Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Great Misconception of Long-Tail Keywords and SEO

The Great Misconception of Long-Tail Keywords and SEO
Author : Jill Whalen © 2010
Article :: Copyright © 2010 Jayde Online, Inc.
Source : SEO-News.Com

As I write this, I just came back from a meeting with a
potential client with a startup who wants to make sure they
bake SEO into their website from the start
( while also not making any SEO gaffes
along the way. They were referred to me from a current client
who was in similar shoes about a year ago. I love working with
startups who have a well-thought-out business model, which is
in part to create a website and business so great that it
dominates their space.

During the course of our conversation one of the many things we
discussed was the need for a "long-tail keyword strategy."
Which makes sense because part of dominating any niche is
showing up in the search results for any and all keyword phrases
that relate to the business. We talked about the usual long-tail
keyword vehicles...a resource center on the website, a blog,
etc., all of which this company was planning to implement down
the line.

After the meeting I made a quick stop at Trader Joe's for nuts
and berries for my husband (I think he's part chimpanzee!).
When I got home it was noon so I fired up my "Jill Whalen
( ," which provides me with great
lunchtime reading. The ' dailies ( ' are
cool because they provide you with all the links your Twitter
followers posted during the last 24 hours. I often use mine to
help me find good articles to submit to Sphinn
(, as well as to keep up with the latest news
in the search marketing world and beyond. As I was browsing it
today, however, I was thinking that I shouldn't be reading other
people's articles because I had a newsletter to write and no
clue what to write about! My only excuse was that perhaps I
would get inspired by something I read.

Thankfully for me (and you, faithful reader), I did! The very
first article I read gave me exactly the inspiration I needed.

The article in question was Ian Lurie's "SEO 101: Defining the
long tail
long-tail-seo-101-defined.htm) " .

If you'd like, go ahead and read it before continuing – I'll
wait. Just be sure to come back because I'm going to tell you
why Ian is wrong in his explanation of the long tail for SEO.

Let me start by saying that I have tons of respect for Ian, whom
I met this past year at a conference we were both speaking at.
He's wildly intelligent, with the dry sense of humor for which
I'm a total sucker. Of the articles he's written that I've
read, I mostly agree with him – but not always. Which of course
is part of what keeps SEO so fun and interesting...we all have
our own opinions and definitions of stuff.

With that out of the way, and with you having had enough time to
read Ian's article, here are my thoughts on SEO and long-tail
keywords. Let's start with what I do agree with in Ian's

His definition:

The Long Tail
Specific, niche search phrases, usually more than 2 words in
length, that offer a low competition, low search volume and high searcher intent.

I mostly agree with that definition, although I'd say usually
more than 3 words in length because most 3-word search queries
do not have low search volume.

And I suppose that is the crux of my disagreement. He provides 3
made-up examples of long-tail keyword phrases, but in my opinion
only 2 of them are truly long tail.

His examples revolve around socks, and he rightfully explains
why optimizing and ranking highly for the one word "socks" is
not the best SEO strategy. It will provide you with lots of
traffic to your site, but it's untargeted traffic, and
therefore less likely to convert for you. That is, the person
who comes to your site after typing the one word "socks" into
Google is less likely to buy socks from you than the person who
typed "socks with cats on them" (another of Ian's example
phrases). I definitely agree with this. And I also agree that
the phrase "socks with cats on them" is likely to be a true
long-tail keyword phrase.

Ian also uses "socks that knock my socks off" as a potential
long-tail phrase, and goes on to say that these types of
phrases, in aggregate, can provide as much traffic to a website
as the one word "socks," while providing the bulk of the
sales. Once again, I agree.

Keyword Gems as Opposed to Long-Tail Keywords

Where I start to disagree is with the third keyword phrase that
Ian uses as a long-tail keyword: "red wool socks." While he
was obviously just making up examples, "red wool socks" is
unlikely to be a long-tail phrase – it's what I call a
"keyword gem ( ."

There's a very big difference between keyword gems and
long-tail keywords. Keyword gems are those that a lot of people
use in the search engines, but they don't have as much
competition as the much more general keyword "socks." This
differs from long-tail keywords, which aren't used much in the
search engines.

Long-tail keywords – in the truest sense of what long-tail means
– are those that may get searched for only once a month, once a
quarter, or even once a year. Sometimes even just once in a
lifetime! In fact, they may never show up in most keyword
research tools as viable keywords. (Especially now that Google
has basically wiped them out of their keyword research
database...but that's a story for another day.)

You Don't Optimize for Long Tail

Because long-tail keywords are so few and far between and can't
easily be researched, you can't optimize for them – not in the
traditional SEO sense. But that's okay, and in fact, it's the
beauty of long-tail keywords. Anybody can receive highly
targeted traffic from them, regardless of your level of
knowledge of SEO! All you have to do is have content on your
website. It doesn't even have to be good content, although it
should be good if you want it to convert for you. The content
can even be user-generated, as in a forum, or in blog comments,
product reviews, or pretty much anything that puts words on your

If you have words on your pages (and your site is crawler
friendly), you will receive traffic that relates to those words
whether you mean to or not. You've likely seen this yourself if
you have a blog or articles on your website and you review your
web analytics for the keyword you're getting found under. It's
really that easy.

But that's not SEO.

And that's where I disagree with Ian.

Near the end of his article he writes:

"If you want to capitalize on the long tail, look beyond rabid
link grubbing and learn to optimize your pages. Optimized,
relevant content is what gets long tail traction."

Yes, you can look beyond the horribleness of link grubbing. But
no, you don't have to optimize your content for long-tail
traction. You simply have to write content.

Sure, you can think about and create a long-tail keyword
strategy where you determine specific themes that you want to
write about that may capture the most amount of search traffic
as well as bring in links. And that's certainly how I'll be
helping my new startup client as part of my SEO consulting.
However, when I write my newsletters I don't do it with
keywords in mind. When we have posts on our forum, we don't do
it with keywords in mind. And yet, that's where our long tail
traffic comes from--with or without a long tail strategy.

Long-Tail Visitors Do Rock

While my long-tail visitors aren't typically in the market for
SEO services at the moment, they are often looking for SEO
information and education. The articles and posts they find on
my site through their long-tail searching often entice them to
sign up for our newsletter, which is a conversion in and of
itself. And I know from my data that newsletter subscribers
(waving to you!) are, in the long run, the most apt to hire me
for SEO consulting services somewhere down the line if or when
they're in the position to do so.

But make no mistake about it – our best short-term
lead-converting traffic comes from the keyword gems that are
searched upon fairly often. These are the ones that we optimize
our sales pages for. They are the keywords that potential
clients are using that describe exactly what we offer and how
those offerings can benefit them.

When you put those two strategies together – long-tail content
designed to make a first impression and a small conversion
(newsletter sign-up) plus keyword gem optimization designed to
collect leads now – you've got yourself some mighty SEO!

This Article Written by: Jill Whalen © 2010
Copyright © 2010 – Jayde Online, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Source : SEO-News.Com , Winnipeg, MB R2M 5M3, Canada
Website Registration : SEO-News is a registered service mark of Jayde Online, Inc.

About the author:
Jill Whalen, CEO of High Rankings and co-founder of SEMNE, has
been performing SEO services since 1995. Jill is the host of the High Rankings Advisor newsletter and the High Rankings SEO forum .

Editor of i-Technology News Blog : Boonchai Thaveetermsakul

About the Editor:
Coordinator and Web Alliance of and , and Writer of several websites and blogs: i-Technology News , Neo Liners International Blog , MultiLeaves ,

Erudite Owl and OmniscienceZ .