Updated Sept. 6, 2018

Long tail keywords on your website are essential – without them prospective clients would have a hard time finding your business – but for reasons you might not expect. Keywords are just one element of an online marketing strategy; they alone can’t make your website dominate search results. But by learning how clients search for your services and products you learn about their interests and problems. You can think of keywords as conversation starters – meeting your clients on their turf, using their language.

Making your website not only easy to find but relatable is the goal of search engine optimization (SEO). That’s why we still obsess over keywords.

In this article we share a way to research the keywords clients use when looking for professional services and products. We start by introducing long tail keywords and wrap up with resources for crafting the content on your website to appeal to your ideal client.

Keywords Help Search Engines Help You

Ideally, to get in front of clients, your website needs to be listed among the first results that they see when they search for something related to your business.

Search engines want to understand that relationship so they process your website to learn what the content is about, how it’s structured, and how other sites link to it. Keywords are one of many clues that they use.

A short, broad keyword – also known as a “head” term – isn’t as good of a clue as a phrase that’s three to five words that’s more specific. It’s the specificity that gives long tail keywords their power.

For example, let’s say you’re a business coach and you want to optimize your site to get found by anyone who searches with the term “business coach.” The problem? There are over 861,000,000 pages for business coach that Google has indexed and that are vying for a coveted spot on the first page.

However, what if you refine that search to “business coach for entrepreneurs”? Now, search results drop from 861 million to 33.1 million results; still formidable, but you’re competing against 827.9 million fewer web pages! By including what type of business coach, it’s easier for clients to find you.

This is the reason why you need to incorporate long tail keywords into your website. Most customers, when they’re in the buying (and not just researching) phase, use long tail keywords to find the solution that best suits their needs.

The Downside to Long Tail Keywords

As you can imagine, there are far fewer searches for long tail keywords and potentially fewer visitors to your website. Don’t go overboard with your long tail strategy. Website content that’s focused on an obscure topic (keyword phrase) that’s rarely used might not be seen. Masterfully written content – whether it’s a sales page or a blog post – on a topic that nobody cares about, or that’s unrelated to your business, will get you nowhere fast.

Researching keywords will keep you from spinning your wheels – you’ll avoid developing content that’s irrelevant to your prospects.

Researching Long Tail Keywords

Keyword research by SEO experts can be an intensive undertaking that requires advanced tools such as SEMrush. But a business owner can often arrive at the same place – a list of on-point keywords – by mining free resources. Here’s a way to find the right long tail keywords for your business.

Begin by brainstorming a list of how prospects would search for you and your website.

Next, use the auto-complete feature and related searches provided by search engines to build out and refine your list.

Suggest and Searches Related To tools

This article began with the search “business coach for” and discovering longer search phrases. Try it yourself: As you type it in the Google search box you’ll see a list of suggestions. Here’s what we saw:

  • Business coach for entrepreneurs
  • Business coach for creatives
  • Business coach for health coaches
  • Business coach for accountants
  • Business coach for therapists

To speed things up search engines offer popular searches that you can choose from. The suggestions you see with the auto-complete feature from Google and Bing are a great place to start your keyword research.

Copy down the suggestions that are a good match your business. (If none is appropriate, try the next keyword on your list.) Repeat this process until you have at least a dozen potential keyword phrases to choose from.

Next, let’s look at another free source of keywords that’s right on the search results page: “Searches related to” at the bottom of the page. You’ll see more long-tail keywords there.

Related searches are so useful that Google now supplies even more of them. When you click through to a web page, and then go back to the search results you’ll see a list of content related to the page you clicked on. For example:

Could you add “entrepreneur coaching program” or “small business coaching services” to your list? See what happens when you click on another search result with content like yours and then use the back button to get related searches. Copy down the keyword phrases that best apply to your business and your website.

No doubt you have used these features for personal searches; now you know how to apply the information to your business. But if you find this process too slow you can use tools such as SEO Chat and Answer the Public, which draw from this data.

Other free sources that we use are:

With your growing pile of data don’t lose sight of why you’re taking the time and effort to collect it. Keywords alone do not mean anything – put them into context.

Peek into your client’s mind

The purpose of keyword research is to better understand what prospects are looking for and then develop content to help them.

For example, the top businesses for the head term “accounting software” are brand names such as Quicken and FreshBooks. But Google’s auto-complete displays “accounting software for nonprofits,” “accounting software for contractors,” and searches for other niche markets.

Think of these search phrases as questions that your website can answer:

  • Clients looking for “accounting software for nonprofits” might ask: “Which vendor completely understands the accounting challenges that nonprofits have? Is there accounting software to handle donations, payroll, and reporting requirements?”
  • Clients looking for “accounting software for contractors” might ask: “Is there software that can juggle deposits from clients, purchases from a hundred suppliers, and payments to a team of craftsmen?”

Even when your accounting software can be used by any industry an effective way to build your online presence – and your business – is to target clients whose needs require special attention.

We hope we’ve demystified keywords and explained the value of long tail keywords. We’re not done with keywords just yet. In our next post, we’ll discuss how to use keywords to focus your content, putting what you’ve learned into action.

Janet Chiu, Strategic Team Blog Author

The creatives I work with ask provocative questions about the latest trends in website marketing. Strategic Team is where we work out the answers (and have a little fun).