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Long Tail Keywords: A Quick Guide to Using the Most Unpopular Search Terms 

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

There are plenty of reasons SEO experts tell you to include long tail keywords in your content. Long tails are at three to five words in length, while broad keyword terms are one to two words long. More words mean a long tail is more specific than a broad keyword.

Quick guide to using long tail keywords with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #WebWriting #SEO

But as a writer, you may resist the drill down to long tails because you want to appeal to as many people as possible. Broad terms, you reason, draw more search volume. Yet take an informal self-poll of your own search habits and count the average number of words in your next handful of Google searches. You use long-tail keywords because you are looking for specific information rather than a whole pile of irrelevant links, right?

For instance, the topic of “keywords” is a broad one. When you conduct a search for the term “keyword” (just one word long), you get millions of results. Returns range from topics like “keyword planner” to “keywords everywhere.” You’re swamped with info.

But when you type the term “long tail keyword” into the search box, the pages that pop up give you specific information about “how to find long-tail keywords,” “where to use long tail keywords,” and “long-tail keyword examples.” So while using less-known, more detailed keywords in your content can feel counterintuitive because you want to spread a wide net, the truth is that you reach more readers with highly-focused long-tail keywords. Just look at the metrics.

Long tail keywords get less volume (but have less competition)

Individual long tail keywords get less search volume than broad keywords, which leads people to think they are unpopular. But they’re simply more specific than commonly searched-for terms.

Less volume per term doesn’t mean you should ignore long tails altogether — quite the contrary. Long-tail keywords account for 70% of all searches, according to SEO tool provider A Hrefs. That’s nearly three-quarters of all googling.

Plus, lower search volume — lower “popularity” — means long-tail keywords have less competition than broader keywords. Writers and bloggers who take the time to ferret out long tails and incorporate them into their blogs and web pages have an advantage. Pages that use long tails in strategic places come up higher on search engine results. If you use long tails in your online content, then more readers will find you more easily.

Use this step-by-step SEO seed keyword finder to identify seed keywords for your blog or website.

Long tail keywords turn you into a hero

When you identify long tail keywords to use in your content, you can drill down and provide specifics that your reader wants. Let’s look at an example. Perhaps you want to write about different types of chocolate. You use chocolate in different recipes, so you’re sure that readers want this valuable information. Just to be sure, you conduct a quick search for the term “types of chocolate.” The results return these phrases — all three words or more:

  • Types of chocolate bars
  • Types of chocolate cake
  • Types of chocolate chip cookies
  • Types of chocolate brands
  • Types of chocolate milk
  • Types of chocolate ice cream
  • Types of chocolate in a box
  • How many types of chocolate are there
  • Chocolate percentage chart
  • Types of chocolate and their uses
  • Types of chocolate A-Z
  • The 4 types of chocolate

There’s plenty more, but you can see why this kind of information is incredibly useful. It reveals the specific phrases readers are searching for that are associated with “types of chocolate.” Now, you have all kinds of ideas for blog posts and articles. And you can create your content around those search terms to answer readers’ questions.

For instance, you can write a page on the most flavorful “types of chocolate brands” to use in baking. Or you can write a page that summarizes “the 4 types of chocolate” to keep stocked in your pantry for making desserts.

When readers search for one of these phrases, they will be directed to your page. When they find exactly what they’re looking for — because you’ve used a specific search term — then there’s no point in going back to search for it somewhere else. You’ve answered your reader’s question.

This shift is subtle. You’re still focused on getting your information into your reader’s hands. But whereas previously you determined how to frame that information — in a way that you deemed would be best — now, you see what the reader is specifically looking for. And you can slant it, organize it, provide it, configure it, or frame it in your reader’s terms. You can use her language because she has given it to you in her searches.

So when she searches for the four types of chocolate to use in her desserts, your page pops up. She clicks on it. You give her the exact information she needs. And she becomes your fan.

Just one tip: make sure to deliver the content that’s specified by your long-tail keyword. Because if you don’t, your reader will feel cheated. Then she’ll look for her information somewhere else.

Long-tail keywords aren’t hard to find

There are plenty of simple ways to find those valuable long tails by using methods that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Google alone gives you at least three lists of long tails when you enter a broad term in the search box: in its autocomplete suggestions, the “People Also Ask” box halfway down the first page of results, and “Searches Related” (at the bottom of the first page of your results page.)

In addition, Google Keyword Planner is free to users. You can also find a host of long-tail terms through free versions of AnswerThePublic (a keyword tool that returns results in a search cloud image) and You can try fee-based Wordtracker free for 7 days and then pony up the monthly fee if you find it’s worth the cost.

As a writer, you may not want to invest the time to find long tails. You’d rather just write. Yet that’s precisely why long tail keywords are a valuable tool. Digging them out forces you to think of your reader’s needs and interests more than your own.

And by putting your reader first, you become her hero.

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