Long Term Keywords (tail)

Updated: Sat, 09 May 2015 by Rad

Keyword research is one of the most important, valuable, and high return activities in the search marketing field. 70% of searches lie in what's called the "long tail" of search. The long tail contains hundreds of millions of unique searches that might be conducted a few times in any given day, but, when taken together, comprise the majority of the world's search volume.

A long tail keyword is a very targeted search phrase that contains 3 or more words. It often contains a head term, which is a more generic search term 1 or 2 words in length.

It is much easier to rank for long tail keywords than for more common keywords. Another significant benefit for focusing on long tail keywords is that, although these keywords are used less in search, the visitor that finds your website using them is more likely to buy your service, product or engage with your content.

Targeting long tail keywords make sense because they:

  • are more specific and provide better quality traffic and higher conversion rates
  • also long tail keywords are less competitive
  • they help you state agile
  • it helps you to rank for difficult terms

"The longer and more specific the search terms are, the higher the chances of conversion are."

Marieke van de Rakt, https://yoast.com/focus-on-long-tail-keywords/

Hard to rank

In some markets, it is really hard to rank. Some markets are just highly competitive, with large companies dominating the search results. It is extremely hard to compete against big budget marketing campaigns of some large corporate clients.

Highly specific multi-word phrases tend to be far easier to rank well for than the more generic single keyword or double keyword phrases.

Instead of focusing on just two or three highly competitive general keywords, it is better to target the dozens or even hundreds of easy-to-rank-for long tail keywords.

Also bear in mind, however, that the downside of focusing too much effort on the long tail is, if you target phrases which are too specific, you might not get enough traffic to sustain your business.

SEO long keywords search
The Long Tail
Credit: Picture by Hay Kranen / PD (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons. Picture in public domain

The term refers specifically to the thin long part of the search chart, which shows a long terms search curve that could apply to any industry, from entertainment to hard goods.

According to article "Illustrating the Long Tail" by Rand Fishkin published on moz.com - the top terms account for 3.25% of all search traffic!

  • Top 100 terms: 5.7% of the all search traffic
  • Top 500 terms: 8.9% of the all search traffic
  • Top 1,000 terms: 10.6% of the all search traffic
  • Top 10,000 terms: 18.5% of the all search traffic

This means if you had a monopoly over the top 1,000 search terms across all search engines (which is impossible), you'd still be missing out on 89.4% of all search traffic.

With shorter keywords, competition for rankings can be fierce, but visits can be scatter-shot and Return on Investment can be low.

With clever implementation of long-tail keywords, you may pull in less traffic by numbers, but the Return on Investment will be proportionally much higher: you'll be attracting exactly the audience you're looking for, and that audience will be far closer to point-of-purchase than that of your less-savvy competitors.

Keyword research can be a real pain in the ass for content marketers. As noted in Search Engine Journal, the bottom 20% of searches, in terms of volume, generate 60% of conversions! This undeniably confirms the value of the long tail. Long-tail keywords are also less competitive, and therefore less costly to bid on in PPC.

< back to glossary

Long Term Keywords - from around the web

< back to glossary

External IT glossary resources.