rank for competitive keywords with longtail featured image

6 Steps to Rank for Competitive Keywords Using Long-Tail Keywords

One of the essential metrics that a clever SEO uses to determine how viable it is to pursue ranking for keywords is keyword difficulty. Various SEO tools use custom algorithms to determine keyword difficulty for words or word strings in their databases, but most of them agree on which keywords are most difficult to rank for in today’s search.

As a rule, we try to avoid going after highly-competitive keywords with a high keyword difficulty. That’s because the most competitive keywords are dominated by websites with a long history on the internet and vast, nearly unmatchable resources. But if you have the patience, you can take the slow-and-steady approach to ranking for competitive keywords by building your authority (over time) for long-tail keywords related to your target keywords.

Try these six steps with several different keyword sets. Tweak and experiment to find a strategy that works consistently for your target market.

Identify Competitive Keywords

moz keyword research result for space

Find highly-competitive, high-difficulty keywords using keyword research tools. Most tools are designed for use by marketing agencies or large businesses, and they require a subscription to use. However, you can do limited keyword research with free accounts on some keyword research websites. Try some of these:

Most sites label the metric you’re looking for as keyword difficulty, but you may also find it labeled as keyword competition or something similar. Keywords with a difficulty factor of 70+ (usually on a scale of 100, but may differ between sites) are well-established keywords that you’ll need to employ long-term strategies to rank for.

Find Related Searches

related keyword suggestions from moz keyword research tool

Using the same keyword research tools, plug your competitive keywords into a search that looks for and indexes related searches. Most keyword research tools are very clever and have an advanced understanding of the semantics of searches, which allows them to produce lists of less-competitive keywords that searchers use to find the same or very similar results.

Discover Long-Tail Keywords with Similar Meanings

related searches for space with similar keywords highlighted

Log the related searches and check their search volume. Start compiling lists of long-tail keywords that are nearly identical. Look first for keyword strings with minor lexical or grammatical differences. Then tack on strings with similar meanings, and find minor variants of those as well.

Be as thorough as you can – the object is to build lists of low-competition long-tail keywords around which you can base your upcoming content strategy.

Produce Content that Targets Long-Tail Keywords

keyword list in excel for brainstorming long-tail keyword targeted content

Once you’ve recorded a few lists of low-competition long-tail keywords, use your lists to build a plan-of-action for content. Consider themes that the long-tail keywords represent and brainstorm concepts around those ideas. Vary your content style between written content and visual content, and create similarly-themed content pieces that have a unique message but overlap in subject matter.

Build Authority

example SERP for long-tail technobabble space keyword search

Put your targeted content out on an ongoing basis and keep your expectations grounded. Again, the objective isn’t to immediately push high-authority sites out of top-ranked positions for competitive keywords; your mission is to dominate associated long-tail keywords, then begin to target the most competitive keywords.

It’s a win-win: You get traffic and leads for searches related to your high-keyword-difficulty keywords, and you build domain and page authority (two vital SEO metrics) over time. Most of your competitors don’t have the patience or resources to do so, which gives you a distinct advantage that will take your competition years to catch up to.

Produce Content that Targets Competitive Keywords

keyword list in excel for brainstorming competitive keyword targeted content

It’s going to take lots of time, but long-term strategy is at the heart of business success. Once you begin to rank highly for long-tail keywords, start producing content aimed at your short-tail, high-competition keywords.

Because you’ve spent time building your authority for the highly-competitive subject matter, you’re likely to get an automatic and significant boost in authority for high-keyword-difficulty keywords. You’ll benefit from:

  • An audience who trusts your expertise on the subject matter
  • A measurable history of content production for the subject matter
  • A hearty page authority and domain authority that gives you an automatic edge in search algorithms

However, it’s vital to stay realistic in your expectations. Keyword difficulty measurements exist to allow marketers like us to weigh the risks of pouring resources into target keywords against the benefits. Be prepared for a tough road with plenty of bumps – but if you make it to the end, you could achieve rankings and business growth unmatched by even the most robust SEO strategies to date.

How do we know so much? We’re no-kidding, all-out masters of SEO. Start ranking better with our help.

3 replies
    • Eric Ysasi
      Eric Ysasi says:

      Hi Jason,

      It certainly wouldn’t hurt. The article talks mostly about long-tail keywords because they tend to have lower competition (and, consequently, lower keyword difficulty). But if you spot keywords that aren’t long-tail but are still valuable to your efforts, I’d say go for ’em!

  1. Jack
    Jack says:

    Hi Eric. Thanks a lot for this post. I have a question. If our home page is currently ranking #5 in say “wall art”. will creating a blog post around the focus keyword “recent wall art trends” poses any risk for the blog post to outrank or compete against homepage on the keyword “wall art” ? or will this actually help the homepage better rank for the seed keyword “wall art” ?

    I am asking this because a blog post around “recent wall art trends” will sure have a lot of mentions of “wall art” and thus the possibility of this blog post to outrank the home page (which we don’t want to happen)

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