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SEO and the Power of the Long Tail Keyword

If you’re looking for a killer search engine ranking strategy that is ignored by the majority of businesses and delivers great ROI for those in the know then this article is for you. By the end of it you will know what long tail keywords are, why you should be looking for them and where to find them.

Explaining the long tail: it’s not really about keyword length

Although long tail keywords are usually longer than head keywords, the tail that we are talking about relates to search frequency. Take any popular keyword/phrase (sex, make money online, shoes, Manchester United, etc.) and you will find that there are a huge number of searches for that specific term.

There will also be a large number of searches for closely related keywords (how to make money online, school shoes, Manchester United results, etc.)

As you would expect, as the search terms get more specific, the number of searches reduce considerably but there are so many possible combinations of search terms that, reproduced as a graph or image, they form a long, thin tail stretching into infinity.

Why a long tail keyword strategy makes sense

Two very sensible questions might be nagging at you at this point:

First, why target keywords that so few people are searching for?

Second, how can you possibly choose from such a vast number of keyword combinations?

Some stats might help with the first query. When you look at the so-called ‘head’ keywords, they will take almost 10-15% of the traffic every time. The next few common combinations might, between them, account for another 15-20% of visitors.

That still leaves you with 65% of the traffic to target. And the beauty of that traffic is that it’s less competitive which means easier to rank for and – for those running paid ad campaigns – cheaper to target. They also tend to convert more since they are used by people further along the customer buying cycle.

The answer to the second question relies upon your ability to choose the right long tail keywords for your target market. The great news for any brand savvy business is that the legwork for this will have been done when positioning your brand in the first place. You should already know what it is that differentiates your products and services from your competitors.

All you need to do now is to put that business intelligence into words that your customers are likely to use (and probably already using) when searching, integrate those keywords into your website and other digital marketing and wait for the traffic to arrive.

When it does it is likely to be far more focused, committed and motivated than the more expensive ‘general’ traffic targeted by the majority of business owners.

Bulbs v lamps: why language matters

It is worth repeating the advice that your long tail keywords need to match the words used by your customers. This may seem an obvious point but it is easy to make mistakes if you’re not careful.

An example may help: no established UK electrician would ever order a light bulb from a supplier. Talk to any self-respecting sparky about bulbs and they will – politely or otherwise – inform you that bulbs are for planting and they only fit lamps.

Every electrical wholesaler will know this but, if they are savvy in the digital world, you can bet they will optimise their trade site for various types of lamp and their customer site for bulbs.

OK, so things are getting complicated now but don’t worry. There are a number of free online tools that can help you zoom in on the long tail keywords you need.

3 tools to get you started

Google Keyword Planner

The free Google Keyword Planner is found under the Tools menu in Google Adwords. By entering a seed keyword into the search box you will get a list of related keywords. The benefit of the Keyword Planner is that it also gives you a broad guide on the number of people searching for each keyword, how competitive it is (low competition means easier and cheaper to rank for) and average Cost Per Click.

Searches Related To…

A quick and easy way to explore the long tail is inbuilt into Google Search itself. After any search, at the bottom of the page, you will find a list of related searches performed by other Googlers. You don’t get the stats you do with Google Keyword Planner but you do get a speedy method of refining head search terms.


Soovle.com is another quick and easy to use tool for generating long tail keywords. Simply enter a keyword into the box and it will instantly pull up long tail keywords from various sites. One of the best things about Soovle is that you even get a list of customised questions from Answers.com which can be great for generating article titles – a key part of a powerful content strategy.

Forums are another good way to find out not only what your customers are talking about but the actual language they are using.

By using the above tools and advice you should at least be able to come up with a rich list of long tail keywords to drive your SEO campaign. If you need help with the rest, Vu Online can work with you to integrate those keywords into your website and digital marketing campaigns.

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