How to find long-tail keywords
What is a long-tail keyword?
A long-tail keyword is a longer phrase that might be used by searchers to find information. By finding these keywords, your content can more closely target a particular group of searchers, thus increasing the chances that the URL of your content will appear in their search results.
Why do you want your content to appear higher in the search results? It is really quite simple: if your URL doesn't appear, you won't have any visitors! Without visitors, you receive no ad revenue, so it is to your advantage to have your URL placed as highly as possible in the search results for your chosen keyword.
Ideally, you want to find long-tail keywords that will allow your URL to appear on the first page of the search for that keyword. The further back in the results you are, the more likely it is that a searcher will find the information for which they are looking before they see your URL.
Long-tail keyword phrase: an example
There are millions of search results for the keyword "recipe". Your recipe will probably not appear on the first page of a search for "recipe" simply because there are too many.
However, let's say you have a recipe for a really delicious banana bread. By targeting the long-tail keyword "banana bread recipe", your competition can be reduced to only those recipes which are for banana bread.
Are there still too many search results? You can narrow your focus even more by describing your recipe ("easy" or "delicious" or "gluten-free") or by checking your ingredient list. How about "banana bread with walnuts recipe" or "cinnamon banana bread recipe"?
But wait! Is anyone actually searching for cinnamon banana bread recipes? Let's find out!
How to find long-tail keywords in Google: two options
The Autocomplete feature in Google can be used to show potential long-tail keywords you might want to target. Type your phrase into the search box to see what Google suggests as an autocomplete. For our example of "banana bread recipe", suggestions include "banana bread recipe", "banana bread recipe sour cream", "banana bread recipe no eggs", and "banana bread recipe with oil". I don't see "cinnamon banana bread recipe" on the list. Maybe it is not the best choice of keyword since it is not a terms which is frequently searched-for? There is no value in targeting a phrase if no one searches for it.
Let's try the other option, then. Scroll down to the bottom of the search page, and you will see a section entitled "Searches related to banana bread recipe". This is a list of common related searches done by those searching for banana bread recipes. As you can see, there are quite a number of options. Which one(s) to choose to target, though?
It is easy to look at the results for each one to see which one(s) are lower competition than the simple "banana bread recipes". In this case, "banana walnut bread recipe" has a mere 151 thousand search results. That may seem like a lot, but considering that "banana bread recipe" has almost 12 million results, the competition for this keyword is relatively low.
You don't want to select a keyword that has low competition because no one is searching for it, nor do you want to select a keyword with a high number of searches and competition to match. With a little practice, you can become proficient at selecting keywords which have a good ratio competition to searches. The goal after all is to have your URL on the first page of the search results, but if no one is searching for it, no one will see your content even if you are on the first page of the results!
No searches for a keyword. Use it anyway?
What if your chosen keyword doesn't appear in the frequently-searched results list?
If you really have your heart set on using the keyword "cinnamon banana bread", you can of course go right ahead to create content around that long-tail keyword. Before you do, however, take a moment to check in Google. As you can see in our example, the first several search results do not in fact use the phrase "cinnamon banana bread recipe". While all four keywords are present, they do not occur in that particular combination.
What does that mean? It means that Google feels these search results are more relevant to your search than your keyword combination. Your URL may never appear in results for this keyword if you insist on using it anyway. It is highly recommended to find another phrase to use as your chosen keyword.
It is always a good idea to check the keyword options provided by Google even if you are absolutely, positively sure you want to target a particular phrase. When you check, you will frequently see a better phrase than you had originally intended to use when writing your content. A slight change of wording can make a big difference in the number of visitors your content will receive!