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
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:
- Come up with some broad keywords that relate to my business (i.e. web design, WordPress training etc)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 Fiverr.com 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.