Amateurs Guide to Keyword Research: Unraveling the Long-Tail Keyword


The elusive long-tail keyword likes to spend its days roaming the interwebs, linking curious consumers with their innermost desires, however bizarre and specific they may be.

According to a study done by Hitwise in 2009, Over 55 percent of clicks were on keyword phrases that had three or more words.

Individuals seeking to make their website as user and search engine friendly as possible should tap into the long-tail keywords that pertain most to the services they offer.

What is a long-tail keyword?

As the name implies, long tail keywords are typically made up of multiple words that ask a question or address a specific need. According to Google Adwords consultant, Alan Mitchell, in his blog, long tail keywords are defined as having more than two, three or even five words.  There is no magic number, but generally the more niche-targeting a phrase is the more likely it will be considered long tail keywords regardless of how many words.

An example:

Sue the starving student is fresh out of Top Ramen starving. She needs some sustenance stat! She runs to her computer and attempts to gnaw at the keyboard in delirium- snaps out of it- and pull up Google.

Desperate she types in the generic keyword “food.” This brings up over three billion sites! More ravenous then ever, she tries the term “cheap Mexican food Tucson.” Now there is only a about 300 thousand sites, and Sue is quickly able to find a taco stand within a reasonable distance to satiate her hunger.

Important Take Away Points, Long-tail Keywords:

  • Face far less competition than more generic keywords
  • Often have lower cost-per click prices
  • Are specifically attuned to your consumers needs
  • Can be used to target customers in your geographic region
  • Can boost your conversion rates!

Note the exclamation point, SEO experts, like those at Search Engine Journal, agree that long-tail keywords tend to generate more actual business. Usually, searchers who use specific keywords have already done their homework and are looking to purchase a product or service.

An easy way to begin discovering what long-tail keywords work for you is though services like Google AdWords Keyword Suggestion Tool.  You can type in a word, your website and instantly begin generating related phrases, how often they are searched globally or monthly and the competition associated with them. You can do preliminary research without an account and sign up if you find that you want to see more ideas from Google.

While generic keywords generate the most traffic, crafting a solid set of long-tail keywords that apply to your website and services will benefit your company in the long run.

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