Keyword research is at the very core of good SEO. As a digital marketing agency, we at Blackglass incorporate in-depth keyword research in every single campaign we run. Choosing the right keywords to rank for can have a huge influence on success and can make or break your website. However, to many business owners, keyword research is a bit of a mystery.

What are keywords?

In SEO, ‘keywords’ are the terms or phrases people type into search engines like Google when they are looking for information online. Think about the kinds of keywords you use — what do you type into the search box when searching on Google?

People tend to do searches in two ways, and online marketers commonly refer to these two types of keywords as ’broad‘ and ’long tail‘. To help us understand the difference, let’s take a look at the search demand curve:

Image credit: MOZ

What’s the difference between “broad” and “long tail” keywords?

‘Broad’ keywords are typically one to three-word long queries that make up the fat head of the search demand curve because they have very high search volume and for this reason are also very competitive. Because these keywords and their intent are not specific, they may not necessarily be relevant to your business/website.

‘Long-tail’ keywords, on the other hand, are longer query phrases consisting of three or more words. As such, they tend to be a lot more specific.

The difference between broad and long tail keywords is clearest when considering the typical conversion funnel users move through. We’ll do this now and use ourselves, a digital marketing agency, to illustrate the example.

A broad keyword for us would be “online marketing”. Users tend to search with this kind of keyword at the top end of the marketing funnel, at the awareness stage where they aren’t sure what they want yet. In this case, they might be somewhat aware that they need to take their business online, or they might just have heard about online marketing and are wanting to know what it’s all about. Essentially, at this stage a user is simply doing some general research into a topic to see what comes up and if anything catches their attention.

As they do their research they move down the funnel and become interested in different aspects of online marketing; a user might find an article about the top online marketing predictions for next year, which makes them realize that content and social media marketing are the next big things.

Now they are at the stage where they are considering investing in social media so they refine their query to something that is a lot more specific to their need e.g. “social media agency for small business in sydney”. Now that’s a keyword that is very specific and a lot closer to conversion. There’s not much competition for this type of phrase because it is simply harder to find. It’s like travelling — you want to find the road less travelled, and if you do, you will have a much greater experience without the crowds. In this case, you can achieve better conversions because your competition hasn’t discovered your long tail keyword yet.

TL;DR — Look beyond the broad keyword

The right long tail keywords hit the sweet spot between high conversion rate and minimal competition — and finding that sweet spot is often the most difficult part of keyword research. Coming up with a truly great keyword strategy takes empathising with your customers and developing a deep understanding of their needs. If your business or website can serve those needs, you’re on your way to success.