Why Focus on Long Tail Keywords?

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Why Focus on Long Tail Keywords?

While writing our book ‘Optimizing your WordPress site’ I worked closely together with Joost de Valk to create 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, had already written a post called the basis of keyword research in which he states ‘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 on how to execute a proper keyword research.

In this post, I would like to focus 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 convince your audience like and buy your stuff. That means you should take some time to think about the uniqueness of your product.

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 easily understood by your audience.

Competitiveness of the Market

Some markets are 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 your mission is clear, you should be able to define what makes your product or website stand out. And you should use YOUR mission in order to start ranking!

Take my example of cruises for single moms to Hawaii, for example. This would mean focusing on the less competitive term [single mom cruises Hawaii]. Again, use words used by your target audience (and avoid difficult terminologies).

long tail keywords

Long tail: The more specific your keyword, the less your competition

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 who 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. The chances for me to book my vacation home have 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.


This post originally appeared on Yoast, and is re-published with permission.
Featured Image: Jirsak via Shutterstock

Marieke van de Rakt

Marieke van de Rakt

Marieke van de Rakt is both researcher and project manager at Yoast. She has a PhD in Social Sciences, her current research focuses on conversion... Read Full Bio
Marieke van de Rakt
Marieke van de Rakt

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  • Marcus

    Hey Marieke

    we work with a lot of small and local businesses at Localisers and we certainly find that the real opportunities can often be found in the long tail. Whether this is down to pure competition or a super tight budget if we can dial in visibility in paid and organic for longer tail terms they perform well, are achievable in organic and don’t break the bank in PPC.

    Most folks are greedy and only look at the big hitters but often the real gold is in the tail!


  • JR Griggs

    Good stuff, we’ve had a ton of success with long tail. Especially the more competitive markets.

    But even for local, it works great for targeting specific issues customers face.

    Analytics are a great way to find those extra keywords to create long tail versions.

  • alishroy

    Finding relevant keyword is the essential part of SEO. Long tailed keywords are now in trend because of attaining uniqueness factor. The more unique and relevant your keyword will be the , less competition you will face , and more results you will generate.

  • Soni Kumari

    Yes, without having good and right keywords, all other efforts become useless. Before entering a market we need to understand our product in a right way so that we can analyze it to our customer effectively. Long Tail Keywords can definitely be a good idea for a business to be successful. Thanks to the author for analyzing the importance of keyword research and long tail keywords. I got good ideas how to go with right keywords.

  • Imtiaz Ahmed

    Long tail keyword means “Golden nuggets”. Focusing on long tail is absolutely best practice. I have seen all the best conversion rates come from Longtail keywords.

  • Bodil Uldall

    “The longer and more specific the search terms are, the higher the chances of conversion are.” That is very true. However, it also depends which product you are selling. In my experience ranking with long tail keywords works best with “high price” products in highly competitive markets, such as holiday rentals, as mentioned in your example, or electronics. Low cost, low interest products need a different strategy.

  • Tarun Gupta

    I have already seen good success rate for the campaigns where I used long-tail keywords. They are still going high on relevancy quotient and I feel, post-penguin, Google to having a soft corner to this. It’s still playing a crucial role in ranking, I bet.

  • Scott

    I’ve found it helpful to tell clients to think backwards. “What would you type into Google to find yourself?” This exercise of starting with your solution and working backwards to the question or problem that your business solves is a great start and an easy way for clients to understand the basics of what keyword research is. Also, if you utilize a search function on your site, DEFINITELY start targeting some of the more popular searches that users do on your site.

  • Glenn

    Manual creation and selection of long-tail keywords is passe’. Anyone attempting to manage thousands, or tens-of-thousands long-tail keywords is an idiot.

    Simply use broad match modifiers and supplement them with negative keywords. Let the searcher determine the best keyword phrase. Stop guessing.

    You management efforts will decrease by 95% allowing you to focus on more important aspects of PPC, namely landing pages and ad testing.

  • Dario Zadro

    Great post Marieke!

    I’ve written a detailed post on how to find long tail keywords and hope it provides added benefit to your readers.



  • Pawan

    You must use relevant long tail keywords for your website or content to rank. There is low competition on long tail keywords. These keywords attract quality traffic to your site.