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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Nov 19, 2013 6 min read

Long Tail Or Short Tail Keywords? Using Hummingbird To Your Advantage

What are long tail keywords, how should I use long tail keywords in my content, tactics to choosing the best long tail keywordsLast Thursday, we wrote about the major changes being implemented as part of Google's Hummingbird update, and how Google is in the process of training marketers to create content based on questions instead of keywords.

Today, we’re going to take that a step further to discuss what long tail keywords are and how to use them to help your company get found on the internet.

What are long tail keywords?

Historically, we used short keywords phrases as a way to match what our businesses do with what people are searching for on the web. The result was often page 1 rankings on the major search engines and traffic to our websites.

These were short phrases like “inbound marketing” or “content marketing,” and they were very broad. The idea was to pepper your website with these keywords in the hope of increasing your search rankings.

The challenge with that approach is that human beings don't talk in keywords, or even keyword phrases. Google is actively trying to match search results to a more natural search request, such as a question, and you have to adjust your search engine optimization strategy to match.

While most marketers think this is a plan to make their jobs harder, we think it's a perfect way to better qualify visitors to your website. Let me illustrate.

If I was shopping for a boat, I might type in the word "boat.” The results of that search would likely be sites for people who want to buy a boat, sell a boat, paint a boat, take a boat ride, etc.

If I was the company who sold boat accessories, driving those who want to buy a boat to my website is actually counterproductive. Using long tail keywords increases the quality of visitors to your website. This is important.

A related keyword phrase might be "power boat," which is more specific than "boat," but still too general as a keyword phrase because it attracts too general of an audience.

Now, “45-foot diesel-powered boat” is a long tail keyword that is very specific. Someone searching this phrase doesn't want information on all boats, he or she wants information specific to "45-foot diesel-powered boats."

If your company sells larger diesel-powered boats, then as a searcher, I am going to be happy to find your site, visit your site and potentially buy a boat from your company.

Really, everyone wins. Google wins because it delivered a better search result. The company wins because it received a highly qualified visitor to its website and the prospects win because they found the perfect website for their purchase needs.

How should I use long tail keywords to get found?

Now that Google’s strategy is to direct its users to exactly what they are looking for, that should be your focus as well. You need to know what questions your prospects and customers are asking and you need to be able to answer those questions on your website. The questions and their related answers are the basis for your long tail keywords.

Here are some tactics to choosing the best long tail keywords:

  • Ask your prospects what questions they have about your business.

  • Ask your customer service people to share the questions customers ask when they call in.

  • Ask your sales team members what questions they hear at each stage of the sales process. The questions they get in the beginning are different than those at the end of your process.

Take those questions and turn them into your long tail keywords. Here is an example for the power boat company:

"What is the starting price for a 45-foot diesel-powered motor boat?"

Use this as a long tail keyword and create a blog post that answers the question. Something like this:

"How To Calculate The Starting Price For A 45-Foot Diesel-Powered Boat"

Google now rewards better content over more content, so it’s important to really think about the improvements you are able to make to your content to reach your prospects and keep them engaged. Taking the long tail approach to your SEO helps your business get found, get leads and grow sales.

Start Today Tip: A good place to start is to make a list of your current short tail keywords and see if you are able to turn those into long tail keyword phrases. Include those long tail phrases in your educational content, like your blog, whitepapers or tip sheets. Make sure you track, report and continually update your list of long tail keywords so you are driving the most qualified leads to your site.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.