Blog Post

Why Small Businesses Like Long-Tail Keywords

It's important to know where to start when you're selecting keywords. Long-tail keywords are good for small businesses. Hence, Adam and Chad wanted to break down long-tail keywords and provide you with a helpful example of selecting long-tail keywords or phrases. In today’s Daily Brown Bag, we cover what exactly a long-tail keyword is, where to start and what to look for when you’re researching long-tail keywords, and insights that’ll demonstrate how and why utilizing long-tail keywords are valuable for small businesses.

Also available on YouTube.


Hello and welcome to the Daily Brown Bag. Today we're gonna be talking about why long-tail keywords are good for small businesses. I'm Chad Hill and I'm joined by Adam Stetzer.

Hey, good afternoon, Chad. Welcome to the Brown Bag. Long-tail keywords is a fascinating topic for us, Chad, and I think people who are just, small businesses in particularly, who are just getting into creating content and thinking about keywords and trying to understand how the search engines work, it's pretty important. And I know there is a little bit of a steep learning curve. We talk about this in training, we talk about this with our SEO reseller community quite a bit, this starting to understand how Google thinks, so to speak. I know it's a machine, but how to organize your thinking around keyword is fairly important. And we have to be a little careful, here, Chad, because of course, the Google guidelines say you should not be doing anything explicitly with the intention of manipulating rankings, and we always say you should not write directly for the search engines and by no means are we saying that you should abandon that principle, however, it is also very, very smart, when you're generating great content, to be thinking about tips and tricks for how to position that content so that it does well in the search engines.

And there are certainly things you can do that will help your chances, even though you're creating great content for a great audience. And that leads us straight into keywords and the topic we're covering today, which is long-tail keywords. Keyword research, I think we believe, Chad, it should be the foundation of a lot of the things that you do when you're working on your website and trying to position it well for the audience and for the search engines. Keywords are, at the end of the day, how people find you and your content because it's how Google is organized and how it indexes the entire internet and how the search engine ultimately decides who to rank and who to show and how to bring that traffic. So, you need to know your audience, of course, and know your desired audience, but beyond that, you also have to think about how they might search for you and what keywords they might be looking for you under so that as you're generating content, you're making sure you're getting in front of that target to maximize your current content generation efforts.

And this brings us into this discussion of long-tail keywords, Chad. And I think we should start with, well what exactly is a long-tail keyword?

Yeah, Adam, and definitely as you said, it's very important to start with the research, but you have to be kind of, you have to understand what you're looking for. So, a long-tail keyword, really what it means, if you think about how the tail, or a typical distribution, at least with what people refer to in a search engine as head terms. The head terms are those shorter phrases like for example, maybe auto repair or plumber, or doctor, where there's a lot of volume but they're also very competitive. And then, what happens is, as you go down with longer phrases, the longer you get, the less volume there is, you search each month on that term, but what people typically say is that you add up all of those small keywords, you actually have a fairly substantial amount of search volume with these longer tail phrases. So here's an example of a longer tail phrase.

I used the example of auto repair. So a long-tail phrase, instead of auto repair, might be Honda Accord brake repair. So instead of just auto repair, which is very general, you can actually go more specific, longer tail, with specifying the make and the model and then a specific service that you provide. And then, if you're a local business, you might even want to add onto that that you are the best Rochester, or Arlington, Virginia person that does brake repair for Honda Accords. So that's really the idea behind a keyword, a long-tail keyword.

And it's important for a couple reasons. Because, as I said earlier, those are easier, they're less competitive keywords, so, the really big websites out there that have all the domain authority and probably have a lot more organic traffic than your normal, main street business, have already gone out and optimized their websites for the more competitive keywords, they're able to rank on them, but the smaller website out there who's very local, very specific, needs to go after less competitive keywords because those first ten slots on page one, you're probably not going to be able to compete with those on the real competitive phrases. Nor, do you really want to rank nationally on the term auto repair. You don't really want to be taking phone calls from California for someone who wants to fix their brakes. You want local businesses. So that's the idea behind the long-tail keywords. And I think again, the idea here is that they also help, they're better converting phrases, right? So, someone who is in a position to handle phone calls across the country for auto repair, they have a call center ready to go. You're a local businesses, those people looking locally for a brake repair for a Honda Accord, in this example, are gonna be much more likely to convert and come to your shop.

So, again, they're easier keywords to rank on, and they're also basically, you're gonna get a better conversion rate. But before we end this, Adam, I just want to make sure that what we want to say very specifically, long-tail keywords still should have a monthly search volume because they're sort of an old trick in the SEO game where companies would go out and say we'll get you a rank on, I think our favorite was, Toyota Tundra Chattanooga new car or something. And if you look at that phrase, there's just not enough volume to really make it, for it matter that you rank on that phrase. So you need to sort of balance out competition against the actual number of searches each month. So there you have it, Adam.

That's excellent. So I think that research is key. I think getting these long-tail phrases on your site will help the head turn and will help you develop overall authority on many different variations of keywords, and as you said, you have to pick them wisely so they're not too hard, but they do have some value, they're in the right ballpark. And I think the last reason I would add to this keywords discussion, Chad, of why it's important to do long-tail keyword research and onsite SEO is it really helps with the motivation and the understanding of the SEO process, which is particularly slow, and I know for some, very frustrating. And you can see things happening a little more quickly with very long-tail, low competition words. And people may discount this advice, but I've seen it over and over again. You need to see the results from your work to understand what's working and what isn't and to have a little bit of motivation. And there is no better way to learn than by doing it, so we really encourage you to get out there and try it, use some of these long-tail strategies and see what works for you.