John McDougall: Hi, I’m John McDougall. Welcome to the “Authority Marketing Roadmap.” Today, my guest is Jake Cain of Long Tail Pro, a keyword research tool that helps you find profitable keywords faster. Today, we’re talking about keyword research using Long Tail Pro to build authority. Welcome, Jake.
Jake Cain: Thanks, John. Thanks for having me here. Hi, everybody.
John McDougall: Absolutely. What is a long‑tail keyword?
Jake Cain: Good question. Starting out at the base level when we talk about keywords in general, we’re just talking about searches into a search engine like Google. When we talk about a long‑tail keyword, these are generally things that are more specific searches. Not necessarily a really long phrase, but — we’ll get into an example in just a moment — but basically, it’s just talking about the searcher intent.
When we talk about a long‑tail keyword, these are usually places where small businesses can compete. One example might be if you are in the nutrition space, you might be thinking about what kind of keywords am I trying to rank for here from my blog or business, something like that. A lot of times, unfortunately, people dive in, and they want to look at the keywords that get searched most often.
You think that’s where I should start, maybe something like healthy eating or dieting. What you find is those keywords, yes, they get searched a ton of times, but the competition is super, super high. Something like the nutrition space, looking for a long‑tail keyword might be something like a clean‑eating grocery list. That’s still something — I did a — this is top of mind because I did a post about this recently going through this exercise.
Just to give you that example, that’s still something that gets searched about 5,000 times a month in the US. It’s much more specific. It’s something you can still come in to sort of the small guy, and have a lot better opportunity for ranking for that type of a long‑tail keyword.
It’s pretty cool when you look into it because long‑tail keywords, folks at Google have even said that about 15 percent of searches on a given day are searches that are totally unique. In other words, they’ve never been searched before. When you look into it, the majority of searches that are done nationwide and worldwide are some form of long‑tail keywords, these are more specific phrases.
That’s what we talk a lot about, honing in on those keywords, where you can compete and really know the searcher intent and address those specifically. When you put a focus there and have a collection of long‑tail keywords, you can really have a lot of great success.
John McDougall: Absolutely. How does ranking for long‑tail keywords help to build your online authority, and what Google calls at times, “topical authority”?
Jake Cain: It’s a good question. I would say alone, it probably doesn’t do a whole lot for you. Just ranking for a long‑tail keyword doesn’t necessarily make you an authority. What it does do is it gives you the opportunity to become one. When I think about that question, if I’m going to be an authority — I’ll just continue with the nutrition space as an example. If I want to be an authority there, it’s tough to do that.
If nobody’s ever heard of me, nobody’s been to my site, and nobody reads my content, or watches my videos, how am I going to be an authority? What ranking for long‑tail keywords does, is it gives you an opportunity to become an authority.
Now, I’ve got some things, where I’m ranking high on Google. I’m getting some organic traffic. It’s something I can do on a very low budget starting out.
Now, I’ve got people coming to my site. Now, I have the opportunity to prove that I do know my stuff. I am an authority. When you get into conversion optimization — and some of the stuff that you talk about, John, and do — I can turn that reader into a subscriber, and maybe ultimately into a customer. That’s where authority comes in. If that person’s never on my site, I never get to that point.
So, long‑tail keywords are not a solution to being an authority, but it certainly is a channel that can help you get to that point.
John McDougall: Yeah, absolutely. To us, it’s a lot about thought leadership. To be an authority, you want to be seen as a thought leader, and what’s the best way to do that? In our opinion, content is at the heart of it, experts. People know that the top experts are the ones that have books and blogs, and social media followers and public speaking.
You have to be there in the mix, when people are searching at whatever stage of the buyer’s journey from the research keywords to the comparison keywords, down to the bottom of the funnel, where they buy a juicer or golf clubs now. Those long‑tail keywords help you be in that mix.
Are long‑tail keywords often more at the earlier stage of the funnel or all throughout the funnel?
Jake Cain: As a rule, they tend to be later stage in the funnel because you know a lot more about that person’s intent, and what they’re looking for. They’ve done some research already a lot of times. Sometimes, they’re comparing two models. If we’re talking about physical products, brand A versus brand B, it’s an indication that they’re close to making a buying decision.
I already know about the best refrigerators. Now, I’ve narrowed it down to two. I’m looking for information on “Should I buy Frigidaire or Samsung.” That person is thinking about making a purchase. As you look at a lot of long‑tail keywords and start to accumulate this example, you’ll see a similar trend. They’re looking for the best of this type of product. They’re looking for this type of advice.
Typically, it is somebody that is more targeted, somebody that’s thinking about buying. Going back to your point, if I can, for a minute on authority and long‑tail keywords, an example about this that I love…I don’t know if you’re familiar with Marcus Sheridan.
John McDougall: Yeah, the Sales Lion. He’s great. I’ve seen him speak at HubSpot Conferences, started off with the pool company, and did amazing stuff with blogging and inbound.
Jake Cain: It’s the perfect story for this. Anytime that you’d be asking me these types of questions, and I have just business owner friends, I’ll send them one of Marcus’ YouTube videos because it makes so much sense. If you haven’t seen him speak, I would certainly recommend that. He did this exact thing with his little pool company that was struggling to survive.
As the story goes, they basically started writing blog posts for the questions they were getting. That’s how they started. They didn’t really go to a tool to do keyword research at least initially. They just start saying, “What questions are we getting? Let’s just address those on the blog and build this momentum.” Ultimately, the result was they started getting more and more traffic, they started getting more and more sales from people that were coming to their site, even just looking for problems about their types of pools.
They just addressed all of these questions that folks would have. The interesting thing is taking that approach and addressing these really specific things. I don’t think you would have thought about it this way from the get‑go, but ultimately Marcus and his company became an authority in the types of pools that they sold. That legacy is there today.
This little pool company in the middle of nowhere is still up there, when you search for a lot of these questions about pools. Ultimately, they became an authority in their brand by being honest and by talking about the things that their customers wanted to know.
They took the time to actually address it and showed, “We know our stuff. We know what we’re talking about.” Long‑tail keywords let you do the same thing in your space ‑‑ let you show your stuff. Those people are going to find you. That ultimately does make you an authority, which is a pretty cool thing.
John McDougall: How does your tool help generate keyword ideas for blog posts? Say I’m Marcus Sheridan and I have a pool company, or say I’m a lawyer and trying to get ranked for “tax attorney Los Angeles” type of thing. How is your tool different from Google keyword planner? What makes it get at those longer tail keywords better?
Jake Cain: A couple of different things there. One is the data that long‑tail pro gets, as far as the search volume and those sorts of things, does come from Google. So we pull in data from Google to give you that information. But as far as…you start out at a high level with what we call seed keywords, these are like idea generators of the kinds of things that I’m interested in or that I want to write about.
You click a button, and it will generate hundreds or even thousands of keyword ideas for you that ultimately can become blog topics. Getting into the side of what’s different than the keyword planner to the next step besides just the idea generation is analyzing those keywords to find out, “Is it worth my time to even target this? Is it something that’s so competitive?
If I’m a small fish, can I even get there now?” Maybe down the road, but we recommend to people that you start out with lower competition keywords that you have a realistic chance. That if I spend the time producing great content that’s focused on this very topic or this keyword, I have a chance to rank. That’s where we tell people to start and build your way up to some of the more competitive things.
On our tool, you can do that, but like in the other tool, it’s not magic, where you just come in and say, “I’m a lawyer. Give me all the best keywords.” Really, you have to do some research ahead of time. I can give a couple of examples of how you might do that. What you put into it is going to really help the kinds of keywords you’re going to get back from it. It’s going to generate better keywords when you start out with better seed keywords.
John McDougall: Can you actually explain seed keywords? Why don’t you give me a definition, if you will, first?
Jake Cain: Yeah. When you start out in Long Tail Pro, you start a campaign. It’s the first step. You’re going to put in maybe 5 to 10 what we call seed keywords. These would just be ideas.
John McDougall: Like what?
Jake Cain: If I were a pool company, my seed keywords might be ceramic pools, concrete pools, pool problems, pool liners, just topical things in your niche.
John McDougall: Pretty high level, a couple of words?
Jake Cain: Exactly, yeah. High level word or two that give a direction for our product, to know what types of keywords to pull. You’re saying, “These are my categories. This is my niche.” You’re giving these high level keywords to start with.
John McDougall: Basically, head keywords?
Jake Cain: Exactly, yeah. That’s where I was headed with that is…you can start out there, and that’s great. The other thing is you can get in to some more…I guess…less head keywords, more specific things to start out with and generate even more great ideas.
Just to give an example, going back to the nutrition space, one way that you can do that is, first of all, like Marcus talks about, writing down stuff that you hear from customers, common buzz words and things you hear that your customers asking and talking about. These can make great seed key words.
Another place to get ideas, you go out online, just look at forums in your topic. It’s old school, but it’s a great place again to see what your potential customers and people are talking about, and you’re looking for some trends there. What are some of the words that keep popping up, and these phrases. This could be a seed keyword for me to start, and then generate a lot of related keywords to that.
Another place is just to go to Amazon. Look at the products that they’re selling in your category, or even go to the Kindle Store and find out the books that they’re selling in your niche.
Look for some of the keywords, some of the occurring themes you see in a lot of those titles, and then plug those into Long Tail Pro. I did that for the nutrition space recently. I came back with things like clean‑eating, keto diet.
Plugging those things and using my seed keywords to start with, I got a lot of really great keywords, like the one I mentioned earlier.
John McDougall: What was the one earlier? Remind me.
Jake Cain: It was clean‑eating grocery list.
John McDougall: OK. So, you had to come up with clean‑eating first of all. It’s not just nutrition or health food. You can’t just pick those. You could, but just picking those super high level terms doesn’t give you enough necessarily. Is that what you’re saying?
Jake Cain: Yeah, exactly. If I went and just said healthy eating, dieting and started out with those as seed keywords, honestly, I would have probably never gotten to clean‑eating grocery list. You can do the research ahead of time or just knowing your market ahead of time sort of put you a leg up, just at the very first point of “ere’s where I want to go with it”, and then let the tool generate keywords around that.
It’s not a magic button. If you do the research ahead of time, you can really generate a lot of great related keywords to whatever you want to start with.
John McDougall: Basically your tool, you need to download it and install it?
Jake Cain: Uh‑hmm.
John McDougall: It’s step one. The next step is put in the search box these…you can start with head terms or preferably drilling down a bit as you just said?
Jake Cain: Yeah, exactly. After you install it, the first thing I’m going to ask you to do is create a campaign. That’s basically just a way to categorize your searches. You can call that whatever you want. You’re right, you can start with the more general head terms, and see what you get. Certainly, that’s not a bad thing. The beautiful thing is you can do it as many times as you want.
If I pop in five things, and I find it’s a little too general, out of the hundreds of keywords that it gets back to me, I didn’t find the whole lot of things I liked. I can go back, erase those, start over again, and do some things that are more specific. There’s no limit there.
In the tool, that’s what you would do is keep putting in the seed keywords, generating more and more. What’s going to happen from there is you’ve got these lists. It’s giving you the search volume and that cost per click number that comes from Google and all that. You can sort it and filter out. “I don’t want to see anything that’s less than a thousand searches a month.” You’ve got some filtering tools there. If I see something that looks interesting, catches my eye, and I think, “I wonder what the competition’s like”, I can just click on that.
We’ve also got a calculation tool in the product in what we call the platinum version of the product, where you can just click a button, and it will give you a number on a scale of one to 100, to tell you — 100 being very difficult and one being super easy — how hard it would be to crack the top 10 for that keyword. That’s a big part of it is the competitive analysis.
If I click on that, I can take a deeper dive. If I click on, let’s just say clean‑eating grocery list, I go in. I’m going to see the top 10 results. You’ll see some data that’s pulled in from us and some different sources where you’re seeing the domain authority of the people that are in the top 10, the page authority, number of links, how old our site is, how well they’re focused on the keyword in their page title.
That puts everything that you would need to see right there in front of you. You can give yourself a realistic answer to “I really have a shot at getting in the top 10 for this keyword?” If not, like I said, maybe it makes more sense to start elsewhere. Start with something that you’ve got a better chance of competing in. At least you know what you’re up against.
That’s what the product does for you. It makes that process simple. It puts all the pieces you need in the one spot, but then also saves you a lot of time. I can see the words. I can analyze the words, and I can make a decision very, very quickly as supposed to going a bunch of different places to find all of these.
John McDougall: That sounds like a great way to do it. When you say filter out under a thousand, what’s your rationale there? Sometimes, even say a hundred, hundred‑and‑fifty searches a month can be nice to have a blog post around it, a pretty low search volume term. You know you’re going to do pretty well on it. What’s your rule of thumb?
Jake Cain: That’s a great point. That number is very arbitrary. You’re exactly right. Sometimes, it makes sense to target keywords that maybe are even searched 10 to 20 times a month. If it’s something very specific, it’s right down your alley, and it means enough to your business or your product that if you’re in that top five spot there that it’s worth it. Go for it.
I would say, in general, when I say that number is — if you already got a business and you know the direction that you’re headed, great. If you’re somebody that’s trying to validate a niche that — I’m not exactly sure where I’m going yet with my business, building a brand or just building a site — that’s where you might want to look for some higher search volumes, just to make sure that there’s enough people that are searching for whatever is the topic that you’re going after.
So that’s more of an initial step. Once you’re into it, and I know I’m a pool company, I’m whatever, then the search volumes can definitely be much lower. It’s totally up to you. It’s a matter of, “Is this a valuable enough term to me, where if the people that saw this — am I selling a product that’s going to get a lot of opt-ins from this? Is it worth spending the time making the ultimate guide to whatever, when it gets searched 20 times a month?” If the answer is yes, absolutely, you should go for it.
John McDougall: Ultimately, I believe that if you want to rank for something, like pool companies, tax attorney or online banks, different things that are heavy duty, you really need to cover those topics that are under that umbrella ‑‑ all those little long‑tail things and variety of topics that relate to the main topic, the parent topic. If you’re not covering that parent topic really well with all those long‑tail blog posts, FAQ pages, resource pages, how are you ever going to rank for those head terms?
The days of just slapping in the head term into a single product or service page and ranking for that went out in the ’90s easily, maybe ‘95‑ish. Way back then, we could just come to a client site and put in title and meta tags and a little bit of light optimization on the pages and a bang — pretty much everything would get a bump pretty well. Those days are gone.
Google really is looking at who is really covering topics completely, who the authors are, are they experts, I think, a tool like yours can really help for sure.
Jake Cain: Yeah, I totally agree.
John McDougall: Good, great talking to you. I hope everyone enjoyed this chat with Jake Cain of Long Tail Pro. Again, check out workingdemosite.com/authority for the Authority Marketing Roadmap series, and talk to you next time. Thanks, Jake.
Jake Cain: Thank you.