Jeff Haden | Inc

Here are some simple and effective ways to identify the kind of keywords that keep the traffic coming.

Ranking well for competitive keywords is incredibly tough for the average small business. That’s why more specific and less competitive keywords can make a huge difference. For many, long-tail keywords (in aggregate) add up to the majority of their website’s search-driven traffic.

(If you aren’t familiar, “head” terms are more popular and more frequently searched: like “road bike.” Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific: “aluminum vs carbon frame road bike.”)

A long-tail keyword could be the title and topic for a highly targeted blog post or article (or video or infographic or other content.) Or a long-tail keyword could be used to further optimize a longer article or guide that targets one primary keyword.

And if you’re running pay-per-click (PPC) ads, long-tail keywords are usually a lot less expensive.

The key, of course, is to identify the best long-tail keywords for your business, so I asked Elisa Gabbert, a Content Manager at the PPC and search engine marketing company WordStream, for tips:

1. Use Google Suggest

Google Suggestions can be a great source of long-tail keyword variations. Simply start typing your primary keyword into the Google search box and check out the variations Google suggests.

Longer-tail keywords that Google suggests are phrases people actually search for. You may not want to use them all but you will get a great indication of which search terms are popular. You’ll definitely uncover some surprising combinations.

2. Use Google Related Searches

The same principle applies as with Google Suggest; Related Searches appear at the bottom of the search engine result page, below the last organic result.

Keep in mind the suggestions may be somewhat personalized for your geographic location.

3. Use a Variety of Keyword Research Tools

If you only use one keyword tool every time you do keyword research, you’re selling yourself short and probably missing out on tons of long-tail keyword variations. The Google Keyword Tool is a great basic tool and a good place to start, but if you’re looking for more long-tail keywords, try these other options too:

The more keyword tools you consult the more long-tail keyword variations you’re likely to find.

4. Dig into Your Analytics

Your analytics will tell you many, if not all, the keyword phrases that lead visitors to your website. By digging through those keyword referrers you’ll find a number of long-tail queries that are already driving traffic.

Those keywords may be relevant to your business but not yet highly targeted by a single page on your site. For example, a few years ago Wordstream found that a lot of people wound up on its site by searching the phrase “what’s a good click through rate.” At the time, the company didn’t have a page with that title–so the team wrote one and now it drives tons of traffic.

To find your own private store of long-tail keywords, go into your analytics and locate your organic keyword referrals (in Google Analytics, the path is Traffic Sources -> Sources -> Search -> Organic).

You can scan all the terms for good, relevant long-tail keywords you can turn into content or you can set the time frame to something fairly broad (depending on your traffic flow, try a three-, six-, or 12-month period.) Then search for patterns. For example, you might search for question keywords (like terms that begin with “what,” “why,” etc.)

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