How to Dominate the Long-Tail Keywords Part 1: Permutation

Reprinted with permission from the blog archives.
By: Dane Christensen

In my last post I discussed the fact that despite the general agreement thatlong-tail keywords produce higher quality clicks at a lower cost per click, most pay-per-click-advertisers tend to spend the majority of their budget on a few obvious, high-volume, competitive keywords. I also speculated that advertisers do this because they either don’t fully appreciate the value of long-tail keywords, or they are intentionally pursuing a branding strategy.

In fact, I don’t actually think those are the key reasons. I think it usually comes down to people either not having the time or the knowledge to generate the extensive list of long-tail keywords needed to build a significant amount of quality traffic.

In this five-part series I am going to cover in detail the primary methods for generating long-tail keywords. Each method produces different types of keyword phrases, and each one has its pros and cons. In this installment we’ll look at a keyword discovery method that makes an excellent first step towards helping you grow your list of long-tail keywords: permutation.

Permutation means assembling long-tail phrases together in various combinations from different sets of keywords. Using the Lyris demo site Top 5 Flicks as an example, our permutation may look like the three lists below:

 List 1
 List 2
 List 3
 keanu reeves
 russell crowe
 harrison ford


These three small lists can be combined into 27 (3x3x3) different keyword phrases such as:

  • “movie featuring harrison ford”
  • “dvd with russell crowe”
  • “flick starring keanu reaves”
  • “flick with harrison ford”
  •  etc.

Add just one more three-item list like “genres” (e.g. action, comedy, drama) and you’re talking about 81 long-tail phrases (e.g. “comedy flick with harrison ford”). Adding more items to each list can grow the list to massive proportions very rapidly.

The main advantages of keyword permutation are that it saves you the effort of doing much researching, and it just pumps out the keywords automatically. So you can be up and running with a large keyword footprint very quickly.

The shortcoming of this method is that it will miss a lot of the idiosyncratic keyword phrases that people naturally type into the search engines – all the phrases that don’t follow your established pattern. But compensating for this shortcoming is the fact that by casting such a wide net you may actually catch some keyword phrases that are searched on so infrequently that you may never discover them using any other method.

Unless you have unlimited time and patience, you’ll need a permutations tool to pull this off. I use Boxer Software’s The Permutator, an installed software tool that costs about $50. But there are actually plenty of free Web-based and installed permutation tools available. Personally, I find the additional power of The Permutator to be worth the small price tag, but it can’t hurt to try out the free tools for a start.

Stay tuned next month when I will cover a completely different method of keyword discovery known as “search engine query analysis“.