adwords on budget: how and why to target only long-tail keywords

Google Adwords is the most comprehensive and widely used advertising engine for online marketing. As it caters to a large proportion of the internet population, it is often very easy to run out of budget if you target the wrong keywords or audience. This is especially true for small business and advertisers on a smaller budget.

When you are on a small-ish budget, you probably cannot (and should not) advertise widely to a large audience. You will need to filter and choose your audience wisely to achieve a good return on your investment. One of the many ways you can increase the ROI (return on investment) is to target long-tail keywords exclusively.

What are Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail Keywords are queries that are longer in length than average and is much more specific in its semantics. It has some distinct characteristic than the other queries, which are usually termed Head Keyword.

  • Long-tail keywords are longer and usually contains more than 3 or 4 words
  • They are less common queries and have a low search volume
  • The opposite of a long-tail is a head keyword, which is usually smaller in length and match a wide variety of content.


“White Chocolate with Almonds” is a long-tail keyword while “Chocolate” or “White Chocolate” is a head keyword.

“Low Rent Apartment in San Francisco” is a long-tail keyword while “Apartment” or “Low Rent Apartment” can be considered a head keyword.

Find Long-Tail Keywords

The first challenge is to find such long tail keywords that are relevant to your marketing campaign. Some long tail keywords are obvious while others may not be. We will see some of the different ways you can find these keywords…

Product and Service Description

Write up a detailed description of the product or service that you are marketing. You can now find long keywords within these descriptions. Checkout the content and descriptions that you have already written up on your landing page. You will find long keywords in these content that you have come up with to describe the product.

Analytics Data

If you already use an analytic software such as Google Analytics to monitor the website, then you should check the keywords that are already driving traffic to the website. You should try to find long keywords that might have less number of searches and for which you might be ranking lower.

You should search with in both the organic and the paid keyword list.

Adwords Keyword Planner Tool

Use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to find long-tail keywords related to your current marketing keywords. You can enter your current keywords or head keywords and then view keywords that are related to them. From this list, you should be able get long-tail keywords that have low search volume, but also have less competition and as well as cost.

Google Search Tips

Another nice tool for this purpose is the Google search box. You start by entering your head keyword and Google will display suggestions in a drop down. You can now select options that aptly describe your ads or products so as to come up with even longer queries.

Targeting Long-Tail Keywords

Once you created a list of these long-tail keywords, you are now ready to start targeting them with a Google Adwords Campaign or an Ad Group. Exactly how you group them will depend very much on the list of keywords you have generated and your budget. Here are a couple of generic tips that you can use…

You should first group the keywords into several related lists. The keywords in each of these list should be related to other keywords in the list based on some criteria such as a specific product or common words. Each of these lists can then be a separate campaign in Adwords. If any of these campaigns have several different keywords then you can separate them out again into different ad groups with in the same campaign.

When adding these long-tail keywords, always select either the Exact match or the Phrase match. I would suggest using the phrase match for a couple of reasons. First of all, as the search volume is already low for these keywords, the phrase match will potentially get you more related searches with out ruining the budget. Secondly, you will be able use less number of keywords as some longer keywords will be matched by the smaller ones.

Also, create new ads that explicitly targets the long-tail keywords. Avoid the temptation to use generic ads or ads that target head keywords that you might have. Modify them to include the long-tail keywords.

If your website or landing page is not optimized for these long-tail keywords, then modify the content of the landing page. If possible, create new optimized landing pages for each of these ad groups.


There are several advantages in targeting long-tail keywords explicitly. The foremost reason is the budget (or the lack thereof) and the potential to have higher returns for the cost.


Less Competition: Long-tail keywords usually have a lower number of advertisers and thus less competition. This can substantially lower the overall cost of each campaign.

Lower CPC: Again, because of the lower competition you will pay less per click.

Better Targeted Ads: You can now create better targeted ads for each of these keywords which will potentially match better against them. This can also improve on the click-thru rate (CTR) of the ads. You will now be competing against ads that are more targeted towards the head keywords.

Higher Quality Score: Having a higher click-thru rate and an optimized landing page will improve the quality score for the keywords, thus lowering the cost even further.


There are also some disadvantages in using these long-tail keywords exclusively. The idea is that these cons will greatly outweigh the pros from the budget perspective. However, it is good for you to be aware of them just as well.


Less Coverage: The longer keywords that are phrase matched will match against lower number of queries. What you match against will be very specific and better suited to your campaign, but you will see that the impressions are much lower than what you would have got with a head keyword.

Large number of Keywords: The amount of keywords can grow quite large as you will now be targeting each of the variations separately and differently. You could have targeted a lot of these long keywords with a single much smaller head keyword.

Follow Up

You will need to constantly monitor these campaign to make sure of a couple of things. First, that you are generating enough or the desired amount of clicks from the limited amount of impressions that you are now targeting. If you are not getting enough clicks, then tinker with the ads and the bid amount for those keywords.

Also, you can revisit your analytic data and find more desirable long-tail keywords and repeat the process to create more ad groups and campaigns. This will increase your coverage as well. Repeat this process till you meet your goals for clicks and budget.


Finding and targeting just the long-tail keywords is a time consuming job. You will need to regularly find newer queries that you are not matching and handle them explicitly. Using a small number of head keywords would definitely have been easier and would also generate a large number of impression but it would not be cost effective. If you are on a small budget, then the extra work to target them is certainly worth the time and effort.