My Keyword Approach – Long Tail vs Head Terms

In the process of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), keywords are the foundation you will build upon. If your foundation is messed up, your SEO strategy will come crashing down quickly. Here are some tips as to why you should target long tail keywords.

There are many schools of thought when it comes to selecting keywords to target but there is one important reality to keep in mind…

More than 80% of all traffic for all websites comes from long-tail keywords. Just ask any website owner and they will tell you it’s true. A long tail keyword is typically considered to be a specific keyword with 3 or more words. The opposite would be a head term that is usually 1 or 2 words and very broad and typically very competitive.

Fishing With a Large Net

For example, “affordable website” would be considered a head term while “what are affordable website options” would be considered a long tail keyword.long tail keywords

The question for many internet marketers and new website owners is – which keyword do I target? The head term or the long tail term? With 80% of traffic coming from long tail keywords, many people think that they should focus on them. But I would say the focus should be on both head keywords and long tail keywords starting first with head keywords.

Focusing on the long-tail keywords first would be like fishing with a very small net to catch only certain fish. Using a big net will allow you to catch many fish, including the specific type you want.

So my first step would be to use the large net and focus on the head keyword, “affordable website”, in this case. I would create my page to be optimized for that keyword using page using titles, descriptions, image tags, and appropriate content. If you don’t know how to do this, you should read more about on page SEO.

Long tail keywords, by their very nature, are usually unknown. You usually don’t realize they exist until you view your website statistics and see that visitors to your website entered these search keywords to find your website. So it’s difficult to optimize your site for them. Most often, when creating a page that is optimized for “affordable website”, you will naturally rank well for many long tail keywords having to do with “affordable website”. If I do know of specific long tail keywords that I want to target, I may include them as a heading or make sure they are within the text content a few times on the page.

After creating the page optimized for “affordable website”, I typically would view the traffic statistics for the page after a few months and see what long tail keywords are generating traffic to the page. There may be some high potential long tail keywords that should be optimized more on your page or if there is a significant amount of traffic, it may be smart to create a brand new page optimized for that keyword.

So the process is this:

  1. Create a page for a head term
  2. Analyze the traffic statistics for long tail keyword opportunities
  3. Optimize the page further for long tail keywords or create new pages or blog posts optimized for specific long tail keywords

Go Beyond The Keywords

Some competitive keyword terms like “affordable website” are pretty obvious but many are not so obvious. There are some great tools to do keyword research and I talk about them and a bunch of other great tools and methods for Search Engine Optimization in my free Search Engine Marketing Guide for Small Businesses. This guide will help you go beyond just keywords and start promoting your site to increase it’s popularity in the search engines and ultimately increase the traffic coming to your site.

Author: Ryan Bowman

I am creating 200 websites for small businesses and helping everyone else to create better website. If you want to be one of my 200 clients, check out my small business website service and see how I can help you.

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  1. Long tail keywords are pretty simple to target and rank for, so they are much preferred than head keywords.

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    • Except that each individual long tail term does not give much traffic. It’s all of them combined that bring decent traffic.

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  2. Actually this article helps me to learn how to use keyword properly.
    Thanks for sharing valuable article.

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  3. I know how important long tail keywords are. But does it matter if that long tail keyword had below 10 daily exact search count? Would that affect my traffic and rankings?

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    • Hi Lisa, you aren’t going to get a lot of traffic from one long tail keyword with 10 daily searches. I wouldn’t focus on one that small but you may stumble on long tail keywords with 100 or 1,000 daily searches and little competition.

      The approach I’m outlining above is starting with the broader head terms in order to find the long tail keywords in your traffic report. Finding long tail keywords is not a perfect process since they are unknown by their very nature. There are many methods to go about finding them. I am just listing the method I use.

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  4. Interesting to see what different people use for a process on keywords. I am a bit more random most of the time, but sometimes I focus on medium level longer tail keywords from the Google keyword search.

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    • Thanks for the comment. I’m pretty random myself but to write an article explaining my thought process, I had to be a bit more structured to explain my thinking. Shooting at the medium-level keywords is probably a good approach.

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  5. Nice job on the article, I agree with most of your discussion and would like to point out most clients have a hard time understanding the whole concept of “proper keyword strategies.” This article is a nice addition to the library which we offer at Spirit Publishing. Thanks for posting this.

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  6. Hi Ryan,

    Selecting your keyword is one of the essential step to get traffic from search engines, I do agree with your strategy to start by focusing on head terms since they are specific while long tail keywords can vary so when you target heard terms you are actually targeting both some how, also you should select a keyword with low competition.

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    • You got it. Focusing on the head terms first is a way of casting a large net to first see what’s out there.

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  7. Thanks for sharing the process mate ! And you explained the Logic very well .Thanks


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    • Glad it makes sense, Pramod. Sometimes while writing it, I was not sure if it would make sense 🙂

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