When you are running a PPC campaign or making efforts for search engine optimization the keywords you select play a major role. Long-tail keywords, phrases that typically have 3+ words, may not garner as much traffic, but these highly specific terms can give your website a major boost.
Long-Tail Keywords vs. Head Keywords
Anyone who has worked on SEO or a PPC campaign knows that keyword selection is an important part of the process. And that selection is seemingly endless. Many marketers are faced with the choice of selecting either head keywords or long-tail keywords. Each has its own benefits, but there are some distinct differences between the two.
Niche Audience vs. Mass Audience
The term “long-tail keyword” doesn’t necessarily describe the number of words involved. It actually refers to where a keyword falls on the search demand curve. Long-tail keywords have less search volume, therefore it has a smaller share of overall search demand and ends up at the long tail of the curve.
Long-tail keywords have less search volume because they are used by a niche audience that’s looking for something very specific. On the flip side, a generic head keyword has a mass audience and less specificity.
“Converse sneakers” has a huge search volume. “Vintage high-top black converse sneakers” is much more specific and therefore the search volume isn’t nearly as high.
Interestingly enough, long-tail keywords actually make up 70% of all searches. So if you are focused on targeting just the head keywords you’re missing the majority of users.
High Intent/Conversion vs. Low Intent/Conversion
Search volume may decline the longer a keyword is, but the intent increases with each word. Users that search with a long-tail keyword tend to be farther along in the sales funnel and closer to making a purchase.
Let’s use the example above again to explore this point.
A user that searches for “converse sneakers” could be trying to find a number of things. They may want to know the history behind the style, if they make converse sneakers for kids or which celebrity has the most expensive pair. The user that searches for “vintage high-top black converse sneakers” is looking for a specific pair, most likely to purchase.
Long-tail keywords may not generate as much traffic, but the visitors are more likely to convert. Too often traffic is a benchmark of success when in actuality it could lead to no conversions or revenue despite spending money on a marketing campaign. Conversions are the ultimate indicator of how well your marketing and the product/service are working, which is why long-tail keywords are valuable.
Untapped Term vs. Highly Competitive Query
Since long-tail keywords have lower search volume they are less likely to be targeted by other websites. You’ll be competing with a lot less people to gain top SERP ranking and PPC position. It will also cost a lot less to run a PPC ad campaign for a long-tail keyword.
Optimizing for long-tail keywords helps in the short-term and long-term. It can allow you to rank high in organic search relatively quickly while you gain recognition over time for shorter, high-traffic keywords by building out long-tail content related to a certain topic.
Types of Long-Tail Keywords
Most have 3+ words, but not all long-tail keywords fall into the same category. Some of the most common types of long-tail keywords include:
Topical Long-Tail Keywords
A topical long-tail keyword is a topic in itself rather than being a subtopic of a head term.
Supporting Long-Tail Keywords
A long-tail keyword can be a subtopic of another head keyword, which is referred to as a supporting long-tail keyword.
Natural Language Long-Tail Keywords
As the name suggests, these are keyword phrases that sound natural and use words that your target market uses.
Geo-Targeted Long-Tail Keywords
Just about any keyword can turn into a long-tail keyword by adding a location factor. For example, “wine tasting” is much more general than the long-tail keyword phrase “wine tasting in the Texas Hill Country region”.
How to Find the Right Long-Tail Keywords
Identifying the most relevant head keywords isn’t too difficult. Figuring out which long-tail keywords to target can be a little more challenging. Using a long-tail keyword strategy requires the use of a lot of terms. Because traffic is low, dozens of long-tail keywords need to be targeted to really grow a following and sustain a business. Here’s how to do it.
Know Your Business Goals and What You’re Offering
Before you can identify the best keywords of any kind to target, you have to know your business goals and what you have to offer. Knowing these things helps you find your niche and focus on a head theme (a.k.a. main topic) that will help you reach your business goals. From there you can find long-tail keywords that are related to the head theme and will help associate your site with high volume head keywords.
Google Ads Keyword Planner
The Google Ads Keyword Planner tool is something all PPC marketers are familiar with whether it’s their first campaign or the 1,000th. Simply type in a term or phrase and the tool will generate a list of suggested keywords. Not only can you see bid estimates for PPC campaigns and search volume for each keyword, but you can also see how search volume has changed over time. This can help you pick up on long-tail keywords with low competition that are becoming more popular.
Another benefit of using the Google Ad Keyword Planner is there’s better assurance that the information is accurate since it’s coming directly from the source.
Third-Party Keyword Tools
Google isn’t the only one with a keyword tool. There are also keyword tools like Wordtracker’s Long-Tail Tool that has been developed specifically to help users find the best long-tail phrases. Wordstream also has a free keyword research tool that can identify the most popular terms as well as long-tail keywords. Last but not least, is the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer. Ahrefs’ tool shows the parent topic and subtopics, making it easy to find long-tail keywords that are related to your head theme.