Long tail SEO - A simplified how-to

Long tail SEO is something that I have trouble getting people to understand - the long tail is an oft-forgotten part of the search engine optimisation process because it's hard to get excited about ranking for a phrase which brings in 3 people per month.

However, long tail SEO can bring in 90% of your traffic, and it's easier than beating the established players at the big phrases.

LeftClick's take on the matter

I have been enjoying my shiny new subscription to LeftClick's RSS feed recently. LeftClick Labs are New Zealand usability consultants, and a lot of what they say makes sense. And to add sugar to the top, LeftClick use these kooky littly hand-drawn pictures all over the site which just make the whole experience really pleasant.

John Hyde of LeftClick recently posted about long tail SEO, and it's a must-read post for website owners because it's not too technical and explains the concept so well. And the picture of a "wheelchair backpacker accommodation queenstown dog allowed" at the bottom of the page was pretty cool too.

To finish off...

However, the article didn't explain at all how to go about winning these long tail searches, and I thought I could chip in my 2c worth here.
After explaining long tail search regarding the phrase "wheelchair backpacker accommodation queenstown dog allowed", the article first states...

So if you have a "wheelchair backpacker accommodation queenstown dog allowed", then you can buy those keywords in Google Adwords for a few cents per click.


Hmm, yes, but Adwords shouldn't be the first thing that pops into your mind.

You can also help your organic rankings for these specialised, long-tail searches. Create lots of focused pages targeted at specialised search terms.


That's more like it. Why waste money on Adwords when you can own the organic results for free?

Owning the organic long-tail

Because nobody else is specifically targetting long tail phrases, they are usually pretty easy to win. Both LeftClick and I will be ranking in the top 10 for "wheelchair backpacker accommodation queenstown dog allowed" within the next week (Edit 29 Jan 08: hehe, I beat them to it), and probably some of the shorter variations of the phrase too.

To get any measureable amount of traffic from long tail however, you need to target lots of phrases / variations.

One sure-fire way to get top rankings for a long-tail phrase is to apply the regular rules on on-page SEO - use the phrase in the title, URL, heading, meta description and first paragraph of body content. However, creating a whole page for every long-tail term is not usually practical - you end up with hundreds of pages effectively saying the same thing, which is a bit cheesy.

And on top of that, it's not necessesary either.

Strengthening pages that already rank

A better approach to long tail search is to add your long tail phrases onto pages that are already ranking for related terms. Add the exact phrase + a variation of the phrase in a paragraph on one of your existing pages - often this is all that is required to win the long tail searches.

Example:

Accommodation features

  • Stunning views of Queenstown from all backpacker rooms
  • Broadband internet available
  • Wheelchair backpacker accommodation Queenstown
  • Dogs allowed (but don't let the dog on the bed)
  • Breakfast provided
The above should be pretty easy to slip onto the bottom of a page, and should be enough to win the long tail for this phrase.
  • The phrase we are targeting has been used in full (almost)
  • Note "dog" has been changed to "dogs" for readability
  • The fact that the phrase is split across 2 separate bullet points does not matter. You can get away with inserting dashes, line breaks, commas, periods etc within your phrase and Google won't mind.
  • I have repeated the words Queenstown, backpacker and accommodation within close proximity of the phrase.
  • I have used "dog" within close proximity of the main phrase, which is a variation of "dogs".
  • Adding more variants to this block of text will help you rank for other long-tail phrases - add "wheel chair", "accomodation" (note misspelling), "hostel", "Whakatipu" and other related words.
  • Proximity is important - you do need to concentrate these words into a small block of text.
  • If any of those words are used in the title, URL, heading etc, then this makes the job of ranking much easier.
.

Go to it

Look through your existing content and spare some thought for what long-tail phrases people might use to find this page. Then, create a keyword rich paragraph of content which encompasses the phrases you have chosen, with a few variations thrown in.

I'm sure you will be pleased with the results.
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