Why focus on long tail keywords?

While writing our first eBook ‘Optimizing your WordPress site’ I worked closely together with Joost in creating a section on Search Engine Optimization. The first chapter — after the introduction in SEO — had to be keyword research. ‘Keyword research is the basis of all Search Engine Optimization,’ Joost explained to me, ‘without proper keyword research, all other things are basically useless’.

Back in 2010 Joost already wrote a post called the basis of keyword research in which he states that ‘keyword research is the basis of all search marketing’. At the very least my husband is consistent! And more importantly, I think he is absolutely right [Note from Joost: yeeehaw!].

At Yoast.com, however, we did very little to provide guidance to our readers in doing keyword research. That’s a bit weird, it being the most important part of SEO and all… That’s why I would like to dwell on this subject for a number of posts, helping you understand the importance of keyword research and sharing some of our secrets in how to execute a proper keyword research.

In this post, I would like to help you understand the importance of understanding your own product and the effort you should make to rank for long tail keywords.

What is your mission?

If you want to sell something, you should simply have a damn good product! And you should be well aware of what your product or your website offers to your audience… what makes it special. If you know and understand this, it will be much easier to make your audience like and buy your stuff. You should thus take some time to think about the uniqueness of your product and write that down. Perhaps you sell cruises to Hawaii. You offer great facilities for children, making the cruises especially suitable for young parents or single moms. Offering great cruises to Hawaii for single moms could be the uniqueness of your service.This is your mission, your niche, this is what you have to offer to your audience! Do make sure you write down your mission in words that are used and understood by your audience.

Competitiveness of the market

In some markets, it is really hard to rank. Some markets are just highly competitive, with large companies dominating the search results. These companies have a very large budget to spend on marketing in general and SEO specifically. Ranking in these markets is hard. You will be unable to compete on a small budget in a market like the travel industry using search terms as Vacation Hawaii.

However, if you have your mission clear, you should be able to define what makes your product or website stand out from this market.  And you should use YOUR mission in order to start ranking! Taking my example of cruises for single moms to Hawaii, would mean that you should focus on the less competitive term [single mom cruises Hawaii]. Again, use words that are used by your target audience (and avoid difficult terminologies).

Long tail keywords graphic

Long tail: the more specific your keyword, the less competition there is.

Long tail keywords

The longer (and more specific) search terms are, the easier it will be to rank on the term. Keywords that are more specific (and often longer) are usually referred to as long tail search terms. Long tail keywords are more specific and less common. They focus more on a niche.

It is much easier to rank for long tail keywords than for more common keywords. Another benefit for focussing on long tail keywords is that, although these keywords are used less in search, the visitor that finds your website using them is more likely to buy your service or product.

The longer and more specific the search terms are, the higher the chances of conversion are. I am currently looking for a cottage in France to spend our next summer vacation. I started my search with the term ‘vacation France’. I quickly discovered I wanted to go to the Dordogne, and preferred a house in the countryside. My search still continues, but now I use terms like [vacation house countryside Dordogne]. A long tail keyword. Using this keyword, I found new sites, which more closely resembled my vacation wishes. Chances for me to book my vacation largely increased.

Use your mission to define long tail keywords

The definition of your mission, in which you make crystal clear what the awesomeness of your product, site or blog is, should be central in choosing the long tail keywords you want to rank for. Trying to make your website rank for a specific term can be quite profitable, as long as this specific term closely resembles the product you’re selling. The terms you have used to describe your mission can be nicely used to focus on in your SEO strategy. These words should be central in the long tail keywords you aim your website to rank for. People using the terms of your mission and finding your website will be relatively small in volume, but these people do have the highest chances to buy your product or to become regular visitors.
If you’d like to learn more about long tail keywords, read our latest eBook: Content SEO!


23 Responses

  1. Mohamed Ali
    By Mohamed Ali on 9 October, 2014

    I agree strongly with what you say, and it’s very logical and works well ,

    but not in all cases !
    yes, some times the conversion’s super star and top performer keyword is only 2 WORDS LONG,
    even more, sometimes it’s broad match

    , so each account works differently, what i say about ad words is that we can’t be very broad, as there is no written rules { sobre los conversiones no hay nada escrito}

    the best secret what i can tell is, it’s look like petroleum industry { the deeper you dig , the better results you can obtain } , try to find those keywords with less competition,
    others people don’t’ use ,
    if you are the only one in the auction , you get the deal cheapest , this works for some fields with less aggressive bidding monsters.

    as long as you can find some good stuff other people didn’t find yet, the sky is your limit

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 10 October, 2014

      You’ll notice Marieke never talked about the length of the keyword. We’re not interested in the length, we’re interested in whether or not they’re broad intent or specific intent mostly… [Vacation house France] and [Vacation house Dordogne] could be almost similar length, but have a very different intent.

  2. Andy
    By Andy on 9 October, 2014

    I think long tail keywords bring less traffic than shorter ones but its true that they can be optimized faster and easier.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 10 October, 2014

      Less traffic might be true, but are you optimizing for traffic or for sales?

      • Jeroen
        By Jeroen on 11 October, 2014

        One of the best answers that i’ve read since. If you’ re targeting a website just for traffic, in an internetmarket with semantic searchengines, hummingbirds, penguins and a lot of competition, then sit and think about what makes your product and service different. After that, sit and think as if you were one of your potential visitors. They are mostly forced by the searchresults to specify their searching terms. Especially when search engines are showing suggest.
        Kind regards, Jeroen Smid, Berlin

  3. Curtez
    By Curtez on 9 October, 2014

    Great article, and thanks for the recommended read. Be different and go against the masses. Focused Keyword Research on LTs, along with a solid content plan, has allowed me to grow several sites..

  4. Claude
    By Claude on 9 October, 2014

    Yeah I agree with you, Long tail keywords are easy to rank and convert more.

    BTW have you used ‘HitTail’? Do you recommend that tool for Long Tail Keywords? Please let me know. Thanks.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 10 October, 2014

      Hey Claude,

      I’ve used HitTail years ago, but not recently…

  5. Simon Folbigg
    By Simon Folbigg on 10 October, 2014

    I have a site with a fairly unique product (vinyl mesh banners banners in a range of designs that cover old fences) the problem is knowing what people could enter into Google when searching for such a product? How would you suggest finding this information? There is no word or phrase that I know of that is generally used for such a product

    • Salman Ravoof
      By Salman Ravoof on 10 October, 2014

      You can try targeting “vinyl mesh banners for fences” on your website I guess. That’s what I was able to gather from this article.

      • Simon Folbigg
        By Simon Folbigg on 10 October, 2014

        Thanks for the reply but I am wondering if it is best to create a long tail keyword based on a description of what the product is (which in my case not many people will know exist) or do you opt for longtail keywords that describe how the product can help you ‘alternative to new garden fence’, ‘cheap garden fencing idea london’ etc

  6. Salman Ravoof
    By Salman Ravoof on 10 October, 2014

    Is there any free tool to research long tail keywords. Are Long Tail Pro and Market Samurai the only worthy choices? I want to get started with keyword research, but I have no idea where to begin.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 10 October, 2014

      Google Adwords external keyword tool and google trends are a good starting point. Bing has some great tools too, if you’re researching the english market some of those tools might actually work for you, if not, you’re out of luck…

      • Noman
        By Noman on 20 October, 2014

        I agree with you,Google Adwords external keyword tool is a great keyword research tool.it’s my favorite keyword research tool.thanks for your valuable post

  7. Ingrid DiPaula
    By Ingrid DiPaula on 10 October, 2014

    Long-tailed keywords make perfect sense — deeper penetration into smaller markets. Thank you, Marieke (and Joost).

  8. Akhil K A
    By Akhil K A on 12 October, 2014

    Really a valuable information for me.

    Now I got some interesting and useful facts about long tail keywords.


  9. A Kumar
    By A Kumar on 12 October, 2014

    Nice article, But I believe SEO is a very strange phenomenon. The more you learn, the more you are confused…

    • santhosh
      By santhosh on 13 October, 2014

      No confusions implies expert in subject

  10. Nigel Abery
    By Nigel Abery on 13 October, 2014

    Do you think that on-page SEO for long tails is the key or do you think that off-page backlink anchor text with the long tail phrase just as important? Furthermore, do the short tail off-page anchors also help long tail on-page if the page is long tail SEO?

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 20 October, 2014

      I think a combination works best. Set up the right site structure and internal link structure to create a ‘web’ on your website with great cornerstone content pages (for all kinds of keywords). And try to get some great, quality backlinks to your main pages.

  11. raffa bintang
    By raffa bintang on 13 October, 2014

    this is the first time I come to yoast page.. very very lot of information about seo here. I dunno about log tail keyword before.. and I will try on my web now.. thanks yoast. Gbu (bow)

  12. santhosh
    By santhosh on 13 October, 2014

    i am becoming fan of your blog :)

  13. Niek
    By Niek on 22 October, 2014

    I think there is a real good post and a strategy for every company also at more compeditive markets. I’ve studied marketing and i think the ground ideas are the same as in marketing. You need to know your specific formulated target group, before you can sell your product.

    If you want to sell mobile phones it will be hard to compete with big companies in this market. However, it will be easier to compete on mobile phone market for 65+ people (less companies).

    I think it all begins with your research and business plan at the start of your company. Know your product and who you want to sell it to. If you do this right, it will be more easy to select your long tail keywords.