The Future of Long-Tail Keywords [Shh! Google!]

Shh! Don’t tell Matt Cutts I revealed this to you. Anyways…

Do you still use long-tail keywords?      long-tail keywords future

I know that a lot of blog posts have been written on this topic.

But here, I want to throw more light on what you should expect in the future if you’re serious about SEO.

I may not be 85% right, but nothing can be farther from the truth – SEO is drastically driving towards relevance and helpful content – ENGAGEMENT

If you’re not challenged to produce good content at all times, then you’ve no need setting up a website in the first place.

The future of long-tail keywords can be summed up in two stages:

  1. Focusing on user intent
  2. Answering specific questions

I’ll explain the two concepts below. If you stop reading now, you’ll not get the full gist. And more so, this post will prompt you to action – I can guarantee that!


Google Hummingbird update     Google hummingbird

As you already know, the Google Hummingbird update was rolled out few days ago, when the Holy Grail of search celebrated their 15th birthday.

If you’re a blogger or content producer and you’re worried about this latest update, then you’ve totally misunderstood the real idea. Really, it’s for your own good.

This update is actually one of the best since Panda.

I’ve to officially announce that a niche site I started on the 1st of August 2013 has finally started to rank highly in the first page of Google and trickles of sales are coming in gradually.

In fact, I’ve recorded 2 orders this past week. I’m excited because getting the first sale is often the most difficult mountain to climb. You know it’s true, don’t you?

The truth of the matter is that the Hummingbird update has made things a lot easier.

If you’re like me who give top priority to writing great content, then you can understand my frustration initially when my content pages weren’t ranking as I thought they would.

What you should realize right now is that getting a web page ranked in Google top 10, is a lot easier than before.

Even if you’re a total newbie to SEO, all you’ve to do is study the trend, accept the fact that people have problems and need solutions.


Get faster query results

Google is never going to stop updating their algorithm.

You’ve to accept that change is inevitable and the whole idea is that Google wants to build a platform where people can find the right information they need – faster without getting bored digging through piles of web pages.

The major reason why people type long-tail keywords in Google is because they need information.

Your blog might look beautiful (which is essential), but the ultimate is to provide searchers/people with faster query results. In other words, give them content that truly answer their question.

Searchers (you and me) are becoming experts in this thing, because our precious time is being wasted by low-quality content authors who find ways to outrank others and lure us to visit their pages.

In 2012 – till date, every searcher has grown to understand that the keywords they searched with should bring up the right answer they need.

As a content marketer, when you get the full insight behind searches and why people come to the web in the first place, all your attention and zeal will be channeled to producing epic content.

When you’ve nothing epic to write about, then you can take time out to gossip somewhere else, not your blog.

In line with the Google Hummingbird update, the future of long-tail keywords is somewhat predictable.

In other words, you can tell what long-tail keywords are going to be used for, and how vital they’ll continue to be.  Let’s sum up the future and explain it in two simple stages. Are you ready?


1.       Focus on user intent, not the keyword itself      


Keyword research is one of my favorite activities, because each time I uncover a hidden low-competitive keyword, I know I can build a niche site and make money from it.

However, the Hummingbird update has changed all of that. Not entirely though, but the application is different now.

Yes, seed and long tail keywords are still very important SEO ranking factors, but you must change your focus. The best medium to achieving great and fast rankings in Google is to understand user intent and speak their language – let it show in your content.

This means that you may not outright target a particular keyword before you can rank in Google from this day forward – but when you write content that address the “core” need of your reader/searcher, Google will have no other choice than to send you free organic traffic.

Earlier, I told you that my latest niche site which I’ve tried to rank since the month of August has finally picked up and is seated at #4 positions for its target key phrase – 3600 local searches monthly.


The new and old keyword optimization:

Be honest with yourself: how do you use long-tail keywords before this time? The right answer might hurt your feelings, but it can set you on course.

Truly, you were using these keywords on your title, subheads and sprinkled them few times here and there in your blog post or article. Your strategy worked before Google Hummingbird, but you’ve to change your approach today. Oops!

What to do today instead: Instead of targeting a particular keyword right now in order to rank for it, give more attention to who is searching for the term.

For instance, if someone typed “best social media software,” what do you think is going on in the mind of that searcher/person?

Ultimately, the searcher may have seen a list of social media software he or she can use. But because he wants value for his money, he wants to buy the “best.”

Now, “best” is the intent (purpose) of the searcher. So, your content has to be real, original and you’ve to explain why the software you recommend is the best. Don’t try to push anyone to buy or use tricks and hype – that’s not how to do content marketing effectively.

You’ve to pull them in. You’ve known why they visited your blog; to read about the “best” social media tool, that’s their intent – the purpose.


Give people a reason to stay 

I need you to take this lesson seriously. After the Hummingbird update, you can’t expect to rank in Google any longer if no one stays and read what you’ve published.

I’ve argued severally that quality content doesn’t exist because this can be relative. But what your reader/target audience/searcher is desperately looking for is the information that aligns with the purpose of their visit.

Using the example above, if web searchers (people, not robots) are searching for the “best” social media software and when they came to your blog, you’ve a Top 50 list of social media software, then you’ve not solved their problem.

You’ve utterly wasted their time and they’ll have no reason to stay. And if they don’t stay, a signal will be sent to Google that your website lacks the sticky feature – your content isn’t engaging or helpful in any way.

This can hinder your rankings and even get you pushed down to page 21 in Google search engine.


A brief on how Google ranks before Hummingbird update:

Actually, this is Google’s fault and I must say they’re improving on a per-update basis. Before, if you write content that addresses a general idea or topic, you still have a better chance of ranking in Google if you build high-PR links to it.

Whether the content is relevant or targeted to your searcher doesn’t matter – provided that you’ve an idea on the topic.

For instance, if you write about “brand image,” Google can still serve your content page to those who searched for “branding strategies.”

Even though the content is somewhat relevant to both searchers, the intents are different: The first person had a purpose of learning about branding strategies, while the other came because he or she wants to learn about brand image.


A shift on how Google will rank your content page today:

Now that Google had rolled out one of the best updates, you can see that the purpose by which people visit your website/blog to read your content must be met.

So that if I search for “content marketing cost” in Google, I’m expected to get search result that shows me how much I need to invest and what results I can expect at the end of the day.

Funny enough, Google will be ranking content pages in their homepage in the future, which may not have the primary keyword on the title because the focus has moved from individual search terms to the user intent.

With this new update, even if you target a primary keyword on your post title, and even sprinkle it on the body, if your content isn’t relevant or solve the problem of your searcher, you MAY/WILL not rank.

On the other hand, if you have the primary keyword on the title, don’t stuff or try to inject it every now and then.

Just write your content with the understanding of what and why people should read it. Their #1 reason for searching in Google is to get the right information, not just generic ideas that lead them nowhere.


2.       Answering specific questions     content marketing questions

Knowing the intent (purpose) of your searcher/visitor is essential.

But then, you also must answer their specific questions.

The reason why someone should read your content is because it’ll help them. By help, I mean: educate, inform, inspire and entertain.

If your content fails to deliver on any of this, you’re not going to stand out in the crowd. Answering specific questions will increase engagement on your blog.

Because when people find EXACTLY what they’re looking for in your content, they’ll stay for a longer time, share the link with their friends and start the social sharing as well.

Remember that social signals are one of the ranking factors of 2013 released by Google.

If you’re doing a good job at great content that answers specific questions, then you’ll not have to struggle to build links to your individual pages. I know firsthand that writing epic content can net you hundreds of quality backlinks without you even asking for it.


How to answer specific questions

The best way is to research your keyword. Don’t believe those who say that keyword research is dead. They’re wrong because the pillar that holds organic searches is keywords.

But the way smart content marketers and SEOs who use keywords have changed drastically in the past few years and also after the Hummingbird update.

Remember that you don’t have to specifically target individual keywords before you can rank in Google, but when you understand who is searching for it, study their demographic features (age, sex, race etc), then writing personally and specifically to them would be easier.

For instance, if I’m to start a fitness blog today, I need to know who my ideal audience is. Do I target teenagers, or stay-at-home moms or men?

Once I choose a particular group to target, then I can read books and blogs to identify their specific needs, challenges, tastes, what type of product (e-book, videos, audio, blogs etc) they’d prefer to buy.

And don’t be deceived; knowing about your audience isn’t difficult at all.

In fact, there are thousands of magazines, books, audio books, free membership sites and psychology materials to aid you. And it takes like a 21-day study to fully get the ideas off the book onto your subconscious mind.

Let’s give an example of a specific question you can answer. But first, I must point to the fact that a question in this concept doesn’t necessarily have to be keywords that have question marks at the end.

If you find a question-based long-tail keyword, then good for you, but if not don’t worry about that.


Long-tail keyword is a traffic generator

A set of long-tail keywords are actually questions that needs to be answered. Having said that, let’s assume you did a keyword research and got this: “How to use dropbox”

You need to have a foresight (ability to envision future possible problems) of what is happening when someone searches for such a term.

Listen to this, the person is looking for a step by step instruction on how to use dropbox. By the way, dropbox is cloud-based backup software in case it’s strange to you.

Each time you find a keyword that starts or ends with “how to,” then the searcher’s purpose of searching for that term is because wants to know how to start use it right away.

They’re probably beginners to internet marketing or employees who want to backup important files in the cloud and feel safe at work.

The above long-tail keyword is a question. And the way to answer it specifically is to write a step-by-step tutorial with screenshots or create an easy to understand practical video.

An audio content can’t answer this question rightly because the searcher needs to see the visuals and follow along.

Most keywords reveal the intent of the searcher right away. For instance, “Buy Samsung Galaxy 11.” In this case, the searcher already knows about the mobile device, and all you’re expected to do is highlight the best features without sounding biased.

Don’t try to ask the searcher/prospect to buy now because this device is better than so, and so.

You might discourage them since nobody wants to be pushed into buying – they want to take full responsibility for their purchase so they can justify it by logic.

Already, they’ve shown an interest to buy. You didn’t put the purpose in them. So why cajole them.

Yes, you can still have the long-tail keyword on your article title if you want, but the most important thing is to focus on the purpose, not the keyword.


Long-tail marketing hack

When using long-tail keywords to identify and understand what your target audience are purposefully searching for, be careful not to give all your attention to scripts (search spiders).

If you sell a product or service on your blog/website – Google spider isn’t going to click the order button – so why waste your precious time trying to pad, overuse and stuff key terms.

Instead, use search queries to learn about that person who is searching for you.

Thousands of people actually wants to read what you’ve written, but you’ve got to write to just one of them and your content will seem relevant, sticky, specific and valuable for that ONE person.

There you’ve it; the future of long-tail keywords lies in (1). Knowing user purpose (intent) so you can write rich content to address their needs easily and (2). Answering specific questions so that your readers/visitors can stay and read more, leave valuable comments, share on Facebook, Tweet it and buy your product.

Have you been using long-tail keywords to drive targeted traffic? You can also share your experience with the Hummingbird update. You’re truly awesome cowboy!

Photo Credit: Santa Hat | Primeview

48 thoughts on “The Future of Long-Tail Keywords [Shh! Google!]”

  1. It is never always easy to rank up a long tail keyword because it has tough competition. Different people are using different techniques for getting their keywords on the top of Google. With the introduction of Hummingbird algorithm update it has become more difficult to improve the ranking of long tail keywords. Your suggestion which you keep secret from Matt Cutts sounds good work and I like your suggestion in this regards 🙂

  2. And the best one is: Long Tail Pro. I am using this tool for last 3 months and I have made loads of money out of it.
    I would recommend you to try that. Anyways, Thanks for the article.

  3. The long tail of keyword research is critical to your online success. Because they have less competition from other websites, long tail keywords give you a much better chance of ranking highly in the search engines. And for every keyword you rank for, you’ll get more customers, more sales, and more revenue.

  4. I was searching at google how long meta keywords should be, as i was creating meta tags for one of my new website. thanks to google that i will not have to preapre meta keywords again. a lot of time will be saved to concentrate on content. cool!

  5. Great post Michael. I’ve always been a fan of long tail keywords and felt they are more useful when used properly. It’s good that Hummingbird is focusing on providing search results based on what the users want, useful, relevant content instead of keyword rich results.

  6. Really useful and very informative post about long tail keywords and of course Hummingbird. Long tail keywords are really useful in my business and help me to drive more niche and profitable traffic to my site.

  7. Long tail SEO has many benefits to offer to website owners. Whether we are running an online shop, a content driven website, a blog or our company’s website, long tail SEO can help us get more organic traffic and more targeted customers.

    • Hey Fach, I’m happy you now know that a Google update went live recently. But it’s not something you should worry about – keep producing valuable content and build engagement on your blog.

  8. Considering the Hummingbird update (and Facebook’s Graph Search), I don’t think keywords will be as overly prevalent as they once were. If someone’s looking, for instance, for ink cartridges they’ll come across the online stores with reputable reputations. You can achieve that with great content and good customer feedback. Sorted!

    • You’ve a point there. Keywords may be not overly prevalent as you said, but keywords will never die – Google would continue to use search queries to understand her users and tailor their result pages to match that of users. Nevertheless, the best SEO practice is to focus on producing good content that answers questions. Natural rankings and traffic will follow suit. Thank you Alex.

  9. Its a great post. Thank you for sharing such an informative post. It will help me a lot.
    Yes, content is the key to success with Google now. I am using unique content for my blog and it is not effected by the Google updates even it is now ranking good.

  10. I guess I’m not on the up and up. I had no idea Google just launched hummingbird. It is hard to keep up with all of the changes. But, I guess those of us that do will have more traffic coming in.

    So, how much emphasis should we place on keywords? When I talk naturally, I may say the same word several times over the course of a couple of sentences. Does Google look at that as keyword stuffing still? I’m just asking because I like to write the same way I talk.



  11. Interesting post Michael,
    i too have read something about hummingbird that this update is targeted on long tail keywords. Long tail keywords will definitely make a mark with this update in Google’s listing. Hope to see the positive result soon, as of now I am badly affected with the update, Anyways thanks for this beautiful share, I am sure now that whatever I read isn’t just a rumor. thanks mate.

  12. Great information, Michael. Thanks.

    I usually put my kw in the title, near the beginning of the first sentence, in the last sentence and a couple of times throughout the post. I don’t sweat it though, and always favour what sounds good and makes sense.

    I like the idea of using question based long tail keywords. Must try that.


  13. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for a good article. “After the Hummingbird update, you can’t expect to rank in Google any longer if no one stays and read what you’ve published.”

    To me, that’s the most important point. You need to get AND KEEP traffic to keep getting traffic via Google… SEO anno 2013.

    Thanks again.

  14. Chibuzor great article I most confess. The impportance of long tail cannot be overemphasized.

    Hopefully it makes the creation highly optimized headlines with crude content dead.

    Would love to ask one thing though-how do you get data on most profitable keywords since google has stopped telling us the exact keywords people use in getting to our sites

    • Google hasn’t stopped revealing the best keywords. Yes, Google keyword tool is no more, but there are other tools you can use. Even without using software, you could easily extract your best performing key phrases from Google webmaster and analytics dashboard. I hope this helps. Thank you for reading and leaving a valuable comment.

  15. Hello there!

    This is really a good post. Thank you very much for sharing. I totally agree with you. I also believe that people type long-tail keywords in Google is because they need information.


    • They’re not just looking for information, but information that’s relevant, simple and valuable to the keywords they searched with, as well as their intent from deep down their hearts. Thank you for stopping by.

  16. Informative post Michael!
    In my research, a long tail of some distributions of numbers is the portion of the distribution having a large number of occurrences far from the “head” or central part of the distribution. The distribution could involve popularities, random numbers of occurrences of events with various probabilities, etc.
    I really have to hit the search bar for me to understand this thing since it is really foreign to me.
    About this article, I was glued in the sub-topics under “The new and old keyword optimization”. I have the same opinion, that honesty is the best policy so be honest. In addition, the “Give people a reason to stay” has good points and I will put it into the table.
    All in all the topics shared is really awesome and informative!

    I found this post shared on, the IM social networking site, and I “kingged” it and left this comment.

  17. Just like you said, SEO and long-tail keywords are shifting on ways we use them. But I’m glad I discovered this post. It’s made my day and taking action is next – I need a kind of motivation though – can you help?

  18. Interesting post here man

    I think content creators have used keywords to trick Google into misunderstanding their contents. Now google has been endowed with a better ‘reasoning faculty’ and that makes it easier to link up indexed materials with the minds of the searchers.

    I think longtail still has a place as it drives into a more specific intent. Over time, searchers have moved from “Lose weight” to “How to lose weight” to “how to lose weight fast” and even “How to lose weight after pregnancy” I think the longer the tail, the easier it is to locate relevant content.

    Of course, you made a solid point. It may no longer be how much and where you position the longtail. Google lays more emphasis on how useful the content is to the searcher using other pointers like bounce rates, time on site, social engagement, etc

    Good read this monday! thanks for the great value in the post

    • Sure, long tail keywords are becoming more and more useful especially now that Google Hummingbird is focused on user intent, not on individual keywords. You know, when a searcher types a longer key phrase into Google search box, it means they know what they want. 89% of the time, they may have been introduced to the information they needed. Your example key phrases on weight loss niche is superb.

      I appreciate your comment and thank you so much for your time Muki.

  19. It’s amazing how the Google update keep pouring in and changing the way we do SEO. This post further clarifies how to go about content marketing and get good results.

  20. What a great blog, i am searching in Google from couple of days.Two Simple Ways to Get Traffic to Your Blog” but did not find any great way, but my search came to an end after visiting your blog – this information on long-tail keywords can really drive more traffic to my blog. In fact, the two stages explained a so simple to implement and I’m going to give it a shot.

  21. Now Google Keep updating because lots of blogs are coming in the blogging globe, then want to maintain their quality.
    We need to care our content means which content we are going to publishing.? We need to publish some quality content and content which is useful for peoples.

    Now days two things make you Good Internet marketer one is Quality of content and second one quality of backlinks (as you mentioned in article.)

    • Exactly, great content is all we need to produce now. Focusing on individual keywords can’t do any good thing for us – especially on the long run. Thank Smith for reading and your precious time.

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