There is no standard length that dictates when a search term is considered a long-tail keyphrase. Most definitions start considering a phrase long-tail at three words or more. However, the length of a phrase does not tell the whole story.

What sets a long-tail keyphrase apart, in addition to number of words, is its specificity. Long-tail keyphrases typically target narrow questions or precise definitions.

The sheer beauty of long tail keywords for a law firm can be summed up in one sentence: “Low volume traffic that converts is more effective than high volume traffic does not convert.”

Understanding long-tail keyphrases

Think of an X/Y axis graph with a curved, tail-like line on it, starting very high on the left and tapering to a “tail” on the right. Trending and popular keywords are grouped in a gaggle to the left (called head terms) and descending to the right, the further along the line you read, are the less popular (long-tail) keywords.

Long-tail queries may get a smaller volume of search traffic, and firms can use that to their advantage. Getting to the top of the first page of search results is easier for long-tail keywords than it is for a large head term.

Adding long-tail terms to your targeted SEO queries is beneficial in part because of the speed at which specifically targeted queries can rise in search results. Such queries provide an opportunity for you to bring high-value traffic to your website while your team works to get your pages high on results pages for the more difficult, popular terms.

Often, long-tail keywords are completely unique, so it can be difficult to judge the type of traffic new phrases will produce. Fortunately, there are ways to predict which terms will be productive for your firm, including tools that can help you choose long-tail queries.

Number of words does not matter

While it’s common to hear people define long tail keywords as being three- or four-word phrases, this is, in fact, a myth. The truth is that long tail keywords can be two or fewer if they are rare.

Instead, long-tail keyphrases are defined by how common they are. And by this point you are likely wondering how a rare keyword is going to do your law firm any favors. It is, in fact, that quality that makes them valuable.

According to Google, approximately 15 percent of all search queries are new and not always predictable since many have not even existed before. Optimize for these queries to the best of your ability and create content with these qualities.

  • Clarity: Keyphrases cannot be vague, but instead must pose a precise question or statement
  • On-topic: Keyphrases must be relevant contextually to a page’s content
  • Informative: Keyphrases should attempt to answer a specific question

Searchers are increasingly using long-tail key words to find information. As discussed previously in this issue, Google has selectively released a technology that helps to decipher the long-tail search terms. That technology goes by the name BERT.

BERT is a huge leap in Google’s ability to better understand what people are searching for. It is a natural language processing system that is actually part of Google’s search algorithm. BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. BERT has been rolled out in the US.

Bert uses what is called an encoder — part of a neural network — that takes a search query and turns it into something much simpler, but in a coded format. It is using natural language processing and being trained to take a block of text, word fragment or word and return an array of numbers. The result is encoded information that is the words’ representation. The algorithm is capable of reading a search query in context in order to better uncover searcher intent.

The pros of using long tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are much less competitive than popular, head terms. This makes them a cost-effective way to achieve results relatively quickly while working on more challenging, higher-volume keywords. Smart money spent on several long-tail keywords can up rankings quickly.

Optimizing for long-tail keyphrases can also create higher-converting pages. This is because the people who are searching to answers for very specific questions are likely further along in the hiring process than those searching for more general terms. People who search for popular terms may just be doing research and not be in the market to hire an attorney at all.

While traffic from each individual keyphrase will be lower, the rate of conversion from long-tail keyphrases is often higher. These queries bring high-value traffic to your site — people who are interested in your specific services. You would likely rather have 200 people visit your page and have 20 hire you than have 1,000 people look but only 5 convert.

Why not try long tail keywords? Your law firm can have all the traffic it can handle, but if that traffic is not converting, the firm is not making money. Do the research, make sure the queries are relevant to your niche, and keep your website content high-quality. This will show visitors you are knowledgeable and trustworthy. Keyword research will help you find the right combination of words that work for your firm.

Long tail key words have less competition, tend to rank easier and convert better. What’s not to like?

About Author

Kerrie Spencer is a staff contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine.

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