Long Tail Keywords: The Magic Formula for SEO Success

By Jonathan Wagstaffe - October 05, 2016

At this summer’s Grow with Inbound event in London, Hubspot’s Brian Halligan took time to discuss the future of digital marketing. One of the areas he highlighted was search. Move beyond long tail was Halligan’s message. Get good at fat head search. Be the answer to the question. Halligan’s point is valid.

He went on to explain that as voice becomes the primary interface for search, as it will - and indeed already is becoming – we’ll no longer see a list of answers to our search query. As a result, ranking on page one of Google will not be enough. Assistants like Siri and Cortana will offer us one or maybe two answers to our question. So if you want to get found, you’d better be number one or number two. You'd better be The Answer.

The room was full of marketing and search specialists. Many reacted with dismay. Dominating the fat head? So much harder than what is already a hard task. How do we do that?

Those people miss the point. What is needed is not that we dominate the fat head for generic terms. What is needed is that we double down on what makes us different.

Keyword Positioning Based on Singularity

We’ve been saying it for a long time: Businesses must strive to champion the long tail search. Yes, it does mean less traffic. However, it does mean more relevant traffic. When teaching on this topic I use the example of shoes. Ranking for the word “shoes” is difficult because it’s such a widely used term. Ranking for the word “shoes” is also of limited value because there are many reasons why somebody might be searching “shoes”. However, if you are a shoe retailer specializing in sports shoes in Milton Keynes, how much better to rank for say “Nike size 8 running shoes in Milton Keynes” Not many people will be searching that combination. However, the chances are, all of them will be searching because they are about to buy. So, ask yourself, what do you want? 1,000 random visitors, or fifty visitors who you know have an interest in what you sell?

Proper Business Positioning Leads to Search Success

So the game hasn’t changed. What has happened is that it has become more intense. What is needed is that we become ever clearer about exactly what our business is and who it serves. Our long tail searches are more important than ever. Remember, a long tail search string can be regarded as the fat head of a more niche market.

Taking Brian’s point about being the answer to the question, it’s more important than ever that we define precisely which questions our business answers. Alarmingly, many of the businesses we encounter still struggle to define exactly what they sell and to whom they sell it. It’s a problem that isn’t going to go away, in fact, it’s likely to intensify. If you’re one of these, now is the time to get clarity on the raison d'être of your business.

The implications for business are clear. We have to be better than ever at defining what we do, for whom we do it, and what are our specifics - geography, size, colour, vertical market, speed, price point? Once we know this, then we can double down on defining what makes our business special for our customers. Once we are crystal clear on our positioning, we’ll be able to build the tailored search strategy that delivers results while we get on with core business, even in the new world of Siri and Cortana.

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