A Simple Explanation of Long-Tail Keywords

In Google Ads, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) by Matt Chiera

Keywords are an extremely important part of search engine optimization and marketing, but what is a long-tail keyword and why are they important?

First, a keyword (in the context of search engine optimization and marketing) is a word or phrase that someone types into a search engine (like Google) to find websites and web content related to that word or phrase. For instance, if someone is looking for something to do in Chicago, but have no idea what, they might type into Google:

“Chicago” is a short-tail keyword.

“Chicago” is a one word keyword, therefore it’s a ‘short-tail’ keyword. Now, on to long-tail keywords. A long-tail Keyword is a precise multi-word keyword phrase, typically three words or more, that someone types into a search engine. For example let’s assume that someone is looking for one of the many stellar tourist attractions during summer in Chicago. They might type in something like:

“Chicago summer tourist attractions” is a long-tail keyword.

“Chicago summer tourist attractions” is a precise multi-word search phrase, therefore it is a ‘long tail’ keyword. So why is this so important for search engine optimization and marketing? The answer lies in this simple graph:

(source: https://moz.com/)

The far left of the graph represents short-tail keywords i.e. “Chicago”, and account for a small percentage of all (Google) searches while long-tail keywords i.e. “Chicago summer tourist attractions” account for roughly 70% of all searches. In a nutshell, long-tail keyword searches are hundreds of millions of unique multi-word searches that might be conducted a few times in any given day, but, when taken together, comprise the majority of the world’s search volume.

For marketers, because with long-tail keywords the consumer is searching for a very specific product or service, long-tail keywords are typically higher converting (meaning someone searching for a more specific keyword phrase is more likely to buy a product or service) and less competitive than short-tail keywords. From an organic ranking (the free listings in Google) perspective, long-tail keywords are not only easier to rank a website for (because they are less competitive), but also are more targeted to exactly what a user is searching for to find a particular product or service.

For search engine marketing, for example Google Ads, bidding on long-tail keywords is an important strategy, as the cost-per-click (the amount an advertiser pays if someone clicks on their ad) to an ad is inevitably lower since there’s less competition. Bidding on long-tail keywords also allows advertisers to only show ads for the exact keywords that customers are typing into Google to find their product or service.

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