Still on the fence about long tail keywords? You’re in good company. For years, digital marketing companies have been pushing them as the secret weapon that will crush your enemies, drive traffic to your site and slay your ecommerce dragons. That all sounds magnificent, but is it that simple?
Legend has it, something magical happens when paid search experts embrace the mystery of stringing more than two keywords together. Many struggling digital marketers have embraced long tail keywords as the solution to their problems, with limited success. Despite the glut of pixels spent in praise of longer keywords, a growing number of SEM skeptics are working to demystify their place in your account. Below are some of the more pernicious misconceptions and how to sidestep them.
Myth 1: Higher Conversion Rate
Why it persists: The idea that your perfect audience is just one phrase away from becoming a customer is pretty appealing. Evidence suggests that when a user does enter a longer keyword, they convert at a rate up to 5 times higher.
The problem: Long tail keywords don’t exist in a vacuum. Attributing the final conversion only to those keywords ignores the typical buying cycle most customers experience. It’s estimated that users modify their search terms as many as 10 times before making a purchase. Yes, it would be helpful to know which phrase preceded that purchase, but that ignores the heavy lifting done by product and brand-building keywords.
The skeptical solution: Use only your best-performing keywords, which actually appear on your site, to generate longer phrases. Money isn’t the only resource that goes into building an account. It will focus your time on proven search terms without sacrificing your existing campaigns. Don’t go overboard and don’t be afraid to test your long tail variations.
Myth 2: Less Competition
Why it persists: The more specific your keyword phrase, the fewer people are fighting over it. Right? Less competition means lower costs and better click through rates.
The problem: Fewer people searching for you also means fewer people finding you. If you aren’t careful, your keywords might become obscure enough to trigger Google’s dreaded “low search volume” warning. By contrast, it’s estimated that traditional keywords can generate 15 times more traffic than their longer counterparts.
The skeptical solution: Use historical data to build your keyword lists. Tools like Google Analytics and AdWords Keyword Planner show which search queries are actually bringing people to your site and can help you estimate future search traffic. Once you know how customers find you, it should be easier to determine which keywords are worth including in your campaign.
Myth 3: Lower Cost Per Click
Why it persists: Most digital marketers don’t have the benefit of an unlimited budget. Long tails are purported as a major cost savings strategy. With fewer people bidding on your keywords, it should be the cheapest option you have.
The problem: Inconsistency. Maximizing your budget is certainly a concern in every account, but it isn’t the only concern. Some PPC authorities have suggested a long tail ratio as high as 50%. Unfortunately, many of these search terms will only trigger once during their lifetime. It’s simply not sustainable. Performance justifies investment and many ultra-focused keywords are doomed to be one-hit-wonders.
The skeptical solution: If budget is your primary concern, consider an account evaluation before transitioning to long tails. It’s nearly impossible to avoid AdWords waste completely. Getting the junk out of your account will immediately reduce your costs and make your next campaign easier to control. Using correct match types, including negative keywords and avoiding duplication will all stretch your budget.
Myth 4: Higher Quality Scores
Why it persists: Carefully crafted search terms that perfectly incorporate your unique message should send your quality scores through the roof. Right?
The problem: Quality scores are holistic. Your AdWords account alone doesn’t control your rating. Performance, landing page and a web of relevance-related factors all go into your final score.
The skeptical solution: Don’t ignore your SEO! Your AdWords account should take advantage of content and on-page Search Engine Optimization. If unique brand or product phrases are common on your site, your AdWords account should reflect that. Conversely, if your paid search efforts have uncovered a cache of unexpectedly spectacular keywords, include them on your site. Don’t be afraid of your data. Strive to be like Serpico, the search engine raccoon.
Myth 5: Longer Is Always Better
Why it persists: The more specific your search term, the easier it is to rank for it. It may be tempting to artificially extend your keywords to minimize competition and maximize your ranking chances.
The problem: The goal behind long tails is to reduce competition and narrow your audience, but that’s a double-edged sword. As the length of your keyword increases, your potential audience decreases.
The skeptical solution: Use core terms from your site which can be turned into 3-5 word phrases. Don’t be afraid to include product descriptions or brand terms. Your long tail keywords should be a logical extension of your most successful keywords.
The biggest secret in paid search marketing is that there is no secret. Know your site, know your audience and manage your account. Campaigns will evolve over time and long tail keywords are simply the next stage. If you keep an eye on your performance, and make the most of your data, there’s no reason to be nervous.