The value of longtail search terms

When you’re looking at your keyword research, you probably assume that you’ve got a firm grasp on the bulk of the terms that people are searching for. Sadly, you’re wrong. The keywords presented in Keyword Planner and other keyword research tools only make up around 30% of all web searches. The other 70% of search queries are known as longtail search terms, and these are the key to unlocking incredible website traffic growth.

What is a longtail keyword?

When we talk about keywords, we often talk about them in terms of short head and the long tail.
What exactly does this mean?
Short head (or fat head) are the high volume search terms that can get hundreds of thousands of searches every month. If you were in fashion e-commerce, this might be a term like “black tshirt” or “blue jeans”. Typically, SEO professionals wouldn’t focus on these because the competition is so steep. Instead, we focus on the niche terms that make up what is known as the “chunky middle”.
search demand curve longtail keywords
Image from Neil Patel.
However, the long tail section is where things get interesting. These are the hyper-niche terms that might only get 5 searches every other month.
Why waste time going after a term that might only get 30 searches a year, you might be wondering?
Since 70% of all traffic comes from longtail searches, this is where you can make a considerable difference to your website traffic.
Longtail keywords are a better representation of how people actually search the internet. For example, if I want to learn more about “social media marketing”, I probably won’t just search “social media marketing” as it will be far too broad. Instead, I might look for terms like “social media marketing trends 2018” or “social media marketing examples for e-commerce”.
When we look at the even more niche terms, it gets even more specific. Have you ever searched for something online and wondered if anyone else has ever entered that exact search phrase before? For example, if you’re heading to Glasgow next weekend with your family and want to find a family-friendly restaurant with gluten-free options for your sister and vegan options for your uncle, you might search “child-friendly restaurants in Glasgow with gluten-free and vegan options”.
That’s very specific, and it’s unlikely that many restaurants have optimised for this specific phrase. However, if you’re running a family-friendly restaurant in Glasgow and you have vegan AND gluten-free options AND you’re regularly publishing content about this, you are letting search engines know what you do in a way that is helpful to current and future customers.

How do I identify a longtail keyword?

It’s actually quite difficult to identify a longtail keyword, and some experts maintain that, if you can identify it and it has search volume, it isn’t really a longtail keyword.
So, how exactly are you supposed to target something that you can’t identify?
Some experts say that continuing to publish great content is enough to rank for these lucrative longtail keywords.
If you are answering the questions that people turn to Google to ask, then it follows that your website will perform well for these search terms. When your website is able to answer questions for a visitor, they are also far more likely to convert.
In fact, research has shown that longtail keywords are more likely to convert. Conversion rates for longtail keywords can be 2.5x higher than that of head keywords. Why? Because they’re far more specific. The user has refined their search term to exactly what they are looking for. If you’re able to answer their question or show them the product they are looking for, it follows that the user is more likely to convert on your website.

Where can I find longtail keywords?

The best place to start is in Google Ads Keyword Planner, or use a tool such as SEMRush keyword explorer to find niche keywords related to your industry. You can also use sites such as Answer The Public to help you in your search. Answer The Public provides you with a list of phrases generated from Google searches.

Do I really need to focus solely on longtail keywords?

Keywords aside, you should focus on creating quality content on a regular basis. Monitor your analytics closely and look at the organic traffic going to your blog posts. If you aren’t seeing much traffic from organic search, then you know it’s time to shake up your content strategy.
They might only get a few searches, but these hyper-niche terms are very valuable to your business. Those 30 searches per year are likely to be high-intent visitors. 30 conversions are always going to be more valuable than 500 visits from users that take no action.