What is Long Tail Keyword Research and Why is it so Important?

Ellie Roddy 5 years ago

At BrightonSEO we ran a training course on Long Tail Keyword Research. In this final instalment of our BrightonSEO podcast series, we talk to Stuart Shaw our Head of Search and Strategy about the course and why all brands should be considering long-tail keywords as well as their head terms as part of any content and SEO strategy. You can listen to the podcast and find a full transcript below.



Ellie [00:00:02] Hello. It's Ellie and Carris from the content team at Zazzle Media. We are back at Zazzle HQ after a brilliant couple of days at BrightonSEO, with our Head of Search & Strategy, Stuart Shaw, who did a training course on Long Tail Keyword Research at the event, and he is here with us now to talk us through it.

Carris [00:00:22] Hi guys, hi Stu! So can you tell us a little bit more about Long Tail Keyword Research.

Stuart [00:00:28] Yeah of course. So basically a lot of the training session revolved around trying to help the businesses that attended in understanding exactly how they can obtain traffic, not just from head words, but for some of the longer tail and query searches that are made around their brands and their products,.

Carris [00:00:46] For people who don't know what long tail keyword research is can you summarise it for us?

Stuart [00:00:52] Yeah I'll give it a go! I mean that there's lots of different definitions that lots of different sites use. Some say it's search words that contain more than three or four characters but ultimately it's where there is a more specific intent to the keyword search itself. So car insurance would be a relatively broad one. But 'how do I save money on my car insurance' would be an example of a long tail keyword.

Ellie [00:01:14] And how do I find long tail keywords?

Stuart [00:01:17] Mmhmm. I suppose it comes down to understanding your audience. And that was a point that I constantly had to keep reiterating when I was doing the training session, is that you need to first understand the pain points of the audience and that's the best way to understand what they're likely to be searching.

Carris [00:01:33] So long tail keyword research is not for every business or is it only for certain types of strategies?

Stuart [00:01:39] Long tail keywords are definitely becoming more popular across all businesses. There are certain areas where there is a definitive knowledge gap between what is being sold and what is being bought and it's in those locations where you'll typically find long tail keywords get asked a lot more they get queried a lot more. But typically they tend to skew in exactly the same way that you would see with head terms. So the more popular industries the larger products will typically have a lot more questions and a lot more long tail search than the smaller ones. The critical thing is that the long tail keywords are being searched for more more often as technology such as voice search becomes more popular. And as the market starts to fill up with slightly more tech savvy millennials and younger people who are more capable of performing more semantic searches on search instead of where your parents may, you know, generically search for car insurance or best mortgages will typically ask the longer questions of Google and Bing.

Ellie [00:02:41] So what do long tail keywords mean for a company's brand and what is the benefit of then optimising these.

Stuart [00:02:47] So targeting long tail keywords usually means that you're able to target people more specifically based on their intent. And that's that's really really key because attracting huge amounts of traffic to your site is fantastic. But if none of that traffic is due to convert or even has the propensity to convert then it's wasted effort and potentially wasted budget and wasted resources as well. So by targeting long tail you can better understand the point the customer is in within the purchase journey or the purchase funnel itself which means that you're better able to provide them with segmented or even personalised data and content on each page which has a greater chance of meaning that they're actually going to convert, purchase your products or subscribe to your brand.

Carris [00:03:37] So it sounds like this can help you understand your audiences more and their behaviours?

Stuart [00:03:43] Yeah absolutely. One of that one of the key things that we took away from the training session was that if somebody visits a specific page on your site that's a long tail page you gain so much more information about where they are not just in the in the purchase funnel as we've said but also just in life, you can understand maybe whether they're due to let's say purchase a pair of trainers and therefore if they're at the very very end of that funnel process as opposed to just comparing and considering their purchase, you know that in 12 months time over the lifespan of your product that there's a good chance that they're going to then require to require another version of that product whether it's an upgrade to their trainers or replacement. And it allows you to retarget those users later on as well which is a lot lot more than a than a generic head word or head term page might be able to do.

Carris [00:04:34] From that, are long tail keywords more about brand awareness or is it about conversion rates if you are selling a product in retail?

Stuart [00:04:42] Yeah. That's actually a really good question and I would probably say that it's it's a blend of both. I think that the benefit that you get from brand awareness on on targeting terms that maybe don't have commercial intent let's say for example people are trying to find out what the colour they wear says about them in terms of personality. There's lots of search around this. There's lots of search from various things around fashion but the likelihood that people visiting this article are going to convert is probably quite low and yet being able to set up a dialogue with your users is really really important from an engagement point of view. But it's also really important from the point of view of if you're producing this content in a way perhaps that attests to more kind of editorial standards then you may find other people talking and sharing your content.

Carris [00:05:31] So it's more about you understanding audiences and them understanding your brand as well?

Stuart [00:05:37] Yeah, I mean for me there's there's nothing more critical in search, PPC and social media than understanding audience. Ultimately all of those kind of different avenues and routes to market it leads to the market which is made up of your audience naturally. They're just tools and if you don't understand what you're targeting at the end of it then whatever tool you're using you're not going to be able to complete your task. So it's really important that you're aligned, that you know where you're heading. As I said to the people that attended the session if they happen to have any spare budget, they've got a couple of grand lying around, then I would suggest putting it into Audience Insights. If they're not 100% sure are not just their audience now but their emerging audience are going to start coming through. Then that's where the money should go for sure.

Ellie [00:06:25] Obviously it Zazzle we're always trying to write content that's both creative and search focused, and you covered this in your training. Can you tell us a bit about how we do this?

Stuart [00:06:37] So it's usually trying not to think about the content as being such focused or engagement focused but instead just focusing on the audience. That's typically what Google does. That's its mantra, is making the Web and the information therein and accessible to all users. And if we can align with that in the content that we produce and that we suggest that the brands produce, then we're more likely to align with the the best practices and the the EAT principles of Google.

Ellie [00:07:07] What are the EAT principles of Google?

Stuart [00:07:11] So it's it's Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness. So effectively making sure to kind of summarise those points that you are seen as a thought leader for your brand and that the information that you're putting out there is considerate and sympathetic to the needs of those users. So a good example would be as opposed to suggesting or trying to force people down and making a purchase decision on let's say certain types of loans, you're instead a little bit more impartial. You provide the users with all of the information that they would require to be able to make an informed decision on their own as opposed to just trying to sell them a product.

Carris [00:07:48] So how do you make your long tail keywords searches for example 'how to save money on home insurance' more interesting for the reader to read that page and not bounce straight off it?

Stuart [00:08:00] So the best way to do that is to look at what's ranking currently. Because if we assume that Google's practice of not only EAT, but consumer engagement, is already in full flow and working perfectly, fingers crossed, then the content that's already ranking in anywhere from position 1 to position 20 is likely relevant. It could be a fantastic accordion of FAQ's, it could be unique content. It could be rich media such as video or some level of kind of interactive content. Whatever it happens to be. You need to try and understand what point is this content trying to make and how is it potentially making the user's life easier. But ensuring that you can add your own unique expertise opinion on top of that as well to avoid obviously any duplicate content issues.

Ellie [00:08:46] Were there any interesting comments or queries that got made during the training?

Stuart [00:08:51] I suppose one of the really interesting things was that I tried to ensure that we had a a level playing field. I didn't want to do let's say an exercise or an activity in which a banker or someone that worked in mortgages had a bit of a leg up on maybe somebody that only worked in eCommerce. So one of the activities I got people to do was around Jurassic Park and the suggestion was that we were part of the marketing team and all of the films so far in the Jurassic parks series had just been primers to see if people would actually want to visit Jurassic Park! And now the park is now open and effectively I set each of the teams up with a different persona so they each had to focus on different areas. There was obviously the the big fantastic questions that would be made. There's the kind of similar content set of questions that might be asked around dinosaurs and there was all the practical considerations that they had to make around when at the opening times and what I found really interesting is as soon as I levelled the playing field and took away the advantage of their product knowledge everyone really struggled. They really struggled and I think a big part of that is because their default position was to think about search. They even had people going on Ahrefs and looking it up, and I was like Jurassic Park isn't real! You're not going to find these keywords on there! And if they'd have just aligned to audience and the needs of that audience or the interests or the wants or the desires of the audience then they would have found themselves in a far far easier position.

Ellie [00:10:27] And how do you ensure that the two, audience and using the tools, work effectively together?

Stuart [00:10:35] I think don't assume that somebody else has has made all of their mistakes and learnt from them because the chances are they're in exactly the same position as as you may be in that they're on that journey of discovery for their audience as well. I think probably the best way to do it is to ensure that you can find brands that you think do a really good job of talking to the audience that you talk to and then look into the ways in which they do it. The approaches that they have not just organically or via paid but also through through avenues like social.

Carris [00:11:09] What would you say is a top tips that business could take away from this to help them implement long tail keywords search?

Stuart [00:11:16] So I suppose some of the top tips I would suggest would be not to jump straight into tools. Obviously audience is a big point, make sure aligns to audience but probably some of the most important people in your business to start off this process and get the ball rolling, would be people that work in customer care and people that work in sales. And not all tools out there, even the best ones, will be able to provide you with that information (that they can provide). So align there first. And if you can find that old wizened person that happens to work in your factory and has done for the last 40 years you'll probably find that there are some some really really interesting things that you could gain from them. I suppose one of the last things is to make sure that you're not basing all of your decisions on data alone. There is an element of gumption that's needed, of a gut feeling, and I think that you shouldn't be afraid to be innovative with the approach that you take. Ensure that you've got platforms, processes in place to be able to measure how effective those risks are. You never know what Google are going to bring out next. You never know how Google may react to certain pieces of content. So always give it a go and always try something new.

Carris [00:12:34] Thanks Stu! If you've enjoyed this podcast check out the podcast on BrightonSEO and SEO trends. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram to let us know your thoughts.


If you'd like to find out more about Long Tail, you can read our blog on the topic here, and be sure to listen to our other podcasts from BrightonSEO April 2019.

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