Paid Media, SEO, Industry Updates

Long tail keywords: Why target queries with lower search volume?



According to this 2021 Ahrefs study on long tail keywords which analysed around 1.9 billion keywords, 92.42% of keywords get 10 searches per month or fewer! So why is it worth your time investing in developing content targeting these keywords? Read on to discover why and how they can help boost your ROI from SEO.




What is a long tail keyword?

A long-tail keyword is considered to be at least 3 words, and generally have lower search volume but capture a higher user intent. They are higher intent because with more words, a user can be more descriptive about what you are searching for. Collectively, these specific searches don’t make up a large monthly search volume, but they do make up the majority of searches entered into search engines.

Caption: The phrase ‘long tail queries’ comes from the search demand curve, whereby these unpopular searches fall on the ‘long tail’ end of the demand graph.

Long Tail Keyword Search Demand Curve Long Tail Keyword Search Demand Curve



Long tail queries are often conversational in nature

User queries are becoming increasingly conversational and thus longer in nature, and Google is getting smarter and better at understanding and serving more relevant results that answer these conversational queries. This was properly refined with Google’s Hummingbird update in 2013.

By using natural language processing, Google has been able to improve its conversational and semantic search capabilities. This will need to be factored into the tone of your content when targeting long tail queries and is particularly important for voice search (more on that later).


Long tail keywords vs short tail keywords

Short tail keywords are usually the ones that clients want to focus on and get excited about as they have the potential to drive a high volume of traffic. However, they generally take a long time to rank, and are often the keywords that everyone wants to rank in position 1 for (making them highly competitive and sometimes unrealistic keyword targets depending on site authority). Conversely, long tail keywords drive a lower level of traffic, however that traffic is comparatively more convertible. They also tend to be lower in competition and thus easier to rank for.

Furthermore, being able to rank for longer tail variations of a short tail keyword helps you rank for the short tail version of the keyword itself over time, as you have proven to search engines that your site has authority for the overall topic. This is a particularly useful strategy for smaller sites which are competing for competitive keywords, for which well established brands typically rank for. As an agency specialised in creating holistic SEO content strategies, we like to incorporate a mix of both to help our clients drive both awareness and conversions via organic search.


Keyword examples: A Cookie case study

Let’s take the topic of ‘cookie recipe’ as an example for this exercise (Can you take a guess at what food I’m craving? P.S. If you’re looking for food & bar recommendations, check out my curated Sydney food & bar guides). Natalie, a really talented cookie chef has been wanting to release her famous cookie recipe online, and would like to generate traffic to this recipe via organic search. What keywords should she be targeting on her site?

On its own, the short tail keyword ‘cookie recipe’ has 27,100 average searches a month in Australia. That’s a lot of searches for cookies every month! When we take a look at which sites are ranking in the top 3 positions, we can see well established recipe sites like taste.com.au amongst the mix. Unfortunately, Natalie’s hobby site is most likely not going to outrank this website.
Luckily, there are many longer tail keyword variations that feature ‘cookie recipe’ which could be worth targeting. Here are some examples of some promising keywords to target & why.

Keyword Average Monthly Search Volume (AU) Why it’s a good keyword target
Chocolate chip cookie recipe 9,900 Will address the search intent of users wanting to create a chocolate chip cookie as opposed to a white chocolate cookie
Cookie recipe healthy 1,900 Will address the search intent of users looking for a healthy alternative rather than one that is high in saturated fat and sugar
Edible cookie dough recipe 1,900 Will address the search intent of users looking to create cookie dough rather than oven baked cookies
Cookie recipe basic 1,600 Will address the search intent of users looking for a simple cookie recipe who are time poor rather than one a recipe with too many steps

As you can see, the specific examples in the table above is a better keyword target than ‘cookie recipe’ because it addresses a more specific search intent. Therefore, Natalie should do some research around queries which have a more specific intent around ‘cookie recipes’, and target the ones that align with her product.



How to conduct long tail keyword research

There are many platforms that allow you to identify long tail keyword variations of short tail keywords. No matter which platform you’re utilising, you want to start with a short-tail keyword (or the topic name) and filter the data set by:

  • Word count above 3
  • Low keyword difficulty/competition
  • Low search volume – a ‘low’ number will depend on how large the search volume is for the head term

Useful keyword research tools

At Indago Digital, the below tools have been tried and tested by our SEO experts to identify long tail keywords. Our favourites include:

Outside of using tools, another great place to spot long tail keywords is via the ‘related searches’ section at the bottom of Google’s Search results pages. These are automatically generated by Google’s algorithm to determine terms related to your search. They are extremely useful to help understand what information your potential customers are seeking and thus, tell you what questions you should be answering. Simply enter your short tail keyword and scroll to the bottom. Boom, gold mine.

Ahrefs example: In Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer tool, go to Keywords Explorer > Matching Terms, and apply your filters as this image.

Long tail keyword strategy

Now that you have a set of high-intent keywords – where do you feature them on your site?

First, you will need to determine the intent of these keywords and whether you have a page on your site that serves this intent. If the answer is yes, then you can feature these long-tail keywords as subheadings on existing pages or within the body copy of the page. If the answer is no, I’d recommend looking at potentially creating a new landing page to capture this search intent.

Blog strategy

Another strategy that I’ve utilised which works very well in driving traffic via non-purchase intent keywords is via creating a large number of blog pages targeting long tail keywords of a particular topic (as opposed to creating a single page answering all these questions). This is because they have a lower keyword difficulty score, making it easier and quicker to rank in click driving positions. Don’t forget to include internal links from these pages to related product pages and other related blog articles!

 

Optimising for voice search using long tail keywords

According to a 2021 white paper study by B&T, 57% of Aussies are now using voice search, meaning that it should be definitely on the radar of your SEO team or agency. Voice search queries are conversational and naturally long tail, and it is worthwhile noting that almost 40.7% of voice search answers originate from a Featured Snippet result. Therefore, you can kill two birds with one stone if you know what queries to target!

A great way to rank for voice search and featured snippet positions is by targeting question based keywords, as these will more often pull in a featured snippet result. According to this SEMrush study on featured snippets, 77.63% of ‘why’ queries and 65.27% of ‘how’ queries will trigger these.

This makes sense if you think about it, as people will be speaking to their voice assistant in the form of a question. To increase your chances of ranking for a featured snippet and being selected for voice search answer, I’d recommend including the question at the top of the page, and answering it with a 40-60 word summary, as this is what Google will likely display within the featured snippet box.

Caption: Percentage of question keywords triggering featured snippets

Source: SEMRush & Brado



Real life example: Lyfe Marketing has created a dedicated page answering the question featured as a long tail query, ‘what is an seo agency’. Effectively answering this question has enabled the site to rank within the featured snippet position, which provides additional visibility for the search result and improves brand awareness.


Why use long tail keywords for SEO?

If you’ve managed to read this far, you will understand the importance of these low volume queries. To summarise, here are the top reasons why long tail keywords should be featured in every SEO strategy:

  • High intent, therefore highly convertible
  • Can support ability to rank for a short tail keyword
  • Conversational in nature, helping rank for voice queries
  • Low volume, therefore low barriers to ranking in click driving positions and drive traffic when a long tail strategy is used at scale
If you’re interested in targeting these high intent queries on your site or interested in our team looking after your SEO needs, feel free to reach out to us.
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