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High Rankings Advisor: Using Keyword Research to Find Long-Tail Keyword Phrases

++Using Keyword Research to Find Long-Tail Keyword Phrases++

Long Tail! (Image Credit: Rega Photography)In my article “Getting Ahead in Google,” I mentioned finding and using less competitive keyword phrases that still bring targeted traffic as an SEO strategy. Well, one of my Twitter followers asked me what they were supposed to do if there weren’t any long-tail keywords for their niche. He told me that his site focuses on video game reviews and the only related keywords were highly competitive because they were all variations of “game review.”

That didn’t make much sense to me because every site or topic must have long-tail keyword phrases that could bring it traffic.

Long-tail Keywords Defined

Before I go any further, let’s review. Many people mistakenly believe that long-tail keywords must contain 3 or more words. That is sometimes true, but many 3-word phrases are not long-tail while some 2- or even 1-word keywords are. That’s because long-tail keywords are really words or phrases that are rarely searched upon. The idea is that, in aggregate, they could make up a significant portion of your website traffic. The reason every site must have long-tail keywords is that they’re just words you’re naturally using on your pages that just may happen to be searched by someone.

Unlimited Long-tail Keywords for Content Sites

In terms of the video game review guy, as I said, he writes reviews of video games. That’s pure content. A site like that is a perfect natural long-tail keyword generator by its very nature. And I bet if he looked carefully at his Google Analytics, he’d find hundreds of phrases already bringing him traffic. But you can often get even more traffic if you can figure out more variations of words that people interested in your site might be using at Google.

To explain this to him, I hopped over to Google’s keyword research tool and put in a few character names from some Nintendo games that I remembered from when my kids used to play them (Mario, Peach, Luigi, Toad). Then I sorted them in reverse order of number of global monthly searches. That way I would see only long-tail words because they were those that were searched at some point, but hardly ever. (As with all your organic keyword research, be sure to change “Broad Match” to “Exact Match” whenever you perform it.)

What I found were hundreds of phrases that used these character names like: “Mario saving Peach,” “Peach from Super Mario,” “Princess from Mario Bros,” “Super Mario World Peach,” etc. These are all the types of phrases you might naturally use when you write about the Nintendo games that contain these characters.

Dig Deeper for eCommerce Sites

Granted, it’s a lot easier to find zillions of long-tail keywords for a content site than one that sells something like specialized file cabinets. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done in a similar manner. The trick is that you try some different, somewhat obscure words, and then sort the results in various ways. Be aware that the default is for the tool to sort by relevance, but for long-tail purposes you typically want to sort for the *least* number of Global Monthly Searches along with the least competition.

For example, to start, I put something random like “blue print filing cabinet systems” into the tool (again, always with Exact Match) and got this:

Keyword Research Screen Shot

This is the type of keyword research that’s helpful for your actual product pages, but it’s not what we’re looking for in terms of long-tail research or trying to figure out what you might write about in a blog post. However, if you sort it by Global Monthly Searches (in reverse) you see a different story:

Keyword Research Screen Shot 2

Still, these aren’t necessarily long-tail keywords because many of them are showing *high competition*. If lots of people are bidding on the keywords in AdWords (which is what the high competition would mean), they’re probably competitive organically as well. But if we then sort by competition (from low to high) we may be able to find some low-competition keywords with few searches overall. (Note: You may see a bunch of returns that don’t say what the competition is and instead show a dash (–). That’s not unusual with low-volume keywords, and it may mean that there’s not much competition. Use your own judgment when deciding, however.)

This last stage is where you have to carefully look through all the keywords to choose ones that might make sense for writing marketable content that applies to what you offer on your website:

Keyword Research Screen Shot 3

I found phrases such as “system of filing,” “organize your files,” “draw storage systems,” “what is lateral filing,” “efficient filing,” “how to set up filing system,” “proper filing system,” “efficient filing system,” and a few others.

Sounds like good blog post fodder to me!

While it’s true that eventually you’re going to run out of interesting things to write about filing systems, you can then put some other phrases that relate to your products into the keyword research tool and start the process all over again.

Putting All the Pieces Together

I advise that you do the following:

  • Put this keyword research method together with mining your own analytics for questions that people are already asking to find you  (as I mentioned in the last article), and
  • Use my “67 Blog Ideas” post for inspiration on what to write about that relates to the long-tail terms.

Now you should be able to start putting together a content marketing strategy and an editorial calendar that can last for quite some time!


Jill WhalenJill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, an SEO Consulting company in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen

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Reprinted with permission.

High Rankings Question of the Week

This week I asked my social media followers:

++Got any tips for finding long-tail keywords that can be used when marketing your content?++ 

Here’s how they responded:


MirandaM_EComm: Look at the terms that sites in your space are using – especially those more successful than you are. Good for companies on budget. Check out their Meta descriptions, titles, subtitles, image captions, etc. for long-tail phrases.

robinlmay: I usually data mine through analytics, check search results (mixed web, images).

ashbuckles: Look at related searches on G/Y/B/YouTube/etc., review competitor’s content, look at analytics, ask sales/marketing team.
Question of the Week
joehall: If you have a content-heavy site, you can usually find good long-tail keywords by browsing the list of referring keywords in Google Analytics.

ann_donnelly: Google Analytics is a good way to find long-tail keywords that some used. If they convert, optimise better for them.

markkennedysem: If you have an AdWords account, the search query report can be valuable for finding long-tails as well as their conversion rates.


Chris Tucker: My favorite pastime is typing 2 or 3 words into GoogleBox and then creating the 4th out of suggestions G comes up with, starting with “a”, “b”, “c,” and so on. It’s fun too!


Nick Usborne: Sure. Invite your readers to submit content. Then use their headlines as the final headlines. Some of my site pages with the very most organic traffic have resulted from headlines written by readers, without any regard for SEO. : )

Brian Thackston: My basic toolkit would have to be Analytics reports, Adwords Keyword tool, Wordtracker’s “Keywords Questions” tool, Google Sets, Soovle, and good ole’ fashioned intuition.?

Karen Dadswell: Great suggestions already but also on site search data and AdWords search query reports?.

AskJoanne: I like using SEMRush to search on my “head phrases,” then analyze what comes up in the phrase match reports to find good long-tail phrases.

Keyword Research Data Visualizations

I recently found a handy way to do some theme-based, in-depth keyword research.

Start with what you  know as your “head phrases,” the short phrases that form the “root” of many of your keyphrase variations.

Use a tool like SEMRush‘s phrase match report to find other, related phrases along with estimated search volumes, CPC costs and number of results on Google.

Use this data to generate data visualizations so you can SEE your keywords:

Keyword Research Dashboard at Tableau Public

Click the image to get to an interactive keyword research data visualization .

Keyword Search Trends

I’ve spoken before about using Google Trends to find out about search trends… but now there’s an even better tool for measuring and comparing keyword search trends, volume, demographics and location.

Check out: Google Insights for Search.

You can even enter several search terms and compare them: