What is a Long-Tail Keyword Phrase? And Why Should You Care?

What is a Long-Tail Keyword Phrase? And Why Should You Care?

By Ralf Skirr.

searching for keyword phrasesLong Tail Keyword Phrase – you’ve probably heard all the fuss about it. But what really is it? What does it mean and how can it help you?

The ‘long-tail’ is a term given to a keyword phrase that is longer than the normal keyword phrase that you may have in the past been targeting to gain organic traffic from the search engines.

Let me explain.

In the past it was common place to target highly trafficable keywords that were very popular in your niche in the hope that you would be able to gain a share of this huge amount of traffic.

For example, if you had built a site about internet marketing and search engine optimization you would have done your keyword research and discovered that the term “search engine optimization” was searched for over 450,000 times per month. So naturally you would have optimized your pages for this keyword phrase to try to get a listing on the first page of the search engines (SERPs) to capitalize on this traffic.

Then you would have focused on optimizing a webpage for the next highest keyword phrase – and then the next – and then the next. And so on.

Basically most people only ever focus their efforts on the top 20 search terms and forget about the rest as there just doesn’t seem to be enough reward in optimizing a webpage on a long-tail keyword phrase that only gets a handful of visitors each day.

For instance, a long-tail keyword phrase for your internet marketing site may be “search engine optimization keywords”, but as this term only gets about 390 searches a month you decide to forget about it. It’s just not worth the effort, particularly when you can get 450,000 visitors by optimizing for a more popular keyword like “search engine optimization”.

But let’s face it.

There are only 10 spots on the first page of any search engine, so the odds of you being able to gain a top spot for competitive keywords such as “search engine optimization” is remote at best. However this doesn’t deter most people as the lure of a share of 450,000 visitors is just too compelling.

The end result is that for most people this just doesn’t happen and as a result they never achieve the traffic they hope for. So they give up trying and never reach the heights that they expected.

But here’s the real twist…

Some of the marketers who do get lucky and get a high listing for one of their main keywords still don’t see the long-term rewards they had thought they would achieve with a top search engine listing for a popular keyword. And it’s all due to not focusing on the “long-tail”.

Let me give you an example to explain what I mean.

For one moment let’s assume you have built an internet marketing website and after a lot of effort and hard work you finally achieve the #1 spot for your top keyword. In fact, your top 20 keywords are sending you 15,000 visitors a day to your website from the search engines and you’re making a good income from monetizing this traffic.

You’re getting heaps of free traffic and the money is rolling in. What more could you ask for. Life is great!

The trouble is that in your excitement to optimize your site for the top keyword phrases in your niche, you forget about the long-tail keyword phrases. But hey, who cares. Your top keywords bring in 95% of your traffic, so you don’t need to worry about the smaller stuff. It’s just not worth the effort.

Then you wake up one morning and check your web stats.


Your traffic has dropped from 15,000 to a mere 500 overnight. You hurriedly check the position of your keywords and discover that Google has had a dreaded update and you’re no longer on the front page for your main keywords. In fact, you’ve gone from the first page to the 7th page.

All of a sudden instead of earning $10k per month, you’re looking at maybe $500 if you’re lucky. Basically your entire business has been destroyed overnight. And if you think this is an isolated case, think again. This scenario is repeated every time the search engines update their algorithms.

Now imagine that rather than just focusing entirely on the popular keywords, you decided to focus on the long-tail keyword phrases to drive traffic to your site. But rather than focus on just a few long-tail keywords, you focus on 200 such keywords. Combined these keywords can drive more traffic to your site than what your most competitive keywords can.

Yes it’s a lot more work – but remember, you want to build a long-term sustainable internet business, so it’s not going to be easy. The rewards will be worth it.

And here’s the real exciting part – you are getting traffic from a wider range of keywords. So if one of your top rankings keywords bites the dust, it won’t have a huge affect on your business as you don’t have all your eggs in one basket.

People who search using long-tail keywords are highly targeted potential customers. They have already done their preliminary searches and are now totally focused on exactly what they want and therefore they are more likely to convert to customers than someone who does a broader keyword search.

So while you may not get as many visitors to your site if you focus your efforts on long-tail keyword phrases, your visitors are more likely to convert into customers at a much higher rate – plus you have created a LONG-TERM business in that you are not at the mercy of the search engines and it is unlikely that you would be wiped out overnight.

So the next time you built a niche site, don’t forget to go long for the long term keyword phrase!

Category: SEO-Tips | Tags: ,


Leave a comment
  1. Neil Adams January 17, 2009 at 3:44 pm #


    Thank you for explaining what a long-tailed-keyword is.

    I have read that term dozens of times and never knew what it meant. I have several of them in my meta tags, but never searched for them in the search engines.

    I will certainly do that now.


  2. Kylon Trower January 24, 2009 at 9:21 am #

    This is a great explanation of the long tail keyword scenario.

    I can appreciate the concept of keyword diversity which creates greater stability in your business model.

    It makes great sense. Thanks for the excellent content and keep up the good work!

    The Passive Cash Guy