Long-tail keywords are search queries with at least four words. They are perfect for not-so-established websites to outrank the competition. Here’s how you find them.
A big part of ranking well on Google is finding the right search terms. That’s where long-tail keywords come in.
Long-tail keywords are search queries with at least four words. For example, “Finding long-tail keywords without tools” is a long-tail keyword.
If there’s a thing called long-tail keywords, there have to be short-tail keywords.
What’s the difference between long-tail keywords and short-tail keywords?
Long-tail keywords are search queries with at least four words.
Short-tail keywords are search queries that are between one and three words long. They are also called fat head keywords.
Some people distinguish mid-tail keywords—or “the chunky middle”—as well. Those would typically call anything between two and four words in a search query mid-tail.
But as the great RÜFÜS said, Simplicity is Bliss. To rank well on Google, it’s enough to differentiate between short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords.
In SEMrush’s example, “why are my tomato plants turning yellow” is a long-tail keyword. “Tomato plant” is a short-tail keyword.
The short-tail keyword gets more searches but is also wildly more competitive. The chance of someone clicking your website is low. Someone might be typing “tomato plant” into Google, looking to buy one. Another might just want to know how often to water it. With short-tail keywords you seldom know the search intent behind the query.
The long-tail keyword gets fewer searches but has a higher click rate. Someone typing “why are my tomato plants turning yellow” isn’t looking to buy a new plant. They want an answer to their specific question. If you answer that question well, you’re guaranteed to gain Google’s favor.
Should you aim to rank for short-tail keywords or long-tail keywords?
Open up Google and search for a short-tail keyword in your niche. The biggest players on the market are popping up.
These are the current top results for “SEO” as a Google search query:
If your higher authority score is higher and you get just as many backlinks, you can outrank them. If not, focus on long-tail keywords first.
The search query “what is the role of seo in digital marketing,” has a significantly lower search volume than just “SEO.” This is an environment you can compete in..
Get 10 backlinks and write a better article than the top three results. Then you’ll outrank all of them for this long-tail keyword.
Keep writing articles on long-tail keywords until you’ve built the same authority as the big players. Then you can start targeting the short-tail keywords.
There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if you’re doing local SEO, your competition is horrible at optimizing their content, or you have a big budget. But generally, if you want to rank your content, start with long-tail keywords.
How to find long-tail keywords — Google only.
You don’t need paid tools to discover the right long-tail keywords. My Caveman Method and Google’s desire to show the best content to its users are enough to find the right long-tail keywords for your company.
When you start typing your keyword into Google, further suggestions will come up. The more people search for something, the higher that query climbs on Google’s suggestions.
When you type in another word, Google comes up with more suggestions, including more words:
From your starting point “SEO,” Google helps you to arrive at “SEO meaning in digital marketing.”
When you click on that search query, scroll down. You’ll see the “people also ask” section. Click on one of the arrows to expand the query, and Google will come up with more related questions. It’s an endless supply.
If you still haven’t had enough, scroll all the way down, and you arrive at the “related searches” section. Those give you even more ideas.
The alphabet method.
Type in your short-tail keyword followed by the first letter of the alphabet. Then the second. Then the third, and so on. Each letter will bring up a new selection of search queries you can target.
You can get even more suggestions by adding the letters in front of your keyword. Type the short-tail keyword, move the cursor to the front of it and type one letter.
How to find long-tail keywords with SEMrush.
When I started offering SEO copywriting services for clients, my first investment was SEMrush. I’ve laid out the $200/month from day one on, and it’s been worth it a hundred times over. Here’s a little nugget of wisdom I learned early on.
You don’t need paid tools to rank high on Google, but they damn sure help.
Using the alphabet method is a shortcut to finding topics to write about. The snag is to evaluate their usefulness. You can manually tear through Google’s first page and gauge if you can outrank those websites by looking at their content and guessing their page authority.
You might have looked into free SEO tools. I assure you, free SEO tools are a waste of time and only give you false security (or the opposite). Paid tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs cost so much money for a reason. Either you front the money for the real deal, or ditch tools completely.
SEMrush makes long-tail keyword research easy breezy.
SEMrush has more than one tool that gets the job done.
With the Keyword Magic Tool, you input a short-tail keyword, and SEMrush gives you dozens of suggestions. You can even filter the length of the keywords.
From there, you can add keywords to various lists to keep them neatly organized and ready to use.
The Topic Research Tool is part of the Content Marketing Toolkit and a must-have for every serious blogger. Search for a long-tail keyword, and the tool will return a collection of related topics and keywords. It’s fire.
By the way: Questions make great long-tail keywords.
That’s it. I’m out.