Long-tail keywords are a great way to get traffic, but the very nature of long-tail keywords makes them difficult to research. For anyone who is going after short-tail traffic on a website, it is a given that a significant quantity of traffic from longer-tail terms is going to be generated. This traffic will increase as the short-tail phrase moves up in search engine rankings, and in almost every case you can gauge the success of early SEO efforts by the trickle of long-tail keywords that bring visitors to your site before a short tail term even hits the first page of Google.
Measuring the sentiment of searchers can help you determine which additional phrase combinations (or roots of phrases) can deliver more high-value long tail terms. One way to do this is to use the Google Keyword Tool to get a list of variations relevant to your main phrase, and then use a Tag Cloud in order to see which words most prominently figure into the mix. Most tag clouds will make frequent words appear to be larger, so you can easily see a quick visual snapshot of the most common words. You can even find several free Tag Cloud generators online, which let you drop lists into a field.
In the example below, we used a small group of terms related to “logo design” in the Google keyword tool. At a glance, you can see that the terms “logo” and “design” have the biggest frequency, and these terms are followed by terms like business, software, company, award, corporate, and best. Terms like affordable and portfolio are less popular. Therefore, if you have a website (like Web.com’s LogoYes logo design division) that is relevant to these keywords, then you know that you can pepper them into your content in order of importance. A more in-depth test may include a much longer list of terms in order to recognize broader trends.
To understand the nature of your existing traffic, you can also make a tag cloud by exporting your Analytics keywords (usually you have to do this in blocks of 500, but you can get a pretty good sample with the first page) and then feeding the word list into the cloud. You may be surprised at some of the high frequency words that come to your site, but you can then make adjustments either to cater to those keyword visits or to reduce the profile of words for which you don’t care to be found. While people normally don’t think about eliminating unnecessary “free” traffic, a lower quality search experience and higher bounce rate may have a negative long term impact on rankings, and dilute your value among your core market.
For both approaches, the keyword search volume or traffic volume for each individual keyword is not measured. Instead, the goal is to find out how many other individual words are appearing in search results and in actual traffic. By making a quick study of the terms in each situation, you can usually discover opportunities for further optimization or content building. For example, if a relevant keyword appears often in searches, but is not getting traffic to your site, then you can create material that matches up with consumer sentiment.