Learn SEO Basics: Long Tail Keywords

Learn SEO Basics Long Tail Keywords

As you’re learning about search marketing and SEO, you will definitely run into the phrase “the long tail”. Let’s turn this odd term into a familiar one by looking into long tail keywords.

What are Long Tail Keywords?

When you are identifying keywords for your internet marketing (both SEO and PPC), the metric used most to compare keywords is its popularity. If you put all the keywords that “exist” into a graph, it would look something like this:

The y-axis is the popularity and the x-axis are the keywords themselves. On the left hand side we have the most popular keywords, which are also highly competitive. Because these are the “opposite” of our main topic, long tail keywords, we call these just “keywords” or for fun, “short tail keywords”.

On the right hand side of the graph are the long tail keywords (looks like a tail doesn’t it?). Despite these keywords being less popular, they are still used every day by searchers around the world. And the exciting part is, they are (1) less competitive and (2) easier to rank well for without a ton of work!

Recently a company shared their long tail vs short tail keyword data, and they showed that almost 70% of their search engine traffic came from the long tail. This company is not alone, long tail keywords can be powerful sources of search engine traffic for any site!

Is it a Keyword or a Long Tail Keyword?

Separating out short and long tail keywords is best done by counting the number of words, although there can easily be overlap between the two. Short tail keywords are often 1-2 words in length, sometimes 3 words. Long tail keywords are typically 3-6 words in length, but they could be even longer than that!

How Can I Find Long Tail Keywords?

Finding keywords is pretty easy, there are lots of tools available, from Google Adwords to WordTracker to our own tools that aggregates several of these keyword databases (free trial). But before you get too excited, there is one important thing to know:


Why is that? The main reason is that new searches happen every day, a lot more than you would think. Google has said that 20-25% of searches haven’t ever been seen before. That is amazing! What that really means is that there are tons of opportunities for you to get traffic, and with keywords that aren’t highly competitive!

How Can I Capitalize on Long Tail Keywords?

Let’s make this one into a step-by-step process:

1) Today’s Long Tail Keywords – Start figuring out what long tail keywords people are using right now to find your site. I recommend HitTail. They have both free and paid services that track who hits your site. You can do it with Google Analytics too, but I like HitTail’s interface and focus on just the long tail.

2) Tomorrow’s Long Tail Keywords – (a) Brain storm by yourself, with co-workers, friends, and family for long tail keywords. Email a bunch of people you know asking for 10 searches they would use to find your product or service. (b) Use keyword search tools (like ours) to find keywords that are 3-6 words in length. Start with a popular keyword and see what comes up. Add it to your list of keywords but mark them in some way that they are “new”.

3) Unique Content – You’ll find it rather tough to rank for a long tail keyword without actually using that keyword in your content. Either write or pay someone to write content (like one of our companies) based on each of your keywords, one per page. I suggest doing no less than 250 words, and 350 words is probably better. I wouldn’t worry about keyword density, but have it in there 3 or so times, as well as in the title and header (h1) tag.

4) Internal Linking – The easiest links are internal links! Of course they don’t count the same as external links (backlinks), but they are useful and make a difference. Make sure you link to your new content in some organized way (Read about theming by siloing), preferably more than just one link on one page to your content. Site-wide links should probably be reserved for your “short tail keywords”.

5) New, Fresh Content – After getting content for your site with your “new” list of long tail keywords, you need to stay on top of your game by constantly adding fresh, new, unique content. We started our content company, Applied Content, two years ago for just this reason. If you can’t afford to buy new articles weekly (we recommend 3-5 new articles per week), there are other options. Starting a company blog is a great way to do it, and you can share the writing between yourself and other employees. Have a set day to post so everyone knows to have a post ready. If you don’t want a company blog, then just write articles and expand your site. The point is to have new content with new phrases and potential long tail keywords.

Armed with the steps to capitalize on long tail keywords for your site, you can be well on your way to realizing the hidden potential of long tail keywords!

For an advanced look at the topic of short and long tail keywords, look at my post about Links vs Content.


  • Karl Ribas says:

    Hey Michael –

    Just wanted to say “great post”. I especially enjoyed you’re 5 tips on how to capitalize on long tail keywords once you’ve discovered them.

  • battery says:

    I agree whith you Karl.

  • Jasmin says:


    Why is that? The main reason is that new searches happen every day, a lot more than you would think. Google has said that 20-25% of searches haven’t ever been seen before. That is amazing!
    What that really means is that there are tons of opportunities for you to get traffic,

    Not In my Eyes Goolges not that helpful the wording always leaves a big IF in it

    20-25% of searches haven’t ever been seen before.haha is there a new dictionary out?

    No i don’t think so

    What there are really saying is the search has never been done with the words in that older before

  • @Jasmin, Obviously it isn’t new words being made up, but its the order and combination of words being used. If you search for “cup of hot chocolate” and “hot cup of chocolate”, the queries show two different results, although they are still similar results. I still think its fascinating.

  • Nicholas says:

    For your keyword research try using KeywordSpy – a keyword research technology that will help you know what keywords your competitors are using and how it generates money for them, you can use those keywords to drive traffic to your site and give your business the exposure it needs. It offers Free trials.

    It goes with a ClickBank Affiliates Search Engine where you can see the actual market landscape at ClickBank.

  • Its quite interesting to learn about the types of keywords which in turn helps to categorize them. To get high traffic or pr keywords is the most important which makes others to view the site with the keen interest.

  • I’ve been struggling with the tactics of long tail keywords and looking for as many sources on it to get it right. Thanks for clarifying so much of the mystique of this often misunderstood topic.

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