How to Find Long Tail Keywords with No Competition?

Entering keywords into search engine

In 2016, there were 9,022,000,000 (9.022 billion) Google searches PER DAY.

I suspect it’s higher now.

Many factors contribute to a growing number of daily Google searches which include:

  • More time is spent online by each person with constant access (i.e. mobile devices and voice controlled devices such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home);
  • Internet access improving globally;
  • More of our daily lives require internet access such as paying bills, registering for things etc.  Arguably, internet access is a necessity, much like electricity or running water.  For example, my son’s school issues report cards online in a secure portal.  They don’t print them anymore.  That’s just one of many, many examples of how we need access to the internet for our personal and work lives.
  • There really isn’t a better search engine than Google so for now the Big G dominates.

What does this mean for website publishers?

It means several things, some things good and some things bad.

The good

  • More potential traffic/visitors.
  • More keywords and topics to cover, especially more very long tail.

The bad

  • More competition.  It’s estimated that there are more than 1.3 billion websites.  That’s 6.94 searches per website per day.  If all sites were equal, each site would enjoy a whopping 6.94 visits per day.  If all sites split that traffic, no one website would generate much money except for Google.

What I think is most interesting from the insanely fast growing number of daily Google searches is the growing number of keywords, especially long tail.  In fact, with voice search growing fast, long, long, long tail keywords are exploding in number.

While I prefer typing searches on a laptop, it’s much easier using voice on smartphones.  Typing on those little keyboards is a hassle.  Voice recognition is fairly accurate so voice it is when not in public.

Do I think voice will eliminate searches by typing?

No. People will do both.  I do both.

There are many situations in which I won’t use voice.  I’m not alone I’m sure.  Do you use voice search in a library?  Church?  Restaurant?  Grocery line up? 

I don’t. I’m pretty private no matter how innocent the search.

Speaking of innocent, there will always be searches people won’t want other people to hear and so they’ll search old school with a keypad.

“Hey Siri, how do I get rid of Syphilis?” is probably not something you’ll hear the person in front of you in the grocery store line up speak into their phone any time soon.  Or at least you hope you don’t hear it.  Some people don’t give a rip so sooner or later we’ll hear some bizarre voice searches in public.

Growth of the super long tail

As website competition heats up, Google search results are more nuanced and people seek very specific information constantly, more and more long tail keywords come about every day.

Not just 4 word searches, but 10+ word phrase searches.

As a publisher, I like this development.

The Dilemma for publishers

Do you publish 200 word Q&A or short, but very specific pieces of content within longer content or publish it as a stand-alone piece of content.

This is a decision publishers must make on a case-by-case basis.

Arguments for including in longer content

Arguments in favor of publishing as a stand-alone article

  • May rank #1 quickly if little competition.
  • Very good for users – they get the info they seek immediately.  I’m kinda tired having to wade through 4,000 words on a mobile device to find what I’m looking for.  You?
  • Easier to publish short, pointed content than long, drawn out stuff that’s the approach du jour.
  • May be great for social media; the old ask a question concept that piques curiosity approach works on social media.

Does super short content rank anymore?

What do I mean by super short?

200 words perhaps.  Maybe less.  Yoast SEO plugin gives you a warning if your content doesn’t have 300+ words.  Does that mean short is anything fewer than 300 words?

I don’t know the answer, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s say short is fewer than 300 words.

Will content with fewer than 300 words rank?

Yes it does.  I have content with fewer than 300 words ranking in the top 5 of Google.  No links, no promotion.  Just good ‘ol Q&A stuff.  Specific questions to which I provide a solid answer.

I’d write more than 300 words if warranted, but it’s not.  This level of brevity does mean you need to consider whether to add it to longer content or publish it as stand-alone content.

Does it get tons of traffic?

No.  It never will because the questions are very specific.  However, it gets consistent traffic.

Does this mean you should crank out hundreds of 300 word content?


It depends on your site.  If you build a Q&A site, go for it.

If, on the other hand, you’re publishing superficial content that nobody will like or find helpful, no.

If you write something that’s 213 words and you can honestly say it totally covers the specific topic, then it’s fine.

While it may be better off within a longer article, it may not.  You should do both approaches across many long tail keywords and see what happens.

Monitor organic search traffic by keywords for which your site ranks to determine if the shorter, very specific articles do better ranking for those long tail keywords or whether the longer articles do.

How do you find super long tail keywords?

Buzzsumo: Buzzsumo has a new questions analyzer tool.  I paid for it and gave it a shot.  I think it’s better suited for ecommerce than informational publishers.  I found some gems, but couldn’t justify the cost. For seed words, it generates a pile of questions.

While I’ve used the two tools above, my favorite approach is using my brain and a solid keyword research tool that reports search volume.

My brain

I input all kinds of question phrases into Ahrefs and and then let the software spit out results.

Ahrefs organizes results by search volume which is handy.  For a free option, check out SEO Books’ keyword research tool.  It’s quite good.  You just need to register.  However, with SEO Book you can’t filter by keyword difficulty so you’ll have to assess difficulty on your own.  One way is to input it in Google and if it’s not covered or badly covered, it’s a winner.

Keywordshitter organizes results alphabetically based on Google auto-suggest searches.

Example phrases to input into Ahrefs or

  • Richest person in…
  • How to make popsicle stick…

Here’s one way that I find long tail keywords with no competition (step-by-step example)

One approach is to start with broader question words and then add any word relevant to your website.


Step 1: Keywordshitter:  input “are glasses”.   Basically use question words and add any thing relevant to your niche.  Any niche will have all kinds of words to input.

  • Are glasses
  • Are contact lenses
  • Are high heels
  • Are scrunchies
  • Are fanny packs

I scan the list of results and found the phrase “are glasses cool”

Step 2: I take that phrase (are glasses cool) and put it in Ahrefs to see what comes up.  Plenty of variations come up.  I scroll down and find “are aviator glasses cool”.

Great news, it has keyword difficulty of 0.  Bad news, search volume is only 0 to 10.

Step 3: Just to be safe, I plug “are aviator glasses cool” into Google to see if it’s been covered.  I definitely don’t want to after this very low search volume keyword if 3 other sites have covered it.

Good and bad news.  The good news is there’s no article with the title “are aviator glasses cool”.

The bad news (deal breaker) is that The NY Times published a really good piece titled “Aviators Return: An Old-School Frame is New Again.”

That’s a tough one.  Chances are I’ll never outrank that article without way too much promotion (ahem, links).

Step 4: I go back to the Ahrefs list and find “are faux wood glasses cool”.  It also has keyword difficulty of 0, but search volume of 0 to 10 (not great, but it’s a pretty easy article to write and just might do okay on social media).

Step 5: I put “are faux wood glasses cool” into Google.

Bingo.  No opinion piece about faux wood glasses whatsoever.

Step 6: Write it up

Step 7: Decide whether it should be added to an existing article that covers faux wood glasses or publish it as a stand alone.

In this case, I would publish it as a stand-alone article.

How would I write this as a stand alone article?

I should mention that even though search volume in Ahrefs is bad, I’d cover this if it was relevant to my niche because it’s such an easy article to write and do it right.  It’s an opinion piece that you can make really good with a little effort.

Here’s how I would write this article.

I’d open the article with my opinion as to whether faux wood glasses are cool.  That’s the topic of the article and so the answer should be front and center.

If possible, I’d look on Instagram for any celebrity wearing wood or faux wood glasses.  I’d then suggest faux wood is cool.  However, maybe you think it’s not cool.  In that case say it’s not.  It’s your opinion.

Next I’d write up a section explaining what faux wood glasses are.

Then I’d include a brief history.

Then I’d set out the various faux wood styles with photo examples.

I think that would about do it.  Add  a Table of Contents at the top and call it a day.

Oops, not quite finished

It’s an engaging question.  People into fashion will want to weigh in.  I’d add a simple poll to the article asking “Do you like faux wood glasses?”  Yes or no?

Did you guess what I forgot?  

If I made it this far without doing this, that could be a major oversight.

I forgot to add affiliate links.  This is a golden buyer intent article.


Add a link post to Facebook.  The is a question so hopefully it gets a little interest (although Facebook reach is terrible so don’t expect miracles).

I’d have my graphics person do up a nice illustration of faux wood glasses on different face shapes and add it to Pinterest and Tumble.  I’d add that graphic to the post too.

If I’m not feeling lazy I would …

Contact other website publishers to see if they’d want to publish my custom graphic.

Reach out to some “experts” and ask for their opinon to add to the article.  FYI, you can always do this after you publish and then update it.

Done… for now

I’d call it a day and see what happens.


Do it again and again and again.

Is there money in these long tail keywords?

Yes, of course.

  • If there’s any hint of buyer intent, use affiliate links or sell stuff.
  • If no hint of buyer intent, slap up display ads.
  • If you build a list, let your sign up forms do the heavy lifting.

What about long tail naysayers?

Brian Dean at Backlinko is a guy I read regularly and respect greatly.  He writes epic stuff and recently he published a really good article on Google RankBrain in which he suggests to “ignore the long tail keywords (they’re obsolete).”

I get his point, but I think it really depends on the niche and your preferred way of going about being a niche site publisher.  Yes, Brian’s methods work really, really well.  But there are examples where long tail works well.

My biggest niche site targets mostly long tail.  I started by naively going after the big keywords but learned it was not worth the time and money as I saw the amazing traffic coming in from long tail keywords.  I shifted strategies and haven’t looked back.

Another example is Spencer Haws who built and sold a site for $425,000 targeting long tail keywords and doing very little link building.

You have to figure out what you prefer doing and what works in your niche.  Do you enjoy keyword research and writing or publishing foregoing promotion and link building?  If so, give the long tail strategy a shot.

If, however, you enjoy promotion and outreach and link building, go after the more competitive, higher search volume keywords.

Try different strategies and do what you like and what works.

Both approaches clearly work; do what works for you and your niche.

Do NOT do this

Do NOT target variations of the same keyword

I am in no way suggesting that you publish multiple articles going after variations of the same keyword.

For example, if I published an article “Are faux wood glasses cool?” I would not publish a separate article “Are faux wood glasses stylish?”.  That would be duplicate content.

Do NOT skimp on the content

Sometimes an article only needs 300 words.  Sometimes more.  Short doesn’t mean skimping on coverage.  Short means that’s all the topic needs.

For example, I publish a lot of visual content for two niche sites (non-business niches).  I have graphic designers custom design graphics based on research.  These graphics are the content.  I add some text, but not much because there’s no point.

How much text do I add to graphic-focused content?

I add anywhere from 250 to 650 words.

Spencer Haws reports that even though he targeted long tail, he still published 2,500 word articles which is pretty lengthy.  All told, his site consisted of 120 articles averaging 2,500 words each.  Not bad for $425,000.

Conclusion: The Irony

When I started this article, I intended it to be fairly short consisting mostly of a simple step-by-step example of how to find long tail keywords.  When the smoke cleared, my article on finding long tail keywords and not always having to write really long content ended up being 2,300 words.  Oops.`

What do you think? Leave a comment!

  • jhon says:

    it’s so difficult, i’ve trying that

  • khim says:

    Hi, thank you for the insights! What are the niches, in your opinion, will work well with the “long tail keyword” approach, as you mentioned that it depends on the niche…Thank you!

    • Jon says:

      Hey Khim,

      that’s a great question. I prefer fairly big niches with potential for lots of traffic. These would be niches with 100,000+ search volume for seed keywords per month. That’s an indication that there will be plenty of long tail to be had.

  • Marc says:

    Thanks for the detailed article Jon. For most of my sites I don’t do as much keyword research as I should, so this is definitely something I can put into practice to improve a few of my sites. I usually have a hard time deciding between one loner article and several shorter ones that will target a smaller sub-set of the keywords.

    • Jon says:

      Hey Marc,

      Test both approaches. Do several loner article that includes many long tail. Then try a series of shorter articles targeting long tail. See what works best. If the loner works best, combine your short ones into one larger article (don’t forget to 301 redirect the shorter content URLs to the new longer article).

  • Hi! Quick question that’s completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
    My site looks weird when browsing from my apple iphone. I’m
    trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to fix this
    issue. If you have any suggestions, please share. Thanks!

  • Martyn says:

    Hi Jon.

    Like the new blog design! I like the idea of this approach with long tail keywords. Can I ask what is the minimum keyword search volume you would consider writing an article on? Also, if you decide to write one long article targeting several long tail keywords, what on page seo would you do to ensure the whole article is optimized for ALL the keywords? Finally, how would you determine if you can get on page 1 with a long tail keyword? If I see an authority site on page 1, it is really off-putting! Thanks in advance, and keep up the good work.

    • Jon says:

      Hi Martyn,

      thanks for design comments. I’m glad you like it.

      Minimum kw search volume that I’d devote an article to is 10 or 20 per month. The reason is I cover obscure topics very deeply and would end up targeting many other very long tail and together they add up to decent traffic.

      You question about long vs. short articles is a tough one. These days I tend to publish standalone articles on very specific topics instead of rolling them all up into a long article. I think it’s better for users. If I’m searching something specific, I don’t want to wade through 3,500 words to get an answer. However, sometimes I do roll them up into longer articles in which case I try to put them as a heading and in the text, but I don’t expect to rank for them all… it seems whether it ranks in longer articles is arbitrary.

      Other bloggers suggest the opposite to me so it may be a niche-specific issue. What I would do is search in Google for terms you’re considering and see what Google is ranking and also search for “intitle” in Google and if there are shorter versions targeting the more specific as standalone articles but they’re on page 3, perhaps a longer article is better.

      I suggest try both approaches and see what happens. The best data on this stuff is the results you get from your own sites.

  • Martyn says:

    Thanks Jon. One final thing. Using your example above when I google “are faux wood glasses cool”, you are correct in saying there is no opinion piece on this topic (I’m viewing this from the UK) However, there are 3 or 4 authority site listings on the first page, plus a couple of other smaller sites (one of which has quite a few links to the page).

    With a well written article on this topic, and good on page SEO, you believe you can definitely rank on the 1st page with no link building? I really want to give this approach a go with a new site I’m setting up. I just want to be clear on everything I need to consider before giving it a go.

    I’ve written a couple of 1000+ word articles recently and they barely get onto the first 10 pages of Google. The frustrating thing is that my content is better and more in depth than some of the content on page 1!

    • Jon says:

      Hey Martyn,

      there’s no guarantee of anything. There are odds and doing long tail like this with good content increases odds of ranking. I don’t rank everything I publish on page 1 of Google, but enough ranks that it’s profitable in the long run.

      Check out the other content on page 1. Often for long tail it’s not great, but if there are some stellar pieces maybe skip it.

      About 3 months ago I published an article that targeted a keyword that was somewhat competitive but the content ranking wasn’t good. I created an amazing piece and now it ranks for loads of keywords. When I invested all that time and money into that one piece of content I wasn’t sure I’d outrank the existing content but I had a hunch so I took the chance and it paid off. This doesn’t happen all the time.

  • Val says:

    It would be great to see an example of weaving a 10-word long tail keyword into a sentence or headline as well as often enough throughout the content.

    I think that’s the difficult part with the LT.

    • Jon says:

      I don’t worry too much about weaving it in the content. If it’s 10 words, it’s likely a question. If it’s not grammatically correct, I’ll tweak it so it is.

  • Mahesh says:

    Hey, I just love your article. I am also not a fan of link building, so I guess your method will perfectly work for me. Thanks & Cheers

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