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SEO 101: The Long Tail

SEO 101: The Long Tail

By Marc Reifenrath on January 23, 2013 in Digital Marketing

(SEO 101 is a series of blog posts aimed at defining Search Engine Optimization terms, topics, and tactics using a "for dummies1" approach that anyone can follow)

What is the long tail?

In SEO, the long tail refers to those search terms that DO NOT make up the majority of searches, and are more lengthy and descriptive in nature. While a single long tail keyword makes up a much smaller portion of the overall monthly searches, by combining every single one of these long tail keywords together, you've got power in numbers. (Note the long tail keywords shown in green below)

Long tail seo

Layman's terms, these are the less popular search terms...but don't let that fool you. Less popular search terms can often be the best search terms for your business.

Imagine you're a small website who specializes in selling throwback/retro basketball gear.

  • What are the odds a user finds your site by searching for: "shoes"
  • What are the odds a user finds your site by searching for: "best deal on Air Jordan XI basketball shoes2"

Ranking in the top10 for "shoes" would be fantastic!...however, given that keyword's competition, it's highly unlikely. On the other hand, because your website is in the business of selling throwback/retro basketball gear (especially shoes), ranking in the top10 for "best deal on Air Jordan XI basketball shoes" sounds much more plausible.

Why does it matter?

Because more often than not, users who search with more words, and use more descriptive phrases tend to be the type that's ready to convert. That means they're ready to buy whatever you have to sell.

  • The user that searches for "shoes" may not have the slightest interest in basketball shoes. Their search term is so incredibly basic, who knows what they're really looking for!
  • The user that searches for "best deal on Air Jordan XI basketball shoes" probably has their credit card in hand, ready to go!

Not only can these long tail keywords produce more conversions, they likely may be producing the bulk of your actual search traffic.

How can I measure and view my long tail keywords?

Are you using Google Analytics? If the answer is yes, finding them is pretty easy:

  1. Sign in to your Google Analytics account
  2. Select the website you want to view
  3. Click: Traffic Sources > Sources > Search > Organic
  4. Take note of the keywords
  5. (By default, Google Analytics only shows 10 rows, but this can be easily changed. Note the dropdown menu for "Show Rows")
What long tail keywords are you surprised to find that are providing traffic to your site?

Wikiepedia: For Dummies
Wikipedia: Air Jordan XI
Image: Elliance - Long Term SEO

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