What are Long Tail Keywords and Why are They Important?

You will of course be aware that websites are made up of words and the algorithms that search engines use to display their search results use these words, or content, to decide what your page is about.

The algorithms are extremely complex and constantly changing but part of the process is to pick out words and phrases on your page that match the searchers query, and depending on how well your page matches that query, and how well other factors strengthen your web pages case, and how your page compares to all your competitors, will decide where your page appears in the results.

The ‘other factors’ part of the process comes down to the trust that they have in your website. Is it well established? Does it already have good visitor traffic? Do other websites link to it? Does it comply with their guidelines? Does it display any signs of being unprofessional or untrustworthy? Has it been created to answer searchers queries or just to attract search engines? All these factors and more weigh your page higher or lower against your competitors pages that are competing for the same high positions for the same words and phrases. To get to the highest positions your page needs to score well on all counts. Especially if the word or phrase appears on lots of web pages.

The more common the word is and the shorter it is, the more web pages it will appear on. Take the word ‘the’, it is just three letters long and is one of the most common words in the English language. This is the fourth paragraph on this page and the word ‘the’ has now appeared 19 times, yet this page would never appear in the results for just that one short word. This is just an example because in reality the word ‘the’ is known as a ‘stop word’. These are short words that the English language uses to connect longer more meaningful words, so in reality are ignored by search engines anyway, except when they are part of the known and accepted name for a major organization or entity. So if you search for the word ‘the’ online,the first results that are shown are pages about the word ‘the’, so dictionary and thesaurus type websites that are offering a definition of the word. These are then followed by web pages from well known entities such as The Telegraph, The Times, The University of Sheffield, The Economist etc. Next you start to get to major global websites that are important in their own right , that just happen to use that word. Other websites are never going to get anywhere targeting that small word.

If I search for the phrase ‘The Nick Colley’ without the quotation marks, this website appears at position 51 and it has nothing to do with the word The, it is just being ranked on the two words Nick and Colley. Doing the search again leaving off the ‘the’ shows this website at position 52, so the addition of ‘the’ gave it one extra position.

Now how about we search for ‘Nick Colley SEO’, all of a sudden this website is at positions 1 and 2 of the first page of Google. How about ‘Nick Colley Affiliate’? Same result, positions 1 and 2 of Google. That is because Google is able to find those 3 words together on the same web page, but they don’t appear on the same 2 pages of any other websites, so this one gets the top spots. However, how many times is anyone going to search for those combinations of words? Probably never. How about ‘Nick Colley Ferrari’? This time this website is at position 3 and I get a mention on the website at position 4, because the Ferrari that I used to drive that I mention on my About Me page is mentioned here along with my name (I hadn’t seen that before now!).

These are Long Tail Keywords. A selection of words or a phrase that brings your web page soaring to the top of the results, but as you can see, it is easy to get to the top positions for words and phrases that are virtually never searched for but the more frequently the phrase is searched for, the more other websites will compete for it too, and therefore the more difficult it is to get to those top positions.

In a perfect world you could get a list of phrases relevant to your niche that are searched for, but just less frequently. That way you could build pages that targeted those phrases that are searched for, just not as often, and with far less competition and start hitting those top results pages!

Well in reality you can get just that. Just search for Google Keyword Planner. You will need to register for an account, but it costs you nothing, so just go ahead and do it. Once inside the keyword planner go to ‘Discover New Keywords’ and below where it says ‘Start With Keywords’ type marketing then hit the tab key on your keyboard, then type affiliate marketing, then tab again and type ethical affiliate marketing and hit enter on your keyboard. The keyword planner will now analyse those phrases. If you look at the top of the list of results you will see a number representing the number of monthly searches then an indication of how difficult it is to compete for that phrase.

Notice that the single word marketing has an estimated 10k-100k average monthly services but low competition. That is a little misleading because it is referring to competion for Google Ads, competition is low because nobody will pay Google to advertise for the word Marketing, it is just too broad a phrase, add the word affiliate and the searches are the same but competition is medium, add the word ethical and the average monthly searches drops to 10-100 but competition stays at medium.

Below those words are other related suggestions with their average monthly searches and competition.

The point of this is to show how choosing longer phrases allows you a greater chance to compete for phrases with lower searches but also lower competition. These longer phrases are known as long tail keywords.

The problem with Google’s keyword planner is that it is just the start, it gives you a clue but the data isn’t detailed enough to show you enough long tail keywords along with more accurate data, but it’s a start.

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