Leveraging The Long Tail: SEO Copywriting For Small Businesses


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The search engine results page (SERP) is one place where your business can be just as successful as the big guys. Though you might not be able to compete with, for example, Ford or GM for the keyword “cars,” you can boost your visibility in an affordable way and actually structure your marketing campaign so that you attract better customers.

 “Better” customers?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) offers marketers a chance to narrow the reach of their campaign to people who are interested in buying what they are selling right now (or very soon). For example, someone who is looking to buy a stereo right now would Google the brand name and the style, browse the first page or so of results, and make a purchase or find a retailer to visit after doing a small amount of online research. You don’t have to pay for unnecessary impressions like you might with mass media—instead, you can ensure that every single person who sees a link to your website is interested in stereos (or whatever it is that you’re selling).

Better customers = higher ROI.

SEM involves marketing to a tailored audience of people who are likely to buy – they have, after all, expressed interest by searching for a relevant term. They are much, much more likely to buy your product than someone who, for example, drove by your billboard or picked up the newspaper you advertised in. Additionally, SEM does not involve paying per impression (or approximate impressions), as buying other advertising does. Rather, you simply need to invest in your website and, at most, pay for actual clicks.

Better customers and better ROI? Tell me how.

There are two places your company can appear on the SERP—paid ads and organic results. Companies compete for paid ads via a bidding system where they offer to pay a particular amount per click when their ad appears for a keyword. The bid amount and the quality of the ad copy determine which ads appear for each search. Since the advertiser only pays Google for clicks, the search engine shows the ads that its algorithm thinks users are likely to click on—the ads that appear to be the most relevant to users’ searches.  In this model, advertisers choose the search terms for which they would like their ad to appear.

The ranking of organic search results, on the other hand, does not involve a direct exchange of money. However, once again, relevancy is key. Google’s finely tuned search algorithm is designed to rank sites on their relevance to particular keywords so users can easily find what they’re looking for. Search engine spiders crawl every website, tracking the appearance of each keyword they feature and determining which websites are most relevant to different searches. Though search engine spiders track other factors, as well, including links and traffic, a site cannot rank highly in organic results without a great keyword strategy. To put it simply, you cannot rank for search terms that do not appear on your site.

Though paid and organic search are different in many ways, a great keyword strategy can help you succeed at both—and give your small business a prominent place on the SERP.

What makes a keyword strategy “great”?

A great keyword strategy is, above all, targeted. Though every web user who searches a term related to your product probably has some interest, you want to reach the people who are very interested. How do you reach the person who has the exact need your product fulfills? And how do you reach them before the big guys do?

Simple: you chase the long tail.

The long tail?

Long tail keywords are very specific. They are the many terms that each get few searches, as opposed to the few terms that each get many searches. Together, several long tail keywords can represent as much traffic as one very general term—and, since they are each much easier to rank for, they are a great bet for small businesses.

Think about “cars.” “Cars” is not a long tail keyword. It has millions of searches per day, and it shows up on millions of websites. It also has many huge corporations with excellent SEO firms and big paid search budgets competing to rank #1 for it.

“Vintage Mustang repair,” on the other hand, is much more specific. It’s a long tail keyword—it doesn’t get nearly as many searches as “cars.” However, if you own a repair shop that specializes in vintage mustangs, you will have a much better chance of ranking highly for “vintage Mustang repair” than for “cars.”

How do I best optimize for long tail keywords?

1. Choose terms that represent what your business does in the most specific way possible.

Not only will these keywords be less competitive, they will also ensure that you reach the best—most targeted—audience possible. Not every consumer searching for “cars” will be seeking to repair their vintage Mustang, but every consumer searching for “vintage Mustang repair” will!

2. Optimize different pages for different long tail keywords.

If your company performs multiple services—for example, fixes vintage Mustangs and vintage Camaros—set up separate pages describing each of them. This way, you can reap the benefits of long tail keyword optimization—high rankings for targeted terms–without limiting your focus to only one of your company’s specialties.

3. Do your research.

Search your desired terms in all of their variations, and optimize for those with fewer competitors. Be sure to take advantage of Google and Bing’s keyword tools!

4. Get local.

“Vintage Mustang repair Seattle” is even more targeted than “vintage Mustang repair.”

5. Choose the terms that are most likely to convert.

Think about what terms users further along in the purchase funnel will search for. Consumers in the research phase might use more general terms (excluding brand names or retailers), while those looking to make an immediate purchase will be more specific. Try to grab the consumers who are willing to buy today!

Looking at the long-term

The first five results on Google snag about 75% of the clicks and the first page of links gets 98% of the clicks. If you rank highly for long tail keywords, you’ll grab the traffic that’s necessary for continued SEO success. Since search engine spiders favor sites with more traffic, your long tail strategy will lead you to more affordable and effective search marketing.

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