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 FramesDirect.com, gets a lot of comments and questions through their blog posts, perfect spider food for catching the longtail. For instance, FramesDirect.com 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.
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.