Longtail Keyword Suggestions for SEO

As a part of the SEO work I do, I’ve been experimenting a lot with long tail keywords. These are lesser searched keywords which can help drive significant amounts of traffic to your website. Rather than trying to drive traffic to your site by targeting highly competitive search terms, you drive traffic via many more less-searched terms.

Focus on this sort of traffic is seeing a resurgence. From a conversion perspective, it’s gold. The closer the user intent is to your content, they more likely they are to convert into a sale/subscription/trial/whatever else you’re trying to get people to do. It’s also much easier to get high rankings for these keywords, as very few people are directly competing for that keyword.

For me, and I assume many others, long tail keyword traffic comes about through blog posts. If you’re not blogging: why not? Start now! If you already are, are you focusing your posts on the right keywords? By the ‘right’ keywords, I mean specific keywords likely to grab you a small amount of search traffic.

Think small. It’s all about dealing with the specifics, rather than the big picture. I’m probably never going to rank for “WordPress”, or even “WordPress Security”, but I do get a lot of traffic to my post about “WordPress Security Tips”.

I’ve been trying out various approaches to blogging across multiple websites both for myself and for clients. The results are looking positive. One client has been blogging consistently for over a year and sales on that site are slowly increasing. After this one year point, it’s time to re-focus the blogging on what matters and really try and push up the conversion rates (how to covert long tail traffic is going to be a whole other post).

The Media Realm website has been going for only a couple of months now, and with no real inbound links and little promotional effort I’m seeing over 1000 unique visitors per month – and it’s increasing every month. Due to the nature of my work and interests, my content is across a variety of topics. I’m finding that some people are actually signing up for my newsletter after reading these posts. I also have a very good time spent on each page – I can only assume this means people are finding what they want.

 

As I’m a bit of a statistics nut/hack, I find it useful to tweak my content and focus on the posts that are actually getting traction. Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools are very useful for this, and I check them at least once a week to see what’s been happening. There’s little point writing about something and having no one read it (unless you find writing therapeutic, which I’ll admit I often do).

Another tool I’ve been trying out lately is HitTail. This is a web app which tracks all incoming search traffic and suggests keywords you should be writing about. By loading their Javascript onto your page, they record every referral and run it through their suggestions algorithm. How their algorithm works is another matter, and something I’d like to explore more at some point, but essentially the result you get is a list of keywords they think you’ll rank on the number one page of Google for. If you create a quality page with this keyword as the title, you’re almost guaranteed to get on page one. At least that’s what they claim.

At first, I found this tool fairly useless as I didn’t get much search traffic and the algorithm couldn’t pick anything out of it. However, in the second month I started to see more suggestions and at the time of writing I’ve actually used a couple of suggestions and seen reasonable results from them.

An inherent limitation with HitTail is that you will only see suggestions for keywords you are already getting traffic for. It won’t magically work out completely new keywords and suggest those. In fact, due to this I have been seeing some re-hashing of existing content. Working out how to write a quality article on the same topic but with a new spin can be a chore.

I have deployed this on a second site, with a lot of existing traffic spanning many more topics. The results have been a lot more useful and have revealed some holes in our content, even with existing well-established product lines.

Ultimately, HitTail isn’t likely to be a driver of original content and I’ll still need to think up the bulk of this myself. But it’s useful for picking up on some related topics you didn’t think about at first.

Even with it’s limitations it is worth signing up for a month or two and seeing if it works for you. You may get some quality suggestions out of it.

Disclaimer: HitTail has promised me a free years worth of their software in exchange for writing a page about them. I think this is a pretty neat deal, and in all honesty I was probably going to write about it anyway. So, there you go. Full disclosure.

Update Jan 2014: Since Google has enabled HTTPS on all searches, Hittail results have dropped significantly in quantity as it has no Google traffic to feed off. I am still getting some results, but it’s now a much less useful too.

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I'm Anthony Eden, and I'm a IT Professional, Broadcast Technician, Software Developer, and Solutions Engineer. I've been working in broadcast media since 2008, and developing software and websites for just as long. Right now, I provide freelance services through Media Realm - in particular, to the media and not-for-profit industries.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_eden