There is no doubt that SEO has changed a lot over the last twelve months. I remember the days when SEOs, including me, focused their time and energy on boosting keyword rankings. We would track all of our keywords and watch them go up as we built links.
Although some SEOs still do this, I myself haven’t tracked my rankings in over a year.
Why? Because SEO has turned into a long-tail game.
Download this handy cheat sheet to learn what’s working now in SEO.
Before I get into how you can build your long-tail traffic, I’ll give you reasons why you should focus your SEO efforts on the long tail:
Why the long tail?
In the last 30 days, Quick Sprout got 88,833 visitors from search engines. Out of those 88,333 visitors, 80,383 came from long-tail searches.
And it’s not just Quick Sprout; a lot of businesses are experiencing this as well. KISSmetrics received 156,482 visitors from search engines in the last 30 days. Out of those visitors, 142,493 came from long-tail keywords. More importantly, when you look at conversions from search, long-tail keywords account for 87% of the conversions.
Plus, if you look at the image above, you’ll notice that one- or two-word key phrases are costly to rank for and they don’t convert well. Searchers are also getting more sophisticated and are starting to use more words in their searches, which is why head term searches are down by 8%.
Now that you know why long-tail SEO is where you should focus your efforts, let me share with you how you can build your long-tail traffic:
The strategy we used to kick off our long-tail SEO efforts for KISSmetrics was using infographics. Within two years, we were able to generate 2,512,596 visitors and 41,142 backlinks from 3,741 unique domains – all from those 47 infographics.
Do you know how much we spent on that campaign? Only $28,200.
Although infographics are visual, we added a paragraph of text to each one, which boosted the amount of long-tail traffic we got. Plus, all of those internal links helped our blog posts rank well, which generated more long-tail traffic.
If you want to create infographics, there are a few things you need to know:
- The topic has to be unique – the topic of your infographic has to be original because infographics aren’t new and cool anymore. If you regurgitate old information in an infographic, it won’t be as successful as you want it to be.
- Pick a topic that benefits your readers – don’t try to create infographics for the sake of creating them. They have to benefit your readers by providing them with useful advice. For example, our infographic on how colors affect purchases got over 5,000 tweets, while our infographic on which US brands spend the most on advertising only got 259 tweets. Why? It’s because the post on colors teaches people something they can use on their own websites. The post on advertising doesn’t teach people anything that is applicable to their own websites.
- Always use stats– the more stats you use, the better off you are. Just make sure you don’t use so many that the infographic becomes too long. Ideally, there should only be five to seven main points in your graphic. For example, the How Colors Affect Purchases infographic has six points:
- How color affects marketing
- How color affects branding
- The meaning of each color to consumers
- How design affects purchases
- How time affects purchases
- How words affect conversions
- Make it pretty – infographics are so common now that they really need to be pretty. If you don’t have a great designer, the infographics he/she creates for you won’t get much traction.
Writing great content
The easiest way to boost your long-tail traffic is through content. But you can’t just write any form of content. Your blog posts have to be very detailed. Once you have good content, you have to promote it through the social web.
The one thing I’ve learned about content marketing is that detailed guides tend to do the best. I know SEOmoz once stated that their Beginner’s Guide to SEO has gotten over a million visits.
At KISSmetrics, we’ve published 480 blog posts. Thirty-four of them are marketing guides. Although marketing guides only make up 7% of our content, they are actually responsible for 38% of our search traffic. That’s huge! It shows that writing in-depth content on niche topics provides a better ROI than just writing short blog posts.
I did a test with Quick Sprout last year in which I guest-posted all over the web for six months. During that time period, I wrote 59 guest posts on sites that had at least a Google PageRank of 4 and had an Alexa rating under 50,000.
Here are a few examples of the posts I wrote:
- The 10 Golden Rules to Attracting Authority Links
- How You Can Rank a New Site Higher Than an Old Site
- Your “How-To” Post Will Fail If You Don’t Use These Techniques
- How to Create Smarter Content Using Semantic Keyword Research
The results? I received 14,750 visitors from those 59 posts, and I built 117 links that pointed to 30 internal pages on my own site. Those 30 internal pages went from receiving 9,193 visitors a month from search engines to 22,852 visitors a month.
Now I know that there were other external factors that could have caused those 30 internal pages to receive more traffic such as search engine algorithm updates. Other internal pages, however, only saw a 38% increase in search traffic during that same time period, while the internal pages that I built 117 links to saw a 148% increase in search traffic.
If you want to go after head terms, by all means, do so. But if you want to try something new, stop checking your rankings, create good content and build authority links to your internal pages. In the long run, your SEO traffic will go up.
What I track these days is my overall search traffic and whether or not it is going up month over month.