Matthew Barby is a brilliant practical marketer. His content is always useful, whether it's aimed at a beginner audience or an advanced one.

In this article for Search Engine Land, Barby provides a few basic techniques that help in identifying opportunities for long-tail keyword topics that are likely to secure good levels of organic traffic.

This article trumps many others written about the same topic for two reasons;

  • It shows you how to do it yourself.
    • Marketers have been raving about the long-tail for years now, but there's still more talking than there is showing. By suggesting you use one simple tool to identify solid gold nuggets in minutes is almost always misleading. On one end it can leave you frustrated that you're not able to find opportunities, but on the other it could send you down a road which sees you produce time-consuming content only to find out later that the topic is too competitive, or the SERP is covered by ads, local listings, and Featured Snippets, providing you with a fraction of the traffic you were expecting.
    • Barby highlights a few different tools; some well-known (Moz's Keyword Explorer) and other lesser-known tools (kwfinder, Lumanu). These will help you get started until you find the 'stack' that suits you best for a job like this.
  • It shows you how to do it properly.
    • It doesn't just show you how to do it, it shows you how to do it the right way. If you back up your rationale with evidence (i.e. competitor analysis, links, topic views, social engagement) then you're less likely to be wasting your time and/or a client's budget in the long-run.
    • This is a research task and so - shock horror - it involves a lot of research! Barby's article doesn't hide from that fact and he understands that time spent identifying long-tail topics is an investment that should pay dividends in the long-run.

One thing that is missing, however, is the next step; further analysis of the SERP itself. Even a cursory glance at the SERP for any given term will give you a better picture of two things that the tools look at when scoring a keyword:

  • Just how strong is the competition? Are they authorities on the topic or just content behemoths? How do you compare?
  • How much of the SERP is taken up by non-standard results and what is featured? Is a competitor already showing in a Feature Snippet? Can you answer the question in a more clear and concise way?

So, once you've got your shortlist from using Barby's techniques, it's time to dive a bit deeper and look at the SERPs. This will give you an even better view of the opportunities available before starting with content production.

Like a good Boy Scout, "Be Prepared."