[IMGCAP(1)]When you think about how prominent you’d like your firm’s website to be on the information superhighway, you may picture the legendary In-N-Out Burger arrow that’s visible from nearly every stretch of California freeway.

There’s one big difference, though, between In-N-Out’s offerings and yours (not counting the “animal style” offering, of course)—nearly everyone driving on a west coast freeway can go for a burger and fresh potato fries at some point on their drive, but not everyone needs your firm’s services.

Because your offerings are more niche, your advertising should be as well—whether we are talking a northern California highway, or the internet.

Long tail keywords: For serious buyers only

As Google has become more sophisticated and effective in showing users what websites they are looking for, so have the search terms used by internet searchers.

Once upon a time, users would only enter one, two or three words into Google before hitting the search button. These days they’ll type entire questions into the search box.

Research has shown that people who type in longer search phrases are also closer to making an actual purchasing decision—which makes sense, because it means they’ve already done their pre-research.

So instead of trying to rank for a very generic keyword like “California CPA”, you’re better off devoting your efforts to a more specific search term like “small business accountant Sacramento”.

More good news: It’s actually less work

Getting your site ranked on the first page of Google for “California CPA” would be an extremely formidable task. Getting ranked for a longer tail search term like “small business accountant Sacramento” is not only more likely to generate actual business for you, but it’s also an order of magnitude or two easier.

Selecting your long tail keywords

How’d I settle on “small business accountant Sacramento” as our desired long tail keyword? I asked Google. Seriously!

Here’s how - I went to Google and just started typing. You can see here that by typing “sacramento accountant b”, I was given four auto-suggestions from Google - one of which is for “small business accountant sacramento.”


This is Google’s way of nudging you, the searcher, that these are The Goog’s four best guesses from the criteria you’ve given it so far. Help Google help you by entering your generic keywords, and seeing what popular suggestions come up next.

Getting your SEO on

Now that we have a working theory on the search phrase we want to rank for, how do we do it? More good news - it’s easier to rank for a longer term than it is for a short one, because there’s less competition. In these cases, we don’t have to pay exorbitant fees to an SEO consultant in hopes of getting our website ranked high. All we need to do is create one page of good content that is relevant to the topic we want to be found for.

My favorite trick is using a simple Wordpress blog for this. I title the post based on the topic and search term we’re after. Then I start writing.

Five hundred words or less will do. You don’t need to write explicitly for the search engines - write instead for the humans who will be finding and reading your piece. You’ll be able to toss in enough gratuitous uses of the term you’re after to give Google & Co enough direction when scanning your page. The great thing about this tactic is that you can write a blog post for each long tail search term, expanding a wide net across the terms that are stirring through the minds of your prospective clients.

In the year 2012, it’s more effective to spread your SEO efforts wide. It’s also more fun (you get to write about topics you know a lot about); it’s cheaper (the only cost is your time); and, it works!

Brett Owens is chief executive and co-founder of Chrometa, a Sacramento, Calif.-based provider of time-tracking software that records activity in real time. Previously marketed to the legal community, Chrometa is branching out to accounting prospects. Gains include the ability to discover previously undocumented billable time, saving time on billing reconciliation and improving personal productivity. Brett can be reached at 916-254-0260 and brett@chrometa.com.