A few months back, I was assigned the responsibility of taking over my company blog and promoting our content to our target audience. Like any young marketer, I thought to myself, “Great! I’ll just write about productivity, and post what I write on Facebook”.

Fail. I had no way of knowing whether or not my posts appealed to my audience, were likely to result in conversions, or solved real problems that my target audience was facing. I just knew that Forbes was writing articles about habits of insanely productive people, so I thought I should do the same.

Until I realized that there was no way my young blog with a page authority of less than half of Forbes, Entrepreneur, or James Clear could rank top 3 for the keyword “productivity”

In this blog post, I’ll outline how I combined a long-tail SEO strategy with an email pop-up to target to produce content that addressed my target audience’s real problems, target keywords that I had a chance of ranking for, and get that content back in front of an interested audience.

Let’s get started!

Why Start-Ups Should Target Long-Tail Keywords

As I start this post, I’m going to assume we all know the basics of SEO.

As in: the longer you’ve been around, the more domain authority your page has, the easier it is for you to rank.

Also: the broader the topic, the more sites producing content concerning said topic, the more difficult it is to rank for such topic.

If you’re unfamiliar with this, take a look at this beginner’s guide to SEO, one of the most comprehensive and easy-to-understand that I’ve found so far. Or, put your faith in the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” and take a glance at the image below, courtesy ofinbound.com.

Search Demand Long Tail SEO

This is a simple explanation of why my blog posts with the keyword “productivity” were not ranking, or producing the results I wanted (more trial sign-ups forPriority Matrix). For more detail, here’s a screenshot fromMoz’s keyword difficulty tool showing both the search volume and difficulty of the keyword. Yikes.

Keyword Difficulty and Analysis

Chances are, if you’re a new company, your domain is about as new as you are, meaning your page authority is inherently lower than that of the competition.

This means that even if you write a spot-on post, if it’s optimized for high competition keyword, you’re out of luck. Keep in mind, I’m generalizing here.

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There are exceptions, but as my favorite quote from He’s Just Not That Into You goes, “you are the rule, not the exception”. On we go.

By now, if I’m doing my job, you should understand the logic behind why a start-up would want to target long-tail keywords with lower searches, rather than competing for nearly impossible rankings against huge competitors.

However, this is where the next challenge comes in.

Choosing Your Long-Tail Keywords

There are a variety of ways to decide on long-tail keywords. You could use Google’s keyword tool, brainstorm with your team, utilize services like keywordtool.io…the list goes on. But the fact of the matter is, all of these strategies still involve a certain amount of guesswork.

I decided to cut through that guesswork by going straight to the source, our audience, and asking them exactly what they wanted to read about. I rigged the system to let my readers to the work for me.

Here’s How

We have an email pop-up on our blog. Like many sites, the only thing we asked was for the interested parties’ email addresses. Partially out of fear that more questions would mean less subscribers, but also because we weren’t using blog readers as sales leads, so there wasn’t anything else we wanted to ask them.

When I decided I wanted to start targeting long-tail keywords, though, I made one simple change.

I added a question to my email capture.

For email captures on my blog, I’ve been usingMailMunch. They provide a variety of different customization tools, which allow for everything from a simple box to grab an email address, to a long-form capture where you can ask about anything from phone number to industry.

Since the goal of my companyAppfluence and our blogProductivity 101 is to make managers and teams more efficient, I added this question to my pop-up:

“What is the biggest challenge you face as a manager/team member?”

MailMunch Form Editor

When asked in this format, people type just as they would in a Google search. According to the data, 70% of Google searches are long-tail searches, meaning there’s a good chance you’ll be capturing long-tail terms.

MailMunch collected all of the answers, and all I had to do was export them into a CSV (MailMunch has a button for this) and peruse the answers.

The Back-End

The back-end of the process was simple.

Once I collected few dozen responses, I ran them through Moz’s keyword difficulty tool to figure out which ones would be the easiest to target.

After deciding, I assigned some articles to my assistants, and usedWriterAccess to outsource the production of articles on more simple topics. I was pleasantly surprised to find that many responses were similar, so we spent less time on production than expected.

Finally, upon production of articles, we posted to the blog, and used Gmail’s Mail Merge plug-in to send the articles directly to those who requested them.

With Mail Merge, youcan upload a list of names and email addresses to send “personalized” emails in bulk. The best part is that you can use the same CSV that Mail Munch provides for this step.

Our final emails looked like this:

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Conclusion

For new players in the content game, long-tail SEO is a strategy proven to be feasible. For small businesses and teams, outsourcing as much of the work as possible, so you can focus on your broader strategy, is essential to make the most of your limited resources.

This is why putting your users to work for you when it comes to identifying new long-tail keywords is a win-win situation. You find out exactly what kind of content they want, and the words that will catch the attention of more readers like them and help you rank.

For best results, make sure to include a call to action, either in your email, on your blog, or both. In our emails, the CTA is to share the article with colleagues who may be struggling with the same challenge. This was a way for us to grow our reach and awareness of our brand. On our blog, our CTA is to start a free trial of our tool,Priority Matrix.

As a final tip, make sure that when you add a question to your email capture, you make the answer optional. I even added the text “optional” in the box to ensure your blog sign-ups don’t drop as a result of this new field.

Kari Beaulieu
Author

Kari Beaulieu is the Marketing Manager for Appfluence, creator of Priority Matrix. Priority Matrix is a task management and collaboration tool that helps teams work more efficiently with added visibility into shared projects, task delegation, tracking and more.