A Step-by-Step Guide to Integrating Long-Tail Keywords Within Blog Posts

Written by Neil Patel on May 7, 2015

seo longtail

When I started targeting long-tail keywords, I increased my search engine organic traffic to 173,336 visitors per month. You’re missing out on a lot of search traffic, if you’re not creating blog posts around longer search queries.

I encourage you to go after long-tail keywords, because they’re easier and more profitable to target. For most of them, you won’t face any significant competition.

Download these 21 awesome tools that you can use today to generate long tail keywords.

There’s little doubt that the foundation of SEO is keyword research. But, all keywords are not created equal. Most top brands are beginning to see the potential in longer keywords.

For example, Amazon makes 57 percent of their sales from long-tail keywords. That’s because longer keyword variations – especially those with commercial intent – convert very well.

image01

Head keywords, like “car insurance” might generate the most search traffic, if you eventually rank for them.  But, targeting such competitive keywords effectively is draining.

On the other hand, the “best car insurance company” may not have as many monthly searches, but because it’s longer than the head keyword, you could more easily rank for it and start generating more blog traffic and leads.

Content marketing experts, like Rand Fishkin and Marcus Sheridan, have also seen great results from long-tail keywords over the years. They’ve even taught others how to integrate long-tail search phrases into content creation in order to improve organic traffic by 80%.

image45

One SaaS company found that long-tail search terms perform 2.5 times better than their head keyword variations.

image44

If you plan your content carefully and integrate the right search terms, your blog posts can go viral and dominate the top search engine results. I’ll show you how to do just that in five simple steps. 

Step 1: Define Content Purpose

Before you can efficiently integrate long-tail search phrases into your blog posts, you have to define the purpose of your content.

According to Altimeter, “70 percent of digital marketers don’t have an integrated or effective content strategy.” Even the smallest strategic steps help: Heidi Cohen found that simply measuring ROI will yield a positive impact.

image34

The sooner you get serious about content marketing strategy, the better your results will be. One statistic from Oracle reveals that “per dollar spent, content marketing generates more ROI than paid search.”

If you want to build your email list, stop promoting your products and services. Instead,  focus on providing immense value to your users. Give them a good reason to opt-in.

image52

If you want social shares, then create better headlines and make it easier for readers to share your content. And, you can increase your blog post comments by asking questions and encouraging people to share their opinions about your topic.

You’ve also got to hone your skills, not because you want to appear smart or special, but because when you do, you’ll better understand how your audience feels and what you can do to meet their needs.

image56

Being a smart marketer isn’t just about having writing or keyword research skills. It’s about being smart and strategic about content marketing. Your ability to take a piece of published content and get it to thousands of readers, within a specified time frame, will determine your success.

In my experience, it’s actually pretty easy to write articles. Anyone who reads a few tips can do it. The challenge is creating engaging content that makes promotion easier.

image02

By naturally integrating long-tail keywords to generate direct and social media traffic, your search rankings and traffic will gradually improve to the point where you don’t have to be actively involved in marketing your blog.

Step 2:  Understand Buyer Personas

Who are your target audience members? You can figure this out by creating buyer personas.

According to Stan and Stacy, a buyer persona is basically a visualization tool. It’s a representation of a specific ideal reader that you’d like to attract to your blog or site.

image16

Anna Ritchie of Content Marketing Institute says that the purpose of mapping out a buyer persona is to visualize, in as much detail as possible, your audience members, their background, their demographics and their psychographics. Once you have the template, you can quickly and easily fill in the missing elements and keep each persona updated.

image13

Creating and maintaining buyer personas makes content marketing easier and more effective. It helps you to avoid creating content for the wrong audience or targeting the wrong keywords.

Personas make understanding your prospects much easier. You can see each pertinent fact about them at a glance.

And, the moment that you understand what goes on inside your customer’s mind, you’ll improve search traffic and make all of your marketing more effective.

You do that by starting with personalized emails; remember, personalization usually improves click-through rates by 14%, on average.

image05

Deloitte, an audit and consulting firm, experienced amazing results, when it fully embraced the concept of buyer personas.

image31

Pega has also leveraged buyer personas to improve engagement with customers and prospects. Nothing beats a deep understanding of your target audience.

image29

Step 3:  Research Long-Tail Keyword

Some marketers struggle to find the right long-tail keywords. They keep aiming at highly competitive head keywords and then wonder why their search traffic is not growing.

In my personal experience, long-tail search simplifies content marketing and improves its results. In December 2012, KISSmetrics received 142,149 visitors from long-tail keywords and I haven’t looked back since.

Longer variations of your keywords may have lower search volumes than head keywords, but their conversion rates are usually very high.

That’s why you should use them, if you’re serious about acquiring customers for your online business, no matter what your niche might be.

image58

Let’s find those long-tail keywords right now:

i).   First step: Go to Google AdWords Keywords Planner. After logging in, input your main keyword (e.g., mobile friendly site). Then, scroll down the page to click the “Get Ideas” button:

image53

ii).  Second step: Click the “keywords” tab to reveal all of the keywords in each group:

image43

iii).  Third step:  Pick your long-tail keywords from the results list, by identifying keywords with 4 or more words.

image23

Alternatively, you can use Ubersuggest. Copy one of the keywords (e.g., from the screenshot, make website mobile friendly), plug it in to Ubersuggest and click the “suggest” tab.

image51

Here are the longer variations returned for our example:

image27

1).   Best long-tail keywords research tools: With so many options available, it’s important to avoid wasting time and to choose wisely.

I strongly believe that one or two SEO tools that can generate long-tail search queries is all that you need.

image24

I’ve already talked about Ubersuggest, which is a great tool for finding long-tail search terms. Of course, Google AdWords Keywords Planner is my top choice, but there are others that I’ve found helpful in the past:

a).  HitTail:  This tool will suggest long-tail keywords for you, based on a short or seed search query. This service is not free, but it’s worth the investment, if you’re serious about SEO.

image10

b).  KeywordTool.io: If you want to generate hundreds of long-tail keywords from a single head term, this keyword tool is what you need. It’s 100% free and unlike Google’s own tool where you could wind up spending a lot of time pursuing results, it only requires a single click.

On the homepage, type in your main keyword (e.g., Apple smart watch), then click the red search icon:

image12

After clicking the search icon, you’ll find hundreds of variations of your seed keyword that you can use as the basis for new content:

image00

2).   User intent vs. keyword targeting: There is a slight difference between what SEO used to be and what it is now. Keyword targeting is still crucial – Google hasn’t abandoned that yet – but the focus now is on the users who are typing those keywords.

image06

First, the bad news: aiming to rank in the top 10 results for a particular keyword is no longer a realistic goal.

This is because the more you strive to occupy the #1 position, the more desperate you become and the more willing you are to engage in questionable SEO practices, which bears a significant risk of incurring Google’s wrath.

Instead, there is a new SEO mindset that you should adopt right now.

image37

Keyword targeting simply means picking a keyword and then writing content to address the intention behind that keyword. You still have to research keywords, but now you do it with the searcher’s intention in mind.

In other words, you’re concerned about the user and you want to understand why they came to Google in the first place, what challenges they’re experiencing and why they searched for “reviews” instead of “how to.”

image19

Looking at this Google result image, you can see that “user intent” shows you the purpose behind the search for a product – i.e., the shoes. Some are for running, while others are for basketball users.

The new SEO requires caring about your users and solving their problems.

Step 4:  Write Content Based on Selected Long-Tail Keywords

Content creation is a tough adventure, especially when you’re not a passionate writer. You can make the process more effective, however, by simply planting the right seeds in your content. Those seeds are the long-tail search queries that will cause Google to send you more targeted traffic.

According to Whatech, over half of all marketers struggle with content – either producing enough of it or making it engaging.

image02

After Google’s Panda update, businesses of all sizes started to invest more into content marketing, because they found that it’s the best way to attract and retain customers.

Simply reiterating keywords over and over to improve search rankings worked pretty well before 2011, but Google Panda and Penguin were game changers.

But, make no mistake: keyword research and targeting is still the basic foundation of SEO. You must still track the positions of your keywords in Google. However, you’ll notice growth in your search traffic, just by targeting long-tail keywords in a natural manner. Often, these keywords will not only generate visitors to your site, but they’ll be engaged visitors who have indicated interest in your product.

image26

Keywords are a critical factor in the Google ranking algorithm. No matter what the latest ranking factor might be – mobile-friendliness, site speed, engagement – on-page keyword usage boosts your content’s search performance by 15.04%.

image03

So, let’s examine how to naturally integrate long-tail keywords in our written content.

1).    How to use long-tail keywords in headlines: According to MBA Online, every day we’re inundated with over 2 million blog posts and 290 billion emails.

No matter what you’re writing – blog posts, email subject lines, Facebook ads or anything else – the headline is a crucial element. Even a slight mistake can cripple your traffic or even piss off your readers.

If you can nail the perfect headline, you’ll be positioned highly in the search results pages. Magnetic headlines will prompt your customers to click, read and eagerly respond to your offers.

Keyword-rich headlines will ultimately improve your rankings and increase your blog engagement. Your target audience is looking for blog posts that will solve their problems and address the very keywords that they typed into Google’s search box.

image20

WPBeginner increased its organic traffic by 20% in just two months. They discovered over time that longer keyword variations have the capacity to send 70% more search traffic, because those keywords are less competitive and highly targeted to the users.

image40

There’s no single rule for including long-tail keywords in your headlines, but I can show you a few tips that make your content flow naturally, which is exactly what Google is looking for in your inbound marketing campaigns.

image59

By being natural in your headline (and your anchor text, when linking out to other sites), you can drive 20,000+ monthly visitors utilizing long-tail search terms.

So, let’s integrate long-tail keywords into our headlines, right now. Follow this three-step process:

First step: Research and choose long-tail search terms. Let’s stay with Google AdWords Keywords Planner for our example.

On the dashboard, type in your main keyword phrase (e.g., start small business) and click the “Get Ideas” button.

image32

In the above screenshot, you can see the long-tail keywords that we’ll integrate into our blog post headlines:

  • starting a small business checklist
  • best small business to start
  • steps to starting a small business
  • help starting a small business

Second step: Model popular and viral headlines. It’s not enough to pick long-tail key phrases; you also have to identify viral content specific to your industry and then learn from it.

When you find headlines that have been shared thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and so on, it means that you can get great results, too – simply study them and incorporate the underlying strategies into your own content.

So, how do you find these viral blog post headlines? Visit BuzzSumo, input your main keyword (i.e., start small business) and click the “search” button.

image14

The two viral headlines in the screenshot above are:

  • 5 Simple Ways to Start a Small Business ~ 102,658 Facebook shares
  • 6 Things I Wish Somebody Had Told Me When I Started My Small Business

~ 10,165 Facebook shares, 1,164 LinkedIn Shares.

Note: You can refer back to the long-tail keywords that we researched in the first step. In the third step, we’ll integrate them naturally into headlines modeled after the viral ones.

Third step: Craft your headlines, using the viral headlines as a model:

Original Headline: 5 Simple Ways to Start a Small Business

Keyword phrase to integrate: steps to starting a small business

Unique and keyword-rich blog post headline based on the model:

  • 7 Steps to Starting a Small Business and Growing It
  • 3 Simple Steps to Start a Small Business That You’ll Love

Original headline: 6 Things I Wish Somebody Had Me When I Started My Small Business

Long-tail keyword to integrate: starting a small business checklist

Clickable and keyword-rich blog post headline modeled on the original:

  • 6 Things I Wish Somebody Had Told Me About Starting a Small Business: Checklist for Success
  • 10 Lessons I Learned by Starting a Small Business: A Checklist for Growth

You don’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize winner to craft a clickable and keyword-rich headline.

Here’s a little-known secret: Many of the blog post headlines that have generated the most social shares for me were modeled on headlines created by others. When I find a catchy headline that makes me click, I’ll copy it, study it and create a unique and better one.

image54

For example, if I’m stumped and don’t know what type of headline to write, I visit Buzzfeed.com and check out their latest headlines, then model my own after theirs:

image35

Now, I can easily create better headlines that are unique and keyword-rich, based on Buzzfeed’s latest news headlines. Let’s do it:

Buzzfeed’s headline: Which Stoner Country Song Should You Toke Up To?

My unique headlines, with the right long-tail keywords:

  • Which Small Business Marketing Advice Should You Follow?
  • Which Blog Traffic Building Course Should You Invest In?

Buzzfeed’s news headline: 11 Texts That Will Speak to Your Soul

My well-crafted keyword-rich headlines:

  • 11 One Way Link Building Strategies That Will Speak to Your Soul
  • 11 Best Small Businesses to Start That Will Speak to Your Soul
  • 13 Top Content Marketing Strategies That Will Speak to Your Soul

Note: The underlined part of the headlines above represent the long-tail keywords that were naturally integrated.

Another approach that you could take is to check out popular magazines for headlines that have been written and tested by professional writers.

i).  Visit Magazines.com: Type your subject – e.g., “fitness” – into the search box, then click the search icon.

image04

ii).  Select your favorite magazine: From the results page, you’ll find lots of fitness magazines. Pick one, click on it and then examine the cover for headline ideas.

image28

iii).   Study their strong headlines: Fitness magazines in particular usually have strong headlines that inspire the reader to take action. As a smart content marketer and blogger, your responsibility is to study these headlines and make yours better. Let’s identify them first:

image39

The strong headlines above are:

  • Super Fast! Every Recipe in 25 Minutes or Less
  • 78 Speedy Recipes

Since these headlines have generated thousands of subscriptions, we can improve the results from our content by using them as models, then integrating the right keyword phrases. Let’s do it:

  • Super Fast! How to Write a Blog Post In 45 Minutes or Less
  • 78 Speedy Recipes to Increase Your Site Load Time Right Now

Note: So far, we’ve written several headlines that include numbers. You may wonder why that is – and if so, I have a data-driven answer for you.

According to Moz, blog post headlines with numbers generated 36% more social shares and engagement, as compared to headlines without numbers:

image36

Moz’s research study on headline preferences further revealed that females prefer number headlines to “how to” or any other type of headline.

image18

2).   Use keywords in a natural manner: Brian Dean increased his search traffic by 348% in seven days, just by sharing case studies with his target audience in a natural way. He may be targeting a particular keyword, but that’s not the focus when he’s writing the article.

image09

If you don’t want your hard work to be in vain, focus on using keywords in a natural manner.

This is critical, because most long-tail keywords are unnatural – they don’t read or flow well. If you go ahead and use them as-is, your web page and blog could get slapped with a Google penalty.

For example, most of the keywords in the screenshot below don’t flow well and should not be used as-is in your headlines:

image49

The long-tail keywords that are unnatural are highlighted above. Here they are:

  • web design new york
  • web design ny
  • web design rochester ny
  • web designers nyc

Note: Don’t use the keywords above in your headlines exactly as they appear. Your headlines may be keyword-rich, but your users won’t be happy. Thus, headlines such as the ones below are ill-advised:

  • Top Web Design New York
  • Best Web Designers NYC

You can still integrate the keywords – just do it naturally. Your users will be excited to click and read your content:

  • Top 10 Web Design: New York Web Designers You Can Trust
  • Best Web Designers: NYC Companies That Specialize In Responsive Web Design

Note: In the eyes of Google, that colon (:) doesn’t in any way modify the keyword. In other words, “web design new york” is the same thing as “web design: new york.” But, the second set of headlines are much easier to understand and your users will appreciate it, thus, your post’s chances of being shared will increase.

3).   Write introductions with natural keywords: According to Constant Contact, a good introduction prepares the reader’s mind for the information in the article.

So many people write articles and stop there. But, smart content marketers know that after creating the content and publishing it, there is more to be done: you’ve got to promote it, monitor how far it’s gone and analyze the results. All of these tasks are easier, if your introduction captivates your readers.

image38

If you want your introduction to attract search users, naturally integrate the same keywords they’re searching for into your content, as well as your headline.

Although there is no set rule for the length of your introduction, I’ve found that writing at least 100 – 200 words seems optimal, especially when you’re targeting a particular keyword.

Great introductions are hard to come by. To make yours resonate with your readers, keep it clear and interesting, including the primary keyword in a natural manner. Here’s a typical example of an introduction in which the writer is smart about keyword insertion:

image17

Notice how different long-tail key phrases were integrated into the introduction and the article in a natural way. From the above screenshot, the keywords you can quickly locate are:

  • mobile friendly ranking algorithm
  • mobile friendly test tool
  • Google’s mobile friendly update
  • mobile friendly pages

Let’s quickly write an introduction with some long-tail keywords in a natural way. Say you’re an SEO agency and want to create a high-quality article by targeting some profitable long-tail keywords while, at the same time, avoiding a Google penalty. Here are the simple steps to achieve this:

a).  First step: Select your keywords, using Google AdWords Keywords Planner. Plug in the keyword that you want to rank for and click the “Get ideas” button. Google will suggest other low-competition variations of your keyword:

image55

The target key phrases are:

  • search engine optimization companies
  • affordable search engine optimization
  • local search engine optimization

b).   Second step: Understand the user intent. Before you write the introduction, make sure you understand why users typed the keywords above in the search engine. What is their major challenge? What solutions are they looking for? And, how can you appeal to them?

image11

Here’s the breakdown of the user intent behind each of the search queries above:

Search engine optimization companies: The searcher is interested in identifying the various companies that can help them manage and improve their site’s performance.

image25

The searchers are not looking for the best – they want to know their options. At this point, the chances of these searchers hiring any of the companies you recommend is low, because the users aren’t ready to make a decision. They’re still learning – so teach them.

Some of the headlines that would work for these users, by appealing to the user’s intent, are:

  • Top lists headlines – e.g., Top 10 Search Engine Optimization Companies
  • Natural headlines – e.g., What to Look for in Search Engine Optimization Companies
  • Question headlines – e.g., How do You Know the Best Search Engine Optimization Companies in the U.S.?

Affordable search engine optimization: The searcher who typed this keyword into Google may have a limited budget, but they still need an agency or individual SEO who can help them achieve results. Bear in mind that “affordable” is relative.

image15

For small businesses, the word “affordable” may mean “$500 – $1000 per month”; for multinational digital corporations, $20,000/month may be “affordable.” Keep this distinction in mind, when you’re writing your content.

c).   Third step: Write the introduction. I find it very easy to write an interesting introduction that includes keywords naturally, because I’ve worked hard to acquire a deep understanding of my readers. You should do the same.

Headline: Top 10 Search Engine Optimization Companies You Can Trust

As an online business entrepreneur, you can generate a lot of customers and visitors from search engines. The biggest challenge most website owners encounter is the lack of SEO skills and expertise to do the job themselves. But the good news is this: there are affordable search engine optimization companies, some of which may even be local, that you can work with.

I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 below, not because they’re 100% perfect, but because they appreciate each customer that comes to them and have a long-standing culture of dedication to improving search performance for their clients. If you find these affordable search engine optimization companies helpful, you could share the list with your colleagues on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

If you carefully study the above introduction, you’ll notice that I integrated up to 4 keywords (underlined); two long-tails and two head keywords.

The introduction flows naturally and your readers will love it. Search engine spiders will also find the introduction relevant to the headline and reward you accordingly.

image21

Note: I’m not in any way encouraging you to stuff keywords into your introduction. That act will get you penalized. In some cases, I don’t even care about keywords, yet they’re still there in my blog posts:

image07

If you do care about specific keywords, make sure that your content doesn’t look artificial or manipulative.

If you’re a beginner, you can study blog posts of authority sites to see examples. Rest assured, Google is still concerned about on-page keyword usage.

image48

4).   Write subheadings with keywords intent: Subheadings clarify the promise made in your headline. Users usually scan digital content before reading it. If the subheads are weak or off-topic, they’ll leave and may not come back again. According to Gary Korisko, the recommended cure for content scanning is strong subheadings.

image47

Subheadings are usually bolder and bigger than normal text. Most people prefer the <h2> or <h3> tag, depending on the specific WordPress theme and how it styles subheading elements. Google definitely takes into consideration what goes into the subheadings.

image30

A few notes to keep in mind, when writing your subheadings:

a).  Keep them relevant: Your subheadings should be relevant to the topic and your headline. For example, if your topic is about “website design,” then your subheadings should be, too.

b).  Use LSI strategy: LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. This basically means considering synonyms as well as your specific long-tail keywords, to avoid stuffing and indirect search manipulation.

After the Hummingbird algorithm change, LSI became exceptionally important for effective search engine optimization. Take the word Apple, for example:

image57

Or, let’s say your keyword is drive web traffic and your headline reads:

How to Drive Web Traffic and Expand Your Online Business

Before you write your subheadings, find synonyms for the words “drive,” “web” and “traffic.”

=> Drive Web Traffic

Get online visitors

Improve site traffic

Generate website visitors

Gain blog traffic

Note: You could use any of these synonyms in your subheadings, but make sure that they flow naturally into the post and leave the rest to Google. The sophisticated Google algorithm will treat the keyword “drive online visitors” as meaning the same as “generate website visitors.”

5).   Write a persuasive conclusion around a long-tail keyword: To further reiterate what your content is about, you should naturally integrate the main keywords that you target in your conclusion.

The screenshot below shows how I concluded my previous article, while still staying on track with the targeted keyword. This is good for both user experience and search engine performance.

image08

I’m not alone in this approach. Most content marketing influencers – including Derek Halpern, Marcus Sheridan and Darren Rowse – conclude their blog posts by reiterating the keyword or topic in a natural way:

image33

Note: This particular post is a guest post by Jerry Low, but Darren Rowse approves of this approach, because it’s great for users and SEO.

Step 5:  Create Your Anchor Text

The anchor text is the part of a text link that’s clickable. When you hover your mouse over the anchor text and click it, you’re taken to another web page, either on the same site or outside of the domain name.

image41

Before Google Penguin, anyone could build low-quality links with exact-match anchor texts and still succeed.  But, that’s no longer true.

For your anchor texts and webpages to be safe, Moz recommends that 17% of your anchor texts should be brand names, such as Neil Patel SEO, quicksprout blog for seo and so on.

image46

The simple and effective rule is to diversify natural keywords as anchor texts. Here’s an example:

Say you want to build links from three guest posts to your web page, targeting the keyword “dropshipping business.” For your anchor text to appear natural and remain Google-friendly, you have to diversify it.

In a nutshell, your anchor texts should be mixed between:

  • Site URL + exact keyword (e.g., http://yoursite dropshipping business)
  • Brand name keyword (e.g., elite experts dropshipping guide)
  • Generic texts + domain name (e.g., click to visit yoursite.com)

Whether you’re directly involved in creating content for your site or you manage authors, bear in mind that editorial links usually have the anchor text that Google wants.

image42

This is because “editorial links” are earned by your efforts to understand your customers/readers and create top-notch content that they can’t get anywhere else.

They’ll share that content willingly. Who knows – the media sites (such as CNN, BBC, FoxBusiness, etc.) may even find your content interesting, especially when it contains controversial or newsworthy elements.

Highly linked posts from trustworthy media sites will send quality links and referral traffic to you, which would otherwise be impossible to get for most content marketers.

image22

Conclusion

From personal experience, I discovered that it’s easier to integrate long-tail keywords in case studies than in any other type of content.

This means that instead of creating generic blog posts that may not be useful to your readers, focus on case studies and data-driven content.

Remember that search engine optimization has gone beyond picking a few keywords and wrapping text around it. Nowadays, you’ve got to continually study your customers, understand what pain points they’re battling with and craft high-quality content that will appeal to them.

For your long-term search engine success, follow the guidelines here to naturally integrate long-tail search terms into your blog posts. Do it like you’re talking to your customers one-on-one and focus on teaching them what they want to learn.

You can improve your blog traffic by 206% and generate over 20,000 monthly visitors through long-tail search.

How have you integrated long-tail keywords into your content? How did that work for you?

Share