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The Power of Specificity: How to Rank Higher Using Long-Tail Keywords

The Power of Specificity: How to Rank Higher Using Long-Tail Keywords Blog Feature

February 20th, 2015 min read

There's a quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower that reads, "We accept the love search rank we think we deserve."

(Okay, so I may have embellished that a little bit, but you get the point.)

While it's no secret that there can only be one number one, we've found that marketers continuously struggle to rank for highly competitive, high-volume keywords. However, the truth is, this doesn't make them better marketers, it makes them strugglers. 

While certainly under-utilized, long-tail keywords provide marketers with an opportunity to establish a stronger line of communication between their brand and their target audience. And as a result of their specificity, they help to attract the type of visitor that really knows what they want. 

Sure, they aren't as pretty and shiny as those high-competition, high-volume words, but at the end of the day, they're undoubtedly effective. 

Want to know more? We've addressed three common long-tail keyword questions to help you get a better handle on the approach so you can start driving more targeted traffic back to your website. 

"Why long-tail keywords?"

Picture this - two people are sitting in front of the glow of the Google screen about to conduct some serious business.  

One person types in the query "desk" and the other person opts for the phrase "L-shape mahogany desk."

Who sounds more ready to buy?

Often times the specificity of someone's search query serves as an strong indicator of how close they are to making a purchasing decision. So while desk guy may be skimming the surface of his desk research, it's likely that Mr. Mahogany is a bit more prepared to pull out his card and make the transaction. 

With that said, a long-tail keyword strategy serves as an effective way to connect your business with more qualified, sales-ready visitors. Visitors that know what they want, and want what you've got. 

Not to mention, it's considerably easier to rank for long-tail keywords, as the search volume is far less than that of a query like "desk."

"But do they really work?"

In an effort to ground these claims in something you can really get behind, we came across some revealing research from CalculateMarketing's Alan Mitchell.

Looking to uncover whether or not long-tail keywords were worth the time and effort, Mitchell conducted a series of tests to turn up some real numbers. 

In terms of click-through rates, he found that while the CTR for searches containing 1-3 words was somewhat low, searches containing 4 words saw a significant increase in clicks (as demonstrated by the chart below.)


While clicks are a step in the right direction, any good marketer knows that conversions are where it's really at. 

Above we drew the assumption that if visitors were inputting highly specific search queries, they were more in-tune with what they want, meaning they are more likely to convert.

According to Mitchell's findings, we we're right.


It appears that the conversion rate steadily increased as the number of words included in the search query did: 

"How do I identify a good long-tail keyword?"

Now that we know that the specificity of long-tail keywords does, in fact, have a positive influence on CTR and conversions, it's time to do something with this information. 

Defining a good long-tail keyword requires a bit of research, so to start, we like to call upon an analytics tool called Gauges. 

With Gauges, we have access to some seriously valuable search terms that help us guide our keyword strategy. For example, a look at today's numbers reveals that several people have visited our website after searching for the phrase "how to improve website design." With this information in our pocket, we can begin to make more informed decisions about which keywords we're going to go after. 

For instance, rather than optimizing our content for something competitive like "redesign", we can focus on the long-tail phrase "improve website design" to improve our search rank and attract more qualified prospects.

Another great tool for determining the strength of a long-tail keyword is Google Trends. With Google Trends you can compare the search volume of up to five different search terms at once to help identify the best option. To help you visualize this, check out this example:


Can't think of five options to test? Consider mining through the comments section on some popular industry blogs or skip to the Q&A section at the end of a webinar that is relevant to your target audience. 

We've found that often times sifting through your audience's actual language serves as an effective way to uncover what they are saying and how they are saying it. 

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