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This is a guest post by Shabbir Nooruddin from Bootstrapping Ecommerce.

If you run your own online store then chances are you have a pretty good idea how competitive the search landscape is.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of other websites that are targeting the same niche as you, and they are all trying to rank for the same keywords.

So, how can you siphon off some of that traffic exclusively to your site?

Head Keywords vs. Long Tail Keywords

Lucky for us, Google reports that 15% of the search queries they see every day are completely unique, never before seen by Google.

So if you're a store selling “panda costumes,” the main, or “head” keyword you're probably targeting is “panda costumes.” This keyword is pretty specific, but probably has a fair amount of competition. And when you're starting out, the top results will probably be dominated by the likes of Amazon and Walmart.

But do you think your organic visitors are only finding you by searching for “panda costumes"? I doubt it. People are also finding you with keywords like “adult panda costumes,” “panda costumes for kids,” “stretchy panda costumes,” and a whole lot of other keywords which you may not even know you were targeting.

This is the beauty of the long tail keyword. These are 3-4+ word queries that have fewer search volume, but even fewer pages specifically talking about those things. If you can optimize for these keywords by creating great content, you can capture a lot of previously-untapped customers.

What You're Going to Need

Before you start ranking for these long tail terms, there's a few things that you're going to need in advance. First of all, your store is going to need some backlinks pointing to it and it’s going to need a little bit of authority. If it’s completely fresh, you can optimized for all the keywords you want, but a mix of links and quality content is what will get you ranked.

If you’ve already got a few good links (or tons), you're all set. If not, you will need to build some. Some good ways to build links are guest posting, authority directories, and manufacturer links. Brian Dean of Backlinko has some really great tips to build links, and you can also find a list of 50 ways to build ecommerce links at my own blog.

Finding Long Tail Keywords

There are a few methods to find long tail keywords. No one method is particularly better than the other, but a good place to start is Google’s Keyword Planner Tool, or your own keyword list, if you already have one.

Here’s how you can look for long-tail keywords. I prefer using Long Tail Pro, because it has some really neat filtering options, but even if you don’t, you can still do it with Google’s Keyword Planner tool.

Fire up Google Keyword Planner and sign in using your Google account. If this is your first time, you will have to create an Adwords account, too. Don’t worry - it’s free.

You want to click the button that says: 'Search for new keyword and ad group ideas'.

Next, under 'Your Product Or Service', enter your head keyword.

Where it says 'Average Monthly Searches > 0', modify it to be greater than 100. You can go lower, or not touch this setting at all, but you may be overwhelmed with keywords. So it’s better to search higher volume first, and gradually progress to lower volumes.

Under keyword options, there is an option that says 'Show broadly related ideas'. This can be modified to show closely related terms only. If closely related terms is on, if you search for “motorcycle helmets,” all the keywords Google will suggest will have “motorcycle helmets” in them.

Again, this is good for round one of research, and for rounds 2, 3, and so on, you can uncheck that option.

Where it says 'Targeting', make sure the country selected is your target country.

Finally, click 'Get ideas', and you will be taken to a results page.

This page has two tabs - you want to click on the second one that says 'Keyword Ideas'.

You can sort this list by number of searches, alphabetically, or by average CPC. I prefer to sort by number of searches, because it’s easier to browse this way.

Here are a few promising keywords I found using “motorcycle helmets,” monthly searches greater than 100, and showing only closely related terms.

You can also search using your head keyword plus a modifier to give you tighter results. Good modifiers for ecommerce purposes are best, cheap, cheapest, and reviews. So a potential starting point could be “best motorcycle helmet” and this itself could be something worth targeting.

You'll also most likely discover other variations as well, such as “best bluetooth motorcycle helmet,” or “how to choose a motorcycle helmet.”

Before you get a healthy list of keywords, you may need to run through the Keyword Planner at least 3-4 times with different settings and keywords.

There’s really no limit as to how many results a particular keyword gets. Even something that gets around 200-300 searches per month is still a good bet, especially if it contains words like “best.”

If there are fewer than 100 searches per month, it’s still worth targeting them, once you’ve tackled the higher volume phrases. This is because your traffic isn’t limited to just 100 searches per month. Those are just Google’s averages, and even then, the keyword you choose will have its own long tail variations. So there's a lot of potential in any keyword you target. You just have to work on it and see how promising it is.

For even more ideas, you can check out Bing’s keyword tool, or Suggester, which gives you a giant list of what suggestions Google would show you when you search for something.

These tools are good for ideas, but for search volume, plug them into Keyword Planner and see if they are worth the effort or not.

Make a list of however many keywords you find in a spreadsheet, and sort them by search volume. In the next step, we are going to see which of these keywords are the most promising.

Seeing Which of These Terms Have Weak Rankings

Checking which keyword is a worthwhile effort is pretty easy. Fire up Google, and search for that particular term. Remember to make sure that you are logged out of Google to avoid personalized results, and that you are targeting the proper country. To make this step easier, I recommend installing the MozBar browser extension, which is available for Chrome and Firefox.

Here are some of the types of results you want to see: niche websites, Q & A sites, and forums. Some other good signals are that there are very few page titles that are directly targeting that keyword.

When Google can’t find something that matches exactly with the search query, it will bring up the next best thing. So you'll start seeing pages that have maybe one word from search keyword in the title, and the rest somewhere in the body or URL. If most of the results look like this, you have uncovered something promising and should be able to rank pretty easily for it.

There is another more advanced way to see if you have a chance at ranking easily, too. This involves using the MozBar toolbar that we downloaded. Even if there are a few results that are targeting your particular keyword, or very closely targeting it, you can still see how strong and authoritative domains and pages they are.

Using the MozBar, we can see both how many links the domain has overall, and how many links the page has pointing to it, too. If your own site's domain has a lot of authority, and the domains ranking for this term don’t have that much, you can still outrank them with a solidly optimized page.

Our search for “top rated motorcycle helmets” was really promising! Not only do none of the first page results specifically target the keyword, there isn’t much page authority for most of the results (the pink bar).

As you analyze each keyword, you want to revisit your original spreadsheet and add a column about how viable that keyword is. Once you are done researching, you will be able to sort the keywords by ranking potential and volume, and prioritize that way.

Optimizing for the Keyword

Now that you have a keyword you want to target, it’s time to write some quality content.

Make a new page on your store. Using Shopify, it’s really easy. You can either make a static page or make a new blog post. It’s up to you. If it’s something that you can make a permanent resource of out, I’d suggest writing a page, which can get a permanent link from your store’s header.

If it’s not something that you feel can be evergreen content, make it a blog post. The advantage of having something on the header is that it will get a link pointing to it from every single page in your store, so every page of your store sends a little link juice it’s way. This will rank a little faster than a blog post, which will only have a link from your blog archives and anywhere else you manually build a link to it from.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create your page or blog post:

  1. Write a compelling headline for the page.
  2. Write a compelling Title Tag for your page. This should have the keyword in it, and it should be click-worthy. The title tag tells Google and other search engines what your page is about, and it’s what potential customers will see in search results.
  3. Write your content. It should be as in-depth and value-adding as possible. Use lots of pictures, and remember to link to relevant products and categories from within the page itself. Aim for at least 600 words. The more the better, but don’t fluff.
  4. Think like a niche site when you are writing this content. A good example of a niche site is Spencer Haws’ BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com.
  5. At the end of the page, and even in between, have strong Call-To-Actions (CTA's). A CTA can either be a link to a product, a box to like/share/tweet your website, or a box to sign up for your email list.
The last point is very crucial. A lot of the traffic that you will see to your long tail optimized pages may not convert right away. If you can get them to become your fans, or get them to share their email address, you have a continuous stream of contact with an otherwise one-time visitor.

Potential Results

I’ve had a ton of success with this method with my own fish finder store. Here are some screenshots of my Google Analytics for the last 30 days for three of my long-tail optimized pages:

In just one month, one of my long-tail optimized pages about the best fish finder for kayaks received nearly 900 visitors through organic search. The kicker? When I created this page, the keyword I had found for it showed 200 or so average searches per month. Right now, it’s getting 862 visits per month! This just goes to show that you aren’t limited to just the average searches Google shows you.

Your long-tail optimized page will not only get hits from your target keyword, but also from other long tail keywords that show your page in their results!

Finding Even More Long Tail Keywords

Even though Google’s searches are all [not provided] now, you will still get some valuable insights from your Analytics by looking at what keywords Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines used to send traffic to you.

Exploring these keywords is a great way to brainstorm for new keywords and when applicable, making new pages optimized especially for them.

In the end, there is no real limit as to how many keywords you can optimize for and target. As long as you can write solid, valuable content that solves the searches problem or answers their question, you should see results.

In other words, strive to build a large resource library on your ecommerce store that will send you tons and tons of free traffic.

How much of your traffic comes from long tail keywords? Do you have any other ways to brainstorm keywords and research the competition? Let us know in the comments.


About the Author: Shabbir Nooruddin is an ecommerce entrepreneur who provides practical ecommerce and online marketing advice on his blog, Bootstrapping Ecommerce. Make sure to check out his free video course on finding a profitable niche.


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