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How to identify long tail keywords for B2B marketers

a graphic of a search demand chart, with search terms "best AI companies," "AI companies in Canada," and "AI for investing" around it. There's also an image of author Myriam Jessier in the bottom-left.

Long tail keywords offer B2B marketers a way to optimize their content for specific keywords that have low search volume, but high conversion rates. If you can rank for these valuable keywords, you’re likely to get more qualified traffic and better conversion rates.


Targeting long tail B2B keywords is a great way for startups, SaaS companies, or local service providers to reach the right audience while narrowing down competition on the search results page. In this article, I’ll show how you can apply this to your content strategy by:



Before we begin, let’s briefly take a moment to emphasize the importance of search intent within keyword research, not just for B2B businesses, but for all websites.


Search intent: Research and consider content for each stage and motivation


The theory is quite simple: You should start with keyword research because it will help you identify the terms your target audience is using when they search for your product or service (or ones similar to the ones you offer). You can then use these keywords in your content and optimize them for search engines, which should help you show up for relevant searches.


But in practice, things can get messy. That’s because, while keywords are explicit, search intent is not. Intent is a mix of purpose, goals, motivations, reasons for acting, and so on.


Here’s an example of search intent and how it can influence the search results. Users searching for pizza may have very different intents:


  • Local intent: “I want to eat pizza near me.”

  • Commercial: “What’s the best pizza in town?”

  • Informational: “I want to learn about pizza and its history.”


If you’re a food brand creating informational content about pizza, with the aim of ranking for that competitive head term (pizza), you should first verify that the keyword and intent you’re pursuing align with Google’s interpretation of the intent behind that keyword.


I love this #SEO quote about search intent: If I’m searching for “pizza, I’m not looking for quality content about pizza, I’m looking for lunch. "
I am not the author of this marvelous idea. I heard this one day and sadly do not remember if an original author was attached to this idea or if it is simply something that we share among search engine optimization specialists.

A quick Google search shows that the results heavily favor local and commercial content (mainly local listings, pizza chains, and top 10 lists from restaurant review sites). That being the case, creating informational content may be going against the grain, which is likely to severely limit your visibility and traffic potential.


First, figure out the intent behind the search


While the nuts and bolts of keyword research are beyond the scope of this article, intent is a key part of the process. You should always focus on what your potential customers are looking for, but also seek to understand their “why” (the motivation behind the search). This will help you create content that speaks directly to their intent.


As a B2B marketer, you need to help your potential and existing customers with their “buying jobs.” Each stakeholder has a different “buying job”: making sure the solution meets their criteria, making sure it’s within budget, making sure it’s compliant, etc.


You’ll also need to address different buyer personas. You cannot hope to create one piece of content that answers every decision maker’s needs within a company. Some folks may go through an Awareness > Interest > Decision > Conversion path, while others may take a few extra steps (which might look something like Awareness > Education > Interest > Consideration > Comparison > Rationalization > Conversion).

This is why knowing your audience is so important. The same keywords could be used by people searching for vastly different things. Ask yourself:


  • Why is my audience searching for this?

  • What do they expect to find in an ideal scenario?

  • What content format works best for them at this stage?

  • What language level do they operate on (do they have expert knowledge in the matter or are they involved at a higher level and thus have a more macro understanding)?


For an excellent, concise framework to help you visualize search intent, check out SEO expert Lyndon’s Twitter thread on the subject.


Second, figure out if Google favors B2B or B2C intent


For this, you need to head on over to Google, type in your keyword(s) and check the results. Closely examine what shows up on the SERP (not just the traditional listings, but search features as well).


Adriana Stein has a great example: Let’s say you start with the keyword best chatbot and realize it’s mainly B2C content that ranks on the first page. So, you refine to get closer to what your target audience may be looking for with a long tail keyword like best chatbots for ecommerce.


Not only would this keyword be more appropriate for your audiences and your brand, it’ll also help you frame the perspective from which the content is created, making it more likely to win over decision makers.


When it comes to the long tail, intent alignment is more important than search volume


There are keywords that have zero search volume according to SEO tools. And yet, these keywords are very important in B2B marketing as they can help generate high-intent, qualified leads.


When it comes to the long tail, you should not let search volumes lead your strategy. The more specific you get with a query, the more likely it is that someone else could formulate a search with different keywords while sharing the same intent.


If you need some convincing regarding the potential of such specific keywords:


  • B2B buyers tend to use longer, specific phrases when searching for services and products.

  • Long tail keyword searches have a clickthrough rate 3% to 6% higher than generic (one-word) searches, according to a study by Smart Insights. The conversion rate of long-tail keywords is also generally considered to be higher because they are higher intent terms.


How to find long tail B2B keywords


Before you can begin researching keywords for your content, you need to start by defining buyer personas. Once those personas are established, you can then move onto keyword research based on their respective search intents.


You should have defined at least three main personas:


  • End-users — These are the people who will actually use your product.

  • Influencers — These people have a say over what purchases get made. They can potentially persuade decision makers.

  • Decision makers — These people sign the contracts and pay the invoices.


Once you know what these people prioritize (which should be a part of your personas), you can figure out what “buying jobs” they have to accomplish. You may have some overlap between personas, but that will be uncovered as you progress with your keyword research.


Stop focusing on features, start focusing on industries

People don’t want features, they want benefits first and foremost. For B2B marketers, that likely means that you should create more specific service pages that capture lost opportunities.



One way of doing this (that is rightfully popular among many B2B companies) is to target specific industries. If you haven’t already done so, you should look into your verticals and create industry-specific service pages to cater to long tail queries.


Template keywords are a goldmine in B2B SEO

Are your long tail keywords too competitive? Template keywords are a great way to overcome this issue. Template keywords are keywords that highlight a search intent that may align with your offerings (particularly those designed for lead generation).


When it comes to template keywords, SEO expert Samuel Lavoie had this to say:


“For a B2B company with a heavy sales model, you can’t compete on head terms. Head terms work best for B2C situations where self-serve business models thrive.”

For B2B companies, the process is almost always more complex than “click on a product, add to cart, pay.” In B2B situations, you often have customers who are seeking a solution to their problems but who are not quite ready to schedule a demo.


What can you do? Go for template keywords. Create useful resources in the form of:

  • Checklists

  • Excel sheets

  • Google Docs

  • PDFs


These are all great keyword modifiers you can use to uncover templates. Here are a few keyword examples using ERP (enterprise resource planning) + checklist:


  • erp implementation checklist excel

  • erp system requirements checklist

  • erp migration checklist

  • erp vendor selection checklist

  • erp audit checklist

  • erp go live checklist template

  • erp upgrade checklist


Example keywords to kickstart your long tail B2B strategy

As we said previously in this article, customers don’t want features, they want benefits. Here are examples of how you can go about uncovering the keywords that matter for your potential customers at each step of their journey. We chose to go with a B2B AI company:


  • Best + keyword: best AI companies

  • Keyword + city: AI companies Montreal

  • Keyword + country: AI companies in Canada

  • Top + keyword: top AI consulting firms

  • Keyword variation + best (consulting firms, companies, etc. are variations)

  • Tool/service/brand + keyword: Microsoft ERP consultant

  • Industry + keyword: AI for manufacturing

  • Use case + keyword: AI for investing


Matching customer intent is still top priority in B2B SEO


Google has fine-tuned search results so that they meet user expectations. In order to ensure proper visibility and discoverability, you should embrace this more human-first approach as well. Your goal should be to connect your audience’s search intent with a specific product use-case.


The methodology discussed in this article can be applied to any B2B niche. But, you still need to lead with a greater emphasis on human factors (i.e., search intent), rather than solely on keyword optimization. This will help maximize the likelihood that your content is visible and relevant to your target audience.


 

Myriam Jessier

Myriam Jessier is an SEO trainer at PRAGM with more than 15 years of experience. She loves going down rabbit holes and figuring out how humans function, how bots behave and what happens when the two meet online.

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