Long-tail keywords are your best friends when it comes to optimizing your content for increasing relevant traffic and conversions.

10 years ago, on-page optimization used to mean stuffing your content with head keywords, placing them strategically in your title, URL and meta-description, and focusing more on keyword density than on content quality. Times have changed though and search engines now have smarter algorithms that enable them to appreciate the relevancy of a page based on a multitude of factors.

In order to rank higher and generate quality traffic your content has to be relevant not only for the targeted keyword, but also for people. Although we still use keywords for on-page SEO, the focus has shifted from head terms to long-term keywords, which are considered more efficient for attracting potential customers.

In today’s article we’ll learn what long-tail keywords are and how to use them for on-page content optimization.

What are long-tail keywords?

A long-tail keyword is actually a keyphrase consisting of 3-5 words that is used when searching for something highly specific. It includes a head keyword or head term, plus other terms that help refine the search and draw more quality traffic for your page.

Long-tail keyword definition

Here’s an example to help you understand better: “content marketing” is considered a head keyword, while “content marketing for small businesses” is a long-tail keyword. If someone googles for the former term, it’s likely that they’re interested in anything content marketing-related and want to get familiar with this concept and read as much as they can on this topic.

On the other hand, when someone googles for “content marketing for small businesses”, they do this to narrow down the search and get only those results that are relevant for their small business. These people are more likely to convert and turn into leads than those who google for the head term. Publishers can take advantage of this and use keyphrases in their content for increasing the organic traffic and conversion rates.

Long-tail keywords tend to be less popular than head terms, meaning that they usually have fewer monthly searches, but this can also mean a lower PPC bid, so one can get more results with less money if they know how to properly use these keyphrases for on-page SEO.

As explained by WordStream, keyphrases are generally used by visitors who are closer to a point-of-purchase, and they can help you establish better lines of communication with potential customers. Although taken individually, long-tail keywords draw less traffic than head keywords, by incorporating several keyphrases into your content you can increase organic traffic in a focused manner. With this strategy you can attract exactly your target audience.

How to use long-tail keywords for on-page SEO

Thi Thumasathit wrote an excellent article for Search Engine Watch on the efficiency of head vs. long-tail keywords in generating impressions, clicks and conversions: Head vs. long tail keywords analyzed: impressions, clicks, conversions & profitability.

After analyzing approximately 1.5 million keywords over a six month, he concluded that:

  • 0-5 character keywords are ineffective in generating meaningful numbers of impressions, clicks or conversions
  • 6-10 characters keywords generate impressions but don’t convert well
  • Almost 60% of impressions and clicks occurred with 11-20 character keywords (head keywords in most cases)
  • 21-35 characters keywords are more efficient for generating conversions, and almost 66% more profitable than 10-20 characters keywords
  • Efficiency decreases for 40+ characters keywords

Why do long-tail keywords attract visitors that are more likely to convert? The simplest answer is because they’re closer to natural language. If someone wants to attend a content marketing course for beginners and they live in Berlin, they’ll google “content marketing course Berlin beginners”. This is a great keyphrase that describes the visitor’s intention and can help you draw quality traffic.

And now let’s see how to incorporate long-term keywords into your content for properly optimizing your pages. Take a look at the infographic below, by Brian Dean from Backlinko.
on page SEO infographic

So what should you do with your targeted long-tail keywords?

  1. Use them for creating descriptive titles, but keep in mind that people tend to scan only the first 2 words of a title (~11 characters). A headline that starts with the targeted keyphrase is more likely to get clicked.
  2. Add long-tail keyword permutations to your page content to increase your chances of ranking higher not only for the targeted keyphrases but also for the head term.
  3. Optimize your URLs and picture titles and meta-elements for those specific keywords if possible.
  4. Create internal links with long-tail keywords and permutations. Here you can read about the importance of internal linking: Internal linking for SEO – examples and best practices.

Here are some good resources for learning how to find the most relevant long-tail keywords:

I hope this article helped you understand what long-tail keywords are and how to use them for on-page content optimization. If you’re finding it difficult to identify the best keyphrases for your website, feel free to contact me or to post your comment below.