How to Identify Long Tail Keywords for SEO Success

Long Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords have taken on greater importance in organic search, especially with the ever-increasing momentum of mobile users. Whether driving traffic to your website or promoting a PPC ad campaign, the value of long-tail keywords creates better-targeted action for your marketing and sales funnels.

Google's Hummingbird engine has a conversational search model, and long-tail keywords now make up nearly 75% of all search queries.

But how to go about finding those elusive and effective long-tail keywords? Well, it's much easier than it seems. All it takes is a little time, the right tools, and a bit of creative thinking.

What Is a Long Tail Keyword

For those unsure of just what a long tail keyword is, it is a targeted search phrase typically containing three or more basic keywords. One or two of those keywords will be basic head terms. For example:

  • Basic keyword/head term - ski resorts
  • Long Tail Keyword - ski resorts with the most snowfall

A long tail keyword consists of a basic search term with added modifiers. Long-tail keywords make it easier to target traffic, lead to better conversions, are less expensive in PPC advertising, and are typically much easier to rank for.

So, let's look at some simple tips for identifying the most effective long-tail keywords.

The Google Search Box

Using Google's own search box is the cheapest and easiest way to start looking for effective long-tail keywords. The best part is Google does most of the work. When you begin to enter a basic search into Google, the search engine auto-suggests possible extended search phrases.

Google Search Terms

These are generated according to the most popular searches for a particular topic. While these suggestions may not have the highest search volume, they offer a sound jumping-off point and can help define the most effective long-tail keywords for your SEO strategy.

Also, look to the suggested searches at the bottom of the results page - these can be easy pickings for related phrases.

Your Search Terms Report

Google AdWords' Search Terms Report is a great resource for identifying long-tail keywords. Using this tool, you can research people's search terms to find your PPC advertisements.

Open your AdWords account, select an ad group, and click the dimensions tab. Next, select the dropdown for "search terms" to view opportunities.

AdWords will then generate a report showing all the search queries that triggered your PPC ad(s). Depending on the type of matching you used, the search terms listed might differ substantially from your original keyword list.

These can now be used to develop new long-tail keywords for advertising campaigns and on-page SEO strategies.

Google's Keyword Planner

Google's Keyword Planner can be a powerful ally in searching long-tail keywords. However, we often fail to use the Keyword Tool to its full advantage.

For example, if you simply enter a stock search term, such as "Chicago SEO," the keyword tool will only return basic variations on the phrase. But it can do so much more!

Using Google's Keyword Planner, click "Search for new keyword and ad group ideas," then enter the URL of one of your competitor's websites in the "landing page" field.

Next, click "get ideas," and you will be rewarded with an extensive list of keywords that are quite distinct and separate from the generic results you got from your initial search.

These suggestions can be spun into highly targeted long-tail keywords that can be deployed in your PPC ad campaigns and in your on-page SEO strategies.

Google Analytics

When Google adopted keyword encryption for organic search, many people backed away from Google Analytics in their search for effective keywords. But even though organic search terms are now almost 100% "not provided," Google Analytics still has a lot to offer.

If you open your Analytics account, head over to the "Acquisition" menu, and select "keywords" and "organic", you can still mine some very useful data. Some of these may be search terms you had not considered and offer valuable new opportunities. These alternate search terms can be used to help generate new long-tail keywords.

Use these search terms in a standard Google search to find competing sites that are ranking for those keywords. Then head back to Google's Keyword Planner, enter those competitors' URLs in the "landing page" field, and spin out some more choice long-tail keyword suggestions.

Another fantastic option with Google Analytics is mining on-site searches; this post goes into greater length on the topic.

Google Search Console

Ever since Google took away "not provided" from Analytics, GSC has become my go-to source for additional search query opportunities. Many tools on the market use this data to gather intelligent reports on potential keywords.

Open up GSC and navigate to the Performance section to see the keyword traffic already hitting your website. Make sure to select "Average Position" on the chart displayed.

I like to sort by "Position" and go to terms that are around the 12-15 position range with high impressions.

With a little on-site optimization, you can easily bump these terms to first-page rankings!

Professional Tools

If you're not familiar yet with Ubersuggest, make sure to check it out and enter a search query. It will provide a nice list to explore further with either the keyword planner mentioned above or by simply going back to the Google search box strategy I've discussed.

However, SEMRush (Free 14-Day Trial) is by far the most used tool in my SEO arsenal. It is completely geared around keyword data, so it only makes sense that it has a "related" keywords section as well.

Navigate to the "Keyword Research" menu, then choose the "Related" sub-menu. After you enter your keyword term, you will have a 12-month volume date, CPC costs, and much more. I highly recommend this tool as part of your overall SEO strategy and to find long-tail keywords in your industry.

In Summary

The search for effective long-tail keywords is easier than many people think. It just takes time and a little attention to detail.

As mobile search continues to take over desktop search, and Google puts even greater emphasis on conversational search terms in organic search and PPC marketing, it will become increasingly important to know how to search for and identify the most effective long-tail keywords.