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Long Tail SEO- How to Rank for Difficult Keywords-Beginner Guide

beginners guide to long tail seo

This guide will show you how to rank for difficult, relevant keywords to your area of interest.

Part 1: Background and Introduction

  • Aim to have only 1 Target Keyword per page.
  • You need to have access to Google Keyword Planner and Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Keyword Planner allows you to plan for the future, to get an idea of search volume before your content goes live. Without this, you are only guessing at which keyword is best.
  • Webmaster Tools allows you to look into the past. It shows which keywords people used to arrive on your website. This allows you to measure success and spot problems.
  • In Webmaster tools, an Impression is when someone searches for something, and a page from your site appears on the results page (it may be clicked on, or not).
  • A Click is obvious, when someone sees your link (an impression) and clicks through to your site.
  • Therefore, Click Through Rate (CTR) is (Impressions/Clicks)*100.
  • Average position is the average place in the page over the given time period. Positions 1 to 10 are in the first page in Google (which is the minimum you need to be). Positions 1 to 3 are best, which get the best CTR.

This is what the above metrics look like in Webmaster Tools:

Webmaster tools metrics for long tail SEO


So What is Long Tail SEO?

A useful way to categorise search keywords is to put them in one of two groups- head and tail keywords.

A head term is a short keyword that gets lots of searches, e.g. “SEO”.

A long tail term is a longer keyword that is lower in search volume, but more specific, e.g. “beginner guide to long tail SEO”. With the second term, we can see the person has a much more specific idea of what they want to find.

Often, people search for head terms when doing initial research, and then long tail keywords after doing initial research, and perhaps when ready to commit to a purchase a product.

In summary:

  • Head terms are extremely popular, but are also difficult to rank for.
  • Long tail search terms are a huge group of lower volume search terms. They are much easier to rank for, and have higher buying intent.

When I did work optimising pages on a website project, I noticed something interesting:

If you start ranking for a group of long tail terms, you can also start ranking for the related, head term.

I noticed that by making my content such as page titles, subheadings and anchor text longer and more specific, I actually improved by rankings for both head and long tail search keywords in my area of focus.

I managed to get the search term into page 1 in Google.com, near the BBC result and the results of large competitors who had a much bigger marketing budget.

This guide will show you step by step how to follow this method. Come with me, you lucky thing!

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Part 2: Keyword Research – Using Keyword Planner

Login to Google Keyword Planner:

keyword planner long tail seo


Type in some relevant keywords and click the get ideas button. Think of words that people would search for to find the page you are working on. Click on the “Keyword Ideas” tab on the next screen.

keyword planner long tail results


Here you get the average monthly searches, and the competition.

Competition is a measure of how competitive the Google ads are. Google Ads are the paid results on the right of a Google search results page, the organic search results (which we are interested in) are on the left:

google search result long tail seo


So average monthly searches are important, and you can take competition as just a rough idea of how commercially valuable a keyword is.

Scroll down in Keyword Planner and sort the results by search volume:

keyword planner long tail results sorted by volume


We can see many results. However, many are unrelated to our keyword.


Here are the above steps in a GIF, the high art of our age:

keyword planner steps


Go to search options on the left, and select the first option:

keyword planner options



This will limit the results:

keyword planner long tail results narrowed


Sometimes, there will be very little results so you don’t need to restrict the results (for example, for very niche or low volume search terms). Other times, it’s useful when there are lots of unrelated search terms. Use this filter option as necessary.

I might like the phrase “Beginner’s Guide Long Tail SEO” for this page:

long tail seo page

Next Step: Repeat this Process to get more Keywords

Follow the above steps again, get other related keywords.

The idea is to get 2 or 3 keyword phrases that you combine into a really long, very detailed keyword. For example, for this page, I like the phrase “Long Tail SEO- How to Rank for Difficult Keywords-Beginner’s Guide”. This is an example of a highly specific, easier to rank for keyword. It’s likely I can rank quickly for this phrase.

Here is the good news: using this method, you will start ranking for related, attractive keywords, that have higher volume than the keywords you entered.

For example, this page might eventually rank for “Long Tail SEO Guide”, “Long Tail Beginner”, “Rank for difficult keywords” and so on. This is what makes long tail SEO so great!


Next Step: Combine Keywords into a Target Long Tail Keyword

Now that you have 2 or 3 keyword phrases, you must combine these into a phrase that makes sense as a page title or heading.

You have seen the example I’ve used with this page. Come up with your own examples by doing research with Keyword Planner.

Part 3: Where to Put the Long Tail Keywords on your Website

Now that you have your keyword for your page, let’s apply them to your website or blog. There are several places where it’s important to include your keyword.

The steps for adding the keyword will be different for each website and blog, depending on your admin backend.

Keyword in Page Title

Page title is what appears in the tab in your browser:

page title long tail keyword



Page Titles also appear as the main heading in search results:

page title long tail keyword search results



In WordPress blog posts, you simply add the relevant title which contains your keyword:

page title long tail keyword wordpress blog post seo


Again, this step depends on your content management system or website.


Keywords in Meta Description

Meta description is what appears under your page title in Google…sometimes (sometimes Google takes random text from your page and uses that instead, you cannot control this). It’s limited to 156 characters. Use SEOMofo to optimise your meta description before entering it in your content management system.

Meta description in Google results page:

meta description long tail seo keyword

Add the meta description in your content management system, remember the 156 character limit (SEO Mofo helps with this). In your content management system, you may have extra things like “abstract” and “meta keywords”, ignore because they are useless for SEO.


Keywords in H1s, H2s etc

H1 is the main heading on your page. It should always contain your keyword, unless you have a great reason not to. So make sure you add it!

If possible, add the keyword here too in H2s, H3s and so on. Remember, don’t spam! If you include the keyword in a heading in a way that doesn’t make sense, this can hurt your rankings. If in doubt, just think about what your readers would find most useful.

I includes variations of my target keyword in the H2, H3s on this very page. You can look back at my headings if you are curious. Variations are good because they tell Google the subject you are trying to rank for, without spamming. They also show respect for your reader.

Summary: use your common sense when applying keywords to headings. Always try to include the target keyword in H1s.

Keywords in the Body Content

Body content means the regular, non-headings text in your page. Similar rules apply to headings. Use keywords where possible, but don’t spam or make sentences that don’t make sense just to force in a keyword. Try to have a keyword density of about 2-3%. If you use self-hosted WordPress, you can use the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin to help manage keyword density and other on-page SEO factors.


Keywords in the Image ALT Text

Image ALT (alternative) text is what appears when you hover your mouse over an image, or appears when an image doesn’t load. When you upload an image on your website, normally you get an option to edit the ALT text.

Try to include keywords in the ALT text. Sometimes I like to use the format:

[keyword]- [description of the image]

So for example:

Long Tail SEO Guide- Screenshot Google Keyword Planner

Again, use common sense, apply keywords where possible. Try to use as many interesting, relevant images as possible, which also serves to break up the wall of text for the user.

Talking of relevant pictures, here’s an image of a starry sky. Nice, huh?


Further reading: using ALT text for SEO.


Keywords in the URL

Try to include your keyword in the URL of the page. WordPress has a nice feature, where it includes the page or post title in the URL automatically. Make your URLs friendly for humans to read.

Which link would you prefect to click on?

  • http://somewebsite.com/dfgdkhgdpfi/u04985t0j-456546
  • http://somewebsite.com/beginners-guide-long-tail-seo

The first link is a smelly, bloated mess. The second link is amazing and straightforward, like this sunset:


If you have an old page with an existing, poor URL: try to change the URL into something that makes sense using redirects. Redirects are important to ensure that Google doesn’t “lose” the page and therefore the SEO value that the page has accumulated is retained. If you are using WordPress, search for redirects plugins to handle the hard work.

If you have a new page: create a new, descriptive URL that contains the keywords, where possible. Remember you should be able to guess the page content from the URL.


Keywords in Anchor Text

Anchor text is the text in a link. This is an example of anchor text to my post about how the economy works.

Anchor text is very important for SEO. Google uses it as an important factor to discover what a particular page is about. If many of your links have “click here” as anchor text, this is a big opportunity missed.

Try to use descriptive, keyword-rich anchor text in as many links as you can. Use variations of the keyword because if you have 100 links pointing at a page with identical anchor text, Google knows this is spam.

Use as many relevant links all over your website as necessary, and include good, descriptive anchor text with them. Link liberally to your own content, where relevant. Use the exact keyword you are targeting in the anchor text, if possible.

I used a nice, non-obvious keyword phrase after careful research in Keyword planner for a past project. I noticed keywords mentioning a variation of the term which I initially thought of were getting decent search volume and had low competition. I added in “Online” in the keyword to make it even more specific, and bang, we started ranking not only for “Online X” but eventually even “X” (the head term getting 1000s of searches a month)! This means the website is in the same results page as the BBC website, which is obviously a high authority, trusted website.

Therefore, using Long Tail keywords in your anchor text is very powerful.

Another critical place for keyword-rich anchor text is in the page footer. In most websites, the footer appears on every page, so having keyword-rich anchor text can provide a nice SEO boost. So choose good keywords, and link to the most important pages.


Chapter 4: Long Tail SEO Guide Summary


  1. You need access to Keyword planner and Webmaster tools
  2. One long tail keyword per page
  3. Conduct keyword research in Google Keyword Planner
  4. Track results in Google Webmaster Tools
  5. Combine several attractive keywords into 1 long tail keyword
  6. When you have your keyword, apply it in your content management system to the page title, meta description, H1s, H2s etc, body content, image alt text, URL, anchor text.

If you like this guide, follow me on Twitter! You can also send feedback on this guide to me, if you have ideas for improvements.

Thanks for reading!