Long Tail Content For SEO — 2013 & Beyond

There was the old way of doing SEO for the long tail. It worked for a long time, and lots of people made lots of money doing it.

But those days are gone. What was the old way, you ask? In a nutshell:

  • Research a long list of long-tail keywords
  • Create a page for each long-tail term
  • Give each page a title tag with the key phrase at the very start of the title tag
  • Implement a header tag with the same key phrase at the start of it
  • Write some simple blather type text that repeats the key phrase once or twice and arguably adds some additional value
  • Focus the page on conversion

Often, all you’d end up with is a site that simply tried to capture traffic for every imaginable related search phrase:


Simple planning, easy execution, not so great user experience — but who cares? Lots of money to be made!

This approach got so ingrained in our online culture that there are still thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of publishers still doing it — and they have no idea why Google does not like them anymore. The answer to that question is actually simple:

Compared to sites that offer authoritative information, sites using the above formula suck — and Google does not like to offer users sites that suck in their results!

The above statement seems fairly obvious, yet many have found it hard to accept. After years of creating websites that “worked” and made tons of money, people lost sight of the fact that those websites were actually not very good. A site that offers efficient ways to buy something fast, with little other value, is not a good site when compared to one that does offer other value beyond ease of conversion.

Buy or Leave Web Site

If you have a straight e-commerce experience, that might be okay if you have a major brand, as this offers a different element of value to the overall site experience. So, if you are not a major brand, and you are looking to cover a fair number of long tail terms …

… What To Do Now?

Since the old formula is a dying dinosaur, what can you do instead? Great question! Here’s the new approach:

  1. Take your best and brightest and brainstorm. Gather your team in a conference room and come up with ideas for pages/content you might want to create. Do this before you get too deep into your research. If you are really good at your business, you have a lot of domain expertise already — so get the best out of your internal knowledge before you corrupt it with additional “facts.” Your own creativity will often produce ideas that extensive research does not.
  2. Brainstorm user needs. Figure out the top 5 (or more) things users want to know when they land on a page offering products or services like yours. Interview past users, poll prospective customers, and do online research within your niche. Map out content that addresses common consumer questions in as much detail as you can. As you do this, take the time to go much deeper than you will need to on the page itself — it’s best to have too much information at your disposal rather than too little.
  3. Research complementary products and services. Now that you have thought in detail about what people need from your product or service, what are the other things that people will want at the same time that you don’t offer? Does it make sense to create content focused on those things? If feasible, use this information to create a comprehensive solutions guide that helps prospects with every aspect of the problem they are trying to solve, not just the piece that you address directly.
  4. Research what the bulk of competitors are doing. Use your competitors as a baseline — after all, you will need to do better than they are. Copying your competitor’s approach is a bad strategy. Competitors may get away with a crappy site experience, but it’s a bad plan for you. You should plan for excellence — this is the best way to build a sustainable long-term strategy.
  5. Research what authoritative competitors are doing. You looked at the bulk of your competitors to get a baseline. Now, look at the very top people in your space to see what they are doing differently. This will give you some additional clues. I like to delay this step because it is best to not corrupt your creativity in the early stages. But, now you can use it to develop a whole set of fresh, new ideas.
  6. Do some quantitative research. Now that you have the basic ideas, start doing some research into keyword volumes to help you prioritize what is most important. This is only one input into the equation — don’t overlook the importance of the user experience, too. Just because something has twice as much search volume does not make it front and center if it is really a tertiary piece of information to a user. I have a strong preference to put the most important information to a visitor front and center, and treat keyword volume as a secondary factor to alter the balance in otherwise close calls.
  7. Create an initial design, and obtain feedback. Now that you have a sense of priorities, develop one or more strawman designs with the goal of obtaining feedback. Honestly, it can be surprisingly cheap to get feedback on different mockups, using services such as UserTesting.com or even Mechanical Turk.
  8. Gut check: does the page deserve to exist? You can actually do this at any stage in the process, but you should do it at least once every time a page is published. Is there a legitimate reason for the page to exist? I should refine the question a bit: does it add some redeeming, real value to the Web or your website? If you have a blue widgets webpage, you probably don’t need a round blue widgets webpage, a square blue widget webpage, and 4″-diameter round blue widgets with blue trim webpage, etc.


The key message I am pushing here is the shift toward a more user-content-centric view of the world. SEO is not dead, but it can no longer be the single cause of the website for your business. Priority #1 has to be the user experience — from there, you can add SEO wisdom to the mix.

That said, you can still create pages for the long tail. But you will have to invest more than you would have had to three years ago.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO | How To | How To: SEO | Search Marketing: Landing Pages | SEO: Writing & Body Copy


About The Author: is the president of Stone Temple Consulting, an SEO consultancy outside of Boston. Eric publishes a highly respected interview series and can be followed on Twitter at @stonetemple.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • Graeme Benge

    Targeting secondary keywords on page is becoming a more and more valid tactic. Testing long tail candidates on existing pages can give you a more compelling reason to create stand alone pages. With Google rearranging title tags in SERPs it feels like the more Google likes your domain the more it’ll do for you! As a result keyword concurrence and co-citation is even more valid a tactic to test.

  • Nevin Thompson

    Why not determine user behaviour first (what products or services are you providing that customers find of value), create the content, segment website content (during the research process) into broad categories, do the keyword research, and then assign relevant keywords to pages? It does seem like doing the keyword research first, and then creating content according to that research, is bass-ackwards.

    Long-tail keywords (and as Graeme states, secondary keywords) are still totally relevant, but with the consideration of competitiveness (competitor domain and page authority.

  • http://searchmonkeys.us/ Karthik kumar

    “The old way of doing SEO” sounds like a tactic from the metaphorical “ghetto”. It’s no wonder that the outsiders often confuse SEO with spamming and see the whole industry as irrelevant, when we ourselves are doing it. Just my thought.

  • http://www.baynetwork.com/ Yuriy Petushkov

    Todays content is really all about social integration. Is it worth sharing? Do people want to read beyond the headline and photo caption? The authoritative sites will always have their 80LB gorilla presence. While our site (Baynetwork.com) has a 13+ year trust factor, we are always looking for clever way to expand our brand presence. The following blog post about the NSA and Google potentially running the planet in approximately 12 years created some of the best traffic to our blog EVER. http://www.baynetwork.com/Blog/Why-the-NSAs-monitoring-isnt-really-a-big-surprise-but-a-big-deal. Not only was it perfectly timed, but the conversation placement was well executed.

  • http://www.houstontexasseo.com Paul Sherland

    Eric, what about augmenting the excellent guidance above with a process of using your blog to respond to common user questions? Use Google Suggest or Wordtracker’s Question Tool to create a list of these long-tail questions, related to your products and services. Then create an authoritative answer for each question in a blog post. Since the blog posts provide quality content, they’re effective at keeping visitors on the page and converting visits to customers. Google is happy!

    It’s not the thin long-tail strategy you describe above, but it doesn’t depend on the substantial competitive research you outline as a step in developing a website architecture. In my view it augments your website architecture planning process with a still-viable long-tail strategy. By the way, I enjoyed meeting you at SMX Advanced in Seattle last year.

  • http://www.howtodo247.com/ Joya Blain

    2013 Seo factor also is Long Tail Content. For better result you shouuld use Long Tail Content for your website

  • steve

    I do local city landing pages like that optimized with good content for each city we have a store location. Seems to be doing okay but I do feel like it’s duplicating content.

  • http://www.13thbeachdiywebassist.com.au/ Nigel Rawlins

    It’s all about doing the hard yards without the quick fix. ‘ Does it deserve to exist’ is the right question, well done.

  • Paresh Shrimali

    Great ..!!!!!!! Its a triple Benefit. first we target more and more long tail keywords and and we create appropriate content regarding targeted “Long tail Keywords”. and it also beneficial content for Short tail keyword too.[Exact Match type] keyword too.

  • templestark

    If that was your attitude to content, “blah blah” no wonder you’re not excited about it. Very jaded – and inaccurate – approach to doing it right.

  • http://www.dbsit.com.au/ Asif Faridi

    An SEO expert cleverly satisfied the client through long tail keywords. In starting of campaign Long tail keywords got rank in a short span of time as compare to short tail.

  • xtopher66

    Well Eric your siloed content example seems entirely appropriate for ecommerce and you`ve spelled out the death of it. You really need to start looking deeper…there`s plenty of siloed structered thin content ranking very well for very competitve industry keywords. You should join me in confirming that Google have made so many corperate decisions and changes under the guise of “better UX” that people are totally confused which way to go. Venice update hasnt helped SEO either. But hold on, of course there is one way to get above the fold…Adwords!

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    “Your own creativity will often produce ideas that extensive research does not.”

    I’ve seen that happen more often than not. Research might give you a direction to head in and an outline of how people are searching but your own spin is what makes your content stand out. What unique paths can you take with your content?

  • Charles Floate

    I’ve been a huge fan of long tail content for a while now, it makes ranking awesome.
    On my blog I look at potential keywords and build content around it, of course I either already know about the subject or educated myself before making the content and within 2-3 weeks I’ll be ranked either #1 or pretty highly for that keyword.
    More content = the more traffic you’ll get!


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide