The long tail

A squirrel with a long tail

Every organisation has expertise. You use this in your interactions with clients, stakeholders, and staff. And when it comes to search visibility, your expertise can (and should) be your most valuable asset.

Long tail keywords (LTKs) include the phrases that you and your clients use regularly, that uniquely identify your business. In a search-driven world, they are important for three reasons:

  1. Disambiguation
  2. Low search volume
  3. Motivated searchers

Let’s use a car sales yard as an example. More specifically, let’s make this a second-hand vehicle dealership, specialising in MG products in the Hawkes Bay region. *

If a user searches Google for “car,” they return over 12 billion results. Our dealer’s website should be among them, but we have no idea what the user’s intent was, because “car” covers an enormous swathe of information and industry.

A search for “used MG dealer in Napier” returns some 432,000 results, which is still a large number, but now we can infer a little more intent on the part of the user—and so does Google. To return to our three drivers:

This latter search is unambiguous: the user is looking for a dealership who specialises in second-hand MG vehicles in Napier.

The search volume is lower, which means there is less competition. While “car” is a term every car dealer in the world would like to rank for, there are only so many second-hand dealers specialising in MGs in the Hawkes Bay (three, as it turns out).

For our dealership, a single search result for “used MG dealer in Napier” is far more valuable than thousands of less focused searches for “car”. Specific searches are more motivated searches. And motivated searches are far more likely to generate leads.

So what do you do about it?

Make sure your site reflects your subject matter expertise.

Avoid generic descriptions or manufacturer supplied copy, and make sure the language you use on your website is complementary to the language you would use in person or on the phone.

People making relevant searches are already looking to give you value. Meet them halfway by considering your long tail keywords.

Use your data! Keep an eye on your analytics and search console, and use them to get a handle on the types of long tail content that are working for you.

Pay attention to divergences between your language and your customers’ — if every second client uses the wrong word for a product type, it’s worth unpacking that (gently) in your copy, which will incidentally and authentically capture those searches.

The next level: A professional site audit will analyse your copy and ensure it offers maximum value to your customers (which is the primary reason for monitoring your long-tail keywords), and correctly guide more motivated eyes to your site by improving your search presence.

LTKs are not about gaming the system: they are an accessible metric that can help you focus and improve your content online.

* This example was completely random, and we did not expect to find not one but three dealerships matching that description!