Ben Silverman

Not everybody can rank for every keyword. If you Google the word “music,” only major sites like Pandora, Google Play, MTV, Apple, NPR and Berklee College of Music appear on page one. No mention of your favorite music blog, a local music store, or even the Wikipedia article on music. And certainly no mention of your Top 40 cover band.

Ranking for a primary keyword like “music” can be next to impossible, but exploring your adjacent keywords and phrases and using relevant supportive terms can help you rank for longtail searchers. And this makes your overall SEO stronger, and even helps you get closer to ranking for your primary keyword goal.

Leverage longtail to promote primary

There’s more to driving traffic to your website than focusing on primary keywords. In fact – and you might have already learned this the hard way – using the wider, broader, more popular primary keywords can do more harm than good because they pit you against the top players in your industry.

Instead, incorporate the deeper, more industry-specific keywords and phrases into your strategy. The better Google favors your long tail keywords, the more traffic you’ll get, and the better a chance you’ll have at ranking for your primary keywords.

Step 1: Consider how people are searching

It can be a lengthy process to fully research, map, refine, (re-research), and finalize your keywords and phrases. It all start with broad questions about who is searching for your chosen phrases. Once you know who, you can begin to assess how they’re searching. This will help you design your key phrases to more accurately match the way people are searching for your content.

Eric Rubino, a Specialist Editor at Brafton, asks: “How do you search on Google? Chances are it’s not a single word, or even a clunky group of words. It’s most likely a complete sentence or question in natural english.” As more users search with tools like Amazon Echo, Siri and Cortana, queries will grow even more conversational and longtail. Consider how your audience personas are searching, and keep that in mind when you research your keywords.

Step 2: Perform some preliminary searches of your own

If you’re writing a blog about about how startup culture affects employee productivity, Google the most basic keyword related to your topic: “Startups.” You likely get results from Forbes, Wikipedia, and other giants that recieve millions of daily views.

Take a look at some of the sites in the results and keep track of what they have in common. Click over to the “News” tab to see your search term in the context of current trends. The more you explore the high-performing recent articles, the better you can identify the supportive phrases around your target keyword, and craft your keywords to be relevant to what people are searching.

Step 3: Branch out even further

Now it’s time to develop your keywords and phrases into even more specific, relevant key phrases that can complement “startups”. Google News showed you that “startups” can map to “marketing budget,” “high-growth firms,” “disruptive technologies,” and “Indian startups,” so try searching each of those terms. Google Search can develop these terms even further with “Searches related to,” “See results about” and, most dynamically, “People also ask.”

These related key phrases will help you cover as much ground as possible. Borrow the new keyphrases and punch them into a service like Google Keyword Tool. Your aim is to find which of them is most efficient to aim for, and there are several factors to consider.

  1. Volume indicates how popular a term is in search – the higher the search volume, the more people are searching for that term. While you want a high volume, sometimes too high means the key phrase is too broad.
  2. Competition shows what you’re up against. Suppose you are a restaurateur: “Best cheap food,” for example, has an extremely high search volume, but it’s almost impossible to attract people who are ready to buy your food with that term. While millions of people search for that term, the dozens or hundreds who search for “Best cheap falafel near Harvard Square” might actually be low in the funnel and ready to buy. Google AdWords Keyword Planning Tool indicates if a term is low, medium or high competition.
  3. CPC suggested bid can be helpful, even if you aren’t planning a paid ad for a term. Google gives an estimation of how much each term is worth in AdWords, and the number serves as a quotient of your keyword, its competition, search volume, time and location.

Step 4: Look to social to analyze the success of your phrases

While researching keywords in Google search and Keyword Tool shows you what the best SEO keywords are, it might not paint the full picture of how effective your terms are. Tools like Buzzsumo not only show how the leaders in your industry are using your longtail keywords, but how their articles are performing on social media.

Optimizing for search is only half the battle – optimizing your content for how people read and share it on social media is the crucial other half of any keyword optimization strategy. Plug your keywords into Buzzsumo to discover tried and true methods for social success. Buzzsumo will help you determine the key phrases that can tailor your blog to what readers are looking for.

A little bit of keyword research can go a long way in your content mapping and planning. It can help you fine tune your writing, or even discover new ideas to write about. Before you spend the time writing a blog or article or landing page, take the time to research, evaluate and refine your longtail keyword strategy.