It seems like every month Google comes out with some kind of an update that rocks the SEO world.

Last week, Matt Cutts released a warning against over using guest blog posts.

I don’t think this warning should really surprise anyone. Google has been talking about staying away from low quality content for years.

Guest blog posting is just like everything thing else with online marketing. There are many different levels of quality with the same general work item.

I believe Matt Cutts is speaking about spamming the internet with nonsense content that is only meant for the search engines. If this is the case, there is really no difference between this tactic and low quality article or blog marketing.

Big Risks and Big Rewards with Online Marketing

The truth of the matter is the people that have abused link building have made it very dangerous for the rest of us, even if we are doing it the right way. SEO has turned into a very risky game, and the stakes have never been higher. On one side, you can increase your organic rankings thus bringing in mass amounts of relevant traffic. On the other side, you can get hit by a Google update and lose ALL of your organic visibility.

There has to be a way to minimize the chance of your site getting hit by a penalty. We all know backlinks are still a very highly valued part of Google’s ranking algorithm. If Google isn’t going to be in favor of guest blog posts how can you generate backlinks that won’t cause long-term problems?

The answer lies partly with having a long-tail SEO strategy. This is a way to rank for a wide range of search terms and safeguard your site from getting an organic penalty.

Traditional Vs. Long-Tail Keyword Strategy?

We all know that Google has really been cracking down on traditional SEO.
There is no question that backlinks have been the main factor they have looked at when handing down penalties.

In my opinion, the use of anchor text has been the main part of a website’s linking profile that can trigger an organic penalty.

Traditional SEO identifies a few important keywords and targets them almost exclusively.

Back in the day, when you looked at a website’s linking profile, the more exact match anchor text it had, the better. Now days, having an over optimized linking profile is a sure way to get slammed in the SERPs.

Traditional SEO has a very narrow focus of only targeting a very small set of keywords. Having this type of strategy can still be very effective for smaller, local campaigns. In this scenario, the client would usually only have $300 to $1000 to invest in a monthly campaign. With this small project, there usually isn’t enough work to trigger a penalty.

When you start to see a lot of problems with traditional SEO is when the client is investing at least $2,000 to $3,000 a month. At that spend, there is a lot of work that will be completed for the site. If the SEO outfit is just doing low quality SEO targeting a small set of keywords, there is going to be a BIG PROBLEM.

Getting started with a high quality long-tail strategy involves a lot more than keyword research. You are going to need to develop high quality content that will rank for the long-tail terms. You are also going to need to convert that traffic into leads, and then track the success of the campaign. Below are our 5 steps to develop an effective long-tail strategy.

Step 1) Identify and organize a long-tail keyword cluster

Having a long-tail keyword strategy starts with finding strategic variations of different root keywords. It is very helpful to arrange your keywords in an Excel doc. You can place the root keyword in one cell. Below that, think of as many different relevant variations as possible. Repeat that process for all of your main search terms. At the end, you’ll have a well-organized keyword cluster.

To the right of the keywords, you’ll want to include the target page. That way, you will have easy access to the keywords and URLs you are using for your link building. After you finish the full cluster, it will look something like this. You should already have pages for most of the terms you are going to target with this cluster.

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Another great way to think up good long-tail search phrases is to think what are questions a user might have that would be looking for my product. This will give you a list of potential search phrases you can use when writing new blog posts. You probably won’t have pages for most of these terms.

This is where you are going to want to use your blog to produce well thought out responses to industry questions. Below are a few examples of blog posts we could write for Digital Flavor.

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Step 2) Build out the right content assets

A key element to a successful long-tail strategy is having great pages to push your traffic. These should be targeted to the keyword cluster you are trying to push.
Having a great piece of content is going to ensure that you maximize the value from each and every visitor.

Content marketing fits perfectly into a long-tail keyword strategy.

Having a blog where you can constantly build new, relevant pages is perfect for this type of a tactic. This is going to be the ideal place where you can start answering the questions we identified in Step 1.

As you are building your different content assets, you are going to want to have traditional onsite optimization in mind. We definitely recommend adding the target search phrase to the Title Tag, Meta Description, and Heading Tags. This is going to make absolutely sure Google knows the long-tail question we are trying to answer with our content.

Having great content to push your traffic is one of the most important steps in this process. You need to be absolutely sure you are giving Google and the other search engines a reason to rank your page. It is extremely important that you are building content with the mindset of adding value to the internet.

Step 3 – Build up some authority with quality backlinks

After you’ve identified the keywords and built an amazing piece of content, the hard work is done.

Now, all you need to do is build the authority of that page and your root domain with a few quality links. Having a long-tail strategy is going to ensure that your site has a well-rounded linking profile. This is going to be a great way to make sure you are pushing links to a wide range of pages. This definitely helps with safeguarding your site against getting hit by a Penguin update.

There are many different ways to get backlinks added to your new page. We recommend using guest blog posts and article marketing to build some quick, authoritative links. As always, you are going to want to mix up the anchor text pointing back to the URL. We recommend checking out this guide for best practices with anchor text.

Step 4 – Convert the traffic into leads

The next step to a successful long-tail online marketing campaign is converting your new traffic into leads. This is a step where most people go wrong.

The general idea is we need to give users a reason to take action. We need to entice them to move forward in the buying process. We have seen that having great calls to action and downloadable content can be very helpful in getting this done.
Here are a few principles for creating good calls to action

  1. Offer something relevant and helpful
  2. Make it stand out
  3. Use the right messaging
  4. Test & improve

We have actually written another post that goes over our recommendations for great calls to action. Please visit this URL for more information about constructing amazing CTA’s.

Top Quality Downloadable Content

Having great content that you offer in exchange for a users name and email address is a great way to convert a user. You are going to want to think of interesting topics that would engage your audience.

How you present your e-book or whitepaper is extremely important for actually getting users to click on the download. Below are a few steps for increasing the conversion rate of your marketing collateral.

  1. Think of an interesting topic and title for the content asset
  2. Design attractive button for the download
  3. Have a clear contact form put together
  4. After the user downloads the asset, take them to a “thank you” page

It is absolutely critical that after a user downloads your content asset, you give them some meaningful information. Making sure this is top quality content will help your brand and sales efforts.

Step 5) Nurture your leads until they are ready to buy

The last step to fully implementing a successful long-tail keyword strategy that generates qualified leads for your business is to start tracking and nurturing leads. This should help close the leads you have generated with the other 4 steps into paying customers.

Lead nurturing is a relatively new tactic that is unique to the online arena. The idea is you have a pool of users that have shown interest in your industry, but aren’t necessarily ready to become a customer of yours. From there you send the users compelling content at different intervals of time bringing them along in the sales cycle.

There are a variety of different software solutions to tracking and nurturing leads. Below are a few of our top recommendations:

  • Infusionsoft
  • HubSpot
  • Marketo

There is no question having a long-tail keyword strategy is an effective tactic for increasing your brand’s organic exposure and safeguarding your ranking from future Penguin Updates.

Now, the question is what are you going to do to take action to make sure you are pushing your organization to the next level. As always, we would love to give you our recommendations with a free inbound marketing analysis.