When I ask clients what keywords they want to rank for, most if not all would ask for favorable rankings of very generic keywords. Keywords that are almost impossible to rank on the first page, let alone achieve top rankings.
But that’s how clients typically think, ranking their best bet keywords at the best possible way, and nobody should blame them. One of our tasks should be to open their eyes to the reality that it’s not the way the SEO game is to be played. The web gets crowded by the day and that could mean, more and more pages are competing for the words fashion, perfume and investment.
To explain why is it so, let’s refer to the graph borrowed from Elliance. The three keywords in question belong to the upper end of the graph called “1 Word Phrases”, so popular yet at times so ambiguous. As it belongs to the top tier in keyword popularity, competition for these keywords and associated cost is high.
On many cases, searchers try to narrow down the results by expanding the number of terms. As represented in the graph, these keywords that belong to the “2-3 Word Phrases” category have significantly lower competition and cost. That sounds like good news until we realize that the reason for such lower numbers is because fewer people use them. Somehow, it’s similar to paying less for wheat bread sold at Wellcome a day before its expiry date.
Then there are “More Descriptive Phrases” category which is loosely termed as long tail keywords. These are keywords that have significantly less popularity than the second group. However, the silver lining behind these otherwise cheap phrases is that we have better chances of ranking high on them mainly because fewer competitors try to rank for these terms. (This explains why some SEOs try to guarantee rankings for these terms because they are certain almost nobody competes against them. But almost nobody searches for the term too, so it isn’t unusual to rank number one but get no traffic at all.) One more thing, the number of these “More Descriptive Phrases” is so high that when we sum up the combined number of searches, it’s greater than the sum of top 10 most popular “1 Word Phrases”.
So would you prefer to optimize for a popular keyword like “perfume” and rank #47th at best? Or optimize for “spring scent perfume for men” that has very few people using them but could easily rank within the first page in Google?
Optimizing for long tail keywords drives progress to core keywords in the long run. In addition to the long tail keyword “spring scent perfume for men” above, we can also optimize for “men’s perfume deals”, “perfumes men prefer” or “classic perfume for women”. These terms have fairly easier route to search engine rankings despite lower popularity. The trade off to this is that overall, we are building a more paths for visitors to reach the site, thus improving the level of authority of the website. This higher level of authority (may also be known as trust level from search engines) benefits the ability of core keywords such as “perfume” to rank better.
Thanks to Aaron Wall for this idea.