How to Organize Your Keyword Modifiers to Create Long Tail Strategy

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What is a keyword modifier?

A modifier is a word that in combination with your core keyword creates your long tail strategy (definition by Dan Thies). Most often a thematic modifier can be:

  • a word of a general meaning (e.g. "guide", "best", etc);
  • a word related to your niche (e.g. "quote" for the finance niche or a related brand);
  • a geo-specific word (e.g. "Las Vegas", "Nevada", etc).

Why is it so important to somehow organize your keyword modifiers?

More often than not modifiers are discovered by chance (or naturally) – you publish an article for your core term and then discover that that was not the keyword itself that generated SE traffic for the page but this keyword in combination with some other word that naturally appeared within your content. Now imagine how much more traffic you could attract if this little word was used deliberately and if you actually expected this to happen. By organizing your long tail list you will:

  • learn how to use your keywords more effectively;
  • optimize your internal website structure and internal anchor text;
  • get new ideas what to write about.

Why is it hard to organize your keyword modifiers?

Modifiers are hard to spot because they usually pop up unexpectedly and get lost within ‘more important’ keywords that generate higher volumes of traffic.

So how to organize your keyword lists to get full control of your thematic search modifiers?

1) Word-per-category structure: organizing modifiers based on their semantic meaning in two large categories (general and niche specific) and multiple subcategories. With words of generic meaning you have more freedom: you may use them anywhere throughout your content. For niche specific words the best way is to create a page for each of them. For ‘hair styles‘ term for example niche specific subcategories may include: age, type, and gender:


2) Tree-like table where ‘tree body’ is your core term and ‘tree branches’ are your thematic modifiers (I’ve described this method in my Youmoz post in more detail). This approach is most effective for organizing generic modifiers that can be used anywhere independent of the article main topic. The idea is as follows: you highlight the precedent and antecedent modifiers in different colors to quickly find one when creating new content.

tree like table of modifiers

The beauty of this approach is that you can always merge any of these lines to get 5-, 6-, etc word combinations.

You can also throw this data through a pivot table to see how often each word was used (hat tip to fellow Mozzer Vinny).

3) Hierarchic table: from two- to three-, four-, etc word combinations:

Hierarchic table

This approach can be most effectively used for optimizing website internal architecture.

More reading on thematic keyword modifiers:

Ann Smarty
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing, tutorials and her guest blogging project,
Ann Smarty
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  • Richard

    Excellent post Ann, keyword modifiers are an integral part of seo. Keep up the good posts

  • Steaprok

    Fantastic, informative and useful post!

  • seo tips

    The screen shots of the excel sheets are very useful, thanks! Puts a lot of understanding on the issue.

  • Robert Ward

    A very interesting article. I do think long tail phrases are becoming so much more popular. If we think how we use search these days, I hardly ever put on word and am more likely to put a whole string of words and hope for the best. this method seems to work well and therefore, longttail search is definitely going to grow and be embraced better by the search engines in time. Regards….. Robert

  • Barbara Chick

    Great information. I liked the examples explaining in detail.

  • Chris Estes

    I target the longtail as they typically produce a better conversion rate and then bring the traffic/usage on the more general terms. It is nice to know that I was already doing this without even realizing it.

    Thanks for putting my thoughts into words. Great work!

  • Search Engine Optimization

    Very well written post about long tailed keywords. Keep it up

  • Charlie Anzman

    Much needed piece Ann. Keep it up!

  • SEO Blog

    Great job Ann, thanks for a very useful information. Keep up the good work… Smarty Ann.

  • Sergey

    Perfect! All the required information in one article!

  • Automotive Social Network

    Long tailed keywords are important if your site cannot beat another one with a 2 word phrase

  • Korakot Pitaksalee(Thailand)

    Thank you Ann, Your info will be a part of literature review of my Thesis.

  • Dreams

    This is seriously a good approach to get additional search traffic. I am going to spend more time researching additional keyword modifiers.

  • Hypnosis In New York

    Great info Ann. I am always reading about modifiers and this is a great explanation of what they are and how to use them.

    Thanks so much.

  • Thompson Touch

    I feel that Longtail is where it is at too. Great post!

  • Removal Services in North London

    Very interesting article about keyword tailing. The thing that I use the most is the cpanel of my hosting account to find out what works in terms of long tail.

  • Derek

    Thanks Ann very beneficial for an SEO rookie. It’s taking me a LOT of time though…

  • Vikas from Typesetting Books

    Great information. I liked the example mentioning all the details .

  • kids water shoes

    I agree that it is very important to oganize your modifiers. I would also like to add the Google’s Wonder Wheel is also a great tool for SEO suggestions.


  • Camaro

    Great info about SEO. I like your explanation about organizing our modifiers and totally agree with you.