Content marketing is a great strategy for building traffic, both by generating links and shares and by leveraging the power of long-tail keywords to boost traffic. Unfortunately, it is this exactly aspect that a lot of people forget about.
If you have been focusing on building content for any significant amount of time then you have probably noticed there exists a plethora of low-hanging fruit that you can take advantage of, for virtually almost every industry or niche.
If you have not focused on building a compelling content strategy, then you should to start with this.
The answer to this one is almost disappointing in its simplicity, and yet powerful.The more content you have on your website, the better. Click To Tweet
But you can start with even one, really well researched, unique, useful and compelling piece of content. Word count doesn’t really matter – search intent does. Having said that, there exists a correlation with word count and high rankings – the average google first page result contains 1890 words, based on a study of 1+ million websites conducted by Brian Dean at Backlinko.
This is my approach, which has been used effectively for over 17 years:
The first step is to create lots of content. Unfortunately, this bit isn’t instant, but if you have already done it, feel free to skip to the next step. If not, read on…
It’s not enough to just put out witless content, you need to create content that actually provides value to your readers. So this step of the process is paramount to this entire strategy.
The next step is to start with some keyword research. For the time being, we are not going to worry about which keywords to choose, nor are we going to assign keywords to specific pages or silos . We simply want a big list of viable keywords that has the potential to build relevant content with.
Remember, we are building long-tail traffic. Don’t be concerned with those tempting high volume keywords – they are not part of this strategy. You want to focus on the the lower volume, niche phrases which might only get 20-200 searches a month. These are your money makers. The reason being the competition is lower, and the audience for this content will reach is much more targeted.
Think of all keywords as a metaphorical pyramid. Long-tail, niche keywords would sit at the bottom of that pyramid, if you can quickly build a few dozen blocks of low volume traffic, they will eventually support higher volume keywords above them. You have to build your foundation before you can place the tip of your pyramid.
Here is an example. Say you we’re a chiropractor, long tail keyword would be “back pain from sitting at desk”, or “neck pain from sleeping on couch”. You want to tackle these topics before you do “back pain” or “neck pain”.
Simple enough, right?
One of the most used and widely available free tools is Google’s keyword tool. You simply need to create a Google Adwords account. A good guide on how to do keyword research with Google’s Keyword planner can be found here. Enter one seed keyword at a time for best results.
You can even add a keyword filter to display keywords with lower search volumes. You can decide what that number can be (I would suggest 500 searches). Keep in mind, there is no magic number – the best approach is to understand your niche first, get a feel for the variety of existing searches and use your best judgment. The Google Keyword Planner displays these lower volumes with a simple label. You can then sort by relevancy, manually sift through your keyword group.
During your keyword research you should come across many suggestions and ideas that you can use. Run your searches with those phrases and get different ideas. The goal is to accumulate as many options as possible.
Another good approach is search phrases you come across on Google, find the websites that are already ranking well (top 10) and then copy and paste the URL into the Keyword Planner tool.
There exists many other ways that you can come find and brainstorm keywords. Here is a good list of tools, some free, some paid. At the end of the day, nothing beats good ol’ hard work. You should also try to spend some thinking creatively about what the content your readers might be interested in by analyzing content that gets shared the most in your niche.
By the time you arrive to this step, you should hopefully have at least 100 or so keyword ideas. If you have more, great! But you should work on your list from the most relevant ideas first.
Go through your list of keywords and topic ideas, focusing specifically on precise concepts – these are typically 4-5 word search phrases, but could be even more (example: best thanksgiving movies on Netflix Canada) and treat each one as though it was a search engine user. What is the searchers intent behind that phrase? The answer isn’t always obvious. Google the phrase and see what you find. How can you create a piece of content that satisfies user intent.
Using the list you’ve gathered, you should able to “rinse and repeat” this process for each keyword idea. Some ideas won’t be conducive to a full content piece. You can remove those or set them aside in their own “bin”. Sometimes I like to use that “bin” of keywords and find a common element on which to write on.
If you have written it well, and put in the work, you want to share and publish your content to anyone you can. Sometimes a simple tweet can do wonders for the sharability of your content. Other times, you might need some SEO work and build links to it. There are tons of great guides and advice on the Web on how to do that – here is one of my favorites. If enough time goes by (and sometimes that time is shorter than you might expect) you will begin to see rankings and traffic will start to trickle in.
This next part of this guide is based on something called the Pareto Principal:
80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
How does this apply in the context of organic traffic?Your most valuable opportunities come from keywords that have a real chance to reach the top positions. Click To Tweet
The traffic boost you can expect from moving from page 10 of the search results, to page 2 is minute (if any) when compared to the increase you will see when moving from page 2 to page 1. And even more significant when moving between positions 4-10 to positions 1-3. You can read more about clickthrough data in this insightful report on Google search clicks here.
The next step is to know what you are already ranking for. Some great tools are SERPs.com tool and you can also sign up to MOZ’s free trial. It’s important to note that variations exist in every tool, and no ranking data is 100% the same for everyone. Reasons for this have to do with the increase in search personalization, geo-targeting affecting results as well as the increase in private searches and user metrics being encrypted.
Take the keyword research data that you did at beginning of this guide, and input those keywords into a new keyword campaign or tracking report. Different tools offer different customization options, but you should be able to create groups and label keywords as needed.
NOTE: If you did NOT do the keyword research already, stop what you are doing and go back to that step. What you want to look for are keyword or search phrases you might already be ranking for. If you don’t already have any meaningful content for this, this is one of the best opportunities for immediate traffic boosts.
Next, log in to your Google Analytics. If you do not have that already, you will want to sign up here.
This will give you keyword data for every visitor to your site. Unfortunately, most of this data these days is “not provided” but you will probably find that about 5-10% of your visits will give you some keyword data. This handy guide by Neil Patel can help you unlock the data from your “not provided”.
To maximize the value of the data, click the date range in the top-right. From there, you can select the range of dates and go far back as possible (if you have had analytics installed for a long enough time).
Now, open up your CSV and focus on the keywords. Don’t worry about any of the source of traffic (referral, social, etc.). You can of course remove the “not set” and “not provided” data if you do not want to bother with “decrypting” that data right away.
Go through your CSV and remove any keywords which might not be relevant, and that might include your brand – these can be your domain name search, your company or even your own name (if you are a consultant, real estate agent, etc.) because you should already be ranking very well for that.
With the remaining list, add them to your preferred keyword ranking tracker of choice.
Once you have put in all of your different keywords and search phrases, your ranking tracker will probably need some time to gather the data. Once ready, you can come back to your project and export your data.
The recommended file format to export to is CSV. Once your report is ready, export it.
What you now have is a list of all of the phrases you already rank for, along with which page on your site is ranking for that phrase. Now to find your opportunities!
Typically there are some columns in your CSV you can remove or delete. Source, Location, Change, or any “N/A” data or other redundancies.
By now, you hopefully have a list of phrases that your website ranks for, organized in way that you can use the data. By sorting by URL, you can see all of the phrases each page ranks for. So, you might notice that a particular page is already ranking for several keyword phrases.
As you look through your list, you want to look out for the best performing keywords. Start by looking for anything where you are in the top 10 (first page) but not in position 1.
Monthly search volume is obviously very important too, so try to prioritize your opportunities with the most searches.
When a good opportunity for a ranking improvements arise, you can simply visit that page and use a common sense guide to onsite optimization.
Do things like Googling that phrase and seeing what the competition has done to rank. You might be able to point a few more internal links at your page, update the content and re-optimize the meta tags and image alt tags.
At times, a few links to our content can significantly get your page to rank sooner. Even one or two well chosen links can make all the difference. Even linking to your content from other content that is already doing well can help. Just remember to keep it relevant – do NOT simply link to it for the sake of linking to it.
If you want some ideas on where you can get some great free links to your content, check out this guide from Search Engine Journal.
Hopefully by now, the process is clear to you, and you can see the potential traffic benefits of applying these simple, yet effective, steps to maximizing traffic from your long-tail keywords and “low hanging fruit”. By finding phrases where you have existing rankings, and focusing on content ideas that are specific to user intent. Remember there is no shortcut or quick fix – anything worthwhile requires effort, but its always great when you can maximize the results with your efforts and save time doing it.