Grabbing a Penguin by its long tail keyword.
If you are a horror or Sci-Fi fan you can probably remember some years ago that there was a famous movie that used the tagline, “In space no one can hear you scream.” Now I think that if some acid dripping alien is about to eat me or make me into its kids first meal , you are going to hear me scream, and vacuum be damned, but I digress. The point is that you could if you were so inclined put that phrase, “in space no one can hear you scream” and you would very quickly find exactly which movie that was. If you don’t already know, I’ll not spoil your fun, go ahead Google away! If on the other hand you typed in “space movie”, “space scream”, “space”, “hear in space”, or such terms you would get millions of results, and none of the first page ones would likely be that movie. In search engine terms the full phrase is what is called a “long tail” keyword or phrase. When someone uses such a search term they generally know what they are looking for and if they find it, are more likely to click on the matching search result. If you own or market a website, you should care about long tail keywords.
Generic keywords can generate lots of hits, but are competitive.
In the beginning there were few websites chasing relatively few key words, and relatively few long tail keywords were used. So let’s say for the sake of example, you ran a hotel in Vancouver. Possibly had you being an early adopter and heavy user of SEO you could manage to rank on page one of Google for the search term “Vancouver hotel”. That would be good, because there are over 300,000 searches per month for that key word and being found anywhere on the first page should generate some serious traffic. Even a low percentage of a big number would result in a lot of traffic, but remember you had to spend a lot of time, effort and money to be on page one for such a phrase. Many of the hits would be people looking for a hotel that was in a different part of Vancouver, some searches would be for a different sort of hotel, and some would not be from people looking for a room, but rather a mailing address or news paper article or what ever. Having rankings for a generic keyword is often a case of quantity trumping quality – but it would be a nice problem to have. You would have lots of lookers, but relatively few buys. in other words poor specificity; so a low percentage would be looking specifically for you and thus a low percentage would convert into business. A further problem as you can well imagine is that a lot of big companies with names like Hilton, Marriott, Best Western, Expedia, hotel.com and so forth are also chasing top rankings for those words too. One or two word key words are not only very generic and non specific as to relevant traffic, but they are usually VERY competitive – meaning very hard and expensive to show up on page 1 2 or 3 of Google or Bing or Yahoo . So let’s say you are running a 50 room, high end hotel near the water that is a few minutes walk from the sky train. Your “Boutique” hotel has a great restaurant, targets business travelers and offers breakfast and has a well stocked business center and nice private meeting rooms. Does a smart marketer try to get found under “space scream” or go after a longer more descriptive search which has far fewer people looking, but, a very high percentage of those who are searching under such long tail keywords, are likely to want to be your customer.
Long-tail keywords allow you to target your audience
Long tail keywords are all about fighting the battles you can win. Ranking as the 101st best result for a keyword like “Vancouver Hotel” might sound impressive. Considering there are 107,000,000 million indexed pages on Google.com alone for that key phrase, it is amazing to be number 101 out of 100+ million. The ironic thing is that because you would be on page 11 of a typical search result and no one I know ever goes through 11 pages to find a hotel ( a few may randomly skip there out of boredom)the odds that you will get clicked on by a serious business traveler are precariously near ZERO.On the other hand suppose you ran a keyword such as “downtown Vancouver boutique hotel ” . There are only 550,000+ pages indexed for that phrase, and while there are relatively few searches per month (400 or so on average), you have a chance of ranking on page one without having to beat the 800 pound Penguins (search engine humor) like Hilton or Marriott to get there. More importantly, when someone types that long tail keyword into the search engine, they are probably looking exactly for what you have to offer.
What you need is traffic to your site
The name of the game is traffic and more specifically appropriate traffic. We spend a lot of time telling clients about how they have to have relevant content on your website because otherwise their potential customers may not find them, or may not recognize their business as having what they are looking for if they do find it. Relevance works both ways though. Your business wants “relevant” motivated potential customers. The better their interests and needs fit with what you have to offer, the more likelihood that you get a sale – a good thing! So rather than chase “vanity” by trying to bag keywords you cannot hope to rank well for (or you will have to spend huge amounts to get on and stay on page 1) do some research, ask your existing customers some questions, have a little brain storming session with your core team and see if you cannot come up with some imaginative ways to build your traffic by working with a broad range of better targeted long tail key words.