Long Tail Search Engine Optimization

Why Long Tail Search Engine Optimization is Essential to Small Business SEO Success

When your small business decides to invest in search engine optimization services you may decide to target some highly competitive keywords, which in turn take months or even years to surface on the first page of the search engine’s pages.   A great solution to augment those competitive keywords is to mine the “long tail”.   In this post you will learn that by adding a long tail search strategy to your SEO campaign can drive super targeted traffic to your small business website/blog.

What Are Long Tail Keywords?

A long tail keyword is a very targeted search phrase that typically contains 3 or more words, it often contains a ‘head term’ with other modifiers.

  1. Head term: lawyer, immigration lawyers, real estate, flights, cakes
  2. Long tail keywords: lawyer in NYC, Toronto immigration lawyers, West Vancouver real estate, real estate Danforth Toronto Ontario, cheap flights to Chicago, designer wedding cakes in NJ

Why Target Long Tail Keywords?

long tail keywords

image credit: www.gabehoggarth.com


  • Typically long tail keywords yield higher conversion rates.  The reason for this is because long tail keywords are more specific, which means visitors that land on your website from a long tail search term are generally more qualified.
  • Typically the long tail keywords are less competitive.   Most of your competitors are over looking the long tail and if often if you create a piece of content that is optimized for a long tail keyword phrase, with just a handful of back links to that piece of content will often produce first page rankings.
  • Long tail keywords make up the majority of all searches on the web. Bill Tancer did in 2008 helps illustrated the importance of long tail keyphrases. He did a study on 14 million searches and found that the top 10,000 keywords in his sample only brought in 18.5% of the searches. The remaining keywords, called “long tail keywords”, made up the remaining 81.5%.

And when searchers find your content on the first page of the search engines via a long tail search phrase, which leads them to your content which should be more relevant to the searcher’s search intent, you have a greater percentage of that traffic to convert for you.

It’s All About Commercial Intent

long tail search term exampleThink about it… if a searcher types in ‘plumber’ who knows what they actually are looking for…?  We have no idea of the value of commercial intent yet.

Is it….? ‘plumber jobs’ or ‘apprentice plumber’ or ‘plumber contractor in NYC’ or ‘plumber in Toronto’, ‘plumber exam’, etc.   We don’t know the intent when someone types in a head term like ‘plumber’.

But if someone types in ’24/7 emergency plumber in Scarborough’, we know the exact commercial intent of this searcher.  They are looking for a plumber in Scarborough who offers 24/7 services, so it’s probably an emergency and I bet whoever is at the top of the of the search engines for this search term will get the business (assuming they answer the phone).

Now even though ‘plumber’ gets a hell of a lot more monthly searches then ’24/7 emergency plumber in Scarborough’, that doesn’t mean ‘plumber’ is the better keyword to optimize a plumber’s small business website for.   A local business located in Scarborough would be better off to target that long tail search phrase because of the commercial intent behind the search term.   This is the main benefit behind targeting the long tail for SEO.

Let’s Look at Another Long Tail Example

Let’s look at ‘digital camera’.  It gets a lot of searches every month, but it’s extremely competitive.  If I owned a local retail camera store in Toronto I’d focus on long tail keyword phrases like ‘Sony digital cameras in Toronto’, ‘Sony digital camera 3D in Toronto’, ‘Sony digital cameras on sale in Toronto’, etc.  You get the point.

I literally can come up with thousands of these long tail searched terms for Sony digital cameras.  Do you know how easy it is to optimize and rank for a search term like ‘Sony digital cameras on sale in Toronto’ ?

Which search phrase would you rather show up for:

  1. Sony digital camera hx5v
  2. Sony digital camera hx5v free shipping

The first search term is a great long tail keyword phrase, it says this person alreayd knows exactly what product they are looking for, but the second one is better because the searcher added ‘free shipping’ and tells me not only do they know exactly what product they want, but that they are ready to buy (probably with credit card in hand).   If I sold Sony Digital Cameras I’d want to be in front of the searchers when they are ready to buy.

It’s not always about search volume, sometimes it’s best to focus on commercial intent.  You can make more money sometimes with less traffic if you focus on the ‘right’ long tail keyword phrases that have solid commercial intent.

How to Find Long Tail Keywords

So there are dozen great tools you can use to mine the long tail keyword phrases like: Google Keyword Tool, SEOMoz Tools, KeywordSpy, etc… but my three favourite ways to discover long tail search terms is by using:

  • Google Suggest
  • Google Related Search Terms
  • Google Insights

These 3 tools are free and often over looked.  I find with Google they almost always give us all the data we need, but we just have to read in-between the lines to catch it all.

Watch this video on how I mine Google Suggest, Google Related Terms, & Google Insights for Long Tail Keyword Phrases

When optimizing pages for long tail keywords, SEO basics are still in effect. Optimize header and title tags. Write keyword rich meta descriptions – sell that click! Use appropriate anchor text for internal linking and make sure your keywords are in the content.  And don’t forget to bring real value to the content.  I have seen too many lazy small business webmaster who add content that is thin, do not just keyword stuff a page to rank for long tail keyword term.   The page may rank, but no one will buy from a website’s page that makes no sense.   Always write for humans first and search engines second.

Effective SEO is always an exercise in moderation.  Only having a long tail search strategy isn’t the only way you should get targeted traffic to your small business website/blog.   Using a broad range of SEM strategies is always best.

Did You Like This Article About Long Tail SEO?

If you liked this article about ‘long tail’ search strategies, then be sure to share it with your friends using our social buttons… or maybe you have a question or feel we missed some important information about the long tail SEO…. this is a perfect opportunity for you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.


Tags: digital camera search engine, find competitors long tail keywords, keyword research, long tail, long tail optimisation, long tail real estate, long tail search, SEO

4 Responses to “Long Tail Search Engine Optimization”

  1. Good explanation, Matthew. You probably should stress that if a business is using 24/7 Emergency Plumber as a keyword, they should actually offer that service – or they can alienate customers before they even start.

    You may smile, but I have experienced it :)

  2. Good point, Jo. I always tell clients we write for humans first and search engines second.

  3. Hey Matt, really solid post. Gave me some good ideas on why longtails are so important and why blogging to capture them are so important. Rand explains it so well too. If only google had a tool to show the longtail, but not really possible since 20% of search has never been done before! Mind if I reference it when we write a post on why you should blog on our site? thanks, Ralph

  4. @Ralph reference away! We use tools like keywordresearcher to mind the long tail. Brilliant tool for that.

Leave a Reply

Get in touch