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5 steps to an effective keyword strategy: Step 2 - Find the long tail; get to grips with that keyword tool

The first thing to do is to select a keyword tool. The good news is that there are plenty available and that there is no need to pay. We favour the good old Google tool but there are others.

So armed with your list of suggestions (see step 1) we're off to work - developing our keyword strategy

Now, there are 2 key things to keep in our mind when we get to this point:

  • our objectives, and
  • our audience

1) Our objective is to drive traffic to the site, right? Yes, but there's more to it than that. As obvious as it may seem when we say it out loud, what we really want to do is drive the RIGHT sort of traffic to the site, the right sort of traffic being qualified, interested viewers who are in the right place in their own decision cycle and are prepared to take action.

2) It also serves us to remember that internet users are a lot savvier today than they used to be. They know that a search for "VoIP" on its own is likely to yield millions of results that would take a lifetime to wade through so they are likely to expand that short (core) key term with suitable qualifiers, such as: "VoIP suppliers", "VoIP manufacturers" and so on.

So what?

Well the core term on its own is likely to be frighteningly competitive and if you aren't one of the big boys with a budget the size of Mexico, the patience of a saint and the determination of a rhino, you need to focus your efforts more effectively.

Moreover (and back to our objectives), what sort of a person searches for "VoIP" or "eggs" anyway? Well a pretty clueless one most likely, someone looking for fairly basic information; certainly not your Mr Target Customer. Drill into your own organic keyword stats and compare the activity of those who arrived using one keyword to those who arrived using more. There will be a pattern. Those who used longer keywords will stay longer, view more pages, come back again and, if your content delivers, plop into the basket.

So we need to find the people who are further into the buying cycle, familiar with our core term and ready to take action. That's where the long tail works its magic - keeping out the riff raff.

So - off we go to the keywords tool, armed with our short, core keywords (these may be more than one actual word incidentally). Just tapping these basic core terms into the keywords tool is a worthwhile exercise as it will immediately throw up a host of suggestions and alternatives that you might not have considered. So it's worth paying close attention to these results even at this early stage - you can come across some real gems hidden in the list.

But back to our long tails - how do we go about finding them? Well, our brainstorming and customer profiling ought to suggest some tracks we could take but if we're stuck for ideas we fall back on a useful structure that explains the 7 basic keyword modifiers and use this as a framework to build on...

Next time: Step 3 - Keyword modifiers and number crunching.