long tail keywords

The Content Marketer’s Café with Julia McCoy, Episode 3: How to Use Long-Tail Keywords Naturally In Your Content for SEO Success

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The Content Marketer’s Café with Julia McCoy, Episode 3: How to Use Long-Tail Keywords Naturally In Your Content for SEO Success

Keywords = key phrases, focus keywords and secondary keywords, broad keywords, long-tail keywords…

These can often pose quite a challenge to writers.

It’s not the keywords themselves. Those tend to be pretty straightforward.

It’s the often odd combinations of words in ways that are anything but grammatically correct.

Add to that a general lack of punctuation, throw in the name of a city and state, and you have what seems like a recipe for the most awkward sentences ever written!

So, how do we creatively insert a keyword in our content for best results?

Let’s explore.

The competition comparison in long-tail keywords vs. broad keywords

I’ve been able to rank content just on my site,, for over 11,000 phrases.

Do you know what the majority of those keyword phrases are?

Long-tail phrases.

So when you’re looking for keywords to optimize your content with, you can either look up broad or long tail keywords.

Broad Keywords

1-2 words long

Also known as: “short tail”, “head terms”

Long Tail Keywords

3-5 words

Long tail keywords are primarily better because of two factors:

  • Lower competition: Easier to rank for. Great opportunities for new, emerging or growing sites.
  • Higher buying intent (ROI): Searchers are usually looking a specific answer to their question and are much more likely to be in the buying stage. Example: “where to buy basketball shoes online” vs. “shoes” – the searcher knows exactly what he wants by searching the long tail keyword, and he/she is much more ready to buy!

Broad keywords are tempting because of the amount of traffic searching for them.

But remember, you need the right traffic, not a ton of traffic, when it comes to looking at the value of keywords that will bring in real results.

Which type of customer would sell today if they walked in your dress shop?

  • Someone who wants a “dress”
  • Someone who wants a black dress, size M, for an evening party next week

One of my favorite tools to research keywords with is SEMrush and Mangools KWFinder.

In KWfinder, here’s what it looks like to find a low competition long-tail keyword.

kwfinder blogging statistics

For example, we looked up a keyword, blogging statistics. We wrote a blog around this as a keyword since it had a “possible rating at 50/100” – that’s since gone up to 52 – and we were able to get our blog in the top 4 results for that keyword. The left side of KWFinder is where you’ll find your gold mines – long tail keyword opportunities that you can write content pieces around.

I recommend going long-form and writing one piece of content around one keyword for best results. Don’t dilute and cram too many keywords in one piece.

Natural Language in SEO

The days of keyword-stuffing your way to the first page of Google are looooong gone, but today with how smart Google is, there’s no reason you can’t do this:

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When it comes to writing with SEO in mind, this means using natural language – and natural variations of the words that appear in the focus and secondary keywords – instead of inserting the same exact keywords and key phrases into your text over and over again.

Let’s talk about… focus keywords + natural usage

We always ask our clients for one focus keyword per piece.

But when it comes to penning the actual copy, if the exact keyword phrase doesn’t flow well, we fall back on just writing naturally.

Here’s an example.

For instance, this client-supplied keyword phrase:

“best ux designer Austin”

Clearly won’t work in either the title tag, meta description, or in the content (page, article, blog post, etc.). It may be an important, valuable keyword phrase for the client, but it’s a bit too clunky to use as is.

Even if you think you can squeeze that kind of phrase into a sentence – such as “When it comes to finding the best UX designer, Austin has a lot of choices to offer.” Sure, once in a while you’ll be able to get away with that. But far too often, the inclination seems to be to get hung up on that exact keyword phrase.

In a title tag or headline, the best approach would be to use the keyword naturally, like so:

“How to Find the Best Web and UX Designer in Austin”

You would then use variations on this keyword phrase throughout your content.

Bottom line:

Don’t try to force the keyword into the copy, and don’t then use the exact same keyword or key phrase over and over. Use synonymous keywords.

Location-based keywords 

Let’s talk briefly about location-based keywords.

Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, along comes a location-based keyword:

“eyedoctor in Burlington Vermont”


To Google, there is absolutely no difference between:

“eyedoctor in Burlington VT” and “eye doctor in Burlington, VT”

Since we’re humans writing for humans – we should always defer to using proper punctuation, grammar, and style, even in SEO writing.

So, use the space between eye and doctor.

When you take into account that these keyword lists being supplied to (or, in some cases, created by) us are almost always generated by such tools as Google’s keyword tool and other tools – not actual humans – it’s not surprising the keywords provided to us don’t include punctuation, proper grammar, etc.: because they were generated by algorithms/tools.

It’s absolutely essential for websites to use location keywords in the page titles and Meta description tags of their pages.  When it comes to using those same location keywords in the content itself – in the copy, in headings, and in image Alt tags – remember to avoid overuse.

Ways to get creative with location-based keywords 

Let’s say your keyword is “gluten free pasta Phoenix.”

You don’t have to jam that keyword all over your web page, article, blog post, etc. – including in the meta data for those pages.

You can break it up any number of ways: pasta, Phoenix, gluten free, gluten, gluten free pasta, gluten free in Phoenix, pasta in Phoenix. That’s a lot of variation out of one phrase!

It is, however, still important to use your focus keyword or phrase in the first and last paragraphs, at least one <H2> heading, and the title of the article, if at all possible.

But as we’ve already discussed, make sure you’re using those keywords naturally.

Ultimately, it’s about balance: be creative, use real sentences and headings, speak naturally, and don’t overdo it.

How to tell if you’re overdoing it with a keyword

It may sound silly, but it really works: simply read your content out loud and pay attention to how it feels reading the content, and listen for any awkwardness, clunky-sounding sentences or phrases, general weirdness.

You should be able to hear where your writing doesn’t feel natural – it won’t easily roll off the tip of your tongue.

You’ll also hear where you use a specific word too many times.

And a nice side benefit to reading it aloud – even if you’re doing it silently – is you’ll almost always find places that could benefit from a bit of finesse and polish.

Did You Enjoy Today’s Episode of the Content Marketer’s Café with Julia McCoy? Come Back for More!

I hope you enjoyed the third episode in my YouTube show!

Please leave a comment on the video and tell me how I’m doing, and the next topics you’d like to see. Leave a comment on today’s episode.

Come back every other Saturday for a new, short video where I teach one content marketing hack you can start using today.

Subscribe on YouTube: @JuliaMcCoy.

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#ContentWritingChat June 21 2016 Recap: The Basics of Optimizing Your Content Correctly for Search Engines

Did you miss #ContentWritingChat this week? There’s no need to worry, my friend. We have you covered with a recap of our latest chat (and it’s a good one). Go ahead and dive into our recap and brush up on your SEO skills with this week’s tips!

#ContentWritingChat June 21 2016 Recap: The Basics of Optimizing Your Content Correctly for Search Engines

For this week’s chat, our guest host was Sherry Bonelli. Sherry is an expert digital marketer (hailing back from 1998), the founder of Early Bird Digital Marketing, and has been featured on the TODAY Show, CNN, ABC. She joined us to share her tips on optimizing your written online content for search engines.

Q1: What are the basics copywriters should know about SEO?

You don’t have to be an SEO expert to optimize your online content. If you’re a natural writer, knowing the basics will just refine your existing skills to help you create fantastic content that Google will love. Check out these tips from the chat:

Don’t forget that everyone can learn the basics of SEO and even small optimizations can make a difference.

As Sherry said, the title of your content and its description will get the attention of potential readers. Make sure you’re using the right keywords to rank higher and attract your ideal reader.

Great advice from Kristen! Understand the language people use within your industry. You need to get inside their heads to choose the keywords they’ll be searching for.

Write with your audience in mind. You want to write for humans, not for robots. Keywords come second.

Make sure you know how to do keyword research. To find the ideal keywords for your content, you’ll need to know how to research them effectively and which tools you should use.

Brittany said to make sure you know why SEO matters. Of course, don’t forget about those all-important keywords either.

Varun suggested that you learn about title, tags, meta description, and headers. You should also understand how to choose the correct keywords.

Our CEO, Julia, said to make sure you know how to write good meta titles and descriptions. Those are key for ranking your content!

Cheryl said to focus on using the right keywords for your content and in your titles and headings. Don’t forget to tag your images with the appropriate keywords as well. This is a step that’s easy to overlook!

Zachary relies on the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress to keep him on track when it comes to optimization. We’re right there with you!

Ryan knows keyword stuffing isn’t cool. Make sure the copy you write sounds natural, otherwise it can be a turn-off for your reader.

Jim said to keep your content natural. Don’t force your SEO.

Q2: Should you optimize every piece of content you create?

Is it worthwhile to optimize every piece of content you publish online? Here’s what some of our chat participants had to say:

Sherry believes in optimizing all of the content you create, even print material.

Sarah from ThinkSEM said you don’t need to optimize all of your content. Ultimately, it depends what the content is for. Certain pages on your site don’t necessarily need to rank.

Scott said pages such as your About page and your Contact page don’t need to be optimized. Make sure you’re optimizing what’s relevant.

For the content you want to reach a wide audience, make sure you’re taking the time to optimize it.

Varun questions the point of creating content if you’re not optimizing.

Do you want your content to be seen?

Michael said you should optimize all of your content. He also said the optimization process starts before you even begin writing. You have to conduct research, select keywords, and more.

Julia believes it’s not always important to optimize every piece of content.

You don’t want to neglect your older content. Kristen suggests going back and optimizing your best content first.

Q3: Is keyword density still important when optimizing content?

Keyword density was once a big factor when it comes to ranking your content. Is it still relevant?

Sherry said keyword density isn’t looked at so much anymore. She also said to make sure you’re not guilty of keyword stuffing. If you’re having trouble with your keyword, she suggested reaching for the thesaurus. You can find synonyms to use in your content.

Keywords should still be present, but providing engaging content is always the most important. Great answer, Kristen!

Sarah doesn’t think keyword density is still important. She said the way your content is written is much more important in the end.

Ray’s advice was to make sure you’re not stuffing your content with keywords. It’s not good for your readers and the search engines won’t like it either. Instead, focus on providing valuable content for your reader.

Rohan said keyword variation and natural language are more important.

Jim’s advice was to choose the keywords that feel natural to your content. Remember: no keyword stuffing ever!

Our Content Manager, Katria, knows quality is always the #1 priority.

Q4: How can you define and choose the right keywords for your content?

Choosing the right keywords is essential when optimizing your content. To help you out, check out these tips from the chat:

Don’t forget that Google will show you what people have been searching. All you have to do is start typing for suggestions to appear. She also said that you want to find content that’s being searched for, but doesn’t have too much competition.

Ray knows it’s important to consider your audience in this situation. He said to think about how your audience would ask a question to help in choosing the right keywords.

Similarly, you should spend time getting to know your audience. By doing some research and communicating with your target market, you’ll get to know their preferences and interests. This will help in choosing the keywords that will get you results.

Sarah also said you need to figure out how your audience is talking about a specific topic. Use the words and phrases they’re using because that’s what they’ll search with.

Focus on writing great content first. That’s always the most important thing. Optimize your content afterwards with common keywords.

Julia said to figure out what your audience is talking about. Use BuzzSumo to see what topics are popular at the moment. Keyword tools such as SEMrush and KW Finder are great as well.

Erika relies on Google Keyword Planner, Moz, and Keyword Tool for choosing the best keywords for her content.

Again, it all goes back to your audience. Know what they’re searching for so you can choose your keywords accordingly.

Q5: What tools do you use to help with SEO?

There are a ton of great SEO tools out there and it can be hard to choose just one to use. In fact, many people use multiple tools to help them out. Here are some tool recommendations to try:

Sherry likes to use SEMrush, RankRanger, SEOProfiler, and SEO Powersuite.

Ray, Brittany, and Erika are all fans of the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. It’s a great tool and we use it here at Express Writers.

Sarah turns to tools like ScreamingFrog, Raven Tools, Keyword Planner, and Google autosuggest.

Ryan said you can’t go wrong with Moz, Keyword Planner, and KW Finder.

Julia rlies on Quora, Uber Suggest, SEMrush, and KW Finder.

Screaming Frog and Yoast always come highly recommended.

Yoast, SEO Quake Team, Moz, and Hubspot are all tools worth checking out.

Jenn’s go-to tools include Google Analytics, Adwords, and Moz.

Amalia likes to use tools such as Yoast, SEMrush, Screaming Frog, and Moz.

Q6: Which SEO experts do you follow to stay updated on Google standards?

Because Google does change the standards from time to time, it’s important to stay updated with what’s going on. There are plenty of SEO experts you can follow online to help you stay up to date.

Erika has a few tools she turns to when it comes to SEO, including Randfish’s Whiteboard Friday.

Ellie’s suggestions include Randfish, Moz, Neil Patel, and more.

To stay on top of his blogging game, Zachary likes to read content from Jon Morrow.

All of these suggestions are definitely worth checking out!

We agree, Jim! Neil Patel is always a great resource to turn to for SEO tips and more.

Julia had quite a few suggestions to offer. Do you follow any of these people?

Q7: How can we handle the updates Google made to meta content standards?

Google recently made some updates to their meta content standards. If you haven’t heard about this, make sure you reader our blog post on it:

Sherry said to keep an eye on what experts are doing and learn from their mistakes.

With a little more room to write, Julia says we can get creative with those extra characters.

No matter what changes are made, Sarah said you still want to write meta content that’s descriptive.

It always helps to regularly test and analyze your results so you can get better.

For now, just keep going and doing things as you normally would.

Q8: What are the don’ts when optimizing content?

There are always a few don’ts you should avoid when optimizing content for search engines. Here are some tips from our chat:

Sherry said not to forget about adding alt tags to your images. This is key if you want your images to be picked up by search engines.

Kristen is spot on with her answer. Don’t alter the core message or readability of your content for SEO. Providing quality to your audience is always the most important thing. Never sacrifice that.

Erika had some advice that was similar to Kristen’s. Be human! Don’t make your content unnatural for the sake of SEO.

To sum it all up: no keyword stuffing.

Sarah knows there are quite a few “don’ts” when it comes to SEO. She said to avoid keyword stuffing, over-linking, and writing just for keywords/SEO. Avoid being spammy.

As Julia said, you should never focus solely on keywords. It’s more important to focus on creating high-quality content.

We look forward to seeing you at the next #ContentWritingChat! Mark your calendars weekly for Tuesday at 10 AM CDT for great chats centered around content writing and marketing. Follow @ExpWriters to stay updated on our new topics and guests!

P.S. Interested to learn how Julia created our chat from scratch and how I manage it? Check out our episode on The Write Podcast posted this week, where Julia and I discuss everything entailed in launching/running a Twitter chat!