SEO 101: Grabbing the Longtail

For many beginner SEOs, the idea of catching the longtail for keyword phrases is one of those mysteries of life that eludes them. After all, you target your pages for specific keywords and phrases. What’s all of this longtail stuff?

The answer is simply that when you catch the longtail, it can be more beneficial to your site. You can get traffic for keywords and phrases you never thought of, rank higher for those longer keyword phrases (three, four or more keywords), get cheaper PPC traffic and increase your site visits without a lot of work. And, because these phrases are more targeted, longtail traffic tends to have higher conversion and lower bounce rates. Compare that to a single keyword, which is way more difficult to rank for and will have much higher abandonment rates.

What is an example of catching the longtail? A perfect way to get longtail traffic is through a blog. The Eye Zone, the blog of, gets a lot of comments and questions through their blog posts, perfect spider food for catching the longtail. For instance, does not sell replacement parts for their frames and eyewear, but a lot of customers post questions related to replacement parts. So, someone searching for something like ray ban replacement parts in Google will, as I write this, find the Spotlight on Ray Ban Sunglasses post on the blog in the number one position.

Example of longtail SEO result for

This is definitely not something the company would normally target for their site since they don’t sell these parts, but the questions and answers on the page gives them a number one ranking for that longtail search phrase and exposes searchers to the site along with providing information to them that they will find of use. Some site visitors might even decide to buy new sunglasses instead of trying to repair their old ones!

How are these longtails caught? Play close attention, because I’m going to give you a list of things to do to help you get a rope around those longtail benefits.

1. Localize – For many brick & mortar sites, all relevant search is local. Think of all of the ways a search can be done for your business. For instance, if you are a plumber in my local area, come up with all of the phrases local to you. Not just “plumber” but “palm springs plumber” and go even deeper with “palm springs broken pipe plumber” and longer phrases like that. Weave these keywords into your site text in a logical, non-spammy way.

2. Ride the tail – Creating a new page for a longtail phrase? Link to it from a related ranking page to give it an immediate boost.

3. Break ’em up – When creating pages, optimize them into segments like services, products and brands. Examples: Create a page for plumbing services like pipe repair, faucet installation, fixing leaks, etc. Create a product page featuring individual products like sinks, valves, etc. Break it down further with a page featuring brands like Kohler, Moen, etc.

4. Blog, blog, blog! – As mentioned above, blogs are easy, spidered quickly and a natural for catching the longtail phrases. User comments, questions and reviews provide free content and enhance your chances of being found for longtail searches. Basically, view your site visitors as co-authors. See my post User Content Generation.

5. Enhance your image – Make sure your local business listing in Google Maps is chock full of accurate and useful information, including images, pages, videos, coupons, etc. Folks can leave reviews there, too, so do whatever you can to make them good. Read more suggestions in Local Search Optimization.

6. Opportunity knocks – Look at small and medium sites for advertising opportunities for longtail phrases. Combined, these smaller sites can offer a larger volume of traffic at a fraction of the price of the large, Tier 1 sites (you know, like Google).

7. Check crawler stats – Find the pages that aren’t getting traffic and jump on them. Optimize them for longtail keyword phrases. These pages are there to sell something, so put them to work.

8. Shorten the URL – The best case scenario is to have short URLs. They are not only friendlier to both spiders and humans, they tend to get more clicks. And, use the product name in the URL.

9. Make it unique – Put a tag cloud on each page of your site and make each one unique.

10. Utilize the space – Put as many products on a page within a 150k limit.

11. Tag it – Tagging is very powerful. Check your internal search log for hints about phrases you might be missing in external searches.

12. Check your affiliates – Got an affiliate program? Check to see what your most successful affiliates are doing. You know, the sincerest form of flattery and all that?

The nice thing about the longtail is that once you rank for phrases, you can generally leave them alone because there’s not nearly as much competition for them as for a single keyword or two word phrase.


SEO 101: User Content Generation

User generated content for SEOIf you’ve read previous chapters of my S E O 101 series (download the free search engine optimization ebook), you’ve probably noticed that I keep drilling the idea of good content into your head as the backbone of top rankings (The old content is king idea).

Believe it or not, your users can be a top source for that content. Comments, testimonials, reviews and the like can be great information that catches long tail search phrases that you might never think of when deciding on keywords and phrases you target. And, since you really shouldn’t try to target a page to more than a couple anyway, user generated content can fill the void.

In addition, statistically more web site customers (for you ecommerce sites) read reviews than not. Something like 3/4 of online shoppers read reviews before they buy. That’s a lot!

Credibility is extremely important, so those reviews and testimonials not only help with your long tail optimization, but can help position your site as trusted and an authority site.

So, here are a few thoughts to help you get started with your own user generated content strategy.

1. Add Reviews, Testimonials or Comments – If you don’t have any of these on your site or blog now, get them. In particular, retail sites with reviews have a higher conversion rate and order size than sites without.

2. Make it easy – The easier it is for users to read and post, the more feedback you will receive, thus more content and long tail spider bait.

3. Put it above the fold – Reviews should be high enough on the page to be seen, preferably next to the product and with ratings, as in stars. Ratings go hand in hand with reviews, so provide a star rating as a quick look graphic. Want proof? Just take a look at what does with theirs: puts their reviews and ratings right at the top of the page. puts their reviews and ratings right at the top of the page and follows up with individual review ratings on the user review pages, which you can see at my review of Who Killed the Electric Car?

4. Give them incentives – The best thing you can do for your customers or visitors is to provide them with service, but to encourage participation and provide some good vibes, give them something special like the opportunity to win a prize, to get a “Top Contributor” badge for their web site or whatever feel good promotion you can come up with.

5. Provide suggestions – Instead of 301 redirecting the page of a defunct product to your home page (so annoying!), provide a page with alternative suggestions. Not only is this useful to the customer, but you might get some feedback, comments, testimonials, etc. out of it. More content and link bait!

6. Extend the tail – Did you know that reviews extend the long tail more than you could probably do on your own (without getting real spammy)? This is because search terms for reviews tend to be much longer. In addition to “keyword1 keyword2 keyword3” your page might be found for “keyword1 keyword2 keyword3 keyword4” or “keyword1 keyword2 keyword3 keyword4 keyword5” for instance.

7. Moderate – Yep, it’s time consuming, but it just has to be done on your own site (You have less control over reviews and comments about you on third party sites). You’ve got to watch out for inappropriate comments or attempts to game you for back links. You’re acting as editor to make sure your content remains good, quality information.

8. Require registration – Some folks will click away when they have to register, but having registered users gives you some control over who posts what. Spammers and trouble makers can better be controlled and registration provides a level of credibility to the users.

9. Make them happy – People are inherently happier when they are allowed to contribute and interact. Your site and your visitors will be better for all of the comments, testimonials, suggestions and reviews you let them post.

10. Videos and images – Up until now, I’ve discussed textual content, but allowing customers and visitors to upload images and videos can be super effective and a powerful motivator for them. Just ask YouTube and Flickr! And, again, has jumped on the video bandwagon. I did a video review of the Linksys WRT350N router a while back and as I write this, my video review is the top listed review. allows user video reviews.

The video review can also be viewed on Linksys WRT350N Customer Review page. Free content for!

There you go. User generated content basically turns your customers and site visitors into SEOs for you while generating fresh keyword rich content for the spiders to devour.

Also remember that customer/user feedback and interaction on your site or blog can help you with branding, stickiness and reputation management.