longtail keywords and SEM

The Case for More Niche Long Tail Keywords in SEM

You’ve heard about long tail keywords, and if you’re more seasoned, you’ve likely incorporated them into multiple SEO strategies. What I want to do here is help you think through a way to use niche long-tail keywords in SEM for a more robust search strategy that can lead to some high-quality results. Keep in mind this is not a stand-alone strategy. This is an effective addition to your strategy. With that disclaimer, let’s jump in.

What is Long Tail?

Feel free to give it a Google if you need a deep explanation (along with examples of how to build them effectively), but here’s a short rundown. A long tail keyword simply folds your targeted keyword into a longer phrase. A niche long tail is similar, but it goes the extra mile to ensure the words surrounding your keyword are highly relevant to your audience’s needs. For example, if I’m selling dressers, then “dresser” is a keyword for me. But I don’t just sell dressers, I sell dressers that are cartoon-themed, made from recycled materials, and created for children. In order to differentiate among the multitudes of competitors that also sell dressers, I want to fold a keyword like “dressers” into a longer phrase that specifically targets my niche and my audience. Some examples could be “themed dressers for kids”, “eco-friendly kids dressers” or “cartoon themed dressers”, etc. These are longer phrases (hence, “long tail”) that fold your keyword(s) into queries that are relevant for your product.

Why niche Long Tail?

First, why even care about long tail keywords? Well, if you (or your clients) are in a highly competitive space with multiple shared keywords, you need long tail. More importantly, if you are a smaller competitor in your field, and the big dogs have more content, more videos, more blogs, more … everything than you; you need to care greatly about long tail keywords. The most important benefit here is that these phrases are specific to your product, directly target your audience’s needs, and they differentiate you from competitors. In the example above, every one of those competitors are shooting for “dressers”, but how many are optimizing for “cartoon themed dressers?” Not nearly as many.

Testing Long Tail Keywords in SEM

Why incorporate niche long-tail keywords in my SEM strategy? One great benefit is that the search volume for these niche phrases is going to be much lower than for core keywords and common phrases. Wait, why is that good? Because even though you don’t have hundreds of thousands of people searching for your phrase, the smaller amount of people that are searching for your niche long tail, are much more likely to be looking for you. This kicks the door wide open for your SEM campaigns, as the low volume makes the phrases low cost. Here’s a recent example: I recently ran a year-long Google Ads campaign for a client where I targeted 16 long-tail phrases for various pages with gated content. The search volume was very low for all of the phrases and the total cost for a full year was only $600. The results? Hundreds of high-quality, marketing-qualified leads walking through the virtual door, downloading content and taking a down-hill trip to sales-qualified status. Why did it work? Searchers only found these ads when they searched exactly what the client was specializing in. This matters greatly. Let me explain.

Considering the example above again, if I run a Google Ads campaign with keywords like “new dressers” “designer dressers”, etc, I’m going to spend high dollar to compete. The search volumes are high, so the cost is high as well. At the same time, if I’m a smaller seller, I’m competing against competitors who have giant budgets and who will likely outrank me in ads 9 times out of 10. Most unfortunately, I’m paying for multitudes of clicks from people who are looking for high-end dressers for their master bedroom – not my audience at all. At the end of the day, I have a few form completions from people who are likely not in my target and who will be ready to unsubscribe from the first email I send their way. A total bust.

On the other hand, when I test multiple longtail keywords in Google Ads, I pay a fraction of the cost, I get leads that are far more qualified, and I get an understanding of which phrases perform best. This, of course, will help me better optimize my pages. I’ve seen it happen first hand.

What About Organic?

Not mentioning organic was very intentional in this blog. First of all, if you are a smaller competitor in a highly competitive category, organic is going to be a tough go for you. Yes, you will be able to gain rank in the long tail game, and the more niche you are in your category, the better. But overall, ranking #1 on Google isn’t what it used to be, is it? If you’re in a competitive field, you’re going to scroll past four ads, a row of videos, and drop downs of multiple Q&As before you event get to organic result number one. This isn’t meant to be disheartening; in fact, it means that you have all these additional opportunities to rank beyond just your page. You can create video, you can create compelling Q&As, you can go after the ad buys – but if you’re not there yet, your best bet is to take the long tail SEM route.

So what now?

Now, you determine which long tails best differentiate you, assign them to specific pages on your site, optimize those pages with those longtails and other SEO best practices (related phrases, link text, alt tags, H1s, 2s, 3s, etc), and create a Google Ad campaign that is built around those phrases. I think you’ll find a low-cost SEM solution that will get you more of those leads that have a shorter distance to sales-qualified – and that’s always a good thing.

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