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Understanding the impact of Long-tail keywords to your SEO

It is very important to understand the impact of long-tail keywords given that 15% of all search queries are long tail.  If you think of keywords in an x and y graph format, you would find the most popular keywords bunched up in a large group to the left, which are called head terms, and the less popular more obscure keywords would be to the right, descending in their trillions. These keywords are known as long-tail.  It’s vital that these are considered as part of your SEO campaign and many believe that they are the holy grail of SEO as some can be very lucrative. 

Some people believe that a characteristic of a long tail keyword is purely the number of words it contains  (three and four-word phrases), however, this is a myth. It is more about how rare and specific they are. For example, if own a record store, you will be asked for copies of Ed Sheeran’s album much more than you would for Jeff Buckley, say.  Both artists have their fans, however in today’s market, if these were both keywords, Sheeran would be the head term and Buckley the long tail. Similarly, if you own an online modern art-deco furniture store, you would find it hard to rank highly for a keyword search term “sofa” however if somebody searched for “art deco inspired modern corner sofa” you would have a much higher chance of attracting that customer by being visible in their search results.

Chris Anderson wrote an article for Wired magazine called “The Long-tail” and it was here that the origins of long-tail began.  He wrote “…the tyranny of lowest-common-denominator… Many of our assumptions about popular taste are actually artefacts of poor supply-and-demand matching—a market response to inefficient distribution.…Hit-driven economics is a creation of an age without enough room to carry everything for everybody.”

From this quote, we can learn that supply and demand can artificially restrict popularity.  For example, if the same songs were played on the radio, with others being restricted then this would create artificial popularity containing only those songs played.  However, with the internet, there are no such restrictions. Customers are not limited to the playlist a radio decides to create and broadcast, or by the limited records in a music store determined purely by the size of the outlet.   They can search for anything! And those searches will contain rare and obscure ones that generate organic traffic to your site. 

It is true to say however that these long-tail keywords can be very difficult to optimise for.  New search queries are all categorised as long tail, and about 15% of all searches in Google are new.  SO how can a new keyword search be optimised for when it has never been seen before? Well you can’t exactly, but you can prepare by creating content with these four qualities:

1. Avoid ambiguity

2. Be precise

3. Avoid going off-topic

4. Answer the question, meet the needs of the search query.

There is real value in some long-tail keywords because of their scarcity and the fact that when a customer uses one, they are more likely to buy the product or service they have so specifically searched for.  The Pay Per Click competition will be high because the success of the keyword will be lucrative. This is also a good way of gauging if the keyword phrase is worth pursuing, as not all longtail keyword phrases are going to be profitable.

In summary, it is worth noting that long-tail keyword searches are:

Not always three or more words

Can consist of short or long phrases

Are not always profitable

Can be very profitable

Can’t always be predicted or optimised for as many have never existed before

More understood by Google now they have technologies such as BERT

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