How to Find Long Tail Keywords for SEO

Keyword Research Oct 10, 2016

How to Find Long Tail Keywords

If you’re looking for ways on how to find long tail keywords, you’re probably already aware of how they differ from generic (or “head”) keywords. In a nutshell, long tail keywords are search phrases that typically consist of 3+ words and feature the following qualities:

– Have low SEO competition (which makes it easier to get into the Top 10 of search engine results pages).
– Are highly specific to certain niches (hence, can bring you highly qualified visitors that are very likely to convert to your customers/readers/followers).
– Have lower search volume compared to generic 1- or 2-word keywords. (However, in every niche there may be only a few of generic “head keywords”. While there are usually hundreds of long tail keyword variations, which, when added up, can potentially generate a decent volume of relevant traffic for your website.)

If you’re still not sure whether long tail SEO is the right strategy for promoting your website or blog, I highly encourage you to read this article first.

In this post I’m going to provide you with a plain-English guide on how to find long tail keywords. To make it as practical as possible, I divided the guide into 2 chapters:

1. Beginner – while this guide is the easiest to follow, it includes virtually all techniques you will need 99% of the time, regardless of whether you are a SEO Pro, or just launched your first blog. More advanced techniques will not let you find more long tail keywords. Instead, they may help SEOs and professional bloggers research keywords faster, especially when there are multiple topics/products/niches that need to be covered in a short period of time.

2. Intermediate – in this guide I will include additions details on how to research keyword competition and find seed keywords.

Before we proceed, I’d like to note that this guide includes only techniques that worked for me great and proved to be effective. But keyword research is more of an art than a science. While these guides can surely help you find long tail keywords, you may want to examine, modify and adopt the techniques to meet your personal preferences.

Finding Long Tail Keywords – Beginner’s Guide

Regardless of whether you are a beginner or a SEO professional, when conducting any keyword research, there are 3 core keyword qualities that you must pay attention to: relevance, search volume and competition. Your aim is to:

a) Find all keyword variations that prospects use when searching for your product/service/topic and then >
b) Outline those of the keywords that have the best balance between SEO competition and the traffic volume that they can potentially bring to your website.

So, here is how to do this:

Step #1. Compose a list of seed keywords.

Seed keywords are source phrases that you will use later to find long tail keywords. Each seed keyword can be used to generate tens or even hundreds of real-word queries that prospects use when searching Google.

Just write down 5-10 phrases that describe your product, service or topic. Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes – what would you type into Google if you were trying to find a given topic?

For best results, your seed keywords should consist of 2-4 words each. Why? This is because one-word keywords are too generic to be used as seed keywords. They may generate a lot of irrelevant long tail keyword variations that you will have to dig through and throw away.

On the other hand, phrases comprised of 5+ words are too specific to be used as seed keywords. They may limit the number of keyword ideas generated based on them. As a result, you may miss some of great opportunities.

Here is an example. Let’s assume, we are a software company that sells live chat widgets that can be embedded into any website to provide customer support in real time (e.g. chat with your website visitors to help them find what they are looking for).

What seed keywords come to your mind that can describe this product? Or, what keywords would you personally use if you were looking for such a product to install on your own website? Here are some ideas that come to my mind:

live chat software
live chat support software
live chat for website
support chat for website
live support chat

Ok, that should be enough to start with. So, these are our seed keywords that we’re going to use in a minute:

Step #2. Generate keyword variations based on seed keywords.

On this stage we’re going to use a keyword research tool to find long tail keyword variations based on our seed keywords.

For quite a long time, one of my favorite keyword generation tools was Google Keyword Planner. However, since August 2016 Google rolled out an update, which made the tool pretty much useless in terms of SEO. Instead of accurate search volume metrics, Keyword Planner now only shows broad data ranges, meaning you can’t figure out how much traffic each particular keyword can potentially bring to your website.

There are a lot of other keyword research tools, each having their benefits; you can use any of them, depending on your preferences. For this article, I’m going to use HitTail. From the ground up, HitTail has been designed specifically for long tail keyword research. It gives you pretty accurate search metrics and is not overwhelmed with tons of options that you hardly ever need. So, here we go…

1. Once you have registered a HitTail account, you will see the following search box:

HitTail Search Box

By default, HitTail is set to search for keywords common among users, which is a default Google search engine in the US. You can set it to one of 27 other countries if you want to limit keyword ideas and traffic volume estimates by searches made in your country only. For example, to find keywords popular among UK users, you would have to select (UK).

You can also search for keyword ideas in different languages. Just select your country and use seed keywords in an appropriate language.

Note: if you can’t find keyword ideas with your selected local Google search engine, try to switch it back to and repeat the search.

2. Once you’ve selected a search engine, enter one of the seed keywords into the field and press Search:

Enter Seed Keyword

3. On the screen appeared you should see a list of found long tail keywords relevant to your seed query along with their estimated number of monthly searches. These are real-world keywords that prospects use when searching Google for your topic.

4. At this step, I suggest not to waste time on reviewing the found keywords, but enter your next seed keyword and hit Search once again:

Enter Seed Keyword Again

5. You will get a list of new keyword ideas relevant to your second seed keyword. Now, repeat the above steps for the rest of your seed keywords.

6. Once this is done, go to the History tab and download all found long tail keywords by clicking on the Export button:

All Keywords Found

7. Open the downloaded file and sort the keywords alphabetically. In our “live chat” example, I’ve got around 160 keyword ideas. You can find the list here.

8. As you can see, there may be a number of irrelevant keywords in the list. You need to filter out and remove them. In this example I removed the following:

a) Keywords that contain 3rd party company names:

amazon live chat support
apple live chat support
at&t live chat support

Note: I removed such queries because they are just not relevant to this case study. But there may be cases when you want to target branded keywords on your website. For instance, when publishing reviews, or if you have an e-commerce site.

b) Keywords that contain words: “room”, “video”, “chatting”, “webcam”, “live cam” and alike. For example:

live chat room for website
live chat video software
live chatting software
live video chat software

Obviously, these queries are not relevant.

c) Keywords that contain the word “free”, assuming that we’re not going to provide the service for free.

d) Finally, I removed generic keywords that may have multiple semantic meanings. For example, it’s not clear what a user is looking for when searching Google with the phrase “live chat support”. Is it some kind of an online help service? Or is the user actually looking for live chat software? It’s better to stay away from such generic queries, as they may have high SEO competition and low conversion rate at the same time, meaning you may waste your time trying to get into Googles’ Top 10 with them.

9. Once cleared out all the junk keywords discovered during the first round of the research, I ended up with a much more pretty-looking list.

If you have found a decent list of long tail keywords by this stage too, go to Step #3. If you want to find even more keywords, then see Step #4 from the intermediate guide below.

Step #3. Choose the most promising keywords for your website.

Now that we’ve got a list of long tail keywords, we need to actually choose which of them to target on a website. Generally, I suggest following these basic guidelines:

1. Keywords that have the highest search volume are almost always extremely hard to target due to high competition. Don’t expect that your competitors are not aware of these keywords yet. And even if they don’t, they probably still target such keywords by including them into sites’ copy naturally, without even thinking about SEO.

If you’re starting a new site or blog on an established market and are not a professional SEO – skip high search volume keywords. Otherwise, you may waste too much time targeting them and still get no visits due to high competition.

Most of the time, the highest search volume queries are only suitable for mature sites that have a credible track record in their niche.

2. If you’re running your site for more than half a year, consider mid-range search volume keywords.

3. If you’ve just launched a new site, you’d better start with low-end search volume keywords to see how your website ranks with them first. If you’ve got into Google’s Top 10 easily, then consider targeting additional keywords that have higher search volume.

4. It is a good idea to target overlapped keywords on a single web-page. For example:

live chat software
best live chat software
live chat software for business
best live chat software for small business

These are basically several long tail variations of a single keyword. The trick is that with a single phrase included into a web-page’s Title tag and throughout the copy, you can target multiple keywords simultaneously.

For example, with the phrase “Best live chat software for small business”, you target 4 keywords at once. Of course, you shouldn’t overstuff your web-page with this phrase alone. Take advantage of the diversity, which such a group of keywords gives you, by including each phrase variation apart. But this is a topic of another article, which I’ll come up with soon.

So, the idea is to look through the list of all keywords you’ve found and outline overlapped long tail keyword variations into individual groups, which you can then target on different web-pages.

5. Regardless of the search volume, you should target no more than 3-5 keywords on a single web-page.

6. If there are several keywords that have the same search volume and you can’t decide which of them to choose, see Step #5 from the intermediate guide below.

Finding Long Tail Keywords – Intermediate Guide

Step #4. Discover additional seed keywords.

There may be cases when you can’t just sit and write down seed keywords from scratch. If you’re new to the market, you may need to conduct a quick research first to discover wording common in your niche. And if your blog or site covers multiple topics, you’ll be hunting for new keyword ideas on a regular basis. The next few tips should make your life easier:

1. Spy on your competitors’ keywords. This is a great starting point and one of the easiest ways to quickly get your first keyword ideas and then use them as your seed keywords for further research.

Just find your competitor’s sites or blogs and then browse them to scrape their keywords. You need to focus on key sites’ pages (home page, product pages) and blog articles. When browsing any web-page, pay attention to the following key elements:

Title tag. This is one of the most important HTML tags in the SEO world. If a web-page is actually optimized for SEO, then 99% of the times its Title tag contains one or several target keywords. But how to find a title tag of a given web-page?

It’s easy – just open a web-page in your browser, then click Ctrl+U. This will open the source code of the page. Now, click Ctrl+F to open a search filed and type in <title>. You should see a short sentence contained within the tag. For example, HitTail’s home page Title tag looks the following way:

Title Tag

So, the Title tag in this example is:

Long Tail Keyword Tool | Get Keyword Suggestions that Work

As you may have already guessed, the main keyword targeted with this Title tag is “long tail keyword tool”.

Once you’ve discovered keywords within a Title tag, write down them to use as seed keywords for further research.

– The other important elements you should pay attention to are web-page headings. These guys almost always contain target keywords too. If you take a look at HitTail’s home page once again, you’ll find the following headings and keywords contained in them:

The Long Tail Keyword Tool for Your Website
Keyword Research Made Easy
What Are Long Tail Keywords?
Why Should I Target Long Tail Keywords?
How HitTail Stands Out from Other Long Tail Keyword Tools

– Finally, read through web-pages’ texts. You almost certainly will find some great keyword ideas in there.

2. Browse through blog comments and forums where your prospects hang out. On forums pay attention to categories and thread topics since they may contain great ideas for seed keywords. When browsing through comments pay attention to common wording and questions that users ask.

3. Use Google’s “Searches related to” feature. Just type in any keyword in Google and hit search. Then scroll down to the bottom of the resulting page. You should find a list of related search phrases suggested by Google:

Related Searches

Here you may get some great ideas for your seed keywords. You can also click on any related phrase from the list and then scroll down the resulting page again to see new ideas based on the phrase you’ve just clicked on. This may be quite a long recurring loop, giving you new seed keyword ideas each time you click on a new phrase.

4. Use the keywords you have found with HitTail as your new seed keywords. That’s right, you can try to find even more long tail keyword variations based on keywords that you have found during the first round of research. Here is how this work:

– Find your first 5-10 seed keywords, as described earlier.
– Enter these seed keywords one-by-one into HitTail to get long tail variations based on them.
– Use the long tail keyword variations discovered with HitTail as your new seed keywords by entering them into HitTail.

Hint 1: to save your time and searches allotted to your HitTail account, keywords that you have already searched for are marked with a “SEED” label, which can help you avoid entering them twice:

Seed Keyword Label

Hint 2: you don’t necessarily need to enter literally all keywords that you’ve found during the first round of research as your new seed keywords. This list may be way too long. Instead, outline the most relevant phrases to your topic and then enter them as new seeds.

Step #5. Research keyword competition.

If you’ve found a large list of long tail keywords, but stuck when choosing which of them to actually target on your site, consider how hard will it be to get into Google’s Top 10 with one or another keyword.

There are numerous ways to research keyword competition, which can be covered in a whole new article. For now, I will stick with a basic technique that I use often and find to be efficient. So, here we go:

As I already mentioned in this article, one of the most important HTML tags in the SEO world is the Title tag. If a given page is SE-optimized to target some keyword, then almost certainly this keyword is included into the page’s Title tag.

By discovering how many web-pages across the Internet contain a given keyword in their Title tags, we get an idea of how many competitors we will have to outrank when targeting the same keyword.

This can be researched with the help of Google and the allintitle: operator. Just search Google with the following string:

allintitle:”example keyword phrase”

As a result, Google will return only web-pages that contain the exact phrase “example keyword phrase” in their Title tags. For example, there are 718 web-pages that contain the keyword “live chat for website” in their Title tags:

AllInTitle Operator

Repeat this for all of your keywords. Once done, you should end up with a table similar to this one, where:

  • Avg. Monthly Searches – estimated number of searches per month for a given keyword.
  • InTitle – the number of web-pages across the Internet that contain a given keyword in their title tags. Shows how many competitors you will have to outrank with this keyword.
  • InTitle to Search Ratio – the number of pages with the keyword in their title tags divided by the number of searches per month (InTitle/Avg. Monthly Searches). Higher ratio means higher competition.

For the lowest possible competition, you should choose keywords with the lowest InTitle metric. In our example, these are the following keywords:

Low Competition Keywords

If you believe that your site is strong enough to rank for more competitive keywords, than it is a good idea to sort the table based on the InTitle to Search Ratio. This column shows you the keywords that have the best balance between search volume and competition. In our example, I would probably choose the keyword “live chat for website”, which has 320 searches per month on average and resides near the top of the table.

Final Thoughts

In this article I tried to provide you with the most straightforward and easy to follow guide on how you can find long tail keywords for your site or blog. For sure, there are hundreds of more comprehensive techniques out there, which would probably require a whole book to cover them. But this guide is a good point you can start from and I hope it will help you to find great keywords for your niche.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

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