Search Engines

Long tail versus short tail

To sound like an SEO expert, just ask about “long tail keywords.” What exactly does that mean?

“Long tail” merely refers to the length of the phrase. The term “keyword” gets thrown around a lot. A more apt description for the concept would be “key phrase.” SEO optimization targets specific key phrases that are relevant to your organization, have sufficiently high search volumes, and that you have a chance at ranking on Page 1 for.

When Long Tail is Preferred

That last requirement is where long tail keywords can come in handy. Let’s say you run a small handmade candy shop. Sure, you’d love it if you were #1 on Google for anyone searching candy. The odds of that happening are basically nil. And that’s not a bad thing either. Someone searching on Google for “candy” could be looking for stock photos of candy, a Wikipedia article, or a recipe. There’s nothing indicating intent of their search suggesting that you want them to land on your site and buy candy. So since you won’t, can’t, and don’t want to rank #1 for candy, we start to investigate long tail variations. Use your imagination or a tool like Google Ads Keyword Planner (or both).

  • candy store near me
  • old fashioned candy
  • peanut butter kisses candy
  • handmade cotton candy

An Engaged Audience is a Valuable Audience

As you narrow your focus, you can capture much more traffic. That traffic is much more engaged, or more likely to convert and make a purchase on your site. The downside is, the more focused your keyword is, the lower the search volume will be. Congrats on ranking #1 for a term with 0 average searches per month. The ease of ranking is inversely proportional to the value of the keyword. More valuable keywords are more competitive.

That’s the heart of what SEO practitioners refer to as a “keyword strategy.” Knowing what you want to rank for can sometimes be as hard as actually ranking for it. With a little research, creativity, and maybe a bit of help, you can get a rock solid plan with real return on investment.