Blog SEO: Capture Search by the Long Tail
By entering into this blog post you hopefully know that by SEO we’re talking search engine optimization. If you’ve had a website for a while and are new to SEO then consider yourself the Lakers fan just arriving to the game during 3rd quarter. You are late to the game. Fortunately the Lakers have an expert coach that always leads them to victory.
I’m Zach Prez, your armchair coach and resident SEO specialist. I’ve been optimizing websites for search for 6 years. I got my start in web marketing at Intel but have since moved on to focus on helping photographers with my Photographers SEO Book and Blog. I’ve optimized in just about every blog platform a photographer could use including WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, and Moveable Type. In my experience, blogs are the secret ingredient to a treasure trove of highly qualified traffic. This post teaches you about using your blog to capture the long tail of search.
Long Tail = Lots of Small Niche Searches That Add Up Fast
Long tail is a retailing concept describing the niche strategy of selling a large number of unique items in relatively small quantities � usually in addition to selling fewer popular items in large quantities.
In search engines the long tail applies to the large number of unique key phrases that send you traffic in little quantities. The beauty about these phrases
- Highly qualified
- Little competition (easier to rank)
- Can add up to the same volume as your main keyword phrase
- Cheap to purchase in Google adwords
Google keyword tool allows you to lookup the average number of monthly searches for any term you type into it. Here is an example for some phrases related to Sacramento wedding photographer.
Sacramento wedding photographer has a monthly search volume of 1600. While most photographers will see this high number and focus only on SEO for that phrase, 50 other sacramento businesses will do the same thing and therefore it may be extremely difficult to rank in the top few results, especially for a beginning SEO person. The green bar under advertiser competition also shows that this will be a relatively expensive term should you want to pay for a sponsored result in Google adsense. However, the phrases Sacramento wedding photojournalist and Arden Hills wedding (a venue location) are long tail phrases that are much easier to rank for. Why is it easier to rank? We will get to that. Trust me that when you rank in the top 3 for about 20 of these smaller demand phrases (I’m sure you can think up plenty in your location or niche) you will earn more traffic than ranking #10 for that one major term, and with far less effort.
Let’s look at a Google Analytics example from Sacramento child photographer Jill Carmel. The top 10 keywords to her blog include some words you would expect (her name). These account for only 17 of the 139 visits she received from search engines during the short time period shown. Over 80% of her traffic comes from long tail phrases like valentine’s day mini sessions.
Do this: go to your analytics report and look at keywords from search. I think you will be surprised at the volume of different keyword combinations sending you traffic. You may have over 100 different key phrases appearing, in fact, I would expect it. Anything beyond your top 2 or 3 are long tail. And you got those without even trying! I look at my keyword report more than I watch Seinfeld episodes (daily) because I can uncover what users are really looking for to try and find me. I can create more of that content on my blog so they can find me more easily through search.
Now that you know about long tail as an approach to search engine optimization, you will start to think differently with your key phrases and begin to be strategic about targeting ones that will be the most searched or earn the most profit. Take the above valentine’s day example. Once Jill sees this in her Analytics account she knows that her blog post was successful in getting into search engines and converting users through to her website. She might do another blog post on the same topic, one for the next holiday, or one again next year to capitalize on those few people searching for valentine’s day mini sessions. She may not have known that people search for mini sessions and add this as a regular service on her main website. You can learn a lot about the specific wants of your user base by the niche searches that drive them to your website.
I’m Sold on Long Tail. How Do I Implement?
My ebook goes in depth about how Google works, but the simplistic version is that it needs to have words that the user is searching for. More importantly your blog, and the individual posts need links pointing to them from elsewhere on the web. If it were just a matter of the right text, then everyone would use the right text and everyone would rank #1. If you want to rank for Sacramento wedding photojournalist, then do these 3 things:
- Use that phrase in the headline of one blog post
- Talk about that subject within the blog post (use that phrase or similar phrases a couple times) including the alt tags for photos in the post
- Add a link from some other website to that post, and use that phrase in the link name
By doing these 3 things Google will see a post that talks about Sacramento wedding photojournalist and another site that references it as such (with a link). It therefore thinks this is a good match for the user who is searching for it. You should rank well because we can assume there are very few other pages on the web that are completely about that one topic. Sure someone may mention it among their list of services, but nobody took the time to create a whole post on the subject, which is where you will succeed in ranking high where others will not. That is why blogs are the best platform for the long tail, because you can easily create a new page about a single niche topic when it would not have fit well into a regular website (especially when you want to do this 20 or 50 times).
How Would I ever Write a Post About That!?
Here is an example post I see often on photography blogs. Headline: Zach & Amber’s Glamour Wedding 2/14/10. Zach certainly visits the blog post, as do his 200 friends and family (it was a big wedding). Traffic looks great at week 1 with a whopping 200 website visits. Yipee. Week 2 comes in with a disappointing 10 visits from Zach’s elderly relatives who are always slow to respond. So the traffic is poor and even worse, none of them are qualified leads because these visitors just wanted to check out the photos of their friend or relative that got married.
With the long tail in mind I might have named this post: Cliffs Resort Wedding Photos – Zach and Amber’s California Coast Beach Destination. I will still please my client’s family and friends, but also have the potential for traffic on a number of niche phrases that would be very qualified for my photography niche:
- Cliffs Resort (classy wedding venue)
- destination wedding photos
- beach wedding
- California coast
I would use these phrases once or twice in the text of my post, in the names of my images, and in link text that points back to this blog post from other sites. You get the idea. Continue the original intent of your blog (post images of your projects to please existing clients) while optimizing for search and future Google searches at the same time.
If you’re a photographer trying to gain more traffic or business from search engines, then the Photographers SEO Book can help optimize your text, links, and tools.