Are You Missing Out on These Seven Ways to Get High-Ranking Long-tail Keywords?

SEO Jun 18, 2013

Getting your site’s content to rank is serious work, especially for competitive keywords. For long-tail terms that bring traffic from variety of keywords, it’s unlikely you’ll have the resources to optimize for every term in the same way as you would for primary keywords.

Although long-tail terms have lower search volumes individually, there’s often less competition, more overall searches, and can often be better for converting traffic. So instead of ignoring long-tail optimization, your efforts must be efficient and focused.

If you have limited time and resources but want to maximize long-tail traffic, here’s how to get your content to rank.

1. Optimize with keyword qualifiers

An easy way to make long-tail terms from head keywords is to tack on qualifiers that make keywords more specific. This has a twofold advantage: Google looks for these terms when deciding how to rank content and earchers also use these terms when they have a particular question or a certain intent.

For example, say you’re targeting terms related to “textbooks.” Using a tool like Ubersuggest, we can find qualifiers to generate effective long-tail results. A few types include:

  • Intent: “textbooks for sale” or “textbooks for rent”

  • Location: “textbooks Austin” or “textbooks library”

  • Date: “textbooks tax deductible 2012”

  • Price: “textbooks for cheap” or “textbooks used”

In all these cases, the key term of “textbook” has become more specific in what the searcher is looking for while likely becoming less competitive for the search term.

Once you know which terms to target, either mix these modifications into your content or create additional pages or articles that address these search terms.

2. Interlink between posts

While your long-tail strategy probably can’t and won’t involve much manual linkbuilding for every key term, the links you can get easily 100% of the time are your own.

In addition to linking with hubs, link back to other content from your archives. Creatively interlink within your own content library when it’s useful and makes sense. Make linking to 2-3 posts in your archive a step for every new piece of content you write.

These links should use varied anchored texts, which both helps attract traffic from a variety of long-tail terms as well as over Google’s over-optimization penalties that have become a recent threat.

3. Create hubs with long-tail content

A content hub is essentially content with a related theme. Creating an effective hub involves creating more specific content around that theme on different pages and then interlinking the content.

Explained in depth in this SEOmoz post, a hub is most effective when there’s a center landing page that then links out to the spoked content from there. In their example, “Super Bowl recipes” is the main page with “tailgate guacamole,” “touchdown cole slaw,” and other recipe pages linked to and from the main recipe page.

The beauty of this strategy is it’s easy for publishers to link back and forth between these topics. The main pages also serves as the authority page where search visitors can land and instantly find several other pages of content that are useful to them.

Finding the right key terms to target in content hubs is an important part of the process. HitTail makes this easy. Instead of trying to make sense of your traffic in Google Analytics then doing even more keyword research to find new terms, HitTail analyzes your current traffic automatically and provides a list of promising keywords to target. From there, you simply publish the content and wait for search traffic to come.

4. Include topical references

Work in related terms to the topic you’re writing about that come from keyword research. For example, if my article is about “long-tail content,” Google is likely to recognize topical references including “white hat SEO,”  “long-tail keywords,” and more.

These related phrases are easily found using the Google Adwords tool. While they made be included in your content naturally, they can be important for ranking for a variety of terms related to your main topic. Doing so can be more effective for a variety of long-tail terms rather than repeatedly mentioning the same head terms in hopes of ranking for just one phrase.

topical references

5. Diversify keyword phrases

Rather than worrying about keyword density of your content, benefit from diversifying the phrases you’re using.

Instead of dropping in the phrase “used textbooks” a dozen times, mix in “textbooks for sale” or “cheap textbooks” for full effect. Using a variety of related terms can bring in traffic from a variety of search terms as well as prevent over-optimization penalties from unnatural and excessive use of the same keyword.

6. Spend time on titles

The title of your content is one of the most important factors for both how your content ranks and how effective it is in generating long-tail traffic. Because if this, make sure to spend a few minutes optimizing and perfecting the title before you publish.

One hack: creatively optimize title tags for both searchers and search engines.  Search Engine Watch notes: “While it’s true that only the first 65 characters will be displayed in search results, it is equally true that keywords found after the 65th character will be recognized and counted in the ranking algorithms of major search engines.”

The strategy for this is simple: use the first 65 characters to attract attention and earn the click in organic search. Use characters after that to target long-tail terms that may be less important to human searchers yet will still be recognized by search engines to rank your content.

7. Make it hard for Google to hate your content

Since the Panda update, Google has been on the lookout for low-quality content. While we don’t know exactly what and how Google ranks this content, this post from the Google Webmaster Central Blog gives a lot of hints at how Google designs its algorithms to determine quality.

Some highlights from this lengthy list include:

  • Spelling and stylistic mistakes as well as articles that aren’t well-edited or “appear sloppy or hastily produced.”

  • Poor site design that isn’t user-friendly and/ or has too many ads (which Google has punished before).

  • Redundant content featuring multiple articles that vary keywords and focus only slightly.

  • Short articles that don’t provide much depth on a topic.

Your content doesn’t have to win a Pulitzer, but high-quality content that’s original, well-written, and presented to help readers is ultimately the content Google wants to feature with high rankings.

Have you used any of these strategies or others to maximize long-tail traffic?

  1. Avatar

    Rob, thanks for sharing the tips.

    Having said that, I cannot help but think that various SEO tricks in the end boild down to the old “An SEO copywriter walks into a bar, grill, pub, public house, Irish, bartender, drinks, beer, wine, liquor…”.

    Maybe I am missing something but these techniques – such as using first 65 chars of the title to attract attention and then using the remaining ones for long tail keywords – look artificial to me from the reader’s standpoint.

    I couldn’t put my finger on it but now I realise what was bothering me in all those countless articles on the net – they are written partially with a human reader in mind, as well as with the machine (read – google search bot) in mind, and it shows through that artificial plastic aftertaste.

    Maybe I haven’t seen any goods examples of balanced SEO/human-targeted articles – if that’s the case, would you be able to share any?

    Thanks for your effort, Rob.

    1. Avatar
      Rob Walling

      The truth is, the countless articles on the net you’ve run across are poorly written. Even if not written for search engines, they are just plain bad.

      But a good writer makes it look easy. In fact, the better the writer, the less you will notice they are writing for anything other than you, the single person who is currently reading the post.

      Examples of solid content that also hits some SEO keywords is: anything on the KISSmetrics blog, most posts on the Bidsketch blog, and the last couple posts written by me on this blog. Anyone doing content marketing well (and it’s not easy) is likely starting with some keyword or keywords in mind. But if they do their job well you, as the reader, will not notice.

  2. Avatar

    Actually, this particular page on seems to be a good example of “hubs” –

  3. Avatar
    Kris Olin

    Great post, Rob! This is actually one of the few I have read from top to bottom this week! Cheers, Kris

  4. Avatar
    Kris Olin

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to introduce a related SEO article on SMR this morning: 8 Ways To Keep Your Website Safe From The Angry Google Penguin >

    (Don’t worry, I’ll understand if you don’t want to publish this link, mate 🙂

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