Long-tail Keyword Research & SEO: Choosing the right keywords for small business websites in Toronto.
Successful SEO relies on understanding long-tail keyword research and identifying niche markets that people actually use in their searches.
Effective long-tail keyword research is the most important part of SEO for your website.
We may not know what people are going to specifically type into Google, but using the proper long-tail keyword research tools enables us to make an educated guess.
Pick the right ones and your website can experience an increase in traffic and sales.
Pick the wrong ones, however, and let’s just say that you get a different experience.
Keyword terms, phrases and long-tail keywords are all part of a website’s successful SEO campaign and knowing your specific market is a huge advantage over your competition.
So, what exactly are long-tail keywords?
In a nutshell, long-tail keywords are keyword phrases that contain more than three words and are specific to the services or products that you sell. Your keyword research, then, should focus on search terms that contain at least 3 words.
The following graphic demonstrates the distribution of searches versus traffic and how the longer search phrases ultimately play a larger part in how people will find you:
The same principles apply for any kind of business, so if you were trying to rank for something like “snow removal”, for example, you could expand that search to include such terms as “commercial snow removal” or “commercial snow removal companies“.
These are one-word searches that almost always come with a ton of search volume and competition. They are also extremely difficult to compete for and tend not to convert as longer search terms might.
“Shoes” is a good example of a head keyword. Coming up on the first page of Google for “shoes” will translate into a ton of daily traffic, sure, but the searcher isn’t just thinking about “shoes” in general, right? He or she is probably thinking of something a little more specific, which leads us to our next part of the keyword body.
The body keywords are short 2-3 word phrases that are a little more specific about a general term. They’re still very competitive, but you can see how broadening a search term enables us to try and compete while targeting those searchers who have more intent to purchase a product or service.
In this case, “casual walking shoes” is obviously more defined than “shoes”, but still a little too vague and competitive. You’d see less traffic by targeting such a term, but you’d probably convert more of that traffic. Not a whole lot more, but more overall.
The long tail keywords are specific, 4+ word phrases that people tend to use when they are closer to buying something.
Using our “shoes” example, the thinking behind the keyword choice of a searcher might go something like:
- I need walking shoes.
- Leather shoes are usually better quality.
- I’d like a casual look.
- I’m a woman.
- I live near Yorkdale Mall.
So, while this person is in fact looking for some shoes, she is actually seeking a fairly specific kind of shoe and will probably search for “women’s casual leather walking shoes at Yorkdale” when she is ready to buy a pair.
If you sell these types of shoes and you’re at least near Yorkdale Mall, your site will come up in the search results (including the local search results) if it’s optimized for such a search term.
And you are way more likely to make a sale (and gain a new customer).
Long-tail keyword research and SEO: Wash, rinse and repeat.
You may read about supposed “SEO Gurus” making miraculous claims about how they have all of the secrets and can get you top search engine rankings TODAY.
None of it is true.
The real truth is that you have to constantly tweak and measure and test your SEO results. There is nothing magical nor glamorous about the SEO process and it’s definitely not quick.
It might have been in 1999.
It isn’t now.
So, how do you figure out which keywords are right for your website?
Choosing the best keywords for your website’s SEO can be a difficult process.
Which keywords are relevant?
And which keywords do people actually search for?
There’s no point in ranking for keywords and phrases that nobody uses, and ranking high for a very general phrase might not be the best, either. You want customers, and you need to rank for their specific searches.
Sounds simple enough in theory, but the actual process is a slow one that takes time to develop. That aside, here are some of the steps involved:
Think of words that relate to your website.
This is fairly straight-forward and coming up with any and all words related to your products or services will give you a better idea about what you offer. No restrictions here, so just let them fly during this phase and you can eliminate the lesser ones later.
Now do a search using each term.
Doing a search with your list of keywords will give you an idea about who already ranks for them, how popular they are, what others have done to rank, etc. Keep in mind that you aren’t recreating the wheel here and that you’re simply working within an existing structure. Knowing what your competition has done and what has worked is an important aspect of your overall goal, which really is to out-rank them.
Use Google’s “Searches Related To” suggestions.
Whenever you do a search in Google, they will also show a bunch of searches (at the bottom of the page) that are close to yours and that others have used. This is valuable because it shows you search terms and keywords that other people have actually searched for. It’s no longer a guess and you can start to check those searches for competitiveness as well.
Use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner.
A great – and free – keyword tool, the Keyword Planner helps to identify the competition and search numbers for any keyword or phrase. Using it effectively will enable you to see how many people are searching for it and how much money competitors are spending to advertise. This tool alone is enough to set you on the right track, although it’s worth the time to develop a more detailed keyword list.
Keyword research takes a lot of concentration and a commitment to being realistic about your goals.
Ultimately, you are trying to find keywords and phrases that you can actually compete for. Website age, trust and a few other factors will contribute to your ability to rank, however identifying markets where you can realistically gain some ground is what you are looking for.
How many keywords should I target for my website?
There’s no absolute answer to this one, but, generally speaking, about 5.
It depends on many things, like how big your website is and what you are trying to rank for, but 5 strong keywords and phrases is a reasonable number to focus on. Adding any and every word that comes to mind simply dillutes your website’s content to the point where you won’t look like an authority on anything.
If you think about it logically, small businesses usually deal with one main product or service and all of other products or services are simply subsets of the main ones.
A landscaping company, for example, might offer several services, but they are all related to general landscaping.
You’ve heard that SEO is slow? That’s because it is.
Doing proper keyword research takes a lot of concentration and a commitment to being realistic about your goals.
Keyword success is also dependant on Google updating it’s search index.
You may have a strong belief in your yourself and your business, however ranking highly in a competitive market might not be a reasonable goal at the time and knowing the difference can make or break your SEO attempts. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are your website’s SEO rankings.
Finding a keyword-balance between competing and yielding targeted traffic is really a game of cat-and-mouse. You make an educated guess as to what might perform well and you monitor the results (as well as your competition). Of course developing good content to go along with it is important as well, but without the proper keywords the content really won’t matter much.
Sound like a lot of work? It is.
Assuming that your skillset doesn’t include keyword research, or that you’ve got better things to do be doing, it’s probably wise to let someone else handle this on your behalf.
Keyword research alone can take quite a bit of time and needs to be taken seriously and without distractions to be done correctly.
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