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Grabbing SEO by the Long Tail

Monday, 12 May 2008 — by

Search Engine Optimization is in simple terms a methodology for word relevance and word use. Of course, there’s a lot more to SEO, but for the most part, that’s the story so far. However, to rank highly for those words you know are relevant to you, it helps to rank for more distant phrases and even questions…

There’s a lot been said about the so-called “Long Tail” and how it can help build towards better traffic from the search engines. The truth is, Long Tail searches work and should be a part of your overall SEO strategy.

I say this with a certain degree of authority because I see it work with my ‘blog every single day. The best way to explain what Long Tail search is would be to start with an example of what it isn’t:

“Technology”

Type that search into Google and you won’t see Blah anywhere within the first 10 search results pages. What you will see, right at the bottom of the page, is Google’s attempt to refine your search:

related searches on Google

In offering related search phrases, Google is providing you with living examples of Long Tail search phrases.

A question of relevance?

Of the options, clicking on “technology definition” will most probably bring up a page entitled: “What is Technology?” Sadly, that’s not mine.

However, and ironically, if you search for “What is Technology?” you will more than likely see Blah listed with an article entitled: “Just what is technology?

what is technology?

Rather cryptically, this question is an answer unto itself; article titles constructed as questions can provide a regular stream of organic search traffic to your ‘blog or website.

If like me you write about varied topics along the lines of “What if?” then writing something that helps answer those questions will most likely help you rank more highly — subject to the relative competitiveness of your niche, of course.

I won’t be touching on the content of the articles themselves, other than to say you need to write quality content with keywords & phrases that help reinforce the topic that you’re writing about.

Consider what kinds of questions people are likely to be asking about those topics within your niche. Plan your articles to answer those questions and think in terms of more inclusive Long Tail key phrases as well as keywords.

As well as people asking questions, if they find your content interesting or relevant to their needs, they may well see fit to link to your article. And here’s where good things are likely to start happening.

To link is to like is to luv’

Remember what I recently said about anchor text relevance? When people link back to you, it’s unlikely they’re going to use a long line of text. Instead, they’re more likely to use the phrase they used to find you in the first place, or something smaller and much more specific.

And since Google as well as all the other search engines are watching, they will look at the anchor text being used to describe your article (both the anchor text as well as the surrounding text) and add that to their ever-changing, dynamic score.

So in a sense, Long Tail searches are the building blocks on top of which you will create ever more relevant articles, which will allow your more specific and targeted keyword-rich articles to rank more highly.

When giving someone a link, try to avoid “anchor text anorexia” and give them a link that counts!

Examples of Long Tail searches on Blah

For those new to Blah, I write about a lot of different stuff. That has positives and negatives. One of the advantages is that the spread and variety of back-links I have is pretty formidable. On the downside, I will always struggle compete on specific keywords.

The following examples are specific to Google’s search engine. Results may vary on other search engines. Also, results from regionalized versions of Google may vary, too.

SEO & Social Media related

More specific searches:

Science & Technology related

Software related

Business related

Conclusion

To visualize the task at hand, if you were to aggressively target very specific keywords, your progress could be imagined as a very steep, if not near-vertical line on a chart. Bummer.

But if you target peripheral, related key phrases, your progress will be much more gradual. Yes, your progress might be slow, but if you’re starting a new website or ‘blog, either tactic is going to be very gradual, unless you’re able to capture some very authoritative back-links very quickly, but then that could incur penalties.

So it’s best to build a long-term strategy that is both pragmatic and achievable, with the odd high expectation thrown in every now & then, just to keep your competitive streak from running thin.

Given enough time, patience and quality content, that Long Tail should lose some length while gaining you some none too unpleasant positions on Google’s search results pages…

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doug m → Monday, 12 May 2008 @ 22:06 BDT

I’ve been hearing a lot lately that i need to go back and check my anchor text for my links and after changing a few I’ve seen a jump in positioning from search engine traffic.

Excellent post Wayne

Megapixels → Tuesday, 13 May 2008 @ 23:47 BDT

I think long tail represents the long term potential of the web. In spite of the vast amount of information on the web, there’s still so many long tail queries that don’t return anything relevant. Given that it’s the only place where the little guy can compete anymore, it’s kind of nice to think the the future of the web belongs to the grass root type folks.

Wayne Smallman → Wednesday, 14 May 2008 @ 19:15 BDT

Hi guys! As you can see, I do well from Long Tail stuff.

What I would add is, over time, certain single keywords will become so competitive, there’s every chance that the Long Tail will become the battle ground of SEO in the near future…

Albert → Tuesday, 4 August 2009 @ 21:06 BDT

Long tail keywords are often the only one possibility for people with less money to get customers through SEO. A very good alternative to Top Keywords optimization.

Sorry Comments are close. Quite possibly for a good reason. Share your thoughts on some of my other posts or contact me directly.

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