Long-Tail Keywords and SEO: An Overview

By Ruth Hawk, Monday, April 3, 2017
measuring up - long tail keywords

Keyword strategy has changed quite a bit since the early days of search engine optimization. At first, the goal was to stuff content with as many keywords (the search terms that people type into a search engine) as possible. And, typically, these keywords consisted of one or two words that concisely captured the topic about which the website’s target audience wanted information.

Over time, however, successful keyword strategy has shifted to accommodate changes in Google’s search algorithm (keyword stuffing is no longer allowed), changes in how people search (voice search, for example, is creating a new emphasis on naturally written content), and a better understanding of which keywords work best. In particular, the use of long-tail keywords has become increasingly important to the success of any search engine optimization campaign. Not only do they make it easier and less expensive to attract the qualified leads a website needs, but they also mesh with the need to address changes in how people search. What follows is a look at long-tail keywords and how they can support a well-rounded search engine optimization campaign.

What are long-tail keywords?

Long-tail keywords are phrases that consist of three or more words. Because they are longer, they also tend to be much more specific than shorter keywords. For example, “surfboards” is a short keyword, while “best surfboards for beginners” or “Malibu surfboards, Long Beach, CA,” are examples of long-tail keywords. You can see how the longer search terms are much more detailed than are the shorter search terms.

What are the advantages of using long-tail keywords?

The specificity of long-tail keywords has what may initially seem to be a big downside: There are fewer people who will use these terms. For example, “surfboards” might be searched 3 million times, while “best surfboards for beginners” might only be searched 500,000 times. If you are trying to base your search engine optimization efforts on search volume alone, you might be tempted to discard the long tail keyword in favor of the shorter keyword so you can attract more traffic to your site. This approach, however, will actually net you fewer leads and conversions (and possibly less traffic) than targeting the long-tail keywords. And, it will cost you more money. While it may seem counterintuitive, long-tail keywords actually possess advantages over short keywords. These advantages make them the preferred search terms for websites serious about improving their rankings in the search results.

Less Competition

Because long-tail keywords are so specific, there are fewer businesses to which they apply, and, therefore, fewer businesses against whom you need to compete to rank for these keywords. For example, while there may be thousands of businesses that deal with “surfboards” there may only be a few that deal with “Malibu surfboards, Long Beach, CA.” That means that you will be much more likely to rank well for the long tail keyword. And ranking well means earning more website traffic because more people see your site. Ranking on page one for “Malibu surfboards, Long Beach, CA,” for example, might earn you more visitors than ranking on page 10 for “surfboards.”

Better Qualified Leads

When people land on your website, you want them to stay and engage with your business. If they leave right away, not only have you lost a lead but your bounce rate increases, which can affect your search engine optimization performance. But if you are earning visitors through broad search terms like “surfboards,” you will find it difficult to get qualified leads who actually want what you have to sell. For example, “surfboards” is likely to get you not only people who want Malibu surfboards and who are in the Long Beach area, but also people who want to go surfing on the East Coast, people who want surfboard lessons, and people who want a different kind of surfboard than what you offer. These people will not stay long on your site. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, tend to attract people who want what you have to offer. When people come to you after searching “Malibu surfboards, Long Beach, CA,” you know they want the type of surfboard you offer and are close enough to come and get it. You may not see as much traffic, but you are going to earn more business than you would with a shorter keyword because the people who do come to your site will be ready to engage.

Voice Search Friendly

Long-tail keywords also have the advantage of being voice search-friendly. With more and more people using voice search to look up information (i.e. speaking into a smartphone instead of typing in their search terms), having natural, question-based content that reflects the conversational tone of people’s searches is becoming more important. Long-tail keywords help to fulfill this need because they are naturally longer and more conversational than are shorter, broader terms. For example, a website that is optimized for the keyword “Malibu surfboards, Long Beach” is more likely to come up in a voice search for “Where can I get a Malibu surfboard in Long Beach?” than is a website that is only optimized for the keyword “surfboards.”

SEE ALSO: Voice Search and SEO: Understanding the Trends and How to Make Them Work for You

Less Expensive

Finally, if you are pursuing a search engine marketing campaign in addition to your search engine optimization efforts, you will find that long-tail keywords are less expensive than their shorter counterparts. The reason? There is less competition for them. Thanks to the lower demand for these keywords, you will need to pay less to use them in your campaign. The result is that you get to put your ads on search results pages that apply specifically to your business, and you get to spend less money to do it.

What qualities should I look for in the long tail keywords I use?

Of course, using long-tail keywords means being able to identify the right ones for your business. And that means knowing what the best long-tail keywords look like. There are a few qualities that characterize high-quality, long-tail keywords.


The keywords you use must be relevant to your business and to your target audience. If you are, for example, using the keyword “Malibu surfboards, Long Beach, CA,” but do not actually sell Malibu surfboards, you can expect most of the people who come to your site to leave quickly. On the other hand, relevant keywords will bring in motivated visitors eager to engage with your business.


Your keyword research should reveal how popular the search terms are that you are considering. For example, you may be able to see how often they are searched in a certain time frame. As mentioned above, popularity is not the end all be all of keyword research. Many short, broad keywords are searched millions of times but would not serve your website well (i.e. if they are too popular, too many companies will be trying to rank for them, making it harder for you to rank well for those terms in the search results). On the other hand, if a search term is not used very often, it might not yield the traffic and leads you to want. For example, the ultra-specific search term “7-foot Malibu surfboards for beginners in Long Beach, CA” might not send you enough traffic to be worth your effort. The key is to find long-tail keywords that will send you enough qualified leads without being too difficult to rank for.

Voice Search Friendly

Finally, consider using long-tail keywords that mesh with your voice search strategy. For example, you may choose keywords that match with questions your target audience may be asking in their voice search. Or, you might opt to use keywords that have a more natural or conversational tone to them. For example, “best surfboards for beginners” might be a better long-tail keyword to use than “best beginner surfboards,” or “surfboards, beginner level.”

How do I find the right long-tail keywords for my website?

In order to find the best long-tail keywords for your website, you will need to conduct keyword research (the process of learning about and selecting potential keywords). The process begins with you identifying the topics that relate most to your business and then creating a list of potential keywords for each topic. When building these lists, do not forget to include local topics and keywords to attract local visitors (such as tourists in Long Beach, CA) who might be looking for a business in their area. For example, you might create a list for your surfboard shop that covers topics like “Malibu surfboards,” “shortboards,” “beginner surfboards,” and so forth. Keywords under these topics might include terms like “Malibu surfboards, Long Beach, CA,” “best shortboards on a budget” or “best beginner surfboards in Long Beach.” Once you have these lists of topics and keywords, you will need to:

  1. Make sure you have identified all relevant keywords and
  2. Narrow your list down to the long-tail keywords that will work best for you.

To do so, you will need to use keyword research tools. There are a number of tools you can use (such as SEMrush, Moz Keyword Explorer, Word Tracker, etc.). Using them should help you get a feel for which keywords strike the right balance between popularity and specificity, and help you to find new keywords you may never have considered. In addition, for the best results, you may want to hire SEO experts who can do the research for you. Not only will they be able to do a more thorough job of identifying the right keywords for your business, but they can often provide more comprehensive search engine optimization support. In addition, they can provide you with insights into the latest trends and best practices to make sure your long-tail keywords fit into an SEO campaign that is modern, above board, and effective.

searching a business website

How do I use long-tail keywords?

Once you have a list of long-tail keywords, you can begin to incorporate them into your content. To do so effectively, you need to have a content strategy. Developing a strong content strategy can help you to see what topics you want to address, and where they fit into your plan as a whole. As a result, you are more likely to discuss relevant, comprehensive information that will attract your target audience. Your content strategy allows you to use your long-tail keywords effectively because it ensures that the keywords you identify as most effective appear in your content. For example, say you find that “Malibu surfboards, Long Beach, CA” is an effective keyword for your site. You can then make sure that your content strategy incorporates a landing page about Malibu surfboards, or that you develop a blog post about the reasons to buy a Malibu surfboard. Your content strategy should incorporate material based on each keyword you wish to use. By doing so, you ensure that your website is a robust source of information about the specific topics your target audience is interested in. In addition, incorporating long-tail keywords into your site should include using them in your metadata. For example, headlines, URLs, title tags, and more should include the keywords you have found to be most effective for your site. The more comprehensively your keywords are woven throughout your site, the more successful you will be at ranking well for those terms in the search results. Long-tail keywords offer an effective way to target your desired audiences and boost the success of your search engine optimization campaign. By understanding the advantages of these keywords, taking the right steps to locate the right terms, and developing a robust content strategy to incorporate them, you can reap the benefits of these keywords for yourself. If you need help creating a strong search engine optimization campaign or content strategy, or simply want help tweaking the efforts you are already making, consider hiring SEO experts (like WEBii). They can help you to fit long-tail keywords into a strong and profitable SEO campaign.

Posted in: How To, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, WWW Learning Center

3 responses to “Long-Tail Keywords and SEO: An Overview”

  1. Jordan says:

    Hi! What tool do you use for it? Is it ok to use SerpStat for this purpose? Really need help to figure it out.
    Thanks for the article btw

    • Isela Vargas says:

      Human discussion and thought, along with customer data is one of the best methods over automated tools.

  2. iprism says:

    Thank You for sharing your article. This is very informative article to long tail keywords.
    Keep it up.