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Sewing In Long-Tail Keywords For Your SEO Campaign

Updated on March 25, 2011

As I sit to write this article on the need for long-tail keywords for SEO campaign, my thoughts are going amiss. For many people, 2011 started on a bad note. In February a manmade churn took place on the web when Google decided to go against some ‘offending’ (according to them) websites, and in March we have the devastating natural calamity occurring in Japan that left us dumbstruck.

Coming to the web events in February, the sweep of Google’s spring-cleaning to ‘punish’ websites with dubious contents and incoming links took many people by genuine surprise. Those who suffered were mauled badly, and in the process many well-meaning sites too bore the brunt.

As is normally the case, a lot of brouhaha ensued. Experts opined thick and fast across the globe, joining the bandwagon on either side of the debate as it suited them. The small websites looked in awe, and could hardly make out what can go and went wrong for them. They need not bother really, because in my humble opinion, 50K pageviews of a site in a month is the minimum before the owner should stifle the yawn and begin creasing her forehead on matters such as above.

The question as always peters down to this: how can a small website become noteworthy in the big game of search engine visibility? What should it do, and what actions would it take to get more visitors to its website?

Note carefully, there is a difference between the 2 statements I just made. In one, I speak about attaining visibility in search results. In the other I raise the question of what actions to take to get more visitors. I don’t mention anything about search results in the second statement.

This makes sense since we know that social media is a big source of traffic generation to a website. Experts however feel that the social media traffic is mainly useful for brand building, while the search traffic is more inclined to perform a conclusive action like buying your product or service in your website.

Social media traffic is important for another reason. If there is a sustained rush of traffic to a website, then the search engines tend to give importance to that site, figuring out the reason of the traffic and maybe change the perception about the site.

Among the various steps that the small websites can take, one that needs a close look is using long-tail keywords as a conscious SEO effort. There are reasons for that.

Which SEO action is more effective? Give your take!

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Emergence of Long-Tail Keywords

A long-tail keyword is usually defined as the one that has 3 or more words to it. They are low-volume, infrequently used phrases, and if you look at your site analytics data, you may likely find them in large numbers collectively as the search phrases people used to come to your site. These are the potential SEO keywords applicable to your site.

In one of my sites on web video, more than 60% keywords used by the visitors have 3 or more words in them. In some cases the key-phrases consist of 7 or more words.

Author Eli Goodman of SearchEngineWatch.Com has a lucid explanation of the rise in words per search query:

With the launching of Google’s PageRank technology, incredibly relevant search results launched a revolution in both marketing and consumer behavior that has forever changed our economic and behavioral landscape. Because this technology, pioneered by Google, generated more relevant results, searchers began to feel comfortable with extending the length of their search phrases, in effect being more specific about their needs.

The comScore graph Eli uses is also quite revealing (see the graph below).

Steady Increase In Words Per Search In US
Steady Increase In Words Per Search In US | Source

More Studies

Okay, we know people are increasingly using long search words, but the question remains: do those keywords convert? Here comes the pioneering study on long-tail SEO by Elliance, an Internet marketing company of repute. Elliance concludes (see the image below) that highly specific 3 or 4-word phrases are likely to convert a targeted buyer.

Long-tail Keywords Convert More
Long-tail Keywords Convert More | Source

Search marketing expert Alan Mitchell in his study on the benefits of long-tail keywords concluded that searches of 5 words or more account for 21% of all impressions, and that while long-tail keywords may be individually insignificant, a PPC campaign with thousands of long-tails can be a serious source of additional traffic. See the graphics below.

Long-Tail Keywords Have A Higher Conversion Rate
Long-Tail Keywords Have A Higher Conversion Rate | Source

Google Says So

The ultimate proof of the validity of arguments in favor of long-tail keywords for search campaigns comes from none other than Google itself.

In the YouTube video below, Google’s Matt Cutts clarifies that an algorithm change done some time back helps the search giant to assess which sites are the best match for long-tailed queries.

For a more broad idea on what Google feels your SEO efforts should be, consider reading my article on 6 top Google tips that help you succeed with your website.


Going by the arguments I’ve put above, it does seem quite probable that any SEO campaign worth its value has to take into account the importance of long-tail keywords for better search rankings. Among the plus points that this practice can bring in, there is perhaps no doubt that by doing so the websites are sharpening their focus, which is what the visitors as well as the search engines want in the end.


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