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Is targeting long-tail keywords becoming useless?

     
2:21 pm on Apr 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I have a completely original article (published six months ago) based on a five-word, geographic keyword phrase that gets a small amount of searches each month in Google.

It has absolutely no other competition on that topic. But it currently is ranked #71 in search results. Everything above it, and I really mean everything, is completely irrelevant to the search term. In fact, most of the results above it are from the wrong geographic location.

I have been publishing online for a long time. I didn't used to see this kind of problem, but I'm seeing it more and more, and not just for this one article. In my lowly opinion based on other experiences, Google has become much more biased in favor of larger sites, which might be one explaination..

Your thoughts?
3:39 pm on Apr 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Google has made no secret of the fact that, going forward, it wants its search results to be about "things, not strings" (to borrow a phrase from Matt Cutts). In some cases, that may benefit larger sites, but it can also benefit smaller sites that are authorities on specific topics.

Does Google's increased focus on "things, not strings" work optimally 100 percent of the time? Probably not. Perfection is an elusive goal.
8:10 pm on Apr 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Google has become much more biased in favor of larger sites, which might be one explaination


I believe you are correct but it does depend on what you mean by "larger sites". Number of pages is not the criteria, I see it as larger number of page views.

I have a two or three key objectives for the way forward for my websites and one of them is increased volume of page views. The first objective behind that is, as you imply, the more page views, the better you rank in the SERPS. A stupid belief to some (who believe links are the only factor in SERPS ranking) but it is serving me very well at the moment.

The second factor which favours me to increased page views is that it allows me to present my sites to non-G advertisers as a destination worthy of consideration.

Don't fight the obvious flow, go with it.
8:24 pm on Apr 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The original query "Is targetting long-tail keywords becoming useless?" probably has some value. We've seen changes in g in recent years and the "things not strings" comment above seems to confirm that long tail is not working the way it used to.

In this specific case (5 words with no competition) might simply mean users are not actually looking for that combination. Would changing one or two of those words (maintaining logic and context) make a difference? That's an experiment that can be tried.

These days I write what the user wants and never worry about chasing keywords and long tails. Sometimes it is just that simple.
9:14 pm on Apr 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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These days I write what the user wants and never worry about chasing keywords and long tails. Sometimes it is just that simple.

To put it another way, it may be useful to think about targeting subject areas (in the sense of having authoritative content on those topics) instead of looking for loopholes to fill. Anyone can crank out a page on anything these days, and too many people do.
1:08 am on Apr 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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In my lowly opinion based on other experiences, Google has become much more biased in favor of larger sites, which might be one explaination..

Your thoughts?

I've seen countless cases where larger sites just simply mention a few words and presto, they are on the first page where much smaller and more specialized sites rank where you are at - page 7 and beyond. Your best bet is to think of Google not as a search engine, but a greed engine with gears grinding up anything in it's path. Treat any free traffic from Google as a bonus and count your blessings. Bing and Yahoo should respond well to you and send you much higher quality traffic. Figure out a way or incentive for people to share your page on social networks because Google organic is essentially dead to small sites unless you consider low quality and useless bot like traffic from Google as being good.
1:48 am on Apr 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Google has become much more biased in favor of larger sites, which might be one explaination..


I work in enterprise SEO in the finance industry and have a perspective in this, which I explain simply:

Once Google decides that you are an authority in this topic, anything you publish will rank high for queries in that topic.

During an assignment last year I was asked to optimise some insurance products for a major bank. I also observed other major banks. I found that the banks were only ranking (for insurance products) on page 1 for what I call "banking insurance products".

e.g. not one of them was ranking for, say, travel insurance, car insurance or health insurance. In those niches, the ranking sites were primarily "insurance companies" who had no banking arm. Some of them were fairly small companies including comparison sites with modest websites. One was a page that was just an enquiry form and hardly any text.

On the other hand, the insurance products that ranked well were things like mortgage insurance, personal loan insurance, credit card insurance -- products related to banking.

So, I would qualify that observation of large companies, by limiting Google's free pass to its core specialty. I tried a five-word query that contains words found only on an erroneous page, i.e. a domestic travel insurance page that is full of overseas travel insurance features. It ranked third. The first was an irrelevant page. The second was also erroneous, but contained the words. The fourth to the tenth were irrelevant pages because they contained one of the words in my query. I don't fail Google on this, because it is not to know that my word combination was not likely to be a real product.
10:57 am on Apr 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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"Is targetting long-tail keywords becoming useless?" Short answer is "no". I still live off it.

That doesn't mean that my strategy hasn't evolved. I now try to get a page to rank for a long-tail "idea", and all of a multitude of different ways of saying the same thing. We used to try to build a page for each phrase. Now I look at how many different phrases I get can get a page to rank for, once it ranks for something. It's better to have a 100 page site that ranks for 100 different keywords on each page, than a 10000 page site that ranks for 1 keyword for each page. The latter now barely exists, except for the *very* long tail.

Site metrics have a lot to do with this, as do site theme. If the site metrics (principally the number of trustworthy, visible and relevant linking domains - not number of links) are solid, then things happen a lot more quickly. If the theme of the site is inconsistent, things tend to be more complicated.
11:21 am on Apr 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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One way to look at this is that long-tail keyword targeting hasn't changed, but long tail keywords have. If we take the thread title:

Is targetting long-tail keywords becoming useless?


The misspelling of "targeting" is no longer a long tail keyword, as it once was. The essence of the query, as Google is likely to understand it, is that this is a question about "long tail keywords" in general, and the effectiveness of them in particular. So, the words "is targeting" and "becoming useless" are not long tail. You will compete against sites discussing effectiveness, lists of reasons to use long tail keywords, general opinion pieces and the like, as long as they are about the concept of targeting long-tail keywords.

If the sites you end up competing with are few and far between, or weak, then this might still be a long tail keyword. But some of the old "rules of thumb" that might have been used to judge what type of keyword something is no longer apply - e.g. low number of exact matches, low volume, lots of words in a query, do not mean that your chosen keyword is long-tail any more. It's certainly not easy to judge how "long tail" a keyword is these days, although the concept (and potential benefits) certainly still exist!
2:57 pm on Apr 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I've seen countless cases where larger sites just simply mention a few words and presto, they are on the first page where much smaller and more specialized sites rank where you are at - page 7 and beyond.

Yes, I have seen the same thing. I can write a 1,000 word article on a specific topic and see a single paragraph on the same subject from a large national get much higher rankings -- even reach #1. That is not an exaggeration.

The site I have in mind is highly targeted in travel, has been in existence since 2007 and is one of the few remaining small sites of its kind in its category. The rest have been wiped out.

Regardless of why it has happened, it defies simple search logic.

It makes no sense from a searcher's perspective if my site has the only article on "burgundy widgets for sale in London", Keyword Planner shows the phrase has some modest monthly volume, my article ranks 60th in Google, and all of the higher rankings are about "chicken tacos for sale in Philadelphia".

FYI, I thought the title I submitted was "Are long-tail keywords becoming useless". But maybe I dreamt it.
5:40 pm on Apr 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The misspelling of "targeting"


Those of us who were at school many years before yourself were taught this spelling along with many other words that are now deemed to be "obselete" or "archaic" and Americanised!
7:41 pm on Apr 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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My site doesn't target any specific keywords, instead the site targets a large set of long tailed keywords in a general sense. I regularly see users arrive at my site with keywords that only partially match the content of the page. Whereas if I search for a keyword that a page should certainly rank for, I am nowhere to be seen in the serps. Google understands what my site is about, and sends users that seem, for the most part, interested in the topic. If I wanted to target specific keywords, I would need to change my strategy, and then maybe I would rank for that specific word only. Since this is a long tailed search I doubt the volume of searchers would be sufficient to sustain me.

I agree with what Tangor
These days I write what the user wants and never worry about chasing keywords and long tails. Sometimes it is just that simple.


Is targetting long-tail keywords becoming useless? No, but you do not target them in the same manner a commonly searched keyword.
7:47 pm on Apr 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Back in the old days of SEO people used to talk about google's over-optimization penalty. I don't see the term used as much now days, except occasionally in connection with Penguin. In any case, the original over-optimization penalty is supposedly triggered by over-optimized page titles, overuse of a keyword, internal-link keyword-rich anchor text, and so on. So the OP might try to "de-optimize" the page just in case this could be the problem.
7:54 pm on Apr 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@RedBar - history [books.google.com] (British publications) disagrees with you ;)
11:51 am on Apr 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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FYI, I thought the title I submitted was "Are long-tail keywords becoming useless". But maybe I dreamt it.

It was me who changed the title of the thread from "Are long-tail keywords becoming useless" to "Is targetting long-tail keywords becoming useless?". I made the change because I felt it will provoke a better discussion on the subject. Unfortunately, I have misspelled the word "targetting" which became a mini-discussion of its own within this thread. I have now corrected the spelling of the thread title and I am posting this here in case members are wondering what the mini-discussion was about.

------

Regarding long tail keywords - I agree that the days of picking up the KW phrase and optimising for that phrase are long gone, especially where that phrase has not had lots of searches/competition. In that case Google seems to rank the site that has authority on a wider subject. But I am still seeing pages ranking for the longer (e.g. 3 words) KW phrase that gets fair amount of searches where the rest of the site is not closely related to that subject.
1:25 pm on Apr 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Unless I am completely mistaken the term long tailed has nothing (directly) to do with the length of the key word phrase. Long tail refers to the tail of the distribution, that is the frequency by which the term appears in search. A single word, can be a long tailed keyword. That said, the more words you add to the keyword phrase the less likely it is to be repeated by other searcher thus long phrases tend to be long tailed.
1:54 pm on Apr 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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elguiri -- you need to be careful to avoid the same or similar content overlapping on several different pages
5:43 pm on Apr 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Internally link the content from a location page within the site and another popular page within your site - You'll move up immediately after Google re-indexes your site.
5:50 pm on Apr 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Those of us who were at school many years before yourself were taught this spelling along with many other words that are now deemed to be "obselete" or "archaic" and Americanised!

And soon they'll be Americanized if you don't fight the good fight. :-)