Long Tail Keywords, Lemurs and John Cleese

by Joe Pelissier on November 26, 2010

John Cleese and Ring-Tailed Lemur

John Cleese and Ring-Tailed Lemur

For me, the expression long tail keywords brings to mind a vision of John Cleese and ring-tailed lemurs – an animal he is particularly fond of. Like ring-tailed lemurs it’s a rather exotic expression and one that many web writers and marketers like to talk about knowingly .

Few people have a clue what they are on about – most just pretend they understand.

Here’s what you need to know about long-tail keywords in short-form English.

What are long tail keywords?

They are phrases of 3 to 4 words that are very specific to your market. They are the sort of phrases someone will type into a search engine or directory when they have a very definite idea of what they are looking for.

In essence it’s a term for describing a strategy of targeting less-competitive niche markets rather than hugely competitive broad ones.

Why do I need to know about them?

There are 3 good reasons

  1. There is less competition on the first page of a search engine for a long tail keyword than more general and popular keywords. Although they may not bring you masses of traffic, if you targets lots of them, you will pick-up the ‘easy’ traffic. After all, doing battle with Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia is a pointless exercise unless you have pots of money and a lot of time
  2. Long tail keyword visitors convert better in terms of sales, clicks and stickiness to the page. Such visitors have already made a buying decision. So long as your landing page accurately mirrors what they want – ker-ching. And, if you are not selling, you have the information they actively need.
  3. It’s more affordable. If you are running a Pay Per Click campaign, long tail key words are less expensive per click than more popular words.

This all means it makes good sense to Search Engine Optimise (SEO) some of your pages in favour of long tail keywords.

Give me some examples of long tail keywords?

A long tail keyword is ‘Small Business Web Design’ compared to a short tail keyword like ‘Web Design’.

If you sell tourism in London, you would want to consider these phrases

  • London sight-seeing tours
  • London double-decker bus tours
  • Red London double-decker bus tours
  • Red London double-decker bus tours in May.

As you can see, you can get as detailed and specific as you wish.

If you are promoting your wares in the ‘sales season’ you want to think in terms of ‘Half Price Versace Dresses’ not ‘Versace Dresses’.

How do I find my long tail keywords?

Well, you don’t need to go to Madagascar.

You do your long tail keyword research to determine which keywords have enough traffic to make them worth going after.

Try Google’s Free Keyword Tool

The problem here is that because long tail keywords are not that popular, Google probably won’t give you any meaningful figures. It will say what you already know – ‘Low Search Volume’

You are better off using a specialist keyword tool such as Wordtracker which give you a wealth of options and keyword products to consider.

And brainstorm. Think of all of the long tail keywords you can, just as I did with the London tourism example.

But a word of caution. The downside of focusing too much effort on the long tail is putting too much trust in phrases that are too specific – you won’t get enough traffic to sustain your product or business.

Stephen Mahaney’s advice is spot on, it’s best to have “a few pages sending you large amounts of less targeted traffic, and a large number of pages sending you small amounts of highly targeted traffic”.

What do I do next ?

  • Find a page or product with the potential for lots of long tail keywords
  • Brainstorm and research all the options
  • Optimise the page and any marketing campaigns in favour of what you have discovered
  • Type into your your search engine ‘John Cleese and long tailed lemurs’ – quite bizarre…

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