How to Properly Use Long Tail SEO in 2015

Longtail SEO

Long tail keywords have long been an important part of SEO, pretty much as long as keywords have existed in the first place. The idea is simple; single word and concept keywords are too short. They have too much competition, and no one searches for them anyways. When was the last time someone plugged “music” into Google?

A long tail keyword adds data and turns a keyword into more of a contextual search. You have your primary keyword, like Music, and you have the long tail. A long tail search might be “local live music.” The term long tail is taken from the way search volume tapers off when graphed.

That said, the idea of the long tail is slowly changing, and in 2015, it’s becoming more important than ever before.

Semantic Search

Local SEO Semantic Search

The new wave, the next evolution, of the long tail keyword is the semantic search. Take that long tail keyword about local live music. A semantic keyword is more of a real question. “Where can I find good local live music?” Plug that into Google and you’ll get a real answer.

This didn’t used to be possible. For a long time, Google – and other search engines – relied on individual keywords to figure out what content was about and to piece it together. Now, though, Google is finding ways to parse semantic questions.

Yes, this means that your grandma’s way of asking Google a full question will no longer be something to mock; it will be the way things work.

Part of the reason semantic search is so important is the advent of vocal search engine facilitators like Siri and Cortana. You don’t spout keywords at the voice asking you what you want; you ask it a question. The companies behind these programs have put an exceptional amount of time into learning how to parse questions, getting meaning out of them despite attempts to confuse them. They’ve done a very good job.

The end result is a robust engine that takes a sentence and parses out meaning. The other end result is using that meaning – in the form of long tail keywords – to find valuable content.

Latent Semantic Indexing

LSI Example on Google

LSI, as explained in the subheading there, is the way search engines figure out what your content is about. It’s also why you can’t just use one keyword in a piece of unrelated content and get that content to rank for that keyword.

Essentially, LSI is the examination of a piece of content to extrapolate what that content is about. Google might look at your Top 10 Venues for Good Local Music and will extrapolate that the content should be about, well, exactly what it says on the tin.

Then, Google digs into the content and categorizes other words and phrases. It looks for other keywords that would reasonably be expected to be in such a piece, like music genres, venue names, addresses, and so forth. Through a highly refined and ever-adapting process, Google determines how well your content fits that topic.

This is why keyword density is not really useful in the modern world of search. In the past, in simpler times, Google would determine the topic of a piece of content by what keywords were used most often. This turned out to be really easy to reverse-engineer and exploit, so it had to be changed. Ever since, it’s been a battle between webmasters trying to exploit knowledge of keywords, and Google trying to make it difficult to do.

Thankfully, Google has been winning.

Creating Modern Content

Modern Content

I’ve been saying this for a couple years now, but it’s becoming more true than ever before: the key to ranking good content is just to make good content. You don’t need to care about specific keyword phrases or keyword density. To Google, “find good local music” and “great local music” and “local venues for live music” all have more or less the same meaning.

Instead, just write good content about your topic. If you’re writing about where you can find live music in local venues, chances are you’re going to cover all the keyword bases just writing the piece. The only reasons you wouldn’t are because you’re intentionally avoiding a certain keyword, or you’re not writing about the topic you thought you were.

So, successful use of long tail keywords in 2015 mostly revolves around writing good content, conversationally. If you want to cover a specific keyword, write something about that topic. Don’t try to write something general and shoehorn the keyword in; that’s just going to look like keyword stuffing.

Remember LSI? If you write a piece with the keyword “great local music venues” but the rest of the piece has nothing to do with local music, the LSI is going to be low. Google can then say “oh, well, this content doesn’t do a very good job of covering the topic, so it shouldn’t rank very high.”

Keywords as a whole are never going to die. It’s literally impossible for that to happen; search engines are searching and indexing text, and text is made up of words. Any article is by necessity going to have keywords. You can even write nonsense, like Lorem Ipsum, but even that phrase “lorem ipsum” is a keyword. Anyone searching for lorem ipsum related content wants that keyword to be part of the content.

Until such time as humanity moves to a form of communication beyond verbalization or the written word, keywords will exist and will be used to index the meaning of content. The only thing that’s going to change over the next few years is the increasing sophistication of the ways Google, and other search engines, parse content and extract meaning.

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