Long-tail search and keywording are not new. In fact, I first heard about this online marketing strategy 13 years ago when I was leading marketing for none other than a small search company called LookSmart.
A lot has changed since then, including the way in which people search in today’s world. With advances in tech, the age-old long-tail keyword approach is becoming more of a must than a should when it comes to marketing. This is because search is changing due to voice-activated products entering the home en masse.
Enter the smart speaker, where speaking your search out loud is the new online activity.
Explore the power of word of mouth.
It wasn’t that long ago, that if we had a question about a product, service or the best local sushi restaurant, we would ask a friend or neighbor. Still today, word of mouth is regarded as one of the most effective forms of marketing, be it online or off.
From Amazon Echo to Google Home, products enabling voice-activated search are now sitting on our counters, forever changing the search experience for both consumers and marketers.
In the report,“Top Strategic Predictions for 2017 and Beyond: Surviving the Storm-Winds of Digital Disruption,” Gartner predicts that 30% of searches will be done without a screen by 2020. So, marketers need to change how they view search — it’s now moving toward voice-activated assists versus typing into a search engine. Given this, if you’re selling a good or service and are not applying long-tail search to your marketing program, you’d better act fast.
What is long-tail marketing and why does it matter?
Long-tail keywords are those three-, four- and even five-word phrases that are very specific to whatever you are selling or promoting. Most of the time, when customers use highly specific search phrases, they tend to be looking for exactly what they want to buy and have typically already done their research.
There is certainly no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing, but there are underlying principles that make all the difference. As the way we search changes, some of those principles are also expectedly shifting. Below are some general guidelines to help you think about how to craft the most effective long-tail marketing campaign, keeping voice search in mind.
Carefully consider how the spoken word is different than what is typed.
The trick to long-tail keywording success involves rolling back to times before we ever even searched online, as so many of us talk to these voice-activated devices more like people. For example, you might say, “Alexa, what’s the best sushi restaurant near me?” This is instead of typing “sushi San Francisco” into Google.
The beauty of voice search is how simple it is for consumers, and we naturally seem to treat these voice-activated products more like people — speaking in a conversational way, sometimes even including “please” and “thank you” as part of our orders. Amazon speakers even recently rolled out a magic word feature, thanking kids for saying “please” when they ask a question. It pays to be polite, even to technology!
Think about the consumer’s journey.
Where might they start if the end is to reach your product or service? If we stick with the sushi example, the start of the journey will be the consumer deciding they want sushi. But, perhaps, they want to make sure they go to a restaurant that only uses sustainable ingredients or a place that specializes in unagi preparations. Including all of this information on your site is going to help the search return your restaurant as an option that meets these very specific criteria.
In this example, long-tail keywording is the difference between “sushi restaurants” and “sushi restaurants using local, sustainable fish.” It might seem like a subtle tweak, but this is how your restaurant will rise to the top in what could be hundreds of returned results.
Frame your content to answer users’ questions.
As mentioned above, consumers tend to ask questions of voice-activated speakers the same way we talk to each other. Draft your marketing messages to answer questions instead of “telling” the information you want to share.
One way to think of this is to answer customer pain points — if a common search is “why is my cable bill so high,” and you have a product that offers an alternative to cable, consider writing a blog titled “Why Cable Bills Are So High And What You Can Do About It.”
A simple (and free!) way to see what people are searching for is to use Google’s auto-search feature, where you type in one or two words related to your product or service and see what autopopulates. From there, use those questions to write blog posts, FAQs for your site or even draft messaging for your home page that specifically answers the most commonly searched questions, including the keywords used in the searches. Do this frequently and refresh or add to your content as often as necessary to ensure you are among the first results returned in a related search.
Optimize the content with descriptors and complementary offerings.
Consider optimizing your content to include add-on keywords for complementary offerings. For example, if you are selling TVs, include information about accessories a person is also likely to purchase, such as HDMI cables for 4K Ultra HD TVs. You may even link to reviews of accessories that you don’t sell but that are compatible with what you do offer.
In the era of the smart speaker, marketing professionals need to evolve our thinking to craft consistent stories that answer the questions a customer asks when searching for, or considering to purchase, your product or service. With that in mind, the single-most important thing to consider as search habits shift to voice-enabled devices is that it’s moved from clinical to conversational, and it’s critical that your online marketing efforts evolve as well.