What is a Long Tail Keyword?
There really is no one universally accepted definition of what a long tail keyword is. In general terms, a long tail keyword (or a key phrase) is a search term that is usually longer than 2 or 3 words and is very specific in its semantics and purpose. Even though, any keywords could technically be called long tail keyword, there are some characteristics that are unique to these keywords that will help you identify them.
- Longer in Length: They are usually longer and contains more than two or three words. There really is no correct number of words, it could be 2 or 7, it all depends on the niche and the keyword itself. I usually go for at least 4 words.
- Low Traffic Volume: They have low search volume, when compared to a generic or head keyword. It probably still need to have enough traffic to make it worth the while.
- Very Specific: They are very specific in its semantics. The query is quite refined and usually means very specific and single entity.
- Less Competition: They usually have less competition in Google Search. It could also have less competition in Ad networks but this could be seen as more of side-effect from having a low search volume.
- High Conversion Rate: They (have/could have) a higher conversion rate. Again, this could be because of the low search volumen. This is debatable and also you don’t really have a way of measuring this before targeting.
So, any keyword that satisfies one or more of the above criteria could be considered a long tail keyword. It might be better to explain it with some examples as well.
‘chocolate’ or ‘white chocolate‘ is a head keyword, while ‘cranberry white chocolate chip cookies’ is a long tail keyword. So is ‘white chocolate mousse cake‘. While ‘dogs‘ is a head keyword, the keyword ‘portuguese water dog‘ is a long tail keyword.
Advantages of Targeting Long Tail Keywords
Is it that much better? I would say not really…If and when given the chance to rank better for a head keyword vs a long tail keyword, which one should you choose? Obviously the head keyword. So, why should you bother with these?
There are some perceived advantages in targeting these long tail keywords, many of which are a direct consequence of the characteristics listed above.
- They can be cheaper to “buy“, especially if you are using an ad network to get traffic.
- They should much convert better than generic keywords, as the query is more specific and has more intent.
- They are usually less competitive and thus easier to rank for in search engines.
Uses of Long Tail Keywords
If you are a marketer or Google Adwords user, then you can use long tail keywords to reduce your budget by targeting them exclusively. You can also create landing pages that are optimized for these keywords which will improve the quality score of your ads.
If you are a content provider or a blogger, you can use these keywords to create new content. You can also optimize your content based on these which will give you better search engine ranking. You can use multiple related long tail keywords in the content. A long tail keyword has less searches, so a single one will only garner so many hits…..using the same content optimized for multiple of these is a good idea.
Where to Find Long Tail Keywords
Use your imagination
Quite often it is easy to think of many descriptive queries that customers might use to look up your business/pages. You might have no idea about the actual search volume for these keywords but it is definitively some thing you should optimize for.
When you think up these queries, they are usually the ones that aptly and accurately define your pages without being influenced by the search engine stats. And that can be quite valuable.
Using Google Search box
Many search engines, especially Google provides you with a drop down list of popular keyword searches as you start typing in the search box. This feature is better known as Google Suggest.
You can start by typing in the first letters of a keyword in the Google search box and Google will start suggesting queries that are related, relevant and possibly popular. You can take note of these queries and start to optimize your website content for these long tail keywords.
Using Google Search page (Suggest and Related Keywords)
Another way to find the related keywords is to use the Suggest Related Keywords box in the Google search engine results page. When you do a search, Google displays a table/box at the bottom of the page, usually titled “Searches related to ….”.
This is usually a good place to find long keywords that is relevant and related to your search query.
Using Adwords Keyword Tool
If you use Google Adwords, you have access to a tool named Adwords Keyword Tool. This is also a good place to find long tail keywords. The data in this tool is more related to Google Adwords rather than Google Search queries.
This tool gives also you an idea about what and how much the advertisers are paying for keywords. There is usually a strong co-relation between the search impressions and the cost per click (cpc). That means, it is good tool to find your long tail keywords especially if you are a Google Adsense customer.
Use Google Analytics or the Google Webmaster Tools (GWT)
In Google Analytics, you can view the search queries for which you are already getting impressions for. Look for long tail keywords for which you rank low in the search results. These are ideally the ones that you can optimize for.
The advantage of this method is that you are already getting some (albeit very less) traffic from these keyword or are ranking somewhere for it. Optimizing for these could bring you the biggest bang for the buck.
You can use the same strategy with other analytic tools. If you use WordPress, then Jetpack for WordPress has a tool named Stats which is equivalent to Google Analytics.
There are several other tools and websites that you can use creatively to find long tail keywords.
You should routinely browse and read forums that are related to your niche. Pay attention to how users phrase the sentences in comments and questions. This usually will provide you long tail keywords as well as ideas for your blog posts.
Thread titles on forums are especially a good source of long tail keywords.
Soovle is website tool that provides with several long tail keywords and suggestions for a keywords. It shows you different suggestions using different popular search engines such as Google, Bing, Wikipedia, Amazon, Youtube, Netflix etc.
This is another website which is a keyword suggestion tool. This works slightly different from Soovle. It uses the keyword or query as the seed and appends each alphabet to the word to find more keywords. Trying it out yourself will explain it better.
Searching, finding and optimizing your content for long tail keywords is a long term approach. As I mentioned earlier, the long tail keywords have low search volume by definition. This means that you will rank well for these keywords but the traffic from these keywords are still going to be much less than a head keyword.
You will need to optimize for several different keywords (related and unrelated) to get enough traffic.
Effect on Head Keyword
Ideally, all of the long tail keywords that you find will contain your head keyword (often a single word). When you optimize for each of these key phrases seperately, you are also optimizing for the head keyword, albeit slowly. This will have a positive impact on your search ranking for the head keyword as well. Over time, it is quite possible that you will rank much higher for the shorter head keyword as well, thus drawing substantially more traffic.
Effect on Adsense Revenue
This matters only if you have Google Adsense enabled for the content that you are optimizing. More traffic will ideally increase you Adsense revenue. This also allows you to optimize for keywords that have high competition and a high CPC (especially if you use the Google Adwords Tool), which should increase your revenue as well.