So you want to launch a new site and publish a truckload of content online with expectations of driving enormous traffic from multi-word keywords in your niche? Long tail traffic is different these days, partner, and you better get your expectations in check. If you’re nobody, you won’t succeed. Let’s get realistic and up to speed on what Google has done to kill the long tail in recent days.
What are Long Tail Keywords?
Long tail keywords are simply 3+ word phrases that users type into search engines when looking for something more exact. In other words, “credit cards” is not a long tail keyword. However, “best credit cards with rewards” is definitely a long tail keyword.
What are the Disadvantages of Using Long Tail Keywords?
Well, if you’re a major online brand, it appears that Google loves you nowadays. If you’re a small brand, it appears that Google doesn’t value you as much. That’s the basic feeling that we get after all of Google’s recent algorithm and search layout changes. Why such harsh criticisms? Well, because Google is seemingly trying to weed out less established websites in favor of more established websites, making the competitive landscape more difficult for the average online publisher, and…gotta say it…favoring sites with bigger pocket books who can support their SEO with PPC.
Many smaller websites have simply tanked in traffic over the course of 2011, and have lost a lot of revenue. However, many of the established online brands (outside of content farms) have seen their traffic remain steady (or increase). Why? Smaller websites typically don’t publish content as frequently, and therefore build less links and have less site loyalty…all factors taken into account with the Google Panda/Mayday updates. Larger sites, focused on a niche, have been rewarded in the wake of these updates. They are seen as “authorities” in their niche, and Google wants to position them as highly as possible.
We get it. People love those sites, and Google wants its users to be happy and keep using Google. However, the smaller sites often offer unique content/opinions that aren’t found on the larger sites (who are sometimes a bit too conservative)…but now the user can’t find them as easily. What’s worse is that in a struggling economy, the revenue from these smaller sites is being lost…and life has become even harder for such online publishers. Note: Yes, a lot of crappy affiliate sites have tanked as well, and that’s a good thing. However, the algorithm isn’t perfect, and there still a number of crappy sites repurposing content from other sites, and outranking very educational content farms…which is total shit!
Back to the point. What this all boils down to is, long and short tail keyword strategies aside, it’s simply harder to rank in Google these days. You may get lucky with a few long tail keyword rankings, but it seems that your best bet is to focus on building your brand via link building (which comes from a credible product deserving credible links via establishing relationships with other credible websites). Without proving to Google (via credible inbound links) that you are a quality niche brand, life is gonna be tough for you.
“How Google Killed the Long Tail” Infographic from SEO Book
SEO Book put together an infographic that covers all of this quite elegantly.
While these are the facts, there’s still some traffic to be gained by the long tail. In fact, you most likely found this article via a long tail keyword search. Most likely, however, it’s buried under the rankings from the top SEO sites on the web. However, we can all carve out somewhat of a niche with long tail keywords, but we must keep expectations in check regarding the competitiveness of our topic.
The best advice? Go out and build your brand (and links) by rolling up your sleeves and establishing relationships with as many credible websites as you can. One day, just one day, you might be one of the websites that other people are bitching about.