The Quick and Dirty Guide to Long Tail Keyword Research

So you want to learn how to research long tail keywords quickly?

When putting out blog content at any decent pace, many lose their steam when it comes time to research keywords for their articles. Without a disciplined system and understanding of what Google Keyword Planner data means, this will happen every time you make an attempt at researching effective long tail keywords. Once you gain that understanding and apply an analytical process to keyword research, it’s only a matter of time until this step of content creation feels intuitive. This will not only save time, but also improve your organic rankings on every piece of content you publish.

Determine General Keyword Trends Within Your Industry

Without any true competitors, our favorite tool for finding what topics and types of content is hot is BuzzSumo. It’s a completely free service, but has a daily limit on how many searches you can make. That’s alright. We just want a general idea of what content is getting shares right now. We start off by navigating to the Trending Now tab and typing in our specific industry, rather than choosing from their list of generalized topics. By default, it’ll show you the most popular articles from the last 24 hours, but you can narrow this down as far as just the last hour.

Next, we move over to the Most Shared tab to find the top performing articles. If you have an idea for an article in mind, search for the most general term involved with that topic. The goal here is to confirm that people are actually sharing content similar to what you’re writing. By default, BuzzSumo will show you the Most Shared content from the Past Year. Switch this to the Past Month to be sure your content ideas are fresh.

You can also search by domain to see top shared content from a specific website.

You can also search by domain to see top shared content from a specific website.

By this point, you should have at least 5 ideas for general trends in your industry that you can throw into Google Keyword Planner. Keep in mind that these are going to be extremely competitive terms that you won't be trying to rank for. Can't rank for would be more accurate. You have no chance at ranking for these terms without some truly substantial SEO resources. However, adding these to your query in Keyword Planner will give you suggestions that you can realistically rank for. Along with these general keywords, you should also include your own ideas for long tail keywords.

It's important to make sure your targeting reflects your target audience (User Personas can help keep you on track). In the example below, we've added Thailand to the countries list since we're based in Bangkok and want to include the Thai market. If you run a seasonal business, it would be a good idea to specify a date range so you can compare how often a keyword is searched during low season compared to high season.

Smash that motherfucking Get ideas button and let's look at some data!

Smash that motherfucking Get ideas button and let's look at some data!

How to Read and Understand Google Keyword Planner Data

Long tail keyword research is very straightforward once you're able to decipher the 3 pieces of information Keyword Planner gives you on each search term. Let's first define what each one means, then we'll explore how they affect each other and what that means for your blog article to be.

1. Average Monthly Searches

This is the average number of times the keyword is searched each month based on the targeting settings you defined. Note that this also includes close variants of the keyword as well, meaning typos and synonyms are taken into account.

2. Competition

Competition is defined by Google Adwords as the average number of advertisers competing for a keyword. Think of online advertising as an auction house where everyone gets participation medals. The winners get the top spots on Google, while the rest have to settle with page 2 and beyond. Competition is a good indicator of how many websites are producing content that's trying to rank for a keyword.

3. Suggested Bid

The suggested bid is the most important detail to consider when researching long tail keywords. This dollar figure is calculated by averaging out the CPC (Cost Per Click) that advertisers are paying for a keyword.

Finding the Perfect Long Tail Keywords is a Balancing Act

It's a balancing act between volume, competition and advertising bids. High competition keywords require a ridiculous number of backlinks to earn a ranking, so those are eliminated immediately. We’re researching the long tail keyword, remember? Let’s sort by Competition so we can get a good look at the Low competition keywords up top.

If there’s no Suggested Bid, this means one of 3 things: the keyword doesn’t convert, the volume is too low for businesses to justify spending advertising budget on it or people simply don’t know it converts yet. We’re looking for the last of the 3 because we can rank without much trouble and we can gain real, tangible results from blog content. The only thing it will cost you is the time to do this research and to write the blog article.

To be clear: Low volume is anything under 10K monthly searches.

If there’s a Suggested Bid, but Volume and Competition are low, this means the keyword converts and you can rank without building backlinks. The lower the volume, the less backlinks you need. In many cases, you don’t need to build backlinks at all to rank for long tail keywords. You just need strong on-page SEO.

Once you’ve identified long tail keywords that are potential traffic gaining opportunities, the next thing to do is to determine search intent. What are people trying to find when they search? Test it out yourself by opening an Incognito Window (Chrome) or, launching Private Browsing mode (FireFox) and searching for the term. Look at what’s ranking on the first page. Does your content fit in with the crowd? If it does, then you’re in the clear.

To summarize, there are 2 types of keywords you want to be producing content for:

  1. Low Volume, Low Competition and no Suggested Bid

  2. Low Volume, Low Competition and a Suggested Bid

You can almost always rank for the first type of keyword without building backlinks, while the second type has very high odds of easily ranking. Happy hunting, fam.