What Are Long Tail Keywords and How Are They Used?

If you’ve done any sort of search engine optimization (SEO) research, you’ve likely come across the term “long tail keywords.” It’s advisable to use them in your SEO efforts, but it’s also a term that gets lost in translation.

But what are long tail keywords? Read on to learn what they are, why it’s beneficial to target them, and how to implement strategies that can improve your SEO.

Short tail, medium tail, and long tail keywords

There are three types of keywords:

  1. Short tail keywords (also known as “head terms”) are broad, one or two-word terms. They receive a lot of search volume and are highly competitive to rank well on. An example of a short tail keyword is “dog food.”
  2. Medium tail keywords consist of two or three words and are more specific than their shorter counterparts. They are easier to rank well on, as they are only moderately competitive. This means that their search volume isn’t too high. An example of a medium tail keyword is “natural dog food.”
  3. Lastly, to answer the question you came for, what are long tail keywords? These are very specific and include more than three words (and can even be complete phrases). They have relatively low search volumes and are the least competitive type of keyword. An example of a long tail keyword is “natural gourmet dog food in Connecticut.”

The benefits of targeting long tail keywords

Optimizing your content for long tail keywords can help you attract more organic traffic as well as benefit your pay-per-click advertising campaigns.

  • Long tail keywords are more specific: With long tail keywords, you’ll get a better understanding of what your visitors are looking for, which helps you create more relevant content for your website as well as targeted ads that attract qualified leads.

  • Long tail keywords have less competition: Considering that long tail keywords have relatively low search volumes (which may imply a smaller audience), many advertisers see them as less valuable and avoid bidding on them or creating ads based around them.

  • Long tail keywords have a lower advertising cost: Lastly, since there is less competition, the bid cost (for sponsored search engine results) will be significantly lower, which helps reduce your advertising costs.

Who should target long tail keywords?

Given the ever-increasing number of websites out there, every business owner across every niche can benefit from working long tail keywords into their SEO strategies. However, long tail keywords are especially beneficial within the most competitive industries, which include fitness, health, dating, and pets, according to The Balance Small Business.

Best practices for long tail keywords

Now that you know the benefits of using long tail keywords, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, make sure to optimize your pages and posts (rather than focusing on link building). Write content that’s relevant to your niche and informative for your readers.

You’ll also want to ensure that search engines can properly index and crawl your site; otherwise, none of your long tail keywords will make a difference. A sitemap, accurate image alt tags, and proper post formatting (headers, subheads, and lists) are all basic things you can do to make your site more search-engine friendly.

Get a leg up on your SEO with long tail keywords

Using long tail keywords can help you stand out in a crowded niche and reduce your advertising costs. Make sure to fold them into your blog and content creation strategy to increase your odds of ranking higher on relevant keyword searches.


Brenda Barron

Brenda Barron is a freelance writer, editor, and SEO specialist from southern California. She is a contributor to The Motley Fool and blogs regularly at The Digital Inkwell.

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