Why Focus on Long Tail Keywords As Part of Your SEO and Content Strategy?

Unless you have been meditating in a cave for the last 15 years or so, you will have heard of the importance of keywords with regards to search engine optimisation aka ‘SEO’. But perhaps not of “long tail” keywords – not a genetic abnormality, they are simply longer and more specific keyword phrases that visitors are more likely to use when they’re closer to a point of purchase. They are made up of  3, 4 or 5 terms rather than just 1 or 2. Long-tail keywords are are hugely valuable if you know how to use them, as this is the sort of traffic you really want to your website i.e: a more qualified visitor who knows exactly what they want. These people are far more likely to turn into an enquiry or sale.

Take this example:

If you’re a company that sells shoes, the chances are that your web pages are never going to appear near the very top of an organic search result for “shoes” because there’s just too much competition (this is particularly true if you’re a startup business or small company). Additionally, someone who is typing in such a broad keyword may not even be looking to purchase shoes.

Think about it: if someone googles the word “shoes” (a very broad keyword sometimes referred to as the “short tail” or “head term”), then the chances that person is going to end up clicking your organic search result and buy a pair of shoes is really low. I mean, for all we know it could be a 15 year old kid doing a school project on the history of shoes – hardly the type of customer you are wanting to target!

But if you specialise in, say, fashionable women’s shoes, then if that person searched with keywords like “red high heels currently in fashion” then they know exactly what they’re looking for, and they’re probably prepared to pay for them right then if you have the right product available at the time and run an e-commerce website so they can pull out their VISA right then and there.

Targeting long-tail keywords means that you are simply providing what your customer is looking for, effectively improving lines of communication between customers actively shopping for your products and services, and what your business provides.

Short tail and long tail keyword traffic distribution curve

This graph makes it easier to understand what I am talking about, and why it is a smarter strategy to target numerous long-tail keywords instead of getting caught up with the short-tail which is a long battle you may never win.

Short Tail and Long Tail Keyword Traffic Distribution

Short tail keywords are highly competitive, less targeted, have lower conversion rates, and the total search demand through these types of keywords is actually only about 20%.


  • ‘shoes’
  • ‘heels’
  • ‘wedges’

Compared to long tail keywords, which are less competitive, are more targeted, have high higher conversion rates, and the overall combined total of long-tail keyword search demand makes up about 80%.


  • ‘women’s black business shoes’
  • ‘red high heels currently in fashion’
  • ‘trendy women’s leather wedges’

Long-tail traffic makes up ~80% of all searches 

So here’s the surprising part: the keyword searches in the “head” of the tail, known as “short tail keywords”, in reality account for a surprisingly small percentage of all searches, about 20 percent. Meaning that roughly 80 percent of page views are the direct result of – that’s right – mid-long-tail keywords. And remember – the tail goes on and on.  So it is a no-brainer that you should be focusing on the long-tail as part of your keyword and content marketing strategy !

Sure, you’re going to draw less traffic with any single long-tail keyword than you would with a broader one, but the traffic you do draw will be better: more focused, more committed, and more desirous of your services. And it’s the fact you are targeting numerous long-tail keywords that is the key here, not just a few short-tail ones (that you probably won’t ever achieve in reality).

A long tail offers several other advantages; as the search numbers are usually fewer than a hundred a month, they are often discarded by website owners. The consequences are two-fold: they attract less competition, which means that you have a greater chance of featuring on the first page of organic results, especially useful in crowded markets, and they will cost less if you want to run a Google Adwords campaign.

But are they worth it?

YES, ABSOLUTELY! This is one of those cases where it is far better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond – getting 50% of enquiries from a keyword with a 100 searches a month is clearly better than 0% of 30,000 monthly searches, isn’t it? And obviously, this is compounded if you target dozens of different ones.

Take a look at the table below. Lets imagine you sell women’s shoes only. “Red shoes” (the head or short tail term) shows 1300 searches per month. If you were in top position for this you’d get a fair bit of traffic, but would it convert? Not necessarily, as the person may be looking for red shoes for their children, so they would arrive and bounce (leave your site pretty quickly). So although you were in top position, you would not make a sale. If however you ranked well for more relevant keywords like “red dress shoes for women” and that person arrived on your site, and you had a great site with lots of information about red dress shoes, and you sold lots of beautiful red dress shoes, then the chances are much higher you would make a sale!

So in this particular example, even though the combined search volume for the three ‘long tail’ keywords is lower than the one single short tail keyword, it would be far better to focus your efforts on the long tail.

Red Shoes SEO Keyword Research

In summary

With short-tail keywords, competition for rankings and traffic is high and visits are less targeted, resulting in a low return on investment. With clever implementation of a long-tail keyword strategy as part of your content marketing plan, you may get less traffic (based on the total sessions/visitors) , but the return on your investment will be higher.

You’ll be targeting the audience you’re looking for, and visitors will be further down the sales cycle and point of enquiry / purchase. Using long-tail keyword variations in your SEO and content marketing campaigns is a win-win: better search rankings, more qualified search traffic, and ultimately, a higher level of conversion.

Long tail keywords require less effort and can provide you with a significant return on investment, so embrace them without any further ado!