So what, exactly, is the “long tail” and why is it important to search marketing? The concept was coined by Chris Anderson in a 2004 Wired magazine article and applied to merchandising, but this concept is particularly well suited for the world of search marketing.

You’ve got a few keywords that you know you want to rank for. They’re the ones you know bring in lots of traffic and the ones that you have to work hard to keep your rankings for. When we talk about the long tail for keywords, we’re talking about the hundreds or thousands of other keywords that people type into search engines every single day to find products and services just like yours.

long tail keyword researchTake a look at the graph above. This is a typical representation of the kind of daily traffic you might see that results from your keyword research, with the keywords broken out into tiers. It’s obvious that our Tier 1 keywords have the ability to generate the most traffic on our site, right? While it is true that individually, those keywords can bring in the most potential traffic, you also have to realize that you’re probably not the only one who knows about them. Competition is going to be fierce for these keywords…and take a look at your Tier 2 set. While none of these keywords alone has the ability to stack up to a Tier 1 keyword, collectively you can attract TWICE as much traffic from the Tier 2 set!

long tail keywords are worth the researchNow have a look at Tier 3. As the line moves rightward, it drops off steeply with a nearly flat long tail – hence, the term “long tail”. But these keywords hardly attract any traffic at all, why would we bother targeting them? Individually, that may be true, but collectively, these keywords represent 55% of the traffic available to your website. And your competitors probably don’t know about these or aren’t focusing on them, so they won’t be nearly as competitive to rank your pages for. An additional benefit is that these keywords are likely much more specific to your products and services, and have a high probability of generating extremely qualified, targeted traffic.

How an organization targets long tail keywords depends on the type of business, search marketing strategy and budget, but the important thing is that you do the research to find your long tail keywords and you actively target them. Webshare provides a variety of keyword research solutions to help you identify and harness the power of the long tail keywords in your industry.

And keep in mind that there are a number of attractive qualities in long tail keywords for paid search marketing campaigns as well as your organic efforts. Long tail keywords tend to be available for lower bid prices on the pay per click markets, and can often comprise a significant portion of an organization’s search marketing sales. Long tail keywords are a fantastic way to get a big “bang for the buck”, and are a great place to start when developing your search marketing strategy.