How to Estimate the Length & Value of the Long Tail for Your Target Market's Keywords

Question: How do you determine how much value there is in the head of a keyword space compared to the tail of the same marketplace?

Answer: The best way to know is to have an authoritative site that ranks across a wide swath of related keywords in your marketplace and track conversions. Of course, it is expensive to create a lot of high quality content, so there are are shortcuts you can take to understanding the depth and breadth of a keyword market.

Search Auto-Completion &amp: Related Searches

Many of the major search engines show related searches and try to auto-complete your search queries. This should give you a list of additional popular search phrases that are a bit deeper than the core head keywords.

Competitive Research Tools

Some keyword tools, like KeyCompete, allow you to buy a list of keywords that competitors are bidding on.

  • If a site is focused on your vertical you can grab all the words from their KeyCompete bid campaign.

  • If the site is broad you can search KeyCompete for

You can also use competitive research tools like Search Analytics to see what terms a competitor ranks for in the organic search results, and what percent of their site traffic comes from each keyword. Some keyword research tools like WordZe also allow you to download up to 10,000 keywords at a time.

Use Google to Filter Keywords by Value

After grabbing a list of competitive keywords you can upload them to the Google Traffic Estimator tool to see which terms are the most valuable. Also, you can submit the words to the traffic estimator tool using broad, phrase, and exact match. Comparing the ratios of the values of the different match types should give you a good idea as to the depth of each keyword.

Use Google to Organize Your Keywords

Some keyword tools end up generating more keywords than you can easily organize. You can use the Google AdWords Editor's Keyword Grouper to help organize keywords into more manageable and targeted groups.

Track Your Google AdWords Results & Refine Your Keyword Strategy

As you bid on keywords, if you leave them broad match, your ad will be displayed for many related keywords. You can see what additional terms triggered your ads using the Google AdWords Search Query Performance Report.

Reinvesting in the Tail of Search

If you create content for your most valuable phrases and use the profits to create more content for related ideas your content will rank for keywords you never even thought to target.

When you create a new page of content in a valuable space make sure you optimize it for a basket of related keywords, by posting your URL to Google's keyword suggestion tool to see what they think the page is about. If they suggest terms that are not on your page, either insert those keywords in your content or create addition pages targeting those keyword phrases.

Track Your Organic Search Results

Use your server logs to discover high value phrases that are not too competitive and do not show up in the paid keyword research tools. If you find yourself ranking #7 for a page that does not target a specific term, perhaps you can rank #1 or #2 for it and for related phrases if you make pages that are focused on a tighter niche and are more tailored to those specific queries.

If you monetize via AdSense set custom channels for different parts of your site, and if you are monetizing via other techniques make sure you track your conversions.

Published: August 3, 2007 by Aaron Wall in Q & A


August 3, 2007 - 4:18pm

Interesting & sound advice.

It's almost too easy to claim top spot for long tail with an already popular website.

A long tail optimized internal page with a good keyworded filename can rank top ten in a matter of days.

August 3, 2007 - 6:06pm

Thanks for replying to my question through that great blog post, Aaron! I'll use this as a step-by-step guide to go through some of my ideas.

When you said that it depends a lot on how people search in the vertical, I was wondering if maybe a good way of judging how much kw volume (and thus money) is in that field by simply typing in the keyword into a keyword tool and looking at the number of searches containing that keyword.

Like typing in 'SEO' and looking at the number of long-tail phrases including the term 'SEO'. I know some (free) keyword tools display the number of searches for the keyword you typed in and their long-tail variations.

Do you think that would also be a good way to judge how people search in a field? (by looking at the ratio of generic keyword to long-tail phrases including the keyword)


August 3, 2007 - 11:54pm

It is not just the ratios of number of queries but also the volumes and values for each of the terms that matter Patrick.

August 4, 2007 - 1:00am

ah yeah, you're right about that one obviously.

simon f
August 4, 2007 - 6:36am

Hi Aaron,

Fantastic sound advice there. I really think you have so much depth we could all hope for you to start a SEO course broadcast over the web - millions would be dying for such a grand figure as yourself to teach us in a methodical approach.

Keep it up!

August 4, 2007 - 9:55am

Hi Aaron,

been a long time reader love your blog, just had a question about this topic but in terms of newly acquired domain names. I recently bought a never registered exact keyword domain name that google estimates around 45-55 searches a day for the broad, advertiser bid estimates about 5.00-8.00 dollars for 1-3 and the website that ranks number 1 for the term is only showing 1 backlink in yahoo. So the question is what would be the best and fastest way to monetize this website being that I have no related authority websites. Or what would you do?

August 4, 2007 - 10:56am

Search auto-completion and related searches - love this one :) Excellent!
I think you still need quality content and corresponding number of pages, even though expensive, for long term results. Why? Well, what happens when enough of your competitors have used the same shortcuts? The site with the most high quality search term tailored content will prevail. So, I think the correct combination is shortcuts + quality content pages over time to ensure long term results.

August 4, 2007 - 7:55pm

Hi Aaron

Thanks for your advice here. We've been relying on Adwords for a few years and got fed up of paying out so much, even for our long tail keywords.

The advice you have given for refining our keyword strategy by analysing our Adwords account will be very useful.



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