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4 Steps to Boosting SEO with Long-Tail Keywords

“If you don’t know the user intent behind the keywords you’re optimizing for then you’re doing it wrong. Also, if you are optimizing for keywords versus the needs of the user then you’re doing it wrong.” – Jordan Kasteler, SEO director at HENNESSEY CONSULTING

Ranking for common or broad keywords is a particularly challenging task for most small businesses. These words and phrases are often highly competitive and require significant resources to rank for.

A better option for most entrepreneurial endeavors to increase online traffic and rank well in the SERPs is to leverage long-tail keywords. While it does require a fair bit of effort to select the most prosperous and relevant phrases, these keywords are becoming an increasing necessity in the world of SEO because they are often more closely aligned with user intent; something that Google’s Hummingbird algorithm is largely focused on.

Not only are long-tail keywords more effective at targeting intent, they are also much more cost-effective and better at generating results for SMBs. Business owners could spend years trying to rank for “T-shirts.” Alternatively, those same business could potentially rank for “soft red cotton T-shirts for men” in mere weeks.

Long-tail keywords are often less popular than broader terms and tend to drive less traffic volume. Since these phrases are more specific, however, they are more likely to convert and prove to be highly beneficial for SEO strategies.

To learn to effectively leverage long-tail keywords, here is a four-step process for uncovering phrases that will help to drive traffic and conversions, thereby boosting your rankings.

1. Research the Competition

To leverage the most beneficial long-tail keywords, you must first establish who your competitors are, what keywords they are targeting and how much traffic they are driving using those phrases.

Figuring out who your competitors are shouldn’t prove too challenging. Additionally, uncovering the keywords they are optimizing for can be easily determined with the use of paid SEO tools such as SEMRush, Buzzsumo, or Ahrefs.

Through these kinds of services, you should be able to easily uncover a treasure trove of keywords that your competitors are using to drive traffic.

With this information in hand, you can begin the next step in the process.

2. Establish Your Prime Keywords

Prior to beginning your long-tail research, you should have a firm understanding of what your top 10 most important keywords are. This knowledge is necessary because your long-tail keywords will essentially be more illustrative versions of these terms. Before you can generate any long-tail phrases, you need to know their roots.

The main keywords your business targets should be of medium to high competition, obtain upward of 200 monthly searches (according to the Google Keyword Planner), include three or fewer words, and be targeted by at least one of your competitors.

There are a variety of tools you can utilize to help establish your company’s main keywords. These engines include the Google Keyword Planner, Keyword Tool, Google Trends and Accuranker.

Keep in mind that you should be constantly monitoring the rankings fluctuations of your main keywords. This will serve as a measuring stick to determine if your long-tail efforts will be fruitful.

Once you have established your brand’s prime keywords, you can move on to determining the long-tail terms you should be targeting.

3. Choose Your Long-Tail Keywords

Now that you know your prime keywords and have conducted your competitive research, the data you have compiled should prove useful in determining the most relevant long-tail phrases for your business.

Using the “red T-shirt” example again, if this is your business’ main keyword, you should be using it to establish the type of long-tail words to select. Any phrases that are immediately or obliquely relevant to this term should be added to your list.

You can use the same tools you leveraged for competitive research to complete this task.

Your objective is to determine as many long-tail keywords as you can that possess a low to medium search volume and are relevant to what you are targeting. These will be the phrases that will easily bolster your traffic and rankings.

Your long-tail keywords should contain three or more words, generate less than 100 monthly searches (according to the Google Keyword Planner), and be targeted by at least one competitor.

Once you have compiled a list of suitable terms, begin to integrate these phrases into your website’s content and landing pages. Additionally, ensure your site is user-friendly as it relates to design, navigation layout, and load times — these can all have a detrimental impact on your rankings and traffic.

4. Monitor Your Keyword Activity

If you have been involved in SEO for even a small amount of time, you already know that not all the keywords you aim to rank for will produce the results you had hoped for; this is just how it goes.

But this is also why it is critical to constantly monitor the changes and fluctuations that take place for your long-tail keywords.

It is vital to supervise each keyword’s ranking, profitability, conversion rate, and lifetime value to establish which keywords should be optimized and which should be abandoned; this is partially how you continually refine your site’s SEO strategy and reach the top of the SERPs.

You can use SEMRush’s Position Tracking tool to determine search engine positions for any of your keywords. You can also use this tool to verify competitor rankings in relation to your own, as well.

I would recommend checking this weekly, at the bare minimum, to obtain the most useful data possible.

Long-tail keywords are a necessity for ranking well in today’s SERPs. These phrases are more likely to address user intent and drive searchers to find the solution they are out to obtain; something that Google places a high priority on.

Utilize this methodology to uncover your site’s most relevant and prosperous long-tail phrases and maximize your SEO efforts.

What other tactics are there to maximize an SEO strategy? What have you found to be the ideal long-tail keyword length for your business?

About the author


Tina Courtney

Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile


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  • Great article reading! We’ve seen excellent results targeting long-tail keywords. Nice to have all this info compiled with an easy-to-read guide for reference! 100%

    • Great info! Biggest long tale keyword person ever! I love how using those creates so much traffic to the site and am exciting with my building and building traffic from using them! Thanks for the reminder.

  • long tail keyword help a website to rank in first page.This article is very helpful for an search engine optimizer

  • Apart from the competitors, other best way to identify long tail keywords is to make a list of keywords you think your potential clients are searching for.

    • Exactly lawrence.

      after putting up those keywords, you can then do a rinse and repeat to get the best keywords possible for further targeting!

      Great contribution

  • Looking for long-tail keywords in SEO is the equivalent of “going niche” in blogging – i.e. focusing on a very specific audience.

  • As per experience, choosing long-tail keywords is the most effective if you want to rank higher focusing on your business or website’s services.

  • Hi, It’s a Superb guide, I also target long tail keywords but I also focus on SERP suggestions and LSI keywords provided by Google and you know that really help me. I just use LSI keywords along with my main keyword in SEO title and Meta DESCRIPTION and it really works well for me. Try that also guyz.


  • Hello Tina,
    Thanks for such a very informative blog, you provide the useful technique to use long tail keywords thanks for it, can anyone help how to use long tail keywords in the title for SEO purpose, because there we can use limited no of characters?
    Thank you

  • So as for general marketing the message is to target a narrow segment of customers who use the long keyword chain. That seems logical as rather than trying to hit the whole pie and getting nothing target a smaller piece of pie and increase your chances of getting something. Makes sense. Thanks!

    • Cool to know Hannah!

      They work wonders in bringing organic traffic to a site.

      I remember my first time using long tail keywords.

      After making keyword research and finding these keywords, flood of traffic in just 10 Mins of publishing

      I was like “WOWWW” is this how it works?

  • Hi Tina,

    Thanks for sharing the importance of LSI keywords. After reading your article now i can use LSI keywords in my website.

  • I have used Site Pro News for at least 15 years and created websites in the early days that ranked on the 1st page of Google and still do for sites that I’ve promoted. free ocr software (paperfile.net) is No.1 from 32 million website, projector hire London is also No.1 (av2hire.com). I find that long, medium and short tale searches work well and it’s important to use a keyword tool to find and then use rare and often used keywords so that you get the best of both worlds.

  • Thanks for this wonderful post Tina!
    Long tail keywords are the best when it comes to ranking a brand new site!

    That’s what I personally used for my blogs: tipsonblogging.com

    and it works great.
    I will also like to add that monitoring your keywords would give you a huge boost in wanting to put in more effort at ranking your keywords.

    You are doing a great work here on SPN, have a great time.