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Long Tail Keywords – What They Are and Why to Target Them

In the world of SEO, the phrase long tail keywords is often used. Long tail keywords are longer, more specific keyword phrases that are easier to rank for, but typically won’t bring as much search traffic. They usually are longer strings of words such as “chiropractors in trenton new jersey” compared to a short tail keyword like “chiropractor.”

The graph below demonstrates the efficacy of long tail keywords by graphing keywords entered in search engines like Google. The vertical axis represents the number of searches, and the horizontal axis represents the difficulty of ranking for the particular keyword. The high difficulty keywords at the left of the graph receive many searches, but they are also very difficult to rank for. As the difficulty decreases for keywords, so do the number of searches. This “long tail” portion of the graph represents what are known as “long tail keywords.”

An Example of Long Tail Keywords

As an example, we’ll look at a fictional shoe company entering the marketplace. They could try to optimize their website for a keyword like “men’s shoes,” but that would likely be unprofitable. There are obviously many well-established companies that would rank higher for a term like this. This would be a keyword on the far left of the graph. So, other keywords are considered such as “men’s running shoes” or “men’s tennis shoes.” These are further to the right, but still are likely to be highly competitive. Long tail versions may be “best men’s shoes for running a marathon” or something similarly specific. Good keyword research will help determine the amount of search traffic that certain long tail versions would receive.

Why Utilize Long Tail Keywords?

Something is Better than Nothing

In short, a small slice of a small pie is better than no slice of a big pie. Targeting the short tail, the highly competitive keywords, usually won’t net you any searches. The terms are too competitive and the high profile sites will take all the traffic. However, if you can rank at the top of the search engines for longer tail keywords, you can get all of that traffic.

Highly Targeted Traffic

Visitors searching the long tail often have a much better idea of what they want. In the example above, which user do you think has a higher probability of converting into a buyer – someone making a generic search about sneakers, or someone searching in detail for a type of sneaker that you provide? Targeting the long tail not only brings in traffic; it brings in the right kind of traffic.

Know Your Goals

The obvious downside to targeting the long tail is that you are going to need a longer list of keywords, and still won’t receive as much traffic. But know your goals. After all, are you really interested in quantity of traffic, or growing your business with a greater number of leads?