What They Are & How to Use Them in 2023

Aug 23, 2023 | SEO News Feeds | 0 comments

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What Are Long-Tail Keywords?

Long-tail keywords are highly specific search queries that tend to have relatively low search volumes. 

Although users search for them less often, long-tail keywords make up a large percentage of overall searches when added together. 

And because they’re more specific than other keywords, searchers who use them may be more likely to convert (make a purchase, fill out a form, contact you, etc.).

The term “long tail” refers to the “tail” at the end of the search demand curve. 

Check out the search demand curve chart below. Each individual long-tail keyword has a relatively low search volume (especially when compared to head terms.) 

But in aggregate, they actually make up the vast majority of all searches performed on Google.

Long-Tail Keyword Examples

Let’s quickly take a look at examples of words that don’t qualify as long-tail keywords.

Here are examples of very broad “head terms” that aren’t long-tail keywords:

  • Coffee filters
  • Iced coffee
  • Marketing agency
  • Marketing software

See how these terms are short and not very specific? Long-tail terms tend to be longer and more specific.

The non-long-tail terms above also have relatively high search volumes, according to Semrush’s Keyword Overview tool.

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Bulk Keyword Analysis example in Semrush’s Keyword Overview tool

So they’re definitely not long-tail keywords.

Here are some examples of targeted keywords that are long-tail keywords: 

  • Homemade coffee filters
  • Can you warm up iced coffee
  • Marketing agency for SaaS
  • Enterprise marketing software

See how these keywords are long and specific? Those are telltale signs of long-tail keywords.

Plus, they also have relatively low search volumes, as you can see in the report below. 

Bulk Keyword Analysis example showing long-tail keywords in Semrush’s Keyword Overview tool

Why Are Long-Tail Keywords Important?

Easier to Rank

Popular head terms are typically very competitive. Which means it can take years to rank for that keyword with SEO (if you’re able to rank at all).

For example, if we analyze the keyword “sushi” in Semrush’s Keyword Overview tool, it tells us how difficult ranking for that keyword is going to be.

"Keyword Difficulty" metric for "sushi" in Keyword Overview tool shows 93%

The tool uses the Keyword Difficulty (KD) metric to report a keyword’s ranking difficulty.

“Sushi” has a KD of 93%.

So it’s really tough to rank for this term.

But the long-tail keyword “sushi sandwich recipe” has a keyword difficulty of 27%.

"Keyword Difficulty" metric for “sushi sandwich recipe” in Keyword Overview tool is 27%

So, this long-tail keyword is relatively easier to rank for than a related head term.

Targeted Traffic

Because long-tail keywords tend to be very specific, the average person searching that keyword in Google is probably close to making a purchase. Or otherwise converting.

For example, take the keyword “SEO software for small business”:

results for “SEO software for small business” in Keyword Overview tool

Someone searching for that term is pretty close to making a buying decision. So, if you are in the SEO software space and you rank highly for this keyword, searchers might just buy from you.

On the other hand, a keyword like “SEO” is super broad:

results for “SEO” in Keyword Overview tool

This searcher is likely doing some preliminary research about SEO in general. They may be months away from looking for software to help with their SEO strategy.

So even if you rank for this term, it’s unlikely to bring many conversions.

Less Expensive Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising

If you use Google Ads, long-tail keywords can also help you get more bang for your advertising buck. 

Why? Generally, high-volume keywords have a high cost per click (CPC). 

Plus, as we just pointed out, these types of broad keywords don’t even convert super well. 

However, low-volume long-tail keywords are super targeted. Which means they can have a higher conversion rate. 

Plus, they can have a lower CPC. That’s a PPC win-win! 

The main downside of focusing on long-tail keywords? You need several of them to equal the amount of traffic you could get from a single head term. 

infographic with two charts showing how one high-volume keyword might equal four low-volume keywords in terms of monthly searches

Easy to Target

Because long-tail keywords are highly specific, they’re often easier to target with pages on your site.

Take the keyword “how to filter cold brew coffee.”

If you look at the top ranking-pages for this keyword in Google, they are all blog posts teaching you how to filter cold brew coffee.

Google search for “how to filter cold brew coffee”

So if you were to target this keyword, it’s pretty obvious that you’ll also need to create a blog post. And the blog post should teach readers how to filter cold brew coffee.

On the flip side, a non-long-tail keyword like “coffee grinder” is super broad.

If you see the top-ranking pages for this keyword, you’ll notice both ecommerce category pages and informative blog posts ranking.

Google search for “coffee grinder”

Looking at the search results, it’s not clear whether you should target this keyword with a blog post about best coffee grinders or an ecommerce category page showing all the coffee grinders you sell.

More Choice

Long-tail keywords make up the majority of search queries in Google.

When people search for information or products online, they are more likely to use longer, more descriptive phrases that reflect their specific needs or interests.

For example, instead of searching for “shoes,” someone might search for “comfortable running shoes for women with flat feet.”

Or “basketball shoes for ankle support.”

Or thousand other long-tail variations that reflect their specific needs.

So you’ll likely never run out of long-tail keyword ideas to target with your site.

How to Identify Long-Tail Keywords

Here are a few proven strategies for finding long-tail keywords for your website.

Use the Keyword Magic Tool

Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool generates thousands of long-tail keywords in seconds. It is one of the best tools for performing long-tail keyword research.

Type a broad “seed keyword” into the tool.

(Seed keywords are short phrases or single words most related to your business. They’re helpful for generating more keyword ideas and finding long-tail keywords.)

Keyword Magic Tool search

The tool will quickly kick back different variations of your seed keyword.

different variations shown for the searched keyword "content marketing"

If you look at the first few keywords, they all have high search volume and ranking difficulty.

So these are definitely not long-tail keywords.

We can narrow down the list and add a KD filter to only show keywords that have low ranking difficulty. In other words, long-tail keywords.

Click on the “KD” drop-down from the top and select “Easy.”

how to select “KD” filter

Now, you’ll see lots of long-tail keyword ideas.

the tool gives you results with long-tail keyword ideas

Want to try it yourself? Sign up for a free Semrush account:

Perform Keyword Gap Analysis

Keyword gap analysis can help you find long-tail keywords that your competitors rank for, but you don’t. 

Any long-tail SEO keywords your competitors are targeting are likely to be relevant to your business, too.

So targeting those keywords with your own website makes sense.

Semrush’s Keyword Gap tool can uncover your competitors’ long-tail keywords.

Open the tool. Add your domain and up to four competitors. Then click “Compare.”

Keyword Gap Tool

The tool will show you keywords that your competitors rank for, along with the ranking position, keyword search volume, and keyword difficulty.

results displaying keywords that your competitors rank for, along with the ranking position, keyword search volume, and keyword difficulty

As you can see, all these keywords are super broad and very popular.

So you need to apply some filters to narrow down your results to only show specific long-tail keywords.

Here are the filters you can apply:

  • Search volume: To filter for keywords that have lower search volume
  • KD: To filter for keywords with low keyword difficulty
  • Position: To filter for keywords where your competitors rank in the first 20 positions

results after applying filters

After applying some filters, you’ll see long-tail keywords you can target with your own website.

Try Google Search Features

When you start typing into Google’s search box, Google’s autocomplete feature will show you a drop-down list of related terms that people search for: 

Google’s autocomplete suggestions for "best content marketing" search

You can also add a letter after your search term to see even more suggestions. 

For example, let’s say you’re looking for long-tail keywords related to content marketing. You can type something like “best content marketing p” into the search box and get the following list of suggestions:

Google’s autocomplete suggestions for "best content marketing p" search

Note: Autocomplete suggestions will not always be long-tail keywords. Often, they will be highly competitive terms that don’t quite fit the definition of “long-tail.”

So always analyze these keywords in Semrush’s Keyword Overview tool to check whether they’re really long-tail keywords or not.

For example, if we analyze the keyword “best content marketing podcasts,” we see that it has a low search volume and low keyword difficulty. It’s also longer and highly specific.

Keyword Overview tool results for “best content marketing podcasts”

So, it’s a long-tail keyword.

Also, Google provides a list of eight keywords at the bottom of the first page of the search results:

example of a list of eight keywords at the bottom of the first page of the Google search results

These are usually keywords closely related to the term you just searched for.

Most of these won’t always be long-tail keywords. Because Google’s related searches show you popular keywords people search for. The same is true for autocomplete suggestions.

So analyze your keywords in Semrush’s Keyword Overview tool before deciding to target them with your site.

In addition to Google autocomplete and related searches, you could also use Google’s People Also Ask box to find long-tail keywords.

The related questions section could be an excellent source of question-based long-tail keywords: 

Google’s People Also Ask box

And when you click to expand on a question, Google generates even more related questions:

Google’s People Also Ask box with more results

Again, remember to check all these keywords in Semrush’s Keyword Overview tool.

The search volume and keyword difficulty metric should help you confirm whether the keyword is really a long-tail search.

Use Semrush Topic Research Tool

The Topic Research tool will help you find topics closely related to a keyword that you type into it: 

Topic Research tool

Many of these topics, which are displayed in card-style format, show questions related to your topic.

example for "real estate" topic shown in card-style format, with questions related to the topic

Some of these questions can make for great long-tail keyword ideas that are ideal for blog content.

Just cross-check by putting these question keywords into the Keyword Overview tool. One by one.

The “Search Volume” and “Keyword Difficulty” metric should help you make the final call.

“Search Volume” and “Keyword Difficulty” metric shown for "creative real estate investing" in Keyword Overview tool

Leverage Forum Sites

Message boards and forum sites like Quora can help you find long-tail keyword ideas.

Plug their domain into Semrush’s Organic Research tool and hit “Search.”

search for "quora.com" in Organic Research tool

Then go to the “Positions” tab. This shows all the keywords that they rank for in Google. (In this case, over 37M.)

“Positions” tab for "quora.com" search

But the keywords you’ll see may not be relevant to your business.

To find the keywords that are related to your business, filter the report to only see keywords that represent your niche.

For example, if you’re in the finance niche, you can filter the report to show keywords that include the word “finance” in them.

Navigate to “Advanced filters,” type “finance,” and click “Apply.” 

where to apply advanced filters

Then, you’ll have a more focused list of keywords. Including some long-tail variations.

Like “is international finance hard” and “is finance a stem major.”

"Organic Search Positions" report displaying a wide range of keywords

Try Google Ads Keyword Planner

The Google Keyword Planner is designed for PPC campaigns. That said, it’s still a helpful source of keyword ideas. 

To use it, log in to your Google Ads account and head over to the Keyword Planner. 

You’ll see two options: “Discover new keywords” and “Get search volume and forecasts:”

Google Ads Keyword Planner

Select “Discover new keywords”:

“Discover new keywords” section in Keyword Planner

Then, enter a broad “seed keyword” into the field. Google will generate a bunch of related terms:

Keyword Planner generates related terms to your seed keyword, "content marketing"

You’ll also see keyword search volume.

"Avg. monthly searched" metric highlighted for "content marketing" seed keyword and other generated keywords

Put the ones with the lower search volume into Semrush’s Keyword Overview tool. 

The tool will show more data to help you determine whether they’re long-tail keywords. And whether you want to target them.

"content marketing agency costs" keyword in Keyword Overview tool

How to Use Long-Tail Keywords

Learning how to identify long-tail keywords is only half the battle. 

Once you have found your keywords, you need to use them correctly on your page. This guide to on-page SEO shows you what you need to know about using keywords correctly.

But as a quick primer, here are a few on-page SEO tips that apply to long-tail keywords:

Consider the User’s Search Intent

Adding your keyword to your page isn’t enough. For your page to rank highly in Google, your content needs to satisfy the user’s search intent.

Satisfying search intent means giving users what they want.

For example, if they’re looking for “weight loss tips,” you can create a blog post listing different tips that may be useful.

Any long-tail keyword you plan to target with your site could fall into one of these four categories of search intent:

  • Informational intent: Users are looking for information (e.g., “how does your body feel after meditation?”)
  • Navigational intent: Users are looking for a specific website or a webpage (e.g., “Apple ID account login”)
  • Commercial intent: Users are doing research before making a purchase decision (e.g., “best SEO tool for small businesses”)
  • Transactional intent: Users are looking to make a purchase (e.g., “buy sweat suits in bulk”)

Semrush’s “Intent” feature makes it easy to find a keyword’s search intent. 

Semrush’s “Intent” feature shown in Keyword Magic Tool

That way, you can create content that gives your reader exactly what they’re looking for.

For example, if your long-tail keyword has informational intent, you likely need to create a blog post.

Or if your keyword has transactional intent, you need to create pages that sell your products or services. Like ecommerce product pages or regular landing pages. 

Place Your Keywords Strategically

Include your long-tail keyword in your page’s title and header tags if you can. Use it in your first paragraph, too—preferably in your first sentence.

Long-tail keywords (like “best SEO tool for small businesses”) are sometimes long and clunky. So they’re not always easy to use naturally in a sentence. 

You might have to get creative or adjust your keyword a little. 

Just make sure you’re not forcing your keyword onto your page. Readability and usability always come first.

Create Topic Clusters

Topic clusters are a great way to organize your content for both search engines and humans.

Once you’ve optimized your pages around long-tail keywords, build topic clusters by linking from pages that target long-tail keywords to pages that target head terms (pillar pages).

Just make sure they’re all topically similar.

Like this:

illustration of topic clusters for "weight loss" topic by Semrush

By organizing your content in topic clusters, you can help users find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily.

This can lead to increased search engine rankings, higher engagement, and increased time on site.

Optimize for Long-tail Keywords

Keyword research remains the foundation of any successful SEO campaign. And long-tail keywords are ideal for new sites (or sites that don’t have a ton of authority yet).

If you’ve been struggling to rank for your target terms, it may be because those keywords were too competitive. And it might be time to switch your focus to long-tail keywords instead.

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