Key Words, Long Tails and DIY SEO

Let’s take a look at what the average Freelancer may want to consider before taking on a do-it-yourself search optimization project.  The hard part is to identify the key words that will cause your business name to appear in an internet search.  The easy part is to embed those beneficial key words into your website, newsletter or social media.

We know that key words are popular search terms and that they are often general: shoes–hotels–flowers–books.  General,  single,  key words are dominated by the corporate whales and they do not favor the Freelancer or small business owner.  When such key words are used,  the little fish land on something like page 32 of a search,  drowned by the likes of J.C. Penney,  Barnes & Noble,  FTD and Sheraton.  Little fish need key words with long tails,  that will help us swim to the top of the page.

Long tail key words are actually phrases,  ideally 3–4 words in length.  The term was coined in 2004 by Chris Anderson of Wired Magazine.  Long tail key words tend not to be dominated by the big guys and using them sometimes allows little guys to appear on the first page of a search.  They are less popular because they are more specific and those who embed those phrases will attain a more favorable page rank.  Think quality over quantity.

The trick is to figure out which long tail key words generate adequate search volume.  You need that tail to be long enough to pull in prospects who are searching for what you sell and so they’re typing in those key words.  ComScore reports that in the month of April 2010 alone,  Americans conducted 15.5 billion internet searches.  At least a few of them are your target customers.

Google data shows that the top five names listed in a search receive 75% of the clicks.  Page one listings in total receive 98% of the clicks.  But how might your prospective clients express what they want when searching for your product or service?  To find out,  check out two free Google tools: Key Word Tool and Wonder Wheel.

To begin,  bring up Google,  search key word tool and click on Adwords Key Word Tool.  Scroll down,  type in a phrase that describes your business and click search.  You will receive perhaps 50-100 variations on your description,  each one a potential long tail key word.

On the right,  see two columns of numbers.  The inner column gives the number of monthly searches  for each phrase done globally and the outer column gives the number of monthly searches for each done locally.  It’s the local column that you want.  Do the math.  If a phrase gets 2000 searches each month,  I recommend that you avoid it.  If a phrase gets 200 searches each month,  I recommend that you give it some thought.

You’re looking for your sweet spot: long tails that get adequate action,  but for which there is not competition that will overwhelm your page rank.  BTW,  if you’re thinking of adding a new service or product to your line,  this is a good way to measure the demand in your locale,  because you’ll learn how many prospects are searching for it.

To access the Wonder Wheel,  bring up Google and type in your proposed long tail key word phrase.  When you get the results,  look to the left column and see the Google name.  Scroll down, see “Wonder Wheel” and click.

You will then see a graphic shaped like a sun with rays.  Your phrase will be in the sun and the rays will contain your variations.  Click on a variation and that will become the sun and you’ll get more variations. 

Once you’ve chosen your preferred long tail key word,  own it.  Incorporate that phrase into your elevator pitch,  advertising,  LinkedIn page,  website,  blog and newsletter.  But always remember that good content rules,  so think sprinkle and not slather.

What will identifying and embedding a long tail key word actually do for your page rank?  No one knows until it’s done,  not you and not the SEO experts for hire.  If nothing else,  you’ll find a better way to describe your services and that’s a plus.  So if you have the time and inclination,  why not DIY and find out?

Thanks for reading and good luck,



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