With all the buzz in the world of SEO, it can be easy to lose track of the basic fundamentals. Keyword research – something every SEO knows about. With the updates from Google, especially Panda, many website owners are shying away from using keywords as part of their campaign. The truth is, keywords are still important to any online business, but the way they are used has changed dramatically.

Yet, at the same time, there are still plenty of online business owners using keywords as part of their campaign, only they are using them the old way. It seems like very few people are doing intelligent keyword research. Hop onto Elance.com, and you’ll still find literally thousands of requests for “500-word articles” all targeting one “main keyword”.

Now, you already know that writing 500-word articles exclusively is a one-way ticket to the Google dump. But it’s not the content length we’re going to be talking about today (we’ve talked about it quite a bit in the past). Instead, we’re going to focus on the idea of a “main keyword”, and how some SEO’s believe that main keywords should be exclusively targeted over long-tails.

Why the “Main Keyword” Bias?

Why are people so obsessive over their main keywords? The answer lies in keyword tool traffic estimators. If you plug a “main keyword” like “credit cards” into Google Keyword Tool, it will give you a huge number of exact match searches. But if you plug something like “how do I get out of credit card debt in Austin Texas”, it may pull up zero results!

So people see the big numbers and think, “If I can just rank for that term, I’ll be guaranteed to make a bunch of sales!”

And maybe that’s true. However, there are some things that aren’t being taken into consideration. People searching for “credit cards” may want a credit card. Or they may want information on how credit cards work. Or they may want information on credit card debt. With main keywords, the number of people searching to BUY is up in the air. And, at the end of the day, people looking to BUY is the biggest benefit of doing SEO in the first place!

Now, let’s look at the long-tail: “how do I get out of credit card debt in Austin Texas”.

Wow! What a great buying keyword. It’s a direct question that BEGS an answer, and it’s locally based! If we run a “get out of debt” service in Austin, Texas, we’ve practically made the sale already!

But it’s not just about the relevancy of the keyword (although that is a BIG factor). It’s also about the ease of ranking! To rank for a keyword like “credit cards”, you will need to spend a LONG time doing SEO. And, although Google’s leveled the playing field a bit with recent updates, you’ll likely also need a hefty SEO budget to even get close.

With the long-tail keyword though, it’s realistic that you could be ranking for that keyword overnight! 

Long-Tails Are Where the Money is at

Long-tail keywords are truly where the money is at. As human beings, we generally don’t search for vague keywords when we want to buy. We don’t search “books”. We don’t search “credit cards”. We don’t search “cars”.

We search exact models, names of books, types of credit cards – in other words, long-tail keywords! When we want to buy something, we search for the long-tail keyword.

This is fantastic news because long-tail keywords are MUCH easier to rank for. And even if those keywords only get searched five times a month, your odds at converting these searchers into buyers is very good, because they’re truly looking to buy NOW.

Since Google started the Panda updates, they have altered their algorithms to actually work more like humans. This means the high-ranking sites are the ones using long-tail keywords. If a user asks a question in Google, your website should answer the question directly. Google wants to ensure their visitors reach the exact match to their query, and if you aren’t it, well…you won’t show up.

The content on your website is what Google is looking at these days, and it isn’t scanning for keywords, but for answers to specific questions. The Meta tags and image tags, titles, and other tags on your site help explain to Google what your website is all about through keywords, but your content is where it looks for the real meat of your site.

How to Target Long-Tail Keywords 

And now, we use the “C” word. The best way to target long-tails is through CONTENT! Here, keyword tools have little use. Although some keyword tools can be good for long-tails, these tools can’t possibly think like humans.

Therefore, our best strategy is twofold:

  1. Think like a human
  2. Write LOTS of long, descriptive content!

Thinking like a buyer isn’t easy… it takes practice. But with practice, you’ll be able to think like your buyers. In the meantime, write LOTS of long, descriptive content.

Why? Because this is how Google generates long-tail keywords for your site to rank for – by scanning your content. And remember, when people search, they’re specific. So the longer you’re content is, the more chances you have to rank for long-tails. And the more descriptive your content is, the more chances you have to rank for specific, BUYING long-tails!

So, when you start to write anything for your website, ask yourself:

  • Does it offer a solution to a problem?
  • Does it explain something?
  • Does it have a unique perspective to a popular topic?
  • Does it answer a specific question?
  • Is it useful?

These questions should guide you through creating content that is actually useful to your visitors and to Google.

Now, think about how you search, and what you search for when using Google. Do you search differently on the computer than you do on your mobile device? Do you enter keywords into the search box, or do you enter a question or a long tail phrase?

If you were searching for a hotel in San Diego, and you wanted to stay by the beach and have an indoor pool, would you simply type in Hotels San Diego? Probably not. Because you would then have to sort through the large amounts of results to find the ones that match your specifics. In most cases, you would search for Hotel in Sand Diego on the beach with an indoor pool…right? The results would not be as overwhelming, and you would be able to quickly find what you needed.

Your visitors are no different than you. They are not robots or cyber-space imaginaries; they are people, just like you and me. So, write to them, a campaign to them, and cater to them…that is your only ticket to success.

Learn what your targeted demographic is interested in, and pay attention to how they search. Use social media platforms to get to know your visitors, and even use your competitor’s sites as a guide to finding out what works and what doesn’t. The main goal is to write naturally and to your readers, not the search engines, those long-tail keywords will fall right into place when you do.

Want More SEO Tips?

If you like what you just read and would like more, fill out the form below to join our mailing list.

Prefer social media? No problem… head on over to our Facebook page and shoot us a like.