Long Tail Keywords Matter

In my last post, I talked about the importance of placing well on search engine results pages. As the data shows, if you don’t land on the first few pages, it’s unlikely you’ll get noticed. One strategy for improving placement involves consistent use of long tail keywords.

“Long tail keywords” are strings of words that help search engines narrow the field of results. The more words entered, the smaller the number of pages and posts that match the search parameters. Here’s a simple example drawn from last night’s meal planning:

long tail keyword results

My initial quest for a Thai restaurant yielded over 9 million results. As I added details to the search criteria, I brought the otherwise mind-numbing volume of information down to a manageable level. After I entered “thai restaurant portland oregon takeout,” the Googlemap to the right of the results display helped complete the mission. Voila – dinner was served!

The total length of a long tail keyword depends on the nature of the inquiry. For example, if you wanted to find me, the short tail keyword “Maren” yields over 6 million results. The long tail counterpart “Maren Symonds” puts me in the first position on the first page. [Lucky me!] However, if my folks had named me Jane Doe, you’d need a much longer string of words before you’d have any prayer of finding me.

So what do long tail keywords have in common?

  • They contain a greater number of words than short tail keywords.
  • There’s a smaller population of web pages and blog posts that match the search criteria – hence, there’s less competition for choice spots on results pages.
  • They draw far fewer search requests than more generic (shorter) expressions.

Here’s why you should include long tail keywords on your web pages and blog posts:

  • You increase the probability that your content will appear within the first few entries (or pages) of organic search engine results.
  • People who enter long tail keywords tend to be further down the “sales cycle.” They are much more likely to click through links, read content, and make commitments (purchase, donate, subscribe, join, etc.)
  • It’s less expensive to secure paid search engine result placement because there’s less competition for them.
  • Advertising campaigns can be tailored to specific user needs and/or offers (products, services).

Of course, long tail keywords by definition trend toward low monthly searches. However, if you consistently publish content that features a different long tail keyword on each page or post, the “sum of the parts” will eventually amount to a whole lot of searches.