Long Tail Keywords Explained

We’ve been using the term “long tail keywords” in SEO strategy for so long that SEO pros often behave as though it were an ordinary phrase people use all the time, not special jargon that means nothing to most people. It’s important enough to explain again.

What’s a keyword?

Keywords, just to make sure we’re all on the same page, are the terms people type into the search box at Google or another search engine. One of the main goals for SEO is to show up when your customers (clients, patients, community members…) type in a keyword that describes your goods and services.

Keywords don’t have to be just one word. Nowadays, they’re often phrases four or more words long.

You have primary keywords, the most generic and obvious things you offer and the terms you know your customers use as a starting point. For us, those terms include “SEO strategy” and “web content” and “professional blogging.” You might have terms on your list like the generic name of the products you sell, or the service you provide along with the name of your town.

These terms are probably the top ones when you look at a list of the queries that brought customers to you. But your website can (and should) bring people to you for thousands of keywords. So a curve showing your keywords would have a tall part showing the most common keywords, and then a long tail heading out to the right showing all the other keywords.


You might have 1,000 visitors who put in the query “stress management” and only 100 who typed in “exercise for stress management.” You might think that “stress management” is your important keyword, and “exercise for stress management” is less valuable because fewer people search for it.

Then you notice that long tail keywords like “exercise for stress management” added together brought you 5,000 visitors.

Long tail keywords

Statisticians say that modern consumers are more focused on the long tail — we want more customization and we don’t follow the herd as much as we used to. The bell curve was the norm for human behavior, but the long tail is becoming the norm. So the long tail in general is more important for business. We know that people no longer search for a good family dentist by typing in “dentist.” What’s more, as you know if you have ever typed in your primary one or two word keyword phrase, there is now so much competition online that it’s very hard to rank for those terms.

The results for the most generic terms, such as “books,” tend not to show local businesses. Google, Amazon, and Wikipedia often have those terms sewn up. The most common search terms for health and wellness will typically show WebMD or the Mayo Clinic’s website before any local medical service providers.

And certainly a new business or a website that’s just beginning to work on SEO will find it easier to rank for many long tail keywords than to rank for more generic terms.

Find your long tail keywords

It’s harder to find the long tail keywords than it used to be, because your analytics will not show all your keywords. However, Google’s Search Console and Google Analytics Query reports can be very helpful here.

Once you identify long tail keywords that work for you, get started with blog posts that address each one.







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