Long Tail Optimization

Optimizing for the long tail can be a confusing thing for a lot of people new to SEO. After all, how exactly do you optimize your page for keywords when you don’t know what those keywords are?

For the most part, long tail optimization is the combination of three factors:

  • Optimize for the related head terms
  • Higher authority
  • Have more quality text on the page

If you have a page about how to make soap, your head term is probably something like “how to make soap.” The better your rank for that, the better you’ll rank for long tail searches related to that.

Other than the head term, the higher your authority the better the chance that you’ll rank for any text on the page. And of course the final factor is that the text the user is searching for has to be somewhere on the page for you to be able to rank for it.

Typically the easiest way to boost your long tail is to add to your word count. As we discussed above, this only works if you’re adding actually useful information to your word count. And of course it will have the side benefit of increasing your ability to rank for your head terms!

Optimizing for Long Tail Keyword Groups

It is possible to deliberately target certain classes of long tail searches. This technique is most useful on large sites: for enterprise sites very small percentage gains in traffic acquisition can translate into large amounts of revenue. When I worked for a top 10 ecommerce retailer, if I could boost traffic to product pages by a percent or two, that translated to millions of dollars in revenue. On my AwesomeDice.com, that would translate into something like five bucks.

The typical approach to target long tail classes is to insert a programmatic text block into the site template that is a sort of fill-in-the-blank template. The templated text includes the long tail keywords that you think are worth targeting across the site. For example, if you wanted to target “reviews” keywords, you could use a block like this on all your product pages:

Site Name is your low cost source for [product name] reviews. Get all the specs and reviews of [product name] so you can buy with confidence. With thousands of verified reviews of [category] products by unbiased users, you know you’re getting the best information in the industry.

This kind of templated text block puts the word “reviews” three times on every product page of the site. By dynamically inserting the product and category name we make this text block slightly different from page to page (if it’s perfectly identical Google will likely ignore it).

Important Note: you must also have truly unique content on the page. Do not fill up thousands of pages with only dynamic text blocks like this. That can get you penalized. But this block appended after a unique description can yield great results in large sites.

Of course the ideal way to integrate your long tail classes is by having your copywriters include them when they’re writing the content for the page. That approach is not really practical for large established sites, and those are the sites who will benefit from this strategy most.

Common Long Tail Keyword Groups

Here are some common long tail clusters that are often worth targeting by appropriate businesses:

  • Reviews terms: reviews, editorial reviews, best
  • Regional terms: for local businesses it’s well worth it to have local state/city terms on every page
  • Time/Date terms: for informational sites, you would be surprised how often people add the current year to their search to make sure they’re getting currently relevant information
  • Transactional terms: “buy” “for sale” “purchase” and “online” are all terms with high transactional intent
  • Gender: certain businesses are targeting one gender specifically (such as clothing), and including that gender in their content can boost long tail for their target audience
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