Short-Tail Keywords Waste Your Money

I blame the Yellow Pages. Or YP.com, if you’re looking for someone to blame in the 21st century. It’s all their fault. Someone has been lying to business owners for years and has created a false understanding of how keywords and marketing work. The lie goes something like this:

You have to use generic, simple service terms to advertise your business.

While that may have been true in old-school marketing, it’s not the case in 2016, and using that as your primary marketing strategy means that you’re probably wasting a lot of your advertising budget.

Outdated Phone Book Mentality

Back when businesses put ads in the printed phone book, a business would pay for an ad in the Yellow Pages under “headings”. For example, if you were a plumber, you would obviously want to put an ad under the “plumber” heading. Maybe you’d also put one under “septic” and if you offered it, maybe you ran an ad under “leak detection”.

Those three ads would cover your entire marketing of your services. Because there’s a limited amount of space in printed mediums, phone books didn’t list a separate heading for every possible service you can offer.

And honestly, that worked fine for those days. Customers who were interested in very specific services had to dumb-down their search to general terms like “plumbing” in order to find the service they needed. Such is not the case anymore. In our modern, instant gratification society, customers not only look online for everything (which has been discussed at length in other posts), but they also look for the specific service they need.

For example, instead of searching for a general, short-tail keyword like “plumbing” online, a customer may put in something specific like “sink leak repair san antonio” in order to find a contractor who can fix their exact problem. Maybe it’s something even more specific. Perhaps your customer has a leak in their foundation and wants to go with a search for “hydrostatic testing for foundation leak”. Search terms like those are called long-tail keywords, and their entire purpose is to help get super specific results for consumers online

If your business is showing up at the top of that search, you’re going to get that service call. If you’re showing up in “plumbing san antonio,” you’re probably out of luck.

Long-Tail Keywords Offer More Value

Maybe you read that last section and thought to yourself “yeah, but how many customers search for exactly what they need?” It’s a valid question, after all.

The answer is two-fold: 1) That’s where high-end analytics (like what we do here at Citywide) come in and 2) search volume is only half of the equation.

Let’s look at the initial response first. If you’re getting help from a quality marketing firm that specializes in creating customized digital marketing programs, you’re already going to get strategy that is based on competition and search density. Any marketing firm worth its salt will be doing some high-end analysis of your search volume to focus on keyword terms that are producing more leads and getting you the best return on investment.

That being said, search volume – or the amount of searches being done for that keyword each month – is only part of the equation. It’s important, yes, but it doesn’t single-handedly determine whether or not something is a good keyword to run in your digital marketing campaign.

In order to figure that out, you need to also consider competition. If you’re a dentist in San Antonio, you may not see nearly as many monthly searches for “cosmetic dentistry implants in San Antonio” as you would for a generic term (like “dentist”), but you’re also likely to see a lot less competition for it.

That means your business could realistically see more traffic (and thus, more leads and more revenue) from a lower search volume simply because the competition for that keyword is so much lower.

Don’t Think Like Your Competition

Speaking of competition, let’s examine that for a quick minute. Since most of your competitors still think about marketing like it’s 1985, there’s a colossal amount of competition for simple keywords online. Don’t believe me? Just check it out for yourself.

Go do a Google search for any generic industry term. Try doing a local search for “lawyer”, “dentist”, “landscaper”, “accountant”, “clothing store”, etc.  See how many hundreds of thousands of results you get from Google. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

For comparison purposes, try the same thing with a much more specific search term. Maybe try “intellectual property lawsuit attorney san antonio”. You’ll get a fraction of the results you did a moment ago.

Which brings me to my point: would you rather have your business show up on Page 3, 4, or 5 for a general term that has a lot of competition or show up near the top of Page 1 for a specific term that has much less competition?

It’s kind of like this: Would you rather be a tiny fish in a huge ocean or massive fish in a small pond?

So, let your competition fight it out amongst each other. Let them spend their marketing budget on the general, non-specific keywords that have tons of competitors. You can use your budget more effectively by focusing on targeted, more specific terms that get your traffic at a higher rate.

Make those simple adjustments and you’ll see your number of website leads increase in no time.