7 Tips for Using Long-tail Keywords for Search and Ads

Have you optimized your keyword strategy with long-tail keywords that drive traffic and show your Google Ads to the right users? Here are some tips to help you choose the right keywords and use them effectively.

long-tail keywords
Image courtesy of Yoast

What are long-tail keywords?

Let’s take a step back to understand keywords. Originally, this was a single word you used to focus your content in the days when users entered a word into a search engine like Google. To display possible resources to address the user’s needs, Google consulted a database first looking for all the content that used that word, then rank ordering results to deliver using a search algorithm to show the best content first. Google did this so well, it still handles over 93% of all search traffic worldwide.

But things changed and the search algorithm (used to rank content) changed with it. As search engines became more sophisticated, the engine could handle multiple words in the query; hence content creators used long-tail keywords to reduce the competition for a specific keyword and better meet the informational needs of the user. Today, with so many users creating queries using voice devices like Google Home and Alexa, queries got even longer and keywords got more specific. The average length of a keyword (although a better term is a keyword phrase but the earlier term stuck) is around 3.5 words.

Keywords not only feature prominently in search but they’re also used in Google Ads in much the same way – to determine when to show your ad.

How to choose keywords

guide to keyword strategy

Given the importance of keywords to the success of your digital marketing, choosing the right keywords requires your attention. In the old days, content creators did keyword stuffing, which meant using the keyword as many times as possible in a given piece of content, even when the resulting content made no sense and didn’t provide value to visitors. Google fixed that by changing the algorithm so that using a keyword too many times or not using it organically gets your content penalized. Currently, SEO experts advise using a keyword no more than once for every 200 words of copy. Thus, this post, around 2000 words, means I can use the keyword around 10 times. Using a keyword only once or twice in your content, regardless of length means you won’t rank well, since Google wants to deliver quality content that is focused on the user’s query.

While keyword density (the percentage of times a keyword appears in relation to the total word count) is not as critical as it used to be, it’s still a good practice to avoid excessive repetition. Aim for a natural keyword distribution throughout the content.

You should also create a single piece of content on your website using a keyword. Instead of repeating the same keyword multiple times, use semantic variations, synonyms, and related terms. This helps search engines understand the topic comprehensively and improves the overall user experience. Otherwise, you cannibalize your content by competing against other pieces of your own content, which might earn an SEO penalty or reduce the number of visitors to each page. That’s another reason why keywords are getting longer.

Here are some tips for choosing the right keywords:

  1. Understand your target audience: Start by identifying your target audience and understanding their needs, preferences, and search behavior. This will help you create a list of potential keywords that are relevant to your business or website. As more users employ voice search, your keywords should fit natural speech patterns among your target market and the phrases common among them, such as vernacular and slang. Long-tail keywords are more specific and have lower search volumes compared to broad keywords. They tend to attract highly targeted traffic and have less competition.
  2. Brainstorm relevant topics: Think about the specific topics or themes related to your business that your target market might use in search. For example, if you have an online store selling hiking gear, topics could include “best hiking boots for women” or “waterproof backpacks for camping.” Here adding adjectives and targeting to your keyword reduces competition for the keyword and provides more value to users who likely have specific needs.
  3. Use keyword research tools: Utilize keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Moz Keyword Explorer to identify keywords related to your topics. These tools provide insights into search volume, competition, and related keywords to help with your choice. The sweet spot exists around keywords with low competition but high search volume. Likely you won’t find the perfect keywords but this guide gives you something to judge the keyword options suggested. Keyword Planner is free (although it requires Gmail), while the others offer trials or limited results for free.
  4. Consider search intent: keywords often reflect the intent behind a user’s query. Determine the intent behind the keywords you identified. Are people looking for information, products, comparisons, solutions, or purchase opportunities? Tailor your keyword to match the search intent of different types of users. Choose keywords that are directly related to the topic and content of your webpage and align with the user’s search intent. Below are some examples of search intent and how to use that in constructing copy.

    keyword intent
    Image courtesy of Wordstream
  5. Create high-quality content: Rather than obsessing over the number of keywords, prioritize creating high-quality, informative, and engaging content. Offer value to your audience by addressing their needs and providing comprehensive information. Incorporate keywords naturally into your content, ensuring that they fit within the context and flow of the text. Avoid keyword stuffing, which refers to unnaturally cramming too many keywords into your content in an attempt to manipulate search rankings. Develop well-written, informative, and engaging content around your chosen keywords. Ensure that your content answers the user’s query and provides value as your top priority. By using keywords not only naturally within your content, include them as headings, titles, and alt tags for images. You should also use your keywords in the introduction so it’s clear right off the bat the topic of your content. Also, include your keywords in the meta description that search engines use to help categorize your content. Your page URL should use the keyword as should your domain name.
  6. Monitor and optimize: Regularly monitor the performance of your chosen keywords using analytics tools like the Google Search Engine Consol, which is now more integrated with GA4, the newest version of Google Analytics. If certain keywords don’t drive traffic or conversions, consider tweaking your content or targeting different keywords.
  7. Focus on user experience: Ultimately, search engines aim to provide the best user experience to their users. Ensure that your content is user-friendly, well-structured, and easy to navigate. This will have a more significant impact on your SEO success than obsessing over a specific keyword count. Optimizing for keywords should not compromise the user experience. Make sure your website loads quickly, is mobile-friendly and offers easy navigation. A positive user experience improves your website’s search rankings.

Remember, the goal is to provide valuable content that meets the specific needs of your target audience. By choosing and optimizing keywords effectively, you can increase your chances of attracting relevant organic traffic to your website.

Rather than obsessing over a specific keyword count, it’s more crucial to focus on creating valuable, comprehensive, and relevant content that addresses the needs of your target audience. Here are some guidelines to consider:

Remember, search engine algorithms are constantly evolving, and they prioritize user intent and the overall quality of the content. So, rather than fixating on a specific keyword count, concentrate on providing valuable, relevant, and user-friendly content that addresses the needs of your target audience.

Choosing keywords for Google Ads

Choosing the right keywords for Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords) is essential to ensure your ads are displayed to the right audience and achieve your advertising goals. While choosing keywords for Ads is similar to choosing them to optimize your search rank, the way Google uses keywords for ads is somewhat different.

google plus post adsFirst, let’s look at how Google Ads works, which is very different now that a few years ago. Today’s Google Ads platform uses multivariate testing to optimize the returns you get from your campaign. Instead of providing discrete ads and testing them using traditional A/B testing, the platform now asks users to enter a number of keywords, headings, and descriptions, which the platform now recombines to produce a large number of different ads and different keyword combinations. The software analyzes results so that, within a few days, it determines which combinations of ad elements and keywords produce optimal results in terms of click-through rate and cost per click.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to choose keywords for Google Ads:

  1. Define your campaign goals: Start by clearly defining the objectives of your Google Ads campaign. Are you aiming to generate leads, increase website traffic, boost sales, or create brand awareness? Understanding your goals will help you select keywords that align with your campaign objectives since you often want to drive traffic to a landing page. It’s key that the keywords used in the ad match the keywords used on the landing page to improve your quality score. A better quality score translates into a lower cost per click and a better chance your ad will show on the first page of search results, thus driving more traffic to your website.
  2. Consider match types: Google Ads allows you to specify the match types for your keywords, which determines how closely a user’s search query must match your keywords to trigger your ads. The match types include broad match, broad match modifier, phrase match, and exact match. Choose the match types that align with your campaign goals and budget.
  3. Refine and prioritize your keyword list: One of the great features of Google Ads is the data produced by your efforts, which includes an evaluation of the performance of your keywords. Review your initial keyword list and refine it based on relevance, search volume, and competitiveness. Remove any irrelevant or low-performing keywords and add additional keywords related to those that perform best. Prioritize the keywords that are most likely to generate the desired results for your campaign.
  4. Monitor and optimize: Regularly monitor the performance of your ads and keywords using the Google Ads interface or other analytics tools. Analyze the click-through rates (CTR), cost per click (CPC), and overall campaign performance. Since Google Ads now integrates seamlessly with GA4, you don’t have to stop with analyzing the performance of your ads on the ad platform, but can follow clicks from your ads all the way through to conversion rates from each campaign. Adjust your keyword list and bidding strategy as needed to optimize your campaign’s effectiveness.
  5. Use negative keywords: Negative keywords are terms you don’t want your ads to be shown for. Identify and add negative keywords to your campaign to prevent your ads from appearing in irrelevant searches. This helps improve the relevance of your ads and reduce wasted ad spend. For instance, if you offer refrigerated meal delivery kits, you want to use negative words like refrigerator or meals to eliminate the possibility of stray clicks when users search for nearby restaurants or new appliances.
  6. Test and iterate: Continuously test different keywords, ad copy variations, and landing pages to optimize your Google Ads campaign. Monitor the results, make data-driven adjustments, and refine your keyword selection to improve the performance and return on investment (ROI) of your ads.

Remember, selecting the right keywords is a crucial aspect of running a successful Google Ads campaign. By understanding your audience, conducting thorough keyword research, and regularly analyzing and optimizing your campaign, you can improve the targeting and effectiveness of your ads.

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