One thing that I noticed that with previous students in the class was that they were including too many short-tail keywords.
What do I mean by short tail?
Short tail keywords target short terms (also known as head terms). These are things like “fitness” or “grizzly bears” or in the case of our examples, “bowling” and “potty”.
They’re commonly just 1-2 words long and have no real meaning to them. What is the search intent of those keywords? What is somebody typing in “fitness” in Google looking for? Fitness information? Fitness training? Fitness gyms around their location?
It’s not specific at all, and as a result, it’s difficult to rank for with a specific type of content (You can’t create content around a keyword where you don’t even know the search intent of).
Not only that, short tail keywords are extremely competitive and are usually going to be dominated by Wikipedia. It’s not impossible to beat Wikipedia, but for short tail keywords, they dominate. For that specific search intent, they’re usually the most relevant resource and it’s tough to rank above them.
Long tail keywords
Long tail keywords are the exact opposite. They’re usually around 5+ words long and are very specific.
A long tail keyword would be something like “why grizzly bears like to eat berries” or “what is a strike in bowling”.
These are perfect for our inner pages, but not for Pillar Posts.
The perfect middle tail keyword
These are the keywords like “bowling tips” –> Yes, I know it’s only 2 words but word-count isn’t the main factor in determining the “tail” of a keyword. It’s search intent and specificity.
Bowling tips is a medium-specific keyword. It’s right in between short tail keywords (which are not specific at all) and long tail keywords (which are very specific).
Another example would be something like “how to lose weight”. This is a medium tail keyword that we would love to target.
A short tail keyword would be something like “weight loss” or “fat loss”.
Yes, “weight loss” has a higher search volume, but it’s also a very nonspecific short tail keyword that we wouldn’t want to spend time targeting.
Example differences between keywords
Let’s say we want to target a keyword around beauty and makeup.
A short tail keyword would be something like “beauty” or “makeup” or “cosmetics” –> No specific meaning to any of these.
A long tail keyword would be something like “how to create makeup out of olive oil” or “reasons why going to sleep without removing makeup is bad” –> very specific and requires a clear answer to the question.
A medium tail keyword would be something like “how to become a beauty consultant” or “makeup tips” or “how to remove makeup” or “easy beauty tips” –> Medium specific, has a clear meaning to the keyword, and can be expanded upon quite heavily.
How to find Medium-Long Tail Keywords using Ahrefs
- Enter a seed Keyword
- Choose a Report from the menu on the left
- Set the Volume filter to a search volume considered low in your niche, for ex, Min-2000.
To retrieve more specific search queries, set the Word Count filter, so the results include only queries with many words.
Additional ways to identify more long tail keywords
Use the Questions report in Keywords Explorer in Ahrefs.
If you’re an active participant in your niche, an advantage of choosing a niche you’re interested in, you probably already know the wording used, the questions asked by beginners, the questions asked by experts, etc. Open a blank page on your computer, or grab a pen and paper, and do a BIG dump of ALL the questions and words you can think of and then get them into Ahrefs.
If you’re an outsider of the niche you have chosen, go talk with a few people IN that niche and you’ll find they use certain words, expressions and terms, have common questions and search for the same things online. This footwork will give you an advantage over people building a website around a topic they know nothing or very little about, and wonʼt bother to do enough research.
Also, check FAQs, pinned posts and top posts in forums and communities as these are often a collection of data that can be very useful to you.
Also, take a look at the long tail keywords that your competition is ranking for.
- Enter a competitorʼs domain into Ahrefsʼ Site Explorer
- Go to the Organic Keywords Report
- Filter for keywords with low search volumes
For even more long tail keywords, try the tool Answer The Public (as mentioned in the lesson about Tools).
You can also use very long tail keywords by using “modifiers”.
For example, if you enter “long dress” into Ahrefsʼ Keywords Explorer, then go to the Phrase Match report and filter for the search queries that contain the word “with”…
Looking at the Keyword Difficulty (KD), you can see how easy it should be to rank for those keywords.
You can leverage user-generated Q&Aʼs and create a directory where each page targets a long-tail keyword. Just make sure the content on each page answers the question in the mind of the searcher.
Another modifier is location.
If you search in Ahrefsʼ Keywords Explorer for “rent a van in” and choose the Phrase Match Report, you get a list of very long tail keywords.
Each of these long tail keywords has low search traffic, but you can rank with ease for them and when you sum all those clicks, it will actually bring you a decent amount of traffic.
Another benefit of using this kind of keywords is that being very focused, they will usually convert better.
Short tail or long tail keywords?
The most important thing you have to take away from this is to avoid short-tail keywords –> Keywords that are too general in meaning.
You may very well end up ranking for them in the future. For instance, if you had a page targeting “bowling tips” you could rank for the keyword “bowling” naturally over time.
But we’re just not going to pay attention to them when we’re forming our Pillar Keywords and Pillar Posts.
Because seriously, what does ranking for “bowling” even mean? How is that keyword profitable? Are people looking for the history of bowling, information about the sport, tips, locations, bowling equipment?
It doesn’t matter. A search like that is very non-specific to you and you shouldn’t be focused on them.
Which keywords to look for
Now that we know which keywords to look for, letʼs dive into competition research.
You need to understand how to analyze the competitiveness of your keywords first before you decide to target it.
Through Pillar Posts, you have an advantage over competitors in that youʼll pull in WAY more traffic than they ever will with the same rankings. Youʼll pull in more long-tail traffic, and basically dominate the keyword by ranking for every variation of the phrase.
Now letʼs go through how to determine whether or not a keyword is worth pursuing or not.