Is this the easiest way to get free traffic?

My Long tail SEO Strategy

I have spoken about my different SEO strategies before and I’ve also talked about long tail keywords. In this post however I’m going to go into specific detail about what I do to get long tail SEO traffic.

If you have a site that has some authority and you are prepared to create some content then this would have to be one of the easiest ways to get free traffic.

The power of long tail keywords

Let’s start by looking at some analytics data for my own site (this one). My site ranks extremely well in Google for very high traffic keywords like ‘website design’ (1st) ‘website development’ (1st) ‘web design’ (7th) etc. These 3 terms alone get almost 30,000 exact match searches in Google Australia each month!

You would expect then that this is where I get most of my traffic from. Here is a slimmed down screenshot from Google Analytics.

You can see from the stats above that those top 3 keywords are bringing 1,309 visits a month which is great. However you can also see I am getting 2,969 visits in total from Google’s natural listings (non paid traffic). This means I am actually getting more free traffic from keywords other than my top 3 big keywords!

This simple example demonstrates the power of the long tail. As I go through my keyword list after the top 20 or so, I get to keywords that have only been searched for by a handful of people. But as you can see from the screenshot, there are over 845 keywords bringing me free traffic. If each of those bring me 2 or 3 visitors I’m all of a sudden getting thousands of visitors for free.

My site has only been a blog for a bit over a year, an aged blog with lots of content would have many more keywords bringing traffic than this. It’s not uncommon for someone who is actively creating content on their site to be getting traffic from thousands or tens of thousands of keywords.

Create more content!

You will often hear people give you the advice to create more content on your site to improve your search engine rankings. This advice is sound however is you want to compete for highly competitive terms like website design or making money online for example, creating more content is not going to cut it. There is just too much competition.

Creating lots of (relevant) content however will help you rank for long tail keywords because they get fewer searches and have far less competition.

But a long tail strategy needs to be more sophisticated than just creating loads of content. There is a certain amount of effort involved with creating content and you want to make sure you get the maximum benefit.

My long tail SEO process

Keyword Spreadsheet

Once your site gets some authority you will find you will be able to rank well in Google for some decent keywords without doing much at all. For example it’s taken years of SEO for me to rank for ‘website design’. But for other broader terms I can rank in a matter of days just by creating some content on the topic.

The first step is I have one of my team members build me a spreadsheet with all of the keywords that I am going to target. Here are the exact steps:

  1. Come up with some broad keywords that relate to my business (i.e. web design, WordPress training etc)
  2. Put the first keyword into the Google keyword tool. Make sure ‘Exact match’ is selected on the left so it returns exact match results and search for Australian results.
  3. Sort the keyword list by ‘Local Monthly Searches’ and and copy out any keywords with between 20 monthly searches and 500 monthly searches (see more below) and put them into a spreadsheet along with the number of searches.
  4. Re-name the current sheet of the spreadsheet after the base keywords we used and then return to the keyword tool and repeat the process for other keywords.

For example I might have a sheet for ‘web design’ a sheet for ‘WordPress training’ etc. Each of these sheets would be filled with tens or hundreds of keywords that have been suggested by Google along with the number of monthly local searches.

The reason I choose between 20 and 500 searches is because if a keyword is getting less than 20 searches a month it’s not really worthwhile dedicating the time to write an article on it. But on the other hand if it’s getting over 500 I’ve found I can’t easily rank for it because of the competition. This number will differ from site to site so you need to refine this over time to work out what works for you.

Create content

There are 2 ways to approach this step.

One way is to go through the spreadsheet, choose a keyword and write a blog post around it.

For example one of my keywords was ‘how to use WordPress plugins’. This keyword gets 110 exact match searches in Australia each month. I haven’t done any optimisation at all on this keyword. All I did was create a blog post called how to use WordPress plugins.

Now if you search Google for “how to use WordPress plugins’ my site ranks 4th (the highest Australian site).

This keyword is bringing us 17 visits a month just by creating that blog post.

This is a great way to do it however because it all has to do with how much competition is out there you can’t really predict the results before you write the article. For example sometimes I will write a post and it won’t rank in the top 50, sometimes it will rank on the first page.

Plus you are a limited resource so you can’t personally write blog posts for every one of your hundreds of keywords.

So the next option is to get someone on your team (or outsource) to write a simple article for you and load it onto your site as a ‘page’. If you load it as a ‘page’, it won’t show in your main blog but it will still be found by Google. Which means it doesn’t have to be of the quality that your main blog would require.

For example I created a page on my site called WordPress hosting. It’s not in my main navigation or in my blog so most people won’t go there but it’s in my sitemap and Google have found it and have put me on the 4th page for ‘WordPress hosting’.

Backlink (if necessary)

Note with the above strategy often all you have to do is create the content and if your site has enough authority you’ll get onto the front page without doing anything else. If I am close the front page like in the WordPress hosting example and the keyword is worth putting some extra effort into (WordPress hosting gets 480 exact match searches and it’s a buyer keyword so it’s worth it) then you can do some SEO link building to boost the rankings. Examples of things I might do include:

  • Link to it from elsewhere in the site (like I have done above with the WordPress hosting example)
  • Tweet about it or put it on Facebook or Google+
  • Link to the post from a forum post or signature
  • Do some low authority backlinking like some article marketing, social bookmarking etc
  • Write an article and publish it to a blog network
  • Add it to a backlinks indexing service
  • Pay someone on to send backlinks to it.

Generally if you can get close to the front page just by publishing the article, then you will be able to get onto the front page with minimal SEO effort.

What do you think?

I think with all of the attention on Google Adwords and SEO for high traffic keywords, long tail strategies like this are a bit forgotten. Do you do this? I have a feeling a lot of people don’t actively do this and it seems like it’s almost too easy to get traffic when you do.

Let me know what you think.

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About Alex

Alex Retzlaff is the owner of A Website Designer and Web Circle.

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25 Responses to “Is this the easiest way to get free traffic?”

  1. Robin Jennings November 23, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    Great article- very thorough, and transparent.

    I spent countless hours chasing premium keywords have been reasonably effective but the long tail keywords have actually paid the bills.

    When someone searches for something in particular like ‘accountant hawthorn’ the likelihood of them actually making contact is quite high.

  2. ella November 23, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    Great tips, backlink building is definitely the way to go from what you’re saying, thank you for the strategy list at the end

  3. Gerard November 24, 2011 at 3:55 am #

    Enjoyed the article but I can not agree with paying someone for backlinks. Seems kind of black hat to me.

  4. Dan November 24, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    Hi Robin, thanks, good to hear!

  5. Dan November 24, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Hi Gerard, you are getting confused between paying someone to acquire backlinks and paying a website to link to you. The former is simply delegation or outsourcing. The latter is against Google’s guidelines, I guess that means it’s black hat although I prefer the term Grey hat, there’s always a little bit of grey ;).

  6. Gerard November 24, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    Understood. Thanks for the clarification.

  7. Steve November 24, 2011 at 6:57 pm #

    Now a days I am hearing a lot about long tail keywords. I think the way google changes its strategies we also need to adapt to new techniques. My friend had suggested backling few weeks back and I wish to implement it. Thanks for the informative article.

  8. John November 24, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    You are right Dan! There are not many who use long tail keywords.I read about long tail keywords on one blog and thought about implementing the idea. I implemented it and got amazing results. All your backlinking tips are useful. Thanks

  9. Scott Dudley November 24, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

    Hi Dan,

    I like your idea about outsourcing content and placing it on pages instead of posts. This way your best content stays on the blog, but you still have loads of other content on the site for SEO purposes.

    What part of Australia are you from? I’m from Perth.


  10. Dan November 25, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    Good to hear John! Thanks for commenting.

  11. Dan November 25, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    yeah plus if you have RSS subscribers it won’t appear in the feed.

    Of course the opposite is true if your site is more of a standard small business site and you just have a few pages, you could actually have a blog that is sort to hidden away that you use to publish all of your articles to even if you don’t think a lot of people are reading them. I wouldn’t do it for my main site but for secondary sites there’s some benefit of doing this, a lot of people seem to be saying post panda that lots of new content even this sort of content is good.

    I’m from the Gold Coast. My aunty lives in Trigg, great spot!

  12. Frank Bowes December 1, 2011 at 2:22 am #

    Hi Dan,

    I am still learning a lot about SEO, so a long tail strategy should really work for me right now. A friend of mine swears by it, and it was he who originally turned me on to this strategy. Something that I don’t do enough of is internal linking. I’ve got a question on that though; what is the actual benefit of linking to your keywords internally?

  13. Martha Giffen December 2, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    Long tails rule! This is such a great explanation of the long tails. All marketers should read this!

  14. Dan December 2, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    Hi Martha thanks for the compliment!

  15. Dan December 2, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    It just shows Google which pages are important and what they are about. It may not boost the site in the SERPS but it makes it obvious which site to go to when a keyword is entered enabling you to just focus your efforts on that page. I think it’s also helpful with the site links shown on Google, i.e. pages with more links to them are deemed to be more important and more like to show up in Google site links (I haven’t done much testing with that but I think that’s the case).

  16. Beth December 3, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    Hi Dan

    Thank you for the indepth explanation on how you leverage the traffic potential of long tail keywords. I think your point about a domain needing enough authority to maximise the long tail traffic from a new post, is a crucial one.

    If you take the time to build trust and authority into a new domain you can really capitalise on all the long tail traffic in your niche, at least that’s what I’m finding.

  17. Jeriea Smith December 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

    Google has always maintained that the changes they make are for a better search experience. With recent changes they have continued to make it is apparent that the balancing act between proving natural relevant searches and advertising revenue driven searches is skewed to the revenue income side. On many searches I am half way down the results page prior to finding the first organic result. As a stock holder its great, as a SEO consultant it is not so great…

  18. Dan January 3, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    Hi Beth, thanks for the comment. Yes it takes time that’s for sure and so it should I think.

  19. Dan January 3, 2012 at 10:04 am #


    Thanks for stopping by Jeriea

  20. Robin Jennings January 11, 2012 at 8:20 am #

    I did an article last month of ‘Great Logos’ I got very little traffic from the keyword ‘great logos’- I didn’t do any research. But I used the words ‘squarish logo’ in the body of the post and low-and-behold I’ve had a reasonable number of people search Google using the terms ‘squarish logo’.

    Would you believe it?

  21. Dan January 11, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    Ha nice, yeah sometimes the longtail strategy can be a bit hit and miss but just having posts out there is often enough to start getting traffic sometimes for keywords you never would have expected. If you get 5 visits per month for that 1 post, it’s not a lot but if you have 150 posts it starts turning into a lot of traffic!

  22. Jenni February 17, 2012 at 1:38 am #

    Thank you Dan for your nice post, I’ve a question that we all know about an importance of creating more content for our blog but it will also take a lot of time, so how much time you would like to spend on content creating vs backlinks building?

  23. Dan February 17, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    True, everything is time or money. With a long tail strategy it’s a good place for outsourcing. I wouldn’t generally outsource the main articles on my blog but if you can simply create a basic article and rank for that without doing much else (for a very low competition keyword) then you can get articles written for a few dollars per article so it’s not necessarily time.

    Stil I think it comes down to ROI, if you are going to get 5 visitor from an article per month and it costs you $10 to write the article and you have a visitor value of $5 then it’s worth it. Same with backlinking. I don’t tend to spend much time on backlinking keywords with less than 100 searches but I spend a lot of keywords with 10,000+ searches because it brings an ROI when I rank for them.

    It’s not an exact science though and I’m actually working on a keyword tool at the moment that is going to help manage the process as I don’t think there really is one that does this well at the moment.

    Thanks for the comment.

  24. HardyTwardy December 6, 2012 at 12:39 am #

    i love to use long tail on my ecommerce sites. Maybe it is not so easy like standards SEO strategy, but give my nice conversion.

  25. Alex December 7, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    Hi Hardy. Long tail is great. And isn’t conversion what it’s all about? Keep up the good work.

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