Why focus on long-tail keywords?

Focusing on long-tail keywords is a great SEO tactic. Long-tail keywords are keywords or key phrases that are more specific – and usually longer – than more commonly searched for keywords. Long-tail keywords get less search traffic, but will usually have a higher conversion value, as they are more specific. They allow you gradually to get more traffic and to be found by new and motivated audiences.

To really profit from a long-tail keyword strategy, you should have a clear vision of your company, your product and your website. Here, I’ll explain what long-tail keywords are and show you how understanding your own product helps you set up this strategy and why you should put effort into it.

The Long Tail

While preparing this blog post, Joost encouraged me to read The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. The Long Tail discusses the emergence of markets (especially, markets on the internet) with unlimited supplies. Chris Anderson discovered that the true shape of demand, not filtered by the economics of scarcity shows a very long tail (see picture above). This means that demand exists for virtually every niche, although this demand can become very small. A nice example could be a jukebox with 10.000 songs. A very small amount of songs will be played very regularly, while a very large amount of songs will be played very few times. However, research shows that virtually all songs (about 98 %) are played at some point. The demand for these songs (which are large in number) is very small, but it does exist. Almost every song will be played at some point. With the emergence of the internet, possible target audiences became quite large, even if the product is only wanted by a very small percentage of the people. The wideness of the internet thus makes your niche product profitable and the ranking on long tail keywords important.

The long tail bookcover

What are long-tail keywords?

Long-tail keywords are more specific and less common than other keywords. They focus more on a niche. The term long-tail keyword comes from the book The Long Tail by Chris Anderson (see aside). In this book, Chris Anderson shows there is a market for virtually every product. In some cases, however, this market is really, really, really small. The vastness of the internet, though, makes your niche product, or your niche blog post profitable.

One head theme

Most blogs have one main topic – this is called the head term, or main keyword. Mom blogs are usually about children and family life; food blogs are about eating, restaurants, and recipes. Our blog is all about SEO. We even named it SEO blog. So, all of our blog posts are about SEO, or about SEO-related-topics.

The main topic or theme of your blog or site is the number one keyword (or key phrase) you want people to use to find you. In our case SEO. Imagine yourself having a food blog about homemade Italian food. You would then like to be found on a search term like [homemade Italian food]. That would pretty much be the number one.

Lots of tail topics

You cannot, however, optimize all blog posts for the same term [homemade Italian food], even if all your blog posts will be about homemade Italian food. Instead, you should write a whole number of blog posts about all kinds of long-tail variants of your number one search term. In the example of the food blog, you could write about all kinds of delicious things: homemade Italian pasta, homemade Italian salads, homemade Italian pie. These could be your main categories.

Your blog posts could even be more long tail. You could write about: homemade Italian spaghetti bolognese, homemade Italian lasagna, homemade Italian penne carbonara and so on. You will find all of these keywords if you have done your keyword research correctly. If you come up with a lot of very long focus keywords, you can read my post about how to handle those here.

Link from the tail to the head!

If you optimize your blog post for different long-tail variants, you should link from these blog posts to your more ‘head’ category pages and from these category pages to your most awesome pages: your cornerstone content. Remember: always link from the tail to your head! That way, you show Google what your site structure looks like and which of your pages is most important. Make sure your most amazing pages rank high in Google!

Why focus on long-tail keywords?

It is much easier to rank for long-tail keywords than for more common keywords because fewer websites compete for high rankings in the result pages of Google. The longer (and more specific) search terms are, the easier it is to rank for the term. Because of the vastness of the internet, it is easier to find your audience for your particular niche. Focusing on a group of long-tail keywords will result in a great deal of traffic altogether.

Another benefit of focusing on long-tail keywords is that, although these keywords are used less in search, the visitor that finds your website using them is more likely to buy your service or product.

I am currently looking for a cottage in France to spend our next summer vacation. I started my search with the term ‘vacation France’. After some searching, I quickly discovered I wanted to go to the Dordogne and preferred a house in the countryside. My search still continues, but now I use terms like [vacation house countryside Dordogne]. A long-tail keyword. Using this keyword, I found new sites, which more closely resembled my vacation wishes. Chances for me to book my vacation largely increased.

So, why is your mission important?

If you want to sell something, you should simply have a damn good product! And you should be well aware of what your product or your website offers to your audience… what makes it special. If you know and understand this, it will be much easier to make your audience like and buy your stuff. You should thus take some time to think about the uniqueness of your product and write that down.

Perhaps you sell cruises to Hawaii. You offer great facilities for children, making the cruises especially suitable for young parents or single moms. Offering great cruises to Hawaii for single moms could be the uniqueness of your service. This is your mission, your niche, this is what you have to offer to your audience! Do make sure you write down your mission in words that are used and understood by your audience.

Read more: What is your mission »

Competitiveness of the market

In some markets, it is really hard to rank. Some markets are just highly competitive, with large companies dominating the search results. These companies have a very large budget to spend on marketing in general and SEO specifically. Ranking in these markets is hard. You will be unable to compete on a small budget in a market like the travel industry using search terms as Vacation Hawaii.

However, if you have your mission clear, you should be able to define what makes your product or website stand out from this market. You should be able to find your niche. And you should use YOUR mission in order to start ranking! Taking my example of cruises for single moms to Hawaii would mean that you should focus on the less competitive term [single mom cruises Hawaii]. Again, use words that your target audience uses (and avoid difficult terms).

Use your mission to define long-tail keywords

The definition of your mission, in which you make crystal clear what the awesomeness of your product, site or blog is, should be central in choosing the long-tail keywords you want to rank for. Trying to make your website rank for a specific term can be quite profitable, as long as this specific term closely resembles the product you’re selling.

The terms you used to describe your mission can be nicely used to focus on in your SEO strategy. These words should be central in the long-tail keywords you aim your website to rank for. People using the terms of your mission and finding your website will be relatively small in volume, but these people do have the highest chances to buy your product or to become regular visitors.

The next step: awesome content

After you have done your keyword research and you know which keywords you would like to rank for, you’ll have to start creating content. Creating content can be quite challenging. Read all about creating quality content in SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide.

Want to learn how to do this for your own site? You should check our interactive SEO copywriting course!

Keep reading: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »

17 Responses to Why focus on long-tail keywords?

  1. federicoborobio
    federicoborobio  • 1 year ago

    Hello Marieke! First, thanks, I have learned a lot about SEO thanks to the plugin and the articles that you publish.
    I have a little doubt regarding the use of long tail keywords and Yoast SEO. Doing the research work I find that many times the searches with several words do not coincide with the correct wording. For example: the words “residence artists madrid” appear at the top of the search, but the way to write this would be “residence for artists in Madrid”.
    Obviously, in the content I write it that way. But if I write it that way in Yoast’s keyword field it tells me that it does not match, and my rating goes down.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 1 year ago

      Hi Federico, We love to hear you’ve learned so much and like our plugin. Thank you!
      If it makes sense for your user, you should always use the right wording for him or her, even if your Yoast SEO score goes down a bit. In the end, it’s the user who decides!
      Also, since Yoast SEO 9.0 our SEO analysis became a lot smarter. We don’t necessarily look for an exact match for all SEO checks (for some we still do though). You can read more about that here https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/yoast-seo-premium-analysis-glossary/#no-exact-match. Perhaps you can check when you’ve last updated our plugin to make sure you’re running the latest and greatest ;-) Good luck!

  2. shahroze
    shahroze  • 1 year ago

    Hi, Its really being awesome to read out your article. You are right long tail keywords always help out. But I always use short keywords. After reading your article I change my mind. And next time I use long tail keywords. I have no question yet. Thanks for making this type of article.
    Thanks in Advance

  3. arjun
    arjun  • 1 year ago

    I think keyword research is one of the biggest challenge in ranking or SEO. In this post you said about long tail keywords but long terms keywords are few.So it is easy to rank these long tail keywords. I think finding right keywords is the most crucial part of SEO because if we find the right keywords then chances of becoming ranking in google will increase. I found this post very helpful. So, thank you for sharing such an amazing information. Can you provide more post on keyword research.

  4. Kbhwriting
    Kbhwriting  • 1 year ago

    You are right! I get bit traffic when I use long tail keywords but I usually get tempted all the time to just go for the shorter ones with lots of searches.
    My question is, can I go for a keyword with no search value?
    I is it advisable?
    Or can I optimise for a keyword that has just 10 search in a month?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 1 year ago

      Hi! If there is 0 search value it’s not worth investing your time. And 10 searches a month… in case you try to sell something, I guess that only makes sense if there’s no competition, you have an extremely high conversion rate and a very expensive product ;-) But in most cases, I’d advise targeting a somewhat less long tail keyword.

  5. Mark Benson
    Mark Benson  • 1 year ago

    Well, I have gone through your article. Thank you for sharing the valuable article.
    My question is choosing long tail keyword is fine. but the user will not type the complete keyword. they always type very fewer keywords. then what is the use of promoting long tail keyword. Ex. IF the user wants to buy mobile phones then he simply searches “best mobile phones” so how can we get his attention?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 1 year ago

      Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your comment. A lot of people will enter the head search term in Google, for sure. However, with the top results for these queries, you probably won’t be able to compete. Nobody will see your result if it’s on page 10. There will be less frequent, but more specific queries you might be able to target. If you try that, you might end up higher in the search engines, people possibly find you and convert. Good luck!

  6. Raza Kazmi
    Raza Kazmi  • 1 year ago

    Very important points I read in your article regarding long tail keywords. However, I do have one question which is: Should I focus on only long-tail keywords?

    I have done many SEO projects and I would usually start those projects with long-tail keywords like, for example, NGO FOR CHILD ABUSE IN HAYES, searching this on google will bring up the result of the website (http://gpah.org) on which I’m doing SEO, but searching only NGO for child abuse does not bring up the result.

    My Question: Is my former long-tail keyword enough or should I also focus on short keywords?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 1 year ago

      Hi Raza, Thanks for your question. It’s great to see you’re already ranking on some of your long tail keywords. If you rank on some of those you can start and try aim for the shorter ones. I’d advise trying to find the keywords people are looking for (using Google Trends) and analyze on which keywords your competition already ranks. If you combine this data, you might find gaps for which there is not much content yet. That’s what you can write about! If you’re looking for a full guide on keyword research please check out this article: https://yoast.com/keyword-research-ultimate-guide/ it’ll guide you step by step. Keep up the good work!

  7. kinemaster mod apk
    kinemaster mod apk  • 1 year ago

    Thank you for sharing informative contents with us.
    How do I target 4 to 5 long tails keywords for web homepage?
    As my homepage contents lots of articles, widgets, and ads, can you help me in this case?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 1 year ago

      Hi, In general, your homepage is not a page you’d like to rank for long tail keywords. If you’d like to read more about optimizing your homepage, please check out this article: https://yoast.com/homepage-seo/ Good luck!

  8. Yuh
    Yuh  • 1 year ago

    I have an website with 3k+ products and image. But google not index all the website. How can i index it with long tail keyword and seo on it ?

  9. Chintan
    Chintan  • 1 year ago

    Marieke, this is a good article. I have loved long-tail keywords for their ability to turn into conversion-centers. However, as Google evolves with its focus on NLP do you think that keywords are going to even survive? I feel like we’re quickly moving towards topical relevancy and covering more narrower (and specific) subjects. The keyword research tools are essentially going to convert into market research tools in the near future. Or so I think?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 1 year ago

      Hi Chintan, Great comment! With the help of AI, Google is becoming smarter and provides better results, as it will take the context of your keywords and the entities that relate to it into account. But we think (long tail) keyphrases will still be important to simply determine the topic and the specificity of certain content. In the end, it’s still about matching the best result or answer to a specific query. And, it could well be that keyword research tools turn into market research tools. They kind of are already, right?