Are Longtail Keywords Worth the Effort?

This is a guest post from Dan Chaney.

There’s quite a bit of debate in regards to longtail keywords. There are extremes on either side of the spectrum: some believe that longtail keywords are worthless while others believe that they are the best source of traffic.

Perhaps we should take a step back first; are you still trying to grasp the idea of what longtail keywords actually are? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Essentially, longtail keywords are terms of phrases that are associated with your product or service but don’t necessarily get the highest amount of traffic. They are usually more specific and on the plus side, they are often more relevant. Though they will bring in smaller numbers when it comes to overall traffic, they may help deliver determined buyers to exactly what they are looking for on your site. If you would like to read more about longtail keywords, I would recommend checking out this blog post.
The truth of the matter is that the value of a longtail keyword could be either worthless or the best source of traffic, and it takes a discerning eye to decide whether or not it’s worth pursuing. This value stems from a number of factors, and anyone can figure it out for themselves with a little bit of higher knowledge. 

General Factors
A good keyword is a relative concept. If a keyword has lots of searches and low competition, it’s obviously going to have the potential to bring in views. However, as competition decreases, the time investment needed to capitalize on the keyword will often decrease along with it. What this effectively means is that every longtail keyword is often far easier to rank for than a typical keyword. In addition, there are many more longtail keywords available than there are standard keywords. If it takes 20 of them to meet the search volume of another, more desirable term, deciding whether or not it is worth it is merely a matter of comparing how much effort it would take to rank for either term.

In any case, there will always be variables from word to word. What’s most important to take out of this is the value of time. If 10 longtail keywords are worth a few hundred dollars a year at rank one, what’s the value of each hour spent backlinking and developing content? The answer to this question will always be relative to the word itself, so it’s impossible to know for certain if the word is worth the investment without properly surveying its potential.

Every longtail keyword isn’t going to have the same click-through, and they’re not going to always be unique visitors. Some searchers might type in two different longtail keywords within a minute of each other, so that’s definitely a risk factor to consider.

Specific Factors
Other than the general reasons that longtail keywords might be worth the effort, the most important aspect of the whole process are the specifics of the site. If a site has a low conversion rate but a high return per conversion, longtail keywords will largely be fruitless. The problem here is that if someone is ranking for 1,000 small-volume terms, it’s really difficult to gauge which ones are worth further investment at the end of each month. In 3 months, three out of 1,000 might convert, but there’s no way to identify if the rest are worth managing until a few years has passed. Factor in the ever-changing nature of search engines and this approach becomes very unstable. However, sites with great conversion rates can find the average value of a viewer fairly quickly. It makes it much easier to decide whether or not a longtail strategy is worth it, because the value is easier to increase with smaller increments of traffic, whereas its low-conversion counterpart needs a big traffic source to increase its returns.

It’s important to understand that there are few absolutes when it comes to search engines. There are some longtails that will never convert, while others might convert enough to support several families. It’s important to carefully decide how much competition the word has, how much time it will take to rank and the average profit that a single viewer is worth. This is the perfect blueprint for understanding exactly which words are worth the effort.

Dan Chaney is a blogger with a marketing background. He relies on Whoishostingthis.com to get background information on any website.

Photo: Dave & Bry on Flickr

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