Winning at SEO calls for outmaneuvering the field.
Let’s examine how to find keywords your competitors aren’t using—with tactics they don’t even know about.
“Keywords don’t matter much anymore.” You find it written everywhere lately.
I asked a friend who eats analytics for breakfast and snacks on SEO all day long, “Whatcha’ think about that man?” He smirked. Then he turned toward his massive monitor, typed “g-o-o-g-l-e-(.)-c-o-m” on his keyboard. The ubiquitous page with the crude, but familiar multi-color logo and single blank field popped right up.
He turned back to me and said, “What do I do now Barry?” His point was pretty clear. However all-powerful the search engine that changed the world may be, it can’t yet read your mind. Whether you choose to type or talk, you tell it what you’re looking for with a string of words.
Notice I wrote, “string of words.” I meant to suggest three, four, or more, words. These searches have come to be known as “long tail” and represent the majority of searches. It’s also important to note long tail keywords, being more specific than one or two word searches (or “head” keywords), have proven to deliver superior conversion.
To illustrate, consider “acoustic guitar” vs. “Used Taylor 12-string acoustic-electric guitar.” It seems intuitive the longer, far more specific term suggests the searcher has a better idea of the product he seeks and is therefore closer to reaching for his wallet. Research consistently provides confirmation.
Perhaps an even more important reason long tail keyword enters the SEO discussion so often is because as an online marketer you have a remarkably higher chance of earning page one search results by developing content targeting the lengthier phrases. The “big fish in a small pond” metaphor applies.
By strategically implementing long tail keywords, you’re far more likely to rank high, attract the audience you desire, and show motivated prospects the way to your website.
Your challenge is to identify the right long tail keywords
How do you do this?
Almost anyone you ask will immediately cite Google Keyword Planner, a tool made available for free to anyone who registers for an account. As advertised, Keyword Planner will provide keyword ideas and traffic estimates. However, it’s a safe bet to assume your competition will be using the very same tool, get served the same data, and are likely to make similar decisions.
Consider the advantage you’ll seize if you’re able to identify untapped long tail keywords the competitors in your niche don’t know about or use.
The roads less traveled
Understand, Google Keyword Planner isn’t all that great about delivering new keyword ideas. The keywords you’re shown are of course tied to the term you enter and that’s that. However, if you want to explore the roads less traveled by competitors, it’s time to try alternative and smart ways to find niche keywords.
According to Keyword Research: The Definitive Guide by Backlinko, your goal is to identify niche markets, subsegments of larger markets. The eBook explains you begin by creating a niche cloud map. You create “clouds” that float around your industry.
Maybe this cloud floating (or mind mapping) type of exercise will come easy to you. Maybe it won’t. The good news is there are quite a few useful hack-like approaches that will serve you well. And in fact, while niche hunting, you’ll find you’re conducting market research and getting inside the minds of your customers.
Start with Wikipedia
Maybe you curse Wikipedia for dominating page one Google results the way it does, but check this out. I entered “antivirus software” in Wikipedia.
The table of contents shows a plethora of related terms the Keyword Planner is unlikely to: “signature-based detection,” “rogue security applications,” “hardware and network firewall.” These could be niche keywords worth considering.
And that’s just the table of contents. The long and detailed article on the topic introduces hundreds of related terms, most of them linked to additional resources. For instance, I clicked “intrusion detection systems” and related ideas came flying at me.
Find common questions on forums
When your goal is to crawl inside the mind of customers and gain insights into topics being discussed in your niche, snooping around in industry forums can be enormously informative.
I did a search for “digital printing +forums” and selected the first listing, “Digital Printing Discussion – Print Planet.” Bingo. The forum site presented 408 threads.
I’d consider the titles (or at least, ideas extracted from them) from three of the four discussion threads above to be potential keyword possibilities: digital printer for rapid prototyping; high quality prints on a used color digital printer; color press on textured stocks.
Many forums are subdivided into a long list of niche markets. Print Planet, for example, included forums specifically for prepress and workflow, post press and binding, ink and substrates, wide format, etc. Each niche within the niche included a ton of threads likely to be ideal for mining ideas.
Just start typing in Google
Google and other search engines attempt to anticipate your search needs based on user history. As you see here, “home remodeling” invoked a trio of related ideas.
Bing was even more prolific.
After performing your search, be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page where you’ll find an additional, usually longer, list of suggested keyword strings. Some are related ideas, but don’t include the exact words entered, such as “bathroom” and “additions.”
eHow is a keyword epicenter
eHow, a popular site from Demand Media, can be a keywords goldmine. The website attempts to find long tail keywords it can rank for with highly targeted content. I put myself in the mindset of a massage therapist and simply searched “massage.” The following is a small sample from the many pages served.
You might say, “Yeah, but with the might and technology behind the eHow site, I’ll lose the battle to them.” Perhaps not. In a helpful eBook from Wordstream, How to Find Your Most Cost-Effective Keywords, the author explains the content tends to be produced on the cheap and therefore, is often lame. Considering the many changes Google has made in recent years to favor deep and informative content, it’s possible, even with minimal domain or page authority, you can create superior content to rank on the first page.
Try Q&A sites
The keyword hunting strategy I explained above where you tap into forums can also be applied on question and answer websites including:
- Yahoo Answers
- Askville by Amazon
On Quora, I searched for “Facebook advertising” and found questions about “advertising mobile apps” and “ways to track conversions” among a very long list of questions. The answers too, provide helpful hints. For instance, the first answer for the first question above included “promoting app downloads” and “algorithms for the optimization of ad programs.”
If you like this strategy, check out these tips for using Quora an SEO idea source.
Übersuggest is free and fab
At ubersuggest.org you’ll find a free tool that suggests a massive list of keywords for just about any term you enter. I tried “bifocals.”
The list here is for keywords where bifocals is followed by an “f.” The tool covers the entire alphabet. You can create a “basket” to collect the ideas you like. Also, you can click any phrase to invoke more. I clicked the plus sign for the first one above and got “bifocals fun facts” and more.
A similar tool, also free, simply called “Keyword Tool,” gives you up to 750 suggestions for every keyword and is free.
If you take just one idea away from this post, let is be this: long tail dominates Google search activity and every form of search. In fact, CNET reported 15% of Google queries have never been seen before. That’s 500,000,000 searches per day.
Armed with an understanding of this reality, take a smart approach by finding niche keywords. Dig deep aiming to uncover real-world jargon. Try some or all of the six approaches I’ve suggested. Identify long tail keywords to inform your content development. Publish the best page on the web for the phrases you’ve chosen and we’ll see you on page one.
HERE’S A FREE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO SEO.
HERE’S A FREE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO ANALYTICS.
And finally, here’s (below) an easy way to get on our email list to continue receiving valuable content to help you achieve online marketing success.
this was awesome!
Thanks so much Kris.
Whoa!! I’m definitely keeping this one Barry. I really struggle with the long tail keywords for my niche. It’s been bugging me for such a long time!
I’m starting my Academy soon for my small biz peeps. I’ve been involved with marketing for 20 yrs but not all online.
This long tail keyword thing is my personal Waterloo though! Essentially my audience is women who have or want to build an authentic online business but they’re not business women. I have several avatars to market to due to the range of the Academy but every time I’ve started my keyword research I get stumped!! What am I missing here?
Love your work
Cool. Be sure to check out my interview with Andy Crestodina, “How to get your blog post on the first page of Google.” Very helpful insights there.
That’s it easy and clear!
Thank you so much for this post! I loved it!
Barry, this is gold. As I read through this, I had several lightbulb moments. My biggest takeaway is that longtail dominates. I had no idea! I am SO guilty of using the basic keywords (that everyone else is). Thank you!
Well said. Yes, the seed keyword strategy is long-term play and much more difficult. I think a smart approach is to use your seed keyword inside your longer phrase for the static sections of your website, when possible.
Great article! So helpful for those of us that use social media to find leads. Thanks, Barry!
Great article, Barry! The list of free tools is especially helpful. My research has alerted me to so many great tools, but many are cost prohibitive for a start-up. Your insights and advice are amazingly helpful! Thanks!