Case Study Update: Go After the Long Tail

Long Tail

Keyword research is critical, and people say it all the time.

I learned a valuable lesson about taking keyword research seriously.

I messed up. I was lazy, and it has been costing me money in the form of low earnings…

It has been a very long time since I posted a case study update. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. I have been spreading myself thin on various projects while continuing to work a full time job. That amounted to not really doing anything related to the case study, and therefore there really wasn’t any movement in the rankings or earnings.
  2. I omitted a couple key steps to optimize a niche site, especially when it is still a young site.
    • Keyword research related to long tails, and secondary KWs.
    • These kind of keywords are ultra-important these days since it can take months to rank for more competitive keywords with a high search volume.
  3. A lack of focus on where to spend time. When I would finally sat down to work on the niche site for this case study, I wasn’t working on the most important tasks. I would busy myself cleaning up content but not spend any time promoting it or build links – which are key things to create a profitable niche site.

I was talking to a couple experts on KW research – Quinton, from Cubicle Houdini, and Lewis, from Cloud Income, and Rob, from all the coaching sessions – and I realized I need to review the KWs. (Thanks guys, for kicking me back into gear!)

The Long Tail

We will be looking at the long tail keyword analysis in this post.

Here is the overview:

  1. Check on some long tail KWs that we are ranking in the top 200. Use SEMRush for this.
  2. Look for search volumes of 300 or less. Don’t be afraid to look at KWs that are listed as 0 volume. Use the Keyword Planner or Long Tail Pro.
  3. Check on what page is ranking on your site. You can look this up manually by Googling the search term.
  4. If you are not targeting that keyword term for the page that is ranking, then create a page/post to target that term.

What happened? My actual clunky process

I have been tracking about 50 keywords for my current niche site. I use SerpBook right now since it is economical and works well.

After I got a round of backlinks from the HOTH (the Platinum Package), my rankings moved up. It takes a few weeks for the links to be built, and then a couple more weeks for the rankings to move up. You can check out this post to see how I order the HOTH.

Basically, the KWs moved from beyond 200th+ position to 175 to the 90th with the HOTH.

There are a couple of terms that are ranking in the top 10 and a few more in the top 20 due to manual blog comments and general domain authority.

This level of ranking means there was a trickle of traffic, a couple sales a month, but nothing impressive!

Actually, it is embarrassing now that I am looking at this particular case study site.

The Target Keyword – One Long Tail

One of the 50 KWs that I was tracking gets about 250 exact match monthly searches. That’s not a HUGE volume. In fact, that amounts to just a handful of searches per day.

It is a buyer’s term though. That is to say, this term is one that a potential buyer will use just before buying this product.

It is something like this:

  • best [product]
  • [product] reviews
  • [product] ratings

I was ranking about 185 at first and that was about 6 weeks ago. The term moved around in the rankings quite a bit, ranging from about 160 down to about 85. See the image below. The movement is attributed to the HOTH package, a portion of the links were targeting this term.



I fired up Long Tail Pro version 3 (Get LTP here for $20 OFF, affiliate link) and checked out the keyword. I confirmed the search volume that I saw in SerpBook. Then, I looked at the competition.

There were some very good signs, like forum posts, several results that did not have an optimized title, and some general results that were sort of related to the search term but not targeting the term. In general, the top 10 results (and even the top 20) didn’t do a good job helping out the visitor.

Here is the kicker…

I checked to see which one of my pages was ranking at 85, as you can see in the chart above.

It was a general review page on my niche site. The page that was ranking was NOT at all optimize for the search term.

Targeting the Long Tail Search Term

So, I decided to write a new post that was targeting the search term in the title, meta description, and all throughout the post. In the end, the post was about 2,000 words and hugely valuable to the would-be searcher.

I published the article and added a link to the original page that was ranking.

Then, I edited the original page that was ranking and added a backlink to the new post that was targeting the term.

Amazingly, the new page was ranking in the 40s just a few hours later. I was shocked to see that the new post was already indexed and showing up in the SERPs.


The new page was indexed in a few hours and already showing up in the SERPs. It was literally the same day.

The post is continuing to move up. And, I am getting a handful of free do-follow banklinks to push this post higher this week. (If you are interested in this, let me know in the comments and I can write about it soon.)

Review of the Process

Here is what to do:

  1. Figure out what you are ranking for already. Go to SEMRush and see the terms in a list. Or, if you have a long list of keywords from your KW research, then you can put that list within your KW tracker (like SerpBook). SEMRush is the preferred way.
  2. Find some terms that have a search volume of fewer than 300, and ensure that your site is ranking in the top 200 or so. Fewer people are trying to target lower search volume which is a big advantage for you.
  3. Check to see what page or post is ranking for your domain for the long tail keyword.
  4. If you aren’t targeting the term, then write a new article. Optimize the article title, meta description, headings, images, and basically everything in the post.
  5. Make the content LONG. Lewis was telling me that he goes big and writes about 2,000 words of great content. (He has a case study going here…so be sure to check it out.)
  6. Add a link from the page or post that was ranking. My thought here is that Google will associate that new page with the term that we are targeting – use some very related anchor text. I don’t have a lot of data points but my page was indexed in hours.
  7. Build links to the page…More on this later.

That pretty much covers it. It is simple. And, I will be doing this for several other keywords, too.

The whole process is about solid keyword research, the ability to audit your own website and rankings, and due diligence.

Let me know if you have any questions about the process.

14 comments… add one
  • Hey Doug,

    good on you for keeping to post updates on the case study even when things stagnate. I was too disheartened from my rankings to continue working on any of my sites and stopped blogging about them. low volume long tail KWs will definitely pay off in the long terms especially if you get a lot. looking forward to updates!

    • Hey Reggie, thanks for reading the post. Things have been pretty stagnate — yeah, that is the right word too.

      Sorry to hear your rankings didn’t recover/improve.

      I am hoping the slow burn and the age on my site will payoff over time.

  • I’d be interested in hearing how you are getting the handful of do follow links. And good article as always.

  • Alice

    Hi Doug,

    Good to see you are back giving some love to your niche sites.

    I have a question – my niche site has 38 pages indexed according to Google webmasters, but when I go onto SEMrush, it only finds 2 indexed pages and no keywords.

    I am worried that SEMrush is not coming up with anything for my site which is around 2 years old. Any ideas?


    • Hey Alice, thanks for reading! Hmmm, I am actually not a very experienced SEMrush user.

      Do those other ~36 pages get much traffic?

      Do they rank for anything that you know of?

      I think you see what I am getting at — maybe SEMrush can only track the pages & search terms that are driving traffic.

      What do you think…?

      • Alice

        Yes, these were my thoughts, I have literally done no linkbuilding, so it would make sense!

        I have just purchased the Hoth platinum package, so hopefully within a few months things will begin to change!

        Thanks for your input!

        PS – I would also be interested in finding out more about those do follow links!

        • Okay, I will share the do-follow links soon.

          Keep me posted on the HOTH package results – I would be really interested in that.

  • Doug – this is funny. I actually tried this [almost] exact strategy awhile back. I even started a draft for a post on my blog to write about it – but never ended up finishing that post! But I go even further with mine… I targeted a VERY specific keyword about a VERY specific product in one of my niches. The keyword only got like 30 monthly searches. But I’m making related sales from that page I created almost every single day! I’m sure some long tails from that page are attracting traffic as well.

    Your post kind of makes me want to finish up the one that I started. Maybe I will one of these days.

    • Hey Matt, Awesome to hear! I am sure a lot of people have been doing that for years, and they are chuckling at us.

      Great job executing on those 30 searches a month.

  • RJ

    Hey Doug,
    This is very true. Im on my 3rd site and longtail has ranked way faster than my main keywords.

    In fact, the way I make sure that I rank is by optimizing content after publishing and using various tools to do so.

    Basically, the market will tell you what it wants.

    But, all this is nothing new… Spencer and a bunch of others have been talking about lengthy content and longtail for a while now.

    It just sucks that most longtail has low search volumes (not all btw, I found product review based, 5 word keyword with 2,000 monthly searches- crazy, no?)

    The page could be pushing a $700 product but has 10 searches a month and no one buys. You just get lots of impressions.

    Anyway, I appreciate that you continue to share.


    • Hey RJ, thanks for the comment. You are right about this being old news! I certainly missed out in going for the long tails on this site for a little while.

      What tools are you using? (to optimize)

  • shaam

    Hey Doug,

    I’ve one doubt on this statement “I published the article and added a link to the original page that was ranking if so do we need to link that page with any anchor text.Then, I edited the original page that was ranking and added a backlink to the new post that was targeting the term.”

    Once you published the new article did you added the old ranking post link on newly published post , then again you edited the old ranking page and linked the newly created page with targeted anchor text ?

    I’m little confuse can you clarify it please


  • Leo

    Do you really find the HOTH web2.0s good? I’ve used them in the past and find the web2.0s very thin created. Very basic, posts in the standard WP uncategorized category and not worth the money in my idea. Also to invest in HOTH for 250 search a month is not what I would do.

Leave a Comment