What are longtail keywords?

You may have heard the phrase “long tail keywords” before but not fully understood what it means. Quite simply, long-tail keywords are a set of words that go together as an individual search term that is longer than a single keyword and often specific in nature.

For example, choosing the keyword “golf” would be a mistake. It’s a simple keyword, but highly competitive, and you stand very little chance of breaking into the top 10 search results naturally. You can narrow your market by choosing “golf club” instead – the original keyword gives almost 2 billion results, while “golf club” returns 136 million.

Why is this important? Simply because if you are trying to attract people to your website and have a product to sell, you want people who are interested in the product itself. People who search for golf may be looking for a live stream, or perhaps want to know the rules of the game. People who search for golf clubs have something specific in mind.

Taking it further, “left-handed golf clubs” returns 438,000 results, while “left-handed golf clubs for sale” returns around 70,000. This means there is less competition, so it will be easier to rank your site, but it will also cost less to use the phrase in PPC advertising than simply using “golf”. 

Short tail vs Long Tail Keywords

Short tail keywords can be as short as a single word and usually target a very broad audience. Long-tail keywords are longer and target a particular subset of people – in our above example, left-handed people who want to buy golf clubs.

While you may think it is unhelpful to target a smaller number of people, consider this: your success is not determined by the absolute number of people who visit your website, but rather those who sign up, make a purchase, or engage with you in some way.

You might sell backup services for retro computers, running shoes for women, or dog treats for bulldogs, but by specifically stating what you do, you are more likely to attract the right people.

That’s not to say that an advertising campaign needs to only target “running shoes for women” when you also sell running shoes for men – but both of those are long-tail keywords. “Running shoes” isn’t a long tail keyword as it is targeted at everyone.

Something like “blue running shoes” could be considered a long-tail keyword, but might be a little broad. “Blue running shoes for men” is very specific and is a good long-tail keyword.

Which is best?

Traffic Volume

If you just want to get people to your site with no direct agenda to sell or engage, short tail keywords will reach the widest range of people. You won’t know if they have an intent to buy, or even if your content is what they are really looking for, but for boosting numbers – short tail is the way to go.

Cost-effectiveness

It is cheaper to run an advertising campaign on any platform with long-tail keywords. They are simply more specific and allow you to attract your true market. 

Conversion

Where one in a hundred might be a real lead with short tail keywords, long-tail keywords can produce a result of one in two or better. It is a case of drawing in the people who want to work with you, want to buy from you, and have an interest in the subject.

Overall

For content creation, it can be helpful to use a combination of short-tail and long-tail keywords. This helps the search engines to understand your content more easily, but it isn’t ideal for PPC marketing. Long-tail keywords often work better in this context as you are paying for results, so the higher quality the responses are, the better.

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