What is the Long Tail? In How Important is Top Search Engine Placement? I touched on the Long Tail, but I didn’t spend too much time explaining the concept.

Guess what? Some readers have taken me to task for not doing so. So I’ll put things right.

What is a Long-Tailed keyword?

Strictly a Long-Tail keyword, but heck, have you seen how many people search on ‘long-tailed’, rather than ‘long tail’?

I see them as follows, for SEO purposes:

  • Three words or more
  • Low-volume – a key phrase that gets typed into Google a comparatively small number of times
  • It should fit your site, business, products or services very closely

Why Long Tail?

The idea, from Chris Anderson, is that the huge number of key phrases that have small numbers of searches can deliver more traffic to your site than the small number of key phrases that have the highest search numbers.

Image courtesy of thelongtail.com

Image courtesy of thelongtail.com

Got that? Then have a look at this more detailed diagram:

Image courtesy of Moz.com

Image courtesy of Moz.com

Here’s the rub. Not only are Long-Tail key phrases capable of delivering a lot of traffic to your site, but they’re usually much easier to rank for.

And because they are more specific searches, the visitors Long-Tail searches deliver will be more likely to be interested in your site (more specific searches generally indicate that a person is further along the path to purchase).

Your Long-Tail SEO strategy

I tend to focus on a small number of high traffic keywords that are easy to rank for during the first stage of a project, to get the traffic levels up. The content I create is very carefully optimised and the structure (some would say Information Architecture) of the site carefully considered.

The next stage is to mop up as much traffic as possible from the Long Tail – this is the Long-Tail SEO strategy:

  1. Either restart key phrase research or revisit your data from your first stage of research. Read this article and this one if you’re not sure how to do this
  2. Look for key phrases that have more than 500 searches – this isn’t set in stone. You can vary the minimum according to how many suitable key phrases you’re finding
  3. Look for key phrases that will be the easiest to rank for
  4. Write a page or a blog post focused on one key phrase. These pages are much less challenging to write than the ones produced earlier in the project, so I look to produce – or have produced – a large a number as possible without compromising on quality. Look at the flip side, you could find hundreds of blog topics through your Long Tail research

Have you targeted the Long Tail? Has Long-Tail SEO worked for you?

Thanks to Tim Wilson for his graph, and sussexbirder for the long-tailed minivet.