inexact matches. If you see pages that feature one word from the search query in the title with some of the words sourced from deep in the body of the text or the URL, you have entered “untouched keyword territory” and may have discovered a pot of search gold.

Remember: Check back every so often with your analytics, particularly with a seasonal product or campaign, as shifts in your site’s traffic are natural and should be noted. You can analyze these shifts using the keywords you have been targeting and combine this information with the traffic on a given page to drive additional traffic to individual pages.

Get to Optimizin’

With your mighty bundle of keywords in hand, it’s time to insert what you’ve found into the proper places so they can work for you! Rather than attempting to create content pieces for every single longtail keyword you’ve come up with (read: impossibly time consuming. Do not attempt), focus your efforts on including your finds throughout a given page.

Think of adding keywords to a page as sprinkling coconut onto a donut. (Don’t like coconut? Get your own donut!) Optimize away with these steps:

  • Title Tags and Header Variation: Be sure not to over-optimize your page. Vary your title tags and headers and include long tail keywords that are relevant to your content and fit naturally within your well-turned verbage. Don’t repeat keyword phrases. Google doesn’t like it and won’t look favorably on your site if you do.

  • Word modifiers and variants work wonders: To avoid repeating keyword phrases, bask in the glory of Google’s sensitive semantic algorithm and use adapted versions of your long tail phrases. This is particularly useful if the longer phrase has less competition, since you may be able to rank without using the exact phrase in your variation.

  • Blend on-page elements: Use keyword variations in all aspects of your page, including your headlines, alt attributes, bolded copy, and title attributes.

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Zip It Up With Links

Once you have chosen a set of long tail keywords that suit your site, products, and plans, you are ready like Freddy to make some online connections and build those coveted links.

Our tips?

  • Stick with your variations: In order to avoid over-optimizing, use variations featuring your lead keyword, rather than using synonyms, in order to transfer relevance to core terms.

  • Take Advantage of Your Anchor Text: There are multiple opportunities for you to control your anchor text, including company and directory listings. When seeking high-quality bloggers who may wish to feature your content, I have found that the best time to request a specific anchor text is after a confirmed reply or promise of a feature, as bloggers are already excited about your pitch and ready to accomodate. If necessary, article submission sites can boost your ranking by being quickly-published sources of maleable anchor text, especially if you are working with low-competition keywords and phrases.

Looking beyond a single, head keyword can drive an electrical shock of traffic to your website. By researching long tail phrases without much current competition, you can amass a friendly army of terms, ready and willing to help your site rank. Utilize traditional keyword research and be sure to thoroughly optimize using natural keyword “sprinkling” for a page that can only attract the most positive attention from Google’s Search Engines.

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