Long Tail Keywords - what, how and why they should be part of your SEO strategy.

Written by Nick Swan. Published on 06, October 2020

Page Contents:

What are long tail keywords?

If you are starting with a new website, or working in a really competitive niche, one way of getting more organic traffic from Google is to target long tail keywords. These types of keywords get their name from the book 'The Long Tail' by Chris Anderson. In this book he uses the case study of Amazon and how 80% of their revenue comes from just 20% of their best selling books. The last 20% of revenue comes from 80% of books - and these books are known as the long tail.

While this long tail of books may only sell a few copies each year - there are so many of them, the total revenue from their sales ends up being a very interesting amount.

Also, as Amazon gets known for stocking every book you could ever dream of ordering, unlike a bricks and mortar book shelf that only has physical space for best sellers, Amazon becomes the first choice for a book order whether you want a best seller or an obscure fishing book published in 1983!

That's the ecomonics of how the long tail works for Amazon, but how does it help us with seo and the long tail?

Popular keywords are like best sellers

You can consider high traffic keywords as the best sellers of the book world. Speak to any author and they'll tell you how hard it is to write a bestseller!

It's the same with high traffic keywords, they are difficult to rank for because everybody wants to rank #1 and on the first page for them in the search engines.

Pareto's Principle in action

Interestingly the ratio of high volume keywords to lower volume keywords follows the 20/80 rule as well. This 20/80 or 80/20 rule is known as Pareto's Principle.

Less Competition

So lets think about the 80% of keywords - sure they get less searches per month, but there is less competition to rank for them. And if you add all these long tail keywords together that you could rank for in your niche, they could bring in a large amount of search traffic.

Higher Converting

Often these long tail keywords are made up of longer search terms so the users are more specific in what they are searching for. This means if you do address their query in your page, they will have a better conversion rate upon reaching your site - assuming your product or service addresses their need.

Head Terms and Long Tail Keywords

Head Terms and Long Tail Keywords are the best sellers and everything else of the book world.

Head terms make up the 20% of keywords, that get 80% of the search volume. Long tail keywords make up 80% of the unique queries, that get 20% of the volume.

Lets consider a golf website to look at some examples. Head terms get high search volume and so are difficult to rank for because everybody tries to rank for them. These are the typical terms a keyword research tool would bring to your attention.

Long tail keywords are low competition, low search volume keywords - but if you target enough of these long tail keywords they can add up to a decent amount of new organic traffic each month.

For golf - lets consider the head term : 'pitching wedge'

This keyword gets 2,600 searches per month in the US, and if we look at the sites ranking in the top 10 for this term they all have a high domain authority. This would be quite a tough keyword for a new site to rank for that doesn't have a strong backlink profile.

Screenshot of searching for pitching wedge in Google

It's also worth noting that Google finds over 32 million results for this search term - that's a huge amount of content to try and rank against!

Looking at the various related questions to 'pitching wedge' in ahrefs.com, 'what degree is a pitching wedge' is listed as a possible long tail search.

Screenshot of ahrefs.com keyword research tool

Surprisingly this gets 1,100 searches a month, and looking at the domain authority of the sites ranking in the top 10 for this keyword we'd have a much better chance of ranking for this term.

Screenshot of searching for a long tail keyword in Google : what degree is a pitching wedge

We can also see from the search results Google only returns just over 3 million results. Still a large number, but 10 times less than the head search term!

So one tactic for finding for find long tail keywords is to use a tool such as ahrefs.com, plug in your Head Terms, and take a look at the Questions and Keyword Ideas the tool recommends and use them as long tail keyword targets.

Search Intent

As well as looking at keyword difficulty, we need to consider the searchers intent when they put a query in to Google - or at least what Google thinks the users intent is.

Certain queries bring back certain types of search results. For example, searching for 'golf balls' brings back lots of ecommerce sites selling golf balls. You'd have a hard time getting a page to rank that explains the history of golf balls against what Google thinks are people looking to buy golf balls.

While this is not true for all queries, quite often a lot of head terms are product/service related and therefore bring back product/service related pages.

If you are looking to create informational type content - you are going to have an easier time ranking and getting traffic from long tail keywords and searches.

How to find long tail keywords?

Rather than taking a look at which keywords you could potentially rank for - the best place to start is looking at what you already rank for.

Although your SEO strategy up until now might not have included a long tail strategy, your site will be appearing for long tail keywords anyway based on the way Google analyses web pages and relates topics and keywords. These keywords that your site appears for in the organic search results are reported in Google Search Console.

You might have targetted a specific head term in one of your site's pages. Google will also rank your page for associated long tail keywords.

Although you appear in the serps for these long tail keywords, it's often likely you will not rank particularly high for them if you aren't specifically addressing it in your page. The task is to identify long tail keywords that you appear low down the search results in, which if targetted directly with good quality content - you are likely to rank well for.

We do make an assumption that you will rank well for these long tail keywords. This is because you have managed to rank for them without directly targeting them. If you were to directly target them with a great piece of content, you are much more likely to achieve a better rank.

Through Google Search Console you can see the top 1,000 keywords your site has appeared for in the search engine result pages (serps) each day. You can start looking through these to find instances of keywords appearing on page 5+ which could be good long tail candidates.

Through the Search Console API, and using SEOTesting - we are able to use the top 5,000 keywords each day your site has appeared in the serps for. This gives you many more opportunities to find interesting long tail queries. With all this keyword data we have a number of pre-built reports that surface long tail keyword ideas for you to work with.

Reports in SEOTesting.com to help with long tail keyword research

Long tail keywords report

There's a specific report in SanityCheck called Long Tail Keywords.

Screenshot of long tail keyword report from SEOTesting.com

It simply brings back the keywords your site has appeared for based on the date range selected, ordered by position ascending. So you'll be looking at the very longest of your sites tail by default.

Questions people ask report

Questions make great long tail keywords, simply because they add intent to the query. In SEOTesting we search through the universe of search queries your site has ranked for and bring them all out. Each one of the results in this report could be a long tail keyword opportunity, or an opportunity to add a new FAQ to an existing article on your site.

Screenshot of the questions to answer report in SEOTesting.com

As more people do more voice search over their phones or home devices such as Google Home - questions will become even more relevant things to target as people ask their devices questions rather than just request results for particular keywords. Read more about the Questions to Answer report here.

New keywords report

Even if you haven't added new content to your site for 3-6 months, as Google refines its understanding of topics and keywords, and new trends occur, your site will rank for new terms and queries. The New Keywords report lists the keywords your site has appeared for, for the first time, over the last seven days.

Screeshot of the new keywords report in SEOTesting.com

As you create new content - this report will be stocked full of new keyword phrases your site has started to rank for. Check this report once a week, and save new ideas for new long tail content.

Save your long tail keyword ideas

SEOTesting.com has the 'Saved Ideas' area, so you can save your keyword ideas here to come back to later. This is particularly useful as the reports listed above generally contain a lot of keywords to scroll through.

How Long Tail Keywords can help PPC

As we have said, long tail keywords are less competitive and convert better as the content created for them more accurately reflects what the user is searching for. Long Tail Keywords can also be used to improve your PPC and Google Ad campaigns.

Using long tail keywords you can:

  • come up with a list of less competitive keywords
  • create ads that specifically target these long tail keywords
  • create landing pages that reflect the long tail keyword and searchers intent


If you are working on a new site, or have an established site and want to easily get more organic traffic - use the long tail keyword strategy. Make it even easier by using SEOTesting.com to find the long tail keywords you site is already ranking for. Create some great content for them, and watch new clicks roll in.

SEOTesting.com has a free 14 day trial, no credit card required. Sign up for your free today and you can use all the long tail reports mentioned above and get started.