Long Tail Keyword
Like the long-tailed macaque, it spends a lot of time as the subject of research. But far less time flinging its own shit.
WHAT IS A LONG TAIL KEYWORD?
A long-tail keyword is a word or phrase searched by audiences closer to the bottom of the marketing funnel. As the consumer learns more about the product or service for which they're kicking the proverbial tires, they use more specific terms to get the exact information they're looking for.
What it's not
Contrary to popular belief, it's not the length of the keyword phrase that defines long-tail keywords. It's actually the uniqueness of the words and phrase, and the frequency with which those terms are searched.
So why is it called long tail?
It has something to do with being the opposite of a head term (or head) keyword. Head term keywords are those competitive, popularly used terms for a search query. It would be much more common to search, "What do monkeys eat in the wild" (head term) than "Why is a monkey eating me" (long tail).
(At least, we hope so?)
That explains the tail... But what about the long part?
Okay, Curious George—hold onto your bananas. We're getting to it.
Imagine a chart of keyword activity. At the left of the chart, the bars are high, showing the high-volume, head terms. As keyword hits decline in volume, that graph tapers down until each keyword gets maybe a dozen or so hits a month. But it's a long, tapered line, resembling... DING DING, you guessed it, a long tail.
Now take a drink of your favorite adult beverage and squint at the chart. Kinda looks like a snoozing monkey, doesn't it? No? Okay, never mind. Moving on.
Why are long-tail keywords valuable?
One of the reasons these search terms are so valuable to search engine optimization is that they tend to be specific to searcher intent, and Google is all about matching user queries to sites with the most relevant content. Since about 15% of all Google searches are original, super rare, never-been-Googled queries (and 91.8% of search terms are long-tail keywords), certain websites will strike gold if they're serving up content that closely—and consistently—matches those low volume queries.
Another reason they're so valuable? Users who query with long-tail keywords know what they want, and they're more likely to be educated customers ready to pull the trigger on a purchase.
Here's another example of long-tail keywords, to drive the point home:
Someone who googles "stuffed brown monkey" might be looking for anything from photos of an ape who's overeaten to a Beanie Baby for their nephew's Christmas present. But if they search "brown sock monkey" and that's what you sell—and your content focuses almost exclusively only on sock monkeys—Google's more likely gonna serve up your site in the results.
Note that "brown sock monkey" and "stuffed brown monkey" are both three-word queries. The only difference between the two is specificity.
How do you research and strategize for long-tail keywords?
How do you predict obscure search queries? You can't, really. You can, however, take a close look at what your business offers, and be as specific as possible about what sets you apart from the competition. Here are some tips:
- Use a pillar-style content strategy that reinforces core concepts throughout your website, blog, and social media.
- Get as specific about your products and services as possible on sales pages, product spotlights, and blog posts.
- Use tools such as SEMrush or Ahrefs. (Just don't dismiss terms with zero search volume.)
- Take a close look at the search terms used to reach your site.
- Talk to your customers to get familiar with their specific pain points.
When all else fails, start to Google some of your best-performing keywords and see what auto-fills below the search bar. Pay particular attention to the weird ones, as those may be good long-tail candidates.
Time to monkey around with long-tail keywords!
Now that you know how a completely out-of-the-blue search phrase can turn your website into the 800-pound gorilla perched at the top of the SERPs, it's time to get started on your long-tail keyword strategy. (And if you need content for those keywords, niche is our specialty.)
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