June 25, 2010

The Importance of Long-Tail Keywords

Those of you who have tried in vain for years to rank high for your head keyword of choice know what I am talking about. To those of you who are newly introduced to this wondrous world of SEO, I’ll say this: roll up your sleeves and prepare to wait. Or you can do the smart thing and just target long-tail keywords. You won’t have to deal with all that fierce competition for popular head keywords, and you will be a few steps closer to getting your site rank high.

It comes with one warning: the traffic volumes will be considerably lower than that from a head keyword. But then, the probability of your ranking high for a head keyword is less than unlikely, so the traffic from that keyword will amount to, basically, nothing.

It’s a quantity vs. quality argument. And when you do the math, you will find, the long-tailed keyword is the bird in the hand.

Last month, Google introduced an algorithm update and many webmasters saw a drop in traffic from Google for keyword phrases that are three or more keywords long. However, Google is now able to index longer keyword phrases more accurately. It seems that Google guessed the best pages for long keyword phrases until recently based on other signals and keywords on the indexed pages. The new Google patent indicates that Google now has the computing power to index longer keyword phrases on web pages instead of guessing them.

What does this mean to you? It means that those who have taken the time to anticipate the need of their customers and Google’s customers will be rewarded.

Still not convinced? Consider this:
  • Ease When you try to rank for a head keyword, you essentially go into competition with millions of websites. And the odds of your ranking high for that term are very low. For example, if you try to rank for the head keyword “online learning” you’ll have to beat at least 36 million other sites to rank high. Instead, if you use a long-tail with niche terms relevant to your site, like, “online learning in South Carolina” the competition drastically drops to under three hundred thousand. And your odds of ranking high will improve too.
  • Speed
    Thanks to the diminished competition, you don’t have to spend nearly half your life optimizing your site and building links before you can see your site ranking high for long-tail keywords.
  • Relevance
    Since long-tail keywords are more often than not, specific strings of keywords with a niche term; the chances of then meeting the exact search needs of users are very high. This aids the target marketing methods of your overall mix and ultimately drives…
  • Conversion
    The fact that search users will find sites targeting long-tail keywords more relevant contribute another point to chalk up in its favor. Reports attest to the fact that users with specific search queries know exactly what they are looking for and are more likely to turn into customers.
  • Exposure
    This is perhaps the least known advantage of targeting long-tail keywords. Using long tail keywords over a period of time will eventually help you rank higher for your head keywords as well. As your site gains authority and builds its trust quotient, the long-tail keywords will help provide enough targeted traffic and also enough ‘exposure’ to your head keywords that your attempt to target them alone won’t prove to be all that disastrous.

A great thing about targeting long-tail keywords is that you can play around with all the niche terms relevant to your site and try and rank for a series of long-tails. You don’t always have to target “online learning in South Carolina,” “online high school in South Carolina” can help send an entirely different set people swinging to your site. However, targeting keywords on your site alone won’t help you achieve all this, and I doubt if I have to reiterate the importance of building credible links with the right anchor test. Try to have your targeted keywords in as many incoming links (internal as well as external) as possible, combined with your on page optimization efforts, it will do wonders for your ranking.

What are some of your long-tail keyword success stories?

By Jennifer Pricci