Long Tail Keywords for the Win! How I Sold a Site for $425,000 Without Link Building
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You've probably heard it before. “SEO is all about link building!” “If you don't build links, you'll never rank in Google!”
In fact, a well-known SEO expert says the “publish and pray” method is one of the biggest myths out there. He says, it doesn't work. I won't name names, but I think someone with a name that rhymes with Ryan Bean is wrong on this one.
You CAN indeed rank in google without link building. You CAN build a profitable business based on long tail keywords.
In fact, I'm going to show you that not only does my long tail strategy go well beyond theory, but it's the exact strategy I used to sell my business for $425,000 just 2 months ago.
So, let's dive into what really works to rank in Google without building links.
Take a Look at the Analytics
Before I dive into exactly how you can implement the long tail keyword strategy, I want to share some screenshots showing the kind of results you can achieve without building links.
Here's the Google Analytics screenshot of the business I just sold for $425k. All of this growth occurred with just really solid keyword research, great content, and almost no effort put into link building.
As you can see, the traffic grew month over month (14 months or so shown here). When I created the site, I spent a TON of time doing keyword research to find the best possible keywords to rank for. And more importantly, I focused on LOW COMPETITION keywords that I knew I would have a shot at ranking for without any links.
Here's the deal, there are tons of search queries out there where the top 10 results have no links or very little links to the actual articles ranking. So, you can often rank for these really low competition keywords by just having more in-depth content than the competitors have.
Perhaps you find that hard to believe, but that is exactly what I've done time and again with my niche sites…including the one I just sold for $425,000.
What kind of keywords is this site ranking for?
I decided to take a quick screenshot of Google search console to highlight the types of keywords this site is ranking for right now (in 2018). Yes, I redacted the niche specific words; however, this will give you an idea of the keyword “formulas” I'm targeting.
Take a look at this (click to enlarge):
And this is where you can pick up some great tips that you can start applying to your website right away. There are certain keyword formulas and modifiers that tend to be lower competition than others. If you follow some of these formulas, you are likely to start ranking in Google than if you targeted the wrong keywords.
For example, the above screenshot shows some of these keyword formulas that I'm using to rank:
- how to _ with _
- how to _
- _ vs _
- best _ for _
- best way to _ with _
- _ review
- how to _ after _
- _ for _
- best _
Maybe this website was just a fluke? Nope, not at all. I've been doing this for years and it continues to work in 2018.
Here's a screenshot from a different site (that gets even more traffic than the one I sold):
This site was created about a year and a half ago. It now gets around 2,200 sessions a day. I have done NO promotion whatsoever (no link building).
How does it get traffic? I did lots of long tail keyword research, I hired someone to write articles that were more in-depth than most of the competition, and I hit publish.
Again, I know it's hard to believe, but the long tail keyword strategy really works well.
Why Do Long Tail Keywords Work So Well?
The main reason long tail keywords work so well is due to competition levels. Think about it. If you try to rank for a keyword that tons of people are trying to rank for, you dramatically reduce your likelihood of success. If you go after these higher competition keywords, then “Ryan Bean” is right…you definitely need to do promotion and link building.
The reality is that links DO help you rank better in Google. But if you can target keywords where competitors don't have many or any links and you feel like you can produce more in-depth content, then you stand a MUCH better chance of ranking without putting time into building links.
2 Factors That Make Long Tail Keywords Relevant Today
In addition, there are 2 factors that I believe will continue to make long tail keywords even more relevant now and in the future than the past.
You might think to yourself, “well, eventually all these long tail keywords are going to be competitive!” I don't believe that to be the case.
Search Queries Created All the Time
First, new search queries are “created” all the time. This means, people are searching for new things today, that they weren't searching for yesterday. So, there will always be new opportunities for keywords that have little to no competition.
Take a look at this stat and think about it:
15% of daily search queries on Google are brand new, never searched before
15% of all search queries on Google are brand new and have never been searched for!
Am I the only one that gets excited by this? The long tail search volume is very real and will always have huge untapped potential for website builders like you and me.
For example, bitcoin and cryptocurrency are relatively new search queries (check out Bitcoin affiliate programs). Even just 2 years ago, the search volume for these queries was basically non-existent. Now the term bitcoin alone gets searched for nearly 3 million times a month.
Think there is some untapped long tail keywords in this relatively new space? Absolutely.
Google Voice Search Queries
More and more people are using Google voice search (thanks mobile phones!), and I believe this will only lead to more success for those sites that can better target these types of queries.
If you are able to target longer phrases (which is typically what happens when someone does a voice search), then you are more likely to rank for those keywords. More exact targeting tends to equate to better search rank position.
You can better target these keywords by first of all doing the keyword research to know what types of queries these might be in your niche. And then second, you can sprinkle these phrases into your heading, subheadings, or even title tags if it makes sense.
If you just target one short tail phrase in your title and don't think about the additional keywords you should target throughout your article, you might be leaving a ton of opportunity on the table.
Where is Your Priority?
Alright, I'll be upfront with you. This IDEAL situation for your website is to do great keyword research, write great content, and to do a bunch of outreach and promotion to get links.
There, I said it. In an ideal world, we could all implement Ryan Bean's tactics to get links. (I actually really like this guy and consider him a friend, so don't mind the playful jabs).
However, what if you have limited time or budget? What if you like most people with a full-time job and building your affiliate website is a side hustle right now?
You have to decide what is a priority for you, and what process are you most comfortable with. Do you want to publish a few articles and then spend most of your time sending thousands of emails in hopes that someone links to your site?
Or do you want to spend your time doing great keyword research, producing excellent content that Google should be proud to rank?
I've personally always chosen the later. Yes, in an ideal world, I should be out promoting my content. But that's just not me or where I prefer to spend my time.
So, I've found a way to make it work without all the link building and I know lots of other people have as well (although you may be interested in Google stacking :).
So, if you have to decide between spending more time producing great articles vs. spending time doing outreach. I say spend more time on your articles and ensure you are targeting the right long tail keywords.
Want More of My Long Tail Keyword Strategies?
What I've shared today really is just the tip of the iceberg. You can see my full Long Tail Pro Review here, where I share a few more strategies.
If you have any questions about what I've shared today, please leave a comment below.
Want to learn step-by-step how I built my Niche Site Empire up to a full-time income?
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Great post! However, I really enjoy your podcasts and wish that you would do more. Especially the success stories.
Thanks Mike! If you can convince 20 people to contact me and ask for me to bring back the podcast, I’ll consider it.
Yup, podcast. 2ndeddddd
Spencer I’ve said it before, and you were going to ramp it up at the time. 🙂
Love the podcast!
Bring it back even just once a month, please?
Different Steve to the first Steve, lol
3rd for the podcast request, I love your podcast, chanting:
bring it back,
bring it back,
bring it back
but in all seriousness, thanks for this post and for everything you do for the niche site (and business) community.
4th-sies on the podcast!
Bring back, bring back, bring back the podcast to me, to me! 😉
Great case study as usual and whenever I visit this blog I always take some notes which I use later to make money from my website and I am so glad I found your site long time back.
Long tail keywords are golden and they are less competitive and easier to rank for even if you are running in a new website without a big backlink profile like authority sites you can still rank for long tail keywords this by creating in-depth content.
The key to finding great long tail keywords is that you need to get access to the right tools. Personally I use both Long Tail Pro as well as SEMrush for finding long tail keywords. I also sometimes use tools like LSI graph for finding LSI keywords which are absolutely necessary to incorporate within your content if you want to drive more traffic from search engines.
Thanks so much for the reminder of telling us the importance of using long tail keywords again. Keep sharing such great content.
YES BRING BACK THE PODCAST! PLEASE? I listen to a lot and I always really enjoyed your show as it always made relatively overwhelming things seem doable!
Please bring back the podcast!
Spencer man, your tribe (I’m a follower of many years) want the podcast back!
Great post again, and really encouraging for someone like me who’s happier writing for the long tail that link building.
Pleeeease! I just found you and can’t stop reading everything n your site. Please podcast. Thank you!
Thanks for the vote of confidence!
Thanx for a good post! I been writing for long tail keywords on my new site and its starting to work 🙂
Excellent! Stick with it!
Its just a counter for Brian Dean of backlinko.com the truth is everyone has their own strategy and techniques. Every success webmaster claims different things. Both techniques are time consuming and expensive…
Yes, everyone needs to figure out what works for them.
Yep, yep, yep! What a timely post this is. Started a new site on the side about three weeks ago, and just today it had its first visit 🙂 Now it is down as a direct visit in Analytics, but I am guessing it is actually organic especially as it has – you guessed it – zero links!
Find low competition queries where the current crop of sites are very average and have few links, or where there are a few video results or the likes of eHow pop up. Then just go after those queries! Google wants content and wants to rank good content, so just get cracking 🙂
This is very encouraging information and kind of the opposite to what Neil Patel was recently saying on his blog.
Quick question. If you have ~ 20-25 long tail KW combinations to the closely related topic then how many different posts would you recommend writing for this group of keywords?
In the beginning of your post, you have a list of 22 but how many articles were actually creating all the clicks for this group?
Also, if not a secret, how many posts in total your first-mentioned website had before you sold it and what was the avg length of each post?
Thank you for a really nice article!
It really depends on how closely related those keywords are. 20 to 25 keywords might just be one article. Or it might be several. If it makes logical sense to combine it into one article, I would.
The list of 22 keywords, was just 22 keywords from 999 showing on Google search console. This is not one article. The site itself has around 120 articles. Length average is 2,500ish.
Thanks Spencer! I knew that strategy like this must be possible.
Long-tail keywords still work and this is proof that small niche sites still get tons of traffic for targeting keywords that provide answers to the searcher’s questions. Thanks for sharing this interesting post Spencer.
We have been smashing SEO on google for years doing exactly this for our local service business – just don’t want our completion to know !!
Absolutely! Hope your competition doesn’t read this 🙂
Thanks for sharing your results. Out of curiosity, about how many articles did you publish on the site?
About 120 over 2 years.
I start my blog since Sep last year. Traffic around 100 to 200 from social media. Organic search less than 10. I am very disappointed even I am using long tail keywords. I may pick wrong ones or those articles are Not appealing. Your post gives me the second thought. Thanks, great.
Thanks a lot, extremely important post for me, I have seen a lot of site ranking on the ist spot with out backlinks
Great article as always and while I also like Ryan Bean, I am with you on this one. I’ve been using the same tactic for years, never built a single link and I am now getting 2.5k unique visitors per day on a relatively small website (less than 100 articles). I did get a handful of back links along the way, but 100% without any outreach or effort on my part.
Another very important (and highly convenient) side-effect of long tail keywords is high conversion rate. These very specific keywords usually bring in visitors in a buying mood. I monetize my website only with Amazon affiliate links and my conversion rates and monthly earnings are insane — at least in relation to my expectations when I first started the website. I won’t share any numbers, but it was enough for me to quit my job without ever looking back.
All this with 0 effort on link building.
So yes, it is definitely possible.
Great post! I’ve been following Doug Cunnington (Niche Site Project) for awhile and using a similar strategy he describes. It’s cool to see you’ve had such huge success with this – good motivation for me to keep with it. I enjoy doing the KW research and content a lot more than link building/outreach so this strategy works well for me.
Where do you think Doug got his keyword strategy…and his domain name? I’m just sayin’ 🙂
Like (thumbs up)
This is motivational for me to keep going.
I started a new site 3 months ago, so far I have been adding
3 1000 word articles per week based on best xyz for abc keywords.
It took me some time to change my mindset, I have been trying to make
a full-time income online since 2003. I used to do those link exchanges,
article marketing, buildmyrank, invested in pbn networks which eventually crashed,
had my adsense account cancelled.
I had invested in stompernet and on and on.
The whole time I should of invested in content.
I’m still not giving up.
The big question is, how do you determine if a keyword has low-competition.
I have used secockpit, now I am using jaaxy, putting some faith in WA.
Yep, moving to white hat strategy that focuses more on content than link building is a mindset shift. Good luck! (I personally like to use Long Tail Pro for my keyword research).
I will look into LTP and your insider group.
LTP is web based I see now which is good.
I bought LTP a while ago when it was not web based,
had some issues back then with it not working well.
I will look into it again.
Hi Spencer Thanx for this post, do you have any feedback about WA ?
Great post, but just wanted to make sure I wasn’t confusing sites. In this post: https://www.nichepursuits.com/amazon-affiliate-website/, there is mention of link building and the site was used for your FBA project.
Is this the same website that was sold here? Just confused on the no vs some link building and wanted to make sure.
This is the same site. There was very little link building done. In general, the articles bringing in the traffic have no links.
The second site that I showed the analytics for, I do no link building at all.
This strategy takes patience. For sure! Cool to see your graphs were you get virtually NO traffic for about the first 5 months… which happens to be almost exactly where I’m at with a new authority site I started about 5 months ago. 60+ articles published. Zero links built. And getting almost 10 visitors per day. Lol. I’m ready for the uptrend on the graph now!
Awesome Matthew, keep us posted from your website.
I recently launched my new blog with just one but an in-depth post (3000+ words). Initially, it took time to gain momentum but now people are subscribing to my email list. It has no backlink as yet.
I read several sites about building authority and niche sites (yes, both Ryan Bean and your site are among them :)). Different people, different opinion, but one advice is common to all of you – you should stop (or significantly decrease) reading and start working.
So I’ve listened to that only thing that all of you guys say and started to work.
My site is 5 months old with 30 articles (2300 words average). I started to build links month ago (only blog comments so far) and yesterday I got DA increase on MOZ to 7 and PA to 23 (front page, which was target of all my links).
Is that a result of link building or high quality articles? I really don’t know.
But one thing is for sure – there is no ultimate and undisputed truth about this.
So I will collect the knowledge from all of you guys, filter it according to my needs and ideas and try to use it on my sites.
We will see where this can take me.
Keep up the good work, Spencer.
Well said, I agree! It’s all about taking action…and doing what works for you.
As you have mentioned that ” no backlinking” and only targetting long tail keywords.How long will it take for a new site to get momentum while following this strategy?
That always depends. But it can be a solid 4 or 5 months before you start to see traction.
I know that to learn the effective strategies it needs to read both small & huge articles and do some practices.
I subscribed to this blog and got several emails but didn’t read them before.
Today I have read this full article and realized that how USEFUL your contents are!
I wish I’ll be a regular reader of your blog and launch my very first site with a bunch of long tail keywords.
By The Way
Thanks, A Ton
Very well said!
But starting this kind of site is really difficult, patience required.
I try my best to research and use longtail key words as i think its the way to go! Such an interesting piece of writing! great job by the way!
Thank you for this article. It is quite inspiring! I can see that my site is ranking for long tail keywords and I’ll therefore put more emphasis on them.
Thank you for this valuable post!
I have recently launched a niche website (since last November), and it’s been making 150$ per month since then. The traffic keeps growing steadily as I add more content. … all with NO link building yet
Thank you Spencer!
Excellent, another small success story!
My blog traffic around 20K/month (90% from US). How much can I sell?
How much your site is worth is based more on how much money it’s making as opposed to traffic.
I guess long tail is the new way to rank fast. I believe it also depends on keyword competition. Most long tail keywords are now hard to rank and link building is your only option. Great post
I disagree that link building is your only option. Please read post above.
Hi Spencer, How do you get those first 3 categories to show up in console? Monthly volume, CPC, Competition? How do you bring those up by chance?
You just check the boxes. Its all there as an option at the top.
Very informative post.Can you pls inform that how many long tail kws articles are there in the site and what is the monthly traffic you are getting (before sale) of this website.
This is a very good guide, thank you. I still need to do a little more digging on long tail keywords, but you’ve helped me as is
Hey Spencer, great article as always. I really like your long tail keyword strategy. Just one newbie question for you, do you count about search volume when you pick up a long tail keyword? If so, what is the minimum search volume you go for?
The minimum might vary from niche to niche. I like 1,000 or more; however, I frequently target keywords with only 200/mth search volume with some of my sites.
Hey Spencer, great article!
On average how long was each article you posted on the site and how much content you posted weekly?
Please bring your podcast back, I loved it.
Nice post spencer ! As a budding blogger, really look up to these type of useful information. Thanks
Wow, it’s refreshing to hear someone say focus on content over outreach but I agree if a) your time is limited and b) that’s really not your strong suit. Longtail has always been a great source of traffic for me.
If that would be so easy everyone would be doing, optimizing site and having niche sites is extremely hard. Overall web market is getting so SATURATED that it’s unbelievable.
It’s at least much much harder than it was 5-10 years ago.
great content always good to see updates of what works in this world.
Quick little question
I tried to go to the niche persuits insider but i saw that i was closed. Could you open the door a little bit so i could squize in 🙂
I’ll shoot you an email.
Thank you Spencer for an inspiring success case. Do you normally build 1 website and focus on it? Or launch multiple and then double down on the ones that stick?
Also wonder …do you think it is possible to grow an Amazon affiliate site (which no one likes to link to) without any links to a meaningful earnings level? Jano
I tend to launch just one at a time. Yes, I do think an Amazon affiliate site can grow…although I think there are creative ways to get links to any site.
Wow just amazing motivational article i have read… thanks Spencer for sharing your valuable knowledge with us. Thanks
Very informative post.Can you pls inform that what number long tail keywords articles are there on the website and what’s the monthly traffic you’re obtaining (before sale) of this website.
Thanks for sharing.
oh what a case guide and I love your way to ranked your keyword without link building.