As I mentioned in my post on starting a travel blog, learning how to find the best longtail keywords is very important to the success of your travel blog, and this task shouldn’t be put off. From the very first blog post you write, you should put ample time and energy into researching appropriate keywords. In fact, you should not start writing a single word without knowing the keywords you want to try to rank for.
I spent two years writing posts for my travel blog without giving any thought to keywords. I basically just wrote about whatever I wanted. I followed the #1 principle of a good website – CONTENT IS KING – without bothering with principle #2 – SEO. I figured if I put a lot of time into researching and writing a good post, then posted it on social media, it would attract visitors.
That strategy did work in part, but I was surviving off of social media traffic. As soon as some of the social media algorithms changed, I began to consistently lose traffic. I realize now that it was a faulty strategy that caused me to waste a lot of time and energy. Looking back, I would have gotten to where I am a lot faster if I’d put more effort into search engine optimization; Keyword research, in particular.
Since implementing SEO on my site (including good keyword research, an 8-step on-page strategy, and increasing my backlinks), my page views per month have increased dramatically. Within one month, my search traffic increased by more than 62%. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
Like I said, I didn’t optimize any of my posts for SEO when I started my blog. In fact, I didn’t realize what I was doing wrong until I had already written 300 posts.
Once I decided to get serious about SEO, I did a ton of research into best practices and devised an easy strategy that I implemented on my top 50 blog posts.
Now, just 6 months after implementing my SEO strategy, my organic search has increased by a dramatic 142%. Wouldn’t you like to increase your traffic consistently, month -over-month? Just think about how much more money you can make on your blog with that kind of increased traffic.
I will show you how to find the best longtail keywords in this post. If you sign up for my mailing list, I’ll send you even more of my SEO strategy.
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Why are Keywords Important?
Have you ever wondered why no one is reading your content? Or more importantly, why you can’t seem to increase your monthly page views? It’s likely because you are not optimizing your site, or your post, for search engines.
Keywords are one of the most important aspects of search engine optimization. They are a way for the search engines to determine what your content is about, so they can provide the best possible results to the searcher. The search engines take user intent very seriously. If they are able to determine that your content closely matches the intent of the searcher, and provides high value, you will rank higher in the results.
If you’re able to rank in the top three search engine results, or at least on the first page, you will receive a lot more traffic to your blog. Being in the first few results also gives your site more authority and visibility, which is good for the overall growth of your blog. More traffic can means more visibility, which means the more money you can make from your blog, the more opportunities you’ll be offered, and the more authority your site will have.
What is a longtail keyword?
You’ve heard this term before – longtail keyword. But what does it actually mean?
A keyword is a word or phrase that clearly defines the subject of your post. If I’m writing a post about New Orleans, my keyword is New Orleans. However, a keyword like New Orleans has very high competition. It’s very unlikely that I can compete with the top ranking sites for that keyword. I have to narrow down my topic until I find a keyword that I can compete for. That is where the phrase longtail comes from.
A longtail keyword is a phrase that consists of 3 or more words. The more descriptive, the better. For instance, “What to do in in Prague in 2 days,” is a longtail keyword.
As this graph shows, there is a higher probability of conversion with longtail keywords, because the competition is lower and the intent is more clear. The more descriptive the phrase, the easier it is to know exactly what the user wants. Fulfilling user intent is a major ranking factor for the search engines.
Unfortunately, as you’ll quickly learn, even longtail keywords can be really competitive. That’s why it’s really important to research your longtail keywords before moving ahead. Why waste your time writing a post that no one will find?
⇒ Want to know more about SEO? Check out our SEO section for lots more great tips and tricks to boost your rankings in the search engines.
Keyword Research: Understand Competition and Search Volume
Keyword research is very important to ensure you’re choosing the right longtail keywords. You can make a guess that the more obscure the topic is, the easier it will be to rank for. But it’s a gamble. You can’t really know until you do the research.
Does this involve buying expensive software? Not necessarily. There are free research tools you can use. It just might be a little easier with a paid version.
If you can’t afford to spend money on a keyword research tool just yet, Moz has a free keyword tool that you can use to find the monthly search volume and competition score for a particular keyword. It’s also a good way to get a list of alternate longtail keywords with good search volume.
I struggled for years trying to figure out how to use Google’s keyword planner to do my keyword research. It’s free to use, but I never liked it. You’re on your own with that one.
It wasn’t until I invested in Keysearch that keyword research finally clicked for me. It’s the fastest, most useful, and easiest-to-learn keyword research tool I’ve used (and I’ve paid for and used quite a few).
With Keysearch, all you have to do is put in a keyword phrase you want to search and it will give you the number of search results, volume, and a competition score. Plus a list of related keywords and their details, as well.
Keysearch does cost a small amount (currently $17/mo), but it’s so worth it.
How to Choose the Right Keywords
To determine which long-tail keyword(s) you should use, you need to look at the search volume, analyze the competition score, and see who the top 10 competitors are. What you’re looking for is a longtail keyword with a high search volume, low competition score, and at least 2 competitors in the top 10 that you think you can outrank.
The search volume is the number of times this exact search phrase was types into a search box in a month. The competition score is an indication of how difficult it might be to rank for the keyword, based on all the information they’ve compiled. And the competitors in the top 10 are those who are currently ranking 1-10 on the search engine results page.
As you can see from this graph by Moz.com, you must rank in the top 10 results to get any real click throughs to your website. Even the #3 spot only receives a 10% click-through rate. After 10, the percentage is less than 2%.
What makes an appropriate competition score and search volume for you is really dependent on your own situation. If you’re just starting out, it will be difficult to rank for any keyword with a competition score of more than 25. But if you have an established site with a high DA, you may be able to rank for a keyword with a score of 40 or more. I tend to aim for keywords with a score of 30-35.
In my opinion, it’s a waste of time trying to rank for keywords that are unobtainable for you. If you spend a little time brainstorming, you can find a variation with a competition score that you can rank for.
In time, you will better understand your ranking power and the research tool’s score, and you will become more confident in choosing your keywords.
You need to know your own domain authority (DA) to start. If you don’t know it, you can find it by going to moz.com. You can download the moz bar for free and it will display the DA of every site you visit in your browser’s address bar. Domain authority is a measure of the ranking power of your site. The higher your DA, the easier it will be for you to rank.
Let’s go over exactly how you’re going to make a keyword choice.
1. Open your keyword research tool (I’m using Keysearch), and type in your chosen keyword phrase. I’m using “Things to Do in Prague”, as an example.
2. Take a look at the competition score first. This keyword has a competition score of 41. That’s a little outside of my comfort zone. As I mentioned, I prefer a competition score below 35. If I’m going to stretch to 41, the other factors have to all be in my favor.
3. Next look at the search volume. Of course, you want to target keywords that have the highest possible search volume, while taking into account the other factors. This keyword has a search volume of 110. It’s not amazing, but it’s not bad. I might want to look for a keyword that has a higher search volume. But don’t be afraid to target keywords with lower search volume. You will be surprised how much traffic they can bring in.
4. You want to rank in the top 10 for this keyword, so be sure to check out the competition. On Keysearch and Moz the top 10 competitors are given in a list. If you’re doing research without a tool, look up your keyword in an incognito window to see the top 10 competitors.
Looking in the list of the top 10 competitors for this keyword, there are no sites listed with a DA lower than 36. My DA is only a few points higher. There are other factors to look at.
To go after more difficult keywords, you need more than just a higher DA. You need more external links to the page, better on-page optimization, and more relevant content. Ask yourself these 3 questions:
1. Are there any competitors with only slightly higher DA who don’t have many backlinks?
— No. The two lowest DA competitors have a boatload of links pointing to their page (500 and 150 respectively).
2. Are there competitors with only slightly higher DA who are not using the keyword in the title, description and URL?
— Yes, those same two.
3. Can I provide more relevant content for that keyword than competitors? For instance, if I open the posts and read them, will my post more closely match the user intent for this keyword, and can I provide a more comprehensive and informative post?
— The two competitors with the lowest DA are about “unique things to do in Prague” and “offbeat things to do in prague”. They have about 800 words each in a top 10 list. I want to write specifically about “fun” things to do, so I can more closely match the user intent of this keyword. And to beat the competition, I can write 25 fun things to do in Prague.
So, is this a good keyword? In this case, I feel there is a little too much competition with this keyword.
This is where Keysearch is very handy. Finding an alternate keyword is very easy, because it gives a list of related keywords that can be sorted and filtered. After sorting through the list, I was able to find a different keyword that is better. The longtail keyword “What to do in Prague in 2 days” has a competition score of only 22, and a search volume of 140. It’s a much better keyword, that I can definitely rank for.
While you’re looking at the related keywords in Keysearch, you also want to pick out a few additional similar keyword phrases that you can also use in your post. The search engines use related words to judge the content on a page, so adding 5-10 additional keywords and variations is good.
How to add keywords to your post
I’m sure you’ve heard the term keyword stuffing. While you can still find egregious examples of it today, it is an outdated technique where content is overladen with keywords for the purpose of ranking, often including so many keywords that it’s difficult for users to read and understand.
While keywords are necessary in SEO today, it is incredibly important not to keyword stuff, but to find a way to write great content that naturally contains your keywords. I like to think of it as keyword sprinkling. Use keywords wisely, and make sure never to overuse one single keyword, or use too many keywords. If you read it back and it sounds unnatural, Google will likely think so too.
You should add your keyword, and keyword variations, to the title, the URL, the subheadings, image alt tags, and throughout the content.
Finding the best longtail keywords is only one part of the SEO equation. We’ll be providing more information on how to optimize your on-page content in our next post.
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