Long-Tail Keywords: The Last Guide You’ll Ever Need [2019 Edition]

If you are a website that doesn’t have a high authority, long tail keywords are the main reason why you still stand a chance against the behemoths of your niche.

A properly developed long tail keyword strategy will give you the opportunity to enter most competitive niches and get SEO traffic within a year when done properly.

This is what we have done with the latest site we sold and how we got it to 5 figure revenue really quickly.

Unlike the other “long tail keyword guides” you will find around, we will focus on practical advice in this one and help you learn how to find long tail keywords and how to use them to get more traffic.

Of course, for the most beginners of our readers, we first need to answer the question. “What are long tail keywords?” so here we go:

What are long tail keywords?

Long-tail keywords are multi-word phrases (often at least 3 words) that have very little competition. They are often extremely precise and carry a high level of commercial intent.

These keywords often draw less traffic but the traffic is often of better quality and has a higher conversion rate.

There are two basic types of keyword in the wide, wide world of SEO:

  • Short-tail keywords
  • Long-tail keywords

We’ll cover the differences between them in a little bit.

They’re called long-tail keywords because they exist at the “tail end” of user search behavior:

Long Tail & Short Tail Keywords

Long-Tail vs. Short-Tail Keywords

Salty old SEO dogs are probably wondering what a “short-tail” keyword is.

It’s a “Broad” or “Head” keyword by another name.

The reason we’re using “short-tail” is to prevent the confusion that arises from people trying to figure out if broad and head keywords are the same thing, etc.

Anyways.

So what are short-tail keywords?

These are the exact opposite of long-tail keywords in that they are 1 or 2-word phrases with extremely high search volume, and equally high levels of competition.

Now, I know fans of the Ahrefs blog are probably going to say “Yeah, but…it’s not about the length of the phrase”, and we’d agree with Tim that size isn’t always everything.

What we want to avoid here is delving too deeply into the science of SEO.

Instead, we’re going to stick with the practical stuff you can read during your lunch break, understand without a degree in math, and then apply to your site/clients’ sites by this weekend.

Fair enough?

Awesome.

Long-tail keyword examples

Okay, we’ve nailed the terminology, so let’s take a look at some examples of long-tail keywords in a few different industries.

This will give you a much better idea of how long and short-tail keywords relate to each other in the real world.

That’s because to find long-tail keywords you have to start your search with a short-tail term.

Our seed keyword in this example is “motorcycle helmet”.

After running this through our long-tail keyword discovery process we find these keywords:

  • Full face motorcycle helmet
  • Motorcycle helmets with Bluetooth
  • Modular motorcycle helmets

But there are thousands more to choose from:

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

Or, let’s say you wanted to find keywords for the dog food niche.

Our seed keyword here is “dog food”, and we get the following results:

  • Best dog food for puppies
  • Low protein dog food
  • Best senior dog food

There are hundreds of thousands of long-tail keywords for this phrase:

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

As you can see these keywords have all the qualities we mentioned earlier:

  • Contain multiple words or phrases
  • Have very specific search and high commercial intent
  • Are unlikely to have strong (or any) competition

Long-tail Keywords for SEO

Inexperienced SEOs and affiliate marketers obsess over keyword search volume.

The higher the search volume the more obsessed they become because “…if they can just rank for that keyword” then all their problems will be solved.

It’s only after spending a few years in this industry you start to realize a few things.

The first of these is that those keywords with 90,000 searches per month aren’t worth the effort to rank for, at least not in the early days of a site.

Secondly that you can achieve better results, far more quickly, by optimizing your site for long-tail keywords instead.

And finally, search volume figures are unreliable.

What most site owners don’t realize is that up to 75% of their organic traffic comes from a handful of long-tail keywords.

They don’t know this because they never think to check – they’re just happy to be ranking and banking.

I’ve even seen cases where 90% of the organic traffic to a website came from one single long-tail keyword phrase.

The hilarious part is this keyword had an estimated 320 searches per month.

Guess how many visitors it generated for the site each month?

Over 3,000 unique visitors…from a single keyword.

Why you should use long tail keywords

I had to think about this for a while, or at least about the main reason why long-tail keywords are so important.

There are lots of reasons to use these keywords in your content marketing and SEO efforts.

But the main one, for me at least, is this:

Long-tail keywords mirror search behavior.

From my point of view, this is the equivalent of being handed a crystal ball for search engine optimization.

Long Tail Keywords Future

I don’t need to guess what people are searching for, or what words they use.

Nope, because all of that data is already there for me in the form of long-tail keywords.

But let’s get a bit more granular here, and look at some very specific reasons why you can’t afford to overlook long-tail keywords.

To get more traffic

A short-tail keyword with 100,000 searches per month will be difficult to rank for.

It takes time, effort and sometimes money to build enough domain authority to compete in this space.

Long-tail keywords have far less competition, so are much easier to rank for.

Now I can hear some people saying “Yeah, but what good are 10 searches per month to me?”

We analyzed the ~1.9 BILLION keywords in Ahrefs’ US database and
found that a whopping 92.42% of them get ten searches per month or fewer.
Source: Ahrefs.com

And that’s where most newbie marketers and SEOs fail – that obsession with search volume.

Yes, that keyword might only get 10 searches per month, but you can include 10 – 20 of them in every blog post.

You could invest 18 months and thousands of hours in ranking for a single short-tail keyword.

Or you could invest the same amount of time and effort in ranking for a handful of long-tail keywords that could account for thousands of extra visitors per month.

Personal example:

I have a test site that I use to play around with different SEO tactics.

The site has seven pages of content, but those pages rank for 248 separate keywords.

Actually, three of those pages haven’t been indexed properly yet, so make that 4 pages ranking for 248 keywords.

That’s the power of long-tail.

To achieve higher conversion rates

CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) is the Holy Grail of online marketing.

Put simply it means making more money from the same amount of traffic.

But the problem most businesses have is understanding what type of content will appeal to their target demographic.

Long-tail phrases solve that problem by providing you with a clear map of what a searcher’s intent is.

Basically, it’s much easier to convert a visitor into a paying customer if they land on a page that directly addresses their query.

Keyword Length Impressions Clicks Conversions
Source: Searchenginewatch.com

As you can see from the above chart, there’s a direct correlation between the length of a search query and higher conversion rates.

The sweet spot appears to be between 6 and 12 words in your long-tail phrase.

It doesn’t matter what their question/request/desire is – they’ll stick around if you provide the right answer.

If you don’t, they’ll bounce.

Let’s say you’re doing SEO for a mobile phone store.

You need to create content to attract more organic traffic from the search engines.

So you do some keyword research, but you just can’t decide which keyword to write a blog post around:

  1. Smartphone covers
  2. Leather smartphone covers for Samsung S10

A blog post focused on the second keyword is going to convert at a far higher rate than a generic page on smartphone covers.

Why?

Because the second keyword is at the extreme end of the long-tail of search i.e. that person has their credit card out, ready to make the purchase.

You don’t need to guess what their intent is – long-tail keywords tell you.

To help you rank for more competitive queries

Now here’s a way of using long-tail keywords that very few people either know about or give much thought to.

I mentioned earlier that SEOs and affiliates get themselves into a rut because of “search volume” tunnel vision.

Out of the gate, they inadvertently decide to chase after a ridiculously competitive keyword.

But you can hack your way to ranking for a competitive query by using the power of the long-tail.

The first thing you’ll need to do is create a pillar or epic post around the competitive short-tail keyword you want to rank for.

If you’re not sure what epic/pillar posts are we cover them in The Authority Site System 2.0. *Cough…blatant pitch*

Make your epic post the best it can be, fully optimize it, and then forget about it.

Your next step is to rank for low-competition or no-competition keywords.

Wait…there are “no-competition” keywords?

Brand New Queries In Google

Yup, there are lots of long-tail keywords that have literally no competition because:

  1. They’re brand new search terms
  2. They’re not found in keyword tools, for various reasons

We cover how to find these later on in this blog post, so bookmark this page now before you get distracted by your friend’s latest stories on Instagram.

The types of long-tail keywords we want to focus on here are informational e.g. “How do I do x” or “What’s the best x for y” type of questions.

These are the same questions you see asked in Facebook groups, or on sites like Quora or Yahoo Answers.

Once you find a keyword with little or no competition you build a page of content around it.

Your focus here is to provide the best possible answer to the search query.

Note: Google’s entire business model is built on a single idea: Provide searchers with the best possible answer to their question.

Here’s one way to do a quick check on competition – an AllInTitle search.

Open a Google search window and then type in the command: Allintitle:your keywordsl

Allintitle Advanced Google Search

Yup, four other pages are actively optimizing for this keyword.

Just bear in mind that “Allintitle” searches should be taken as an estimate, and not a written-in-stone promise.

For a keyword like “What are the best vegetarian dog treats to use for training” your goal is to create a seriously good blog post on the topic.

A piece of content people would actually want to link to.

Then go looking for those links.

What you’ll find is that informational content like this is also easier to negotiate (not pay) for links to.

Why?

Because it’s not a “money” page.

Quick hack: You could also run some Facebook ads/a boosted post for your blog post. If it’s good enough you’ll get some social shares and possibly a link or two.

Repeat this process several times until you have several linkable assets that are now ranking in Google, thanks to your link negotiation skills.

Money Page & Long Tail Keywords

Then by adding a series of internal links from your long-tail pages, you help your “money” page to rank.

SEOs might recognize this as a “Reverse Silo” but the difference is we’re not using guest blog posts or PBNS to boost the bottom of the silo.

We’re just hacking Google instead.

To have endless content ideas

Let’s say you have a website dedicated to smartphones.

You can create pages on the different phone brands, smartphone accessories and the different plans available.

But you run out of ideas more quickly than you thought.

This is because you’re focusing on short-tail keywords – the very top of the search curve, with lots of volume but very few variations for that keyword.

As you start to work your way down the keyword curve you force yourself to do some lateral thinking.

And that’s when you start coming up with keywords like these:

  • Fun hacks for the Galaxy S10
  • Make an SD card your internal storage
  • How do you block a phone number?
  • Why won’t my iPhone videos load?
  • What’s the best photo app for the iPhone?

Do you think you could write a blog post, or record a YouTube video, on any of the above topics?

Of course you could, and your audience would love you for doing that.

Google will also love you because you’re providing searchers with a valuable source of relevant content.

That’s why I always frown when I hear people say “I’ve run out of keywords” or “I can only find high competition keywords”.

Keywords Everywhere

I can guarantee that will happen if you only focus on short-tail phrases.

But it’s pretty much impossible to run out of content ideas if you spend a few minutes each week researching long-tail keywords.

Even the clumsiest attempt at researching these types of keywords will have your content calendar full for years to come

How to find long tail keywords

The good news is there’s a number of keyword tools available to help you harvest all those long-tail keywords for your future blog posts.

Yes, you can do the research manually, but it takes time.

The benefit of using tools is that you spend less time looking for keywords, and more time on your content writing and publishing schedule.

Another fringe benefit of using keywords tools is that they can and do turn up keywords that aren’t always obvious when you’re doing research manually.

We’ve already covered the very best keyword research tools in lots of details in a previous blog post.

The Best Keyword Research Tools For Seo

But we know some of you probably want a TLDR version of this post so here goes:

  • Don’t use the Google Keyword Planner
  • Keyword search volume metrics are unreliable
  • Ubersuggest is more powerful than you think
  • Add Answer The Public to your list of free keyword tools
  • Get yourself a KWFinder subscription if you’re on a budget
  • But get Ahrefs if you want to have keyword research superpowers

How to find long tail keywords for free

The good news is that you can use a number of free tools, including Google, to find thousands of long-tail keywords.

The only real downside here is that it takes more time.

But if that’s what you have lots of, then you’re in for a treat.

The first place we’re going to look for long-tail keywords is within Google itself.

After all, what better place to harvest keywords from than the world’s biggest search engine?

Google Auto-Complete

This is your first step when looking for free long-tail keywords.

Just open up a Google search window and type in a seed keyword:

Google Autocomplete

As you do this you’ll notice Google suggests some keywords for you:

Google Autocomplete

You can then expand on this list by typing a letter after your seed keyword to get even more keywords:

Google Autocomplete

Straight away I’ve found some long-tail keywords I hadn’t considered:

  • Smartphones and mental health
  • Smartphones and depression

These could be great choices for a contrarian blog post on smartphone technology, and they’re also very topical right now.

You will turn up some absolute gems by repeating this process using each letter of the alphabet.

But we’re not done with Google just yet.

Again enter your seed keyword into a search window:

Google Autocomplete

But this time scroll down to the bottom of the page where it says, “Searches related to…”

And you get another set of keywords:

Google Related Searches

You could then take one of these keywords and use it as a new seed keyword for another round of Auto-Complete research:

Google Autocomplete

And also for “Searches related to…”:

Google Related Questions

Answer the Public

Next up for keyword research shenanigans is this extremely useful tool.

Answer The Public automates the process of finding auto-complete keywords, and it’s completely free.

Enter your seed keyword from the main screen and click ‘Get Questions’:

Answerthepublic Smartphones Query

What Answer The Public also does is generate a list of questions related to your seed keyword.

These are usually ideal long-tail keywords to combine into a single blog post, or for a whole series of them:

Looking at the keywords above I can see a few interesting keywords like:

  • Can smartphones get viruses
  • Can smartphones get malware

I found these in under 30 seconds, so imagine what you could uncover if you spent an hour using this tool?

This free keyword tool also provides suggestions based on Prepositions, Comparisons, Alphabeticals and Related Searches:

Answerthepublic Smartphones Query Results

And you don’t need to scribble these down in notepad because Answer The Public allows you to export them to a .csv file.

Ubersuggest

Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest is another great free tool for uncovering long-tail keywords for your marketing efforts.

Again, just enter a seed keyword into the search bar, choose your region and click ‘Search’

Then scroll down until you see ‘View all keyword ideas’

Ubersuggest Keyword Ideas

And you’ll find 135 additional keywords to potentially add to your list:

Ubersuggest All Keyword Ideas

We find more valuable keywords like “Smartphones without a camera” for people who might want to downgrade to a more basic phone.

Another interesting keyword is “Smartphones for the elderly”, which would make a great blog post for senior citizens who love technology but need a phone suitable for their years.

Ubersuggest constantly has new features added to it, so it’s worth keeping an eye on how this tool develops.

How to use long tail keywords to get search traffic

So far long-tail keywords sound amazing, right?

You harvest a ton of long-tail keywords, write content around them and wait for all those new organic visitors to make you rich.

Right?

Wrong!

As with everything in life, there are nuances.

This is why some of the pages you create around long-tail terms soar, while others get zero traffic.

But you can’t understand why – all the metrics indicated you were on to a winner.

The beauty of long-tail phrases is that you typically end up ranking for hundreds of related keywords.

The problem with them is that from Google’s perspective those keywords are not always as unique as they seem.

You see, Google groups keywords together under “Parent topics”.

This means you could wind up writing two separate articles that aren’t true long-tail keywords but are actually variants of a very competitive short-tail keyword.

Let me illustrate this with a few examples from Ahrefs:

Ahrefs Parent Topics

Don’t skip ahead – this bit is important.

On the left-hand side, you see a group of interesting long-tail keywords.

They appear to be unique.

Now look to the right-hand column and you’ll notice these keywords are part of the same “group”.

This means Google views these six separate keywords under the “parent topic” of “are smartphones making us stupid”.

This is a real shame because when we check how competitive the keyword is we find this:

Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty

So although these appear to be perfect long-tail keywords for you to target, you’d be better off focusing on the parent keyword instead.

Let’s look at another example:

Ahrefs Parent Topics

In the left-hand column I can see three separate long-tail keywords I’d like to target:

  • Top 10 Android smartphones
  • Best mid range smartphones 2018
  • Best cheap unlocked smartphones 2018

Anyone doing keyword research would assume these are solid keywords to target.

They’re unique, contain multiple words, so should make great keywords for three separate blog posts.

But they’re actually part of the parent keyword group “best android phone”.

This means writing separate blog posts on these keywords is a waste of time.

You’d actually need to write one epic blog post that contains all three to get any real traffic benefit.

And when we check how competitive that keyword is we get this result:

Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty

Yeah…let’s not go there.

And that’s why people wind up writing content around long-tail keywords that doesn’t rank.

Thorough Keyword Research

It’s a tough lesson to learn, but a valuable one.

Give the searcher what they want

Have you ever Googled something, and then had to trawl through several sites before you found the information you wanted?

You’re not alone.

Google still does a pretty poor job in delivering content that actually matches a whole range of search queries.

Sometimes this is because their algorithm is “off”.

But in other cases, it’s because they can’t actually find a page that 100% matches your search query, so they give you the next best thing.

Google isn’t omnipotent, no matter what some gurus tell you.

And those “next best” pages present you with an opportunity to get tons of free long-tail traffic by simply providing more relevant content.

Let’s look at a few examples to illustrate this.

Search query: What’s the difference between after sun and moisturizer?

Here’s what Google returns in the SERPs:

Google Query Serp Results

Now take a few moments to look at these search results, and featured snippets, and ask yourself one question: Do these pages answer my search query?

Nope, they’re not even close.

Maybe one of those pages has what you’re looking for.

But you’ll have to go looking for it = poor search experience.

What this tells you is that Google would love a page of content that answers the original question: “What’s the difference between after sun and moisturizer

Now all you have to do is create it.

There’s a very good chance this is a “no competition” long-tail keyword.
Let’s look at another example.

Search query: How to drill through studs behind drywall

YouTube results are displayed first, which makes sense for this type of keyword – people want to see how it’s done:

Youtube Results In Google

The mere sight of a video result is enough to have most SEOs and affiliate marketers running in the opposite direction.

But…you’ll also notice that only one of those videos comes close to answering the search query.

And even then it’s not an exact match.

The other two videos might have some relevance, but am I going to sit through two videos to find out?

Nope and neither would 90% of Joe and Josephine Internet.

So that instantly tells us there’s an opportunity here to get a video featured for this keyword if you put in the work.

Now let’s take a look at the featured snippets and other organic search results:

Google Related Questions

None of the featured snippets answer our search query.

Only one of the first four results even touches on the question. Even better, when I actually check that page out it has zero SEO focus – it’s a mess.

Nowhere in the SERPS do we see a page with the title How to drill through studs behind drywall.

So, again we have an excellent keyword opportunity here.

But you could double your potential traffic by:

  1. Creating a short video to answer the search query
  2. Writing a relevant, useful blog post on the topic – maybe using screenshots from the video

There’s no guarantee you’d get a double placement on the first page for your separate video and blog post…but there’s a bloody good chance you just might.

Quick hack: If you see Quora listed in the SERPs for a long-tail keyword then it’s worth looking into. If somebody had to resort to using Quora (or Reddit, forums, etc.) for information on a subject, that generally means they couldn’t find the information in Google and that the query is uncompetitive.

Add keyword depth to your pages

Another way of getting more traffic from long-tail keywords is to add more of them to your existing pages.

You might think your pages are fully optimized for their target keyword.

But there’s a very good chance you’re wrong.

Method #1

One way of figuring out what keywords you might have missed out on is to use SurferSEO.

This very cool tool allows you to analyze search results for your target keyword, and then compare your URL against competitor’s pages.

The end result is that you get a list of common words and phrases that exist on other pages but not on yours:

Surferseo Common Words:phrases Report

All you have to do now is include these words and long-tail phrases in your content to get a boost in organic traffic.

You can reword some of your sentences to work them in, or maybe even include some of them in your H1 – H4 tags.

Each of those words or phrases might only result in an extra 10 or 20 searches per month, but that still represents a pretty big jump in traffic e.g. from 1,000 to 1,520 searches is a 52% increase.

Those are the kind of results you hear SEO gurus crowing about.

How quickly will you see a traffic bump?

That all depends on how much authority your site has, but you’ll typically see an increase in organic traffic within a few weeks.

Oh, and you sign up for Surfer SEO here .

It’s our new favorite SEO tool and it’s very affordable for what it does.

Method #2

You can also use Ahrefs to find additional keywords for your content.

Let’s say you have a blog post on “How to establish healthy eating habits”, and somewhere in that blog post, you mention bananas.

But even after several months, you notice your page isn’t ranking for any banana-related keywords.

So you need to do a bit of research on what long-tail keywords you might add to your content mix.

Need More Keywords

After entering the seed keyword of “bananas” into Ahrefs, you filter by ‘Also rank for’ phrases:

Ahrefs Question Keywords

And you now have three additional long-tail keywords to add to your existing blog post:

  • How many calories in a banana
  • How many carbs in a banana
  • Banana nutrition facts

Also, each of them is from a different ‘Parent topic’ so there’s no overlap between them.

Next up let’s look at the ‘Questions’ section of Ahrefs for the keyword “benefits of bananas”:

Ahrefs Question Keywords

You have another question to add to your blog post, or possibly even a topic for an entirely new blog post if you want to do that.

You might be wondering why answering questions is important for getting tons of organic traffic?

Three-word answer: Featured snippets, baby.

Landing a featured snippet can give you a major boost in traffic.

But even if that doesn’t happen you can still increase your organic traffic by simply analyzing what keywords your pages are missing, and then including them.

Summary

You made it to the end.

Alright!

Keyword research isn’t the most exciting thing to talk about, but long-tail keywords have so much potential you’d be insane to overlook them.

What tip do you plan on putting into action now that you can see the power of long-tail?
Hit us up with a comment below.

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