As personalized search and universal search continue shaking up an industry that used to be dominated by "top ten results," more and more small businesses are learning the value of focusing on the keyword long tail. While there's no doubting the value of bringing in highly targeted traffic, many companies still don't quite get how to target the long tail in their copy. They also don't know that long tail friendly copy is also user friendly copy.

What is the Long Tail?

If you aren't familiar with the idea behind the keyword long tail, that's ok. It's actually quite simple. In his article on targeting the keyword long tail, Matt Bailey described it this way:

In most cases, the top 10 terms provide a lot of traffic, but not nearly as much as the total terms after the top 10 or 20 most popular. Add up the terms that refer 1-3 visits during the month, and chances are, they will add up to more total visitors than the top terms. On closer examination, most sites will have the majority of their business (sales and leads) generated from these terms that are rarely tracked. This is the heart of the long tail - that the length, or total number of low-number referred terms outnumbers the height, or the total of top 10 terms.

In other words, the terms that are most popular, most managed by site owners, are rarely those that provide the most business. In most studies, the success of the site was from the hundreds or thousands of referrals outside of the most popular terms.
In practical terms, targeting the long tail is about adding descriptive words to your content. If you're targeting widgets, you already know you want to work the word widgets into your content. But have you thought about making sure you are adding words to describe things like size, color and price or actions like buy, review and sample? Good SEO writing is no longer just about creatively and subtly working keywords into your content. Now it's about targeting the long tail by adding less-searched for, yet still important qualifiers to your content.

Targeting the Long Tail Means Better Copy

The great thing about writing for the long tail is the freedom it gives you in terms of writing enticing copy. Natural and descriptive language is an important part of the long tail. With that in mind, let's take a few quick looks at how some simple copy changes make for a better web site AND a better shot at targeting the long tail. I'll put the possible keywords in bold in each instance.

Example: Classic Car Dealership

Original text:

"Joe's Vintage Autos has your dream car! We carry hard to find American cars from the 60's and 70's. Visit our online database and photo gallery to view our latest inventory.
Long tail targeted text:

"Joe's classic car dealership specializes in rare corvette convertibles and muscle cars that harken back to the glory days of American made hot rods. Imagine yourself driving down the highway in a bright yellow 1972 corvette convertible while the wind blows through your hair. That's the dream we deliver here at Joe's classic car dealership. "Search our extensive online database of classic cars, or visit the showroom and take one for a test drive."
Now, you may be thinking "how in the world does she expect to target all those keywords on one page?" The answer is, I don't. In the little snippet above, I'd be actively targeting the phrases "classic car dealership" and "corvette convertibles." But thanks to the use of descriptive words like "rare," "American made," "hot rods," "bright yellow," and "1972" the site would also have a great shot at drawing traffic from really specific keyword searches.

Let's say someone was searching for "1972 corvette convertible car dealer" or "bright yellow classic hot rod." There's a good chance that person would find Joe's Classic Car Dealership in the search results because there won't be very many sites using each and every one of those words on the same page. Since the search term is extremely specific, there's also a good chance Joe's dealership will be getting a highly qualified visitor who may well turn into a buyer.

Example: Local bakery, About us Page

Original text:

Specializing in weddings, our unique creations set us apart from other cake shops. Our staff works with each bride to create the wedding cake of her dreams. We use only the highest quality ingredients and materials, which brides are free to sample!
Long tail targeted text:

The Crumb Shop is located in Hubbard, Ohio and has been creating unique and inspired wedding cakes for Northeast Ohio weddings for more than a decade. Our skilled cake designers spend time working with each bride to create the wedding cake of her dreams. We have existing relationships with banquet halls in Hubbard, Brookfield, Youngstown, Girard and Austintown. We also deliver anywhere in Trumbull and Mahoning counties. We're happy to offer a free tasting and design consultation for local brides in our shop on Main Street in downtown Hubbard. Call 330-555-CAKE to schedule your appointment.
The bakery example has been rewritten with the local long tail in mind. While the majority of people still tend to search on a broader geographic scale (say "Ohio weddings" or "Columbus wedding cake") there are long tail phrases that focus in on specific towns and cities. If you are a local business and you aren't addressing long tail locations in your site copy, you may be passing up potential business. The example above not only targets "wedding cakes" but also targets one state, two counties and five specific cities.

More Traffic and Better Conversions

While it's easy to see how writing for the long tail can ultimately lead to more rankings and highly targeted traffic, it's also important to point out the potential for higher conversions. While it's true that long-tail searchers convert better, it's also true that long-tail optimized copy converts better. All you need to do is go back and review the before and after for Joe's car dealership and you can quickly feel the difference in emotion evoked by each set of copy.

There's a reason marketing agencies employee copywriters. They know good copy draws people in and makes them more likely to buy. A little thought and creativity can make your existing traffic more likely to buy AND can deliver new traffic. What's not to love about that?

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


Excellent post here Jennifer! The longtail keywords are definitely a better source of traffic. With the right copy as you stated above, you can hone in on traffic that is much more likely to convert than the general key terms. Many SEO guys go for the gusto, but there's value in the longtail.

That was a great example you gave of the wedding cake company! I'm not sure if there is anything not to love about that! You've been saying this for a long time now and it is funny to think that some people are just now catching on. Time and time again I look @ the big traffic drivers not converting as well as the long tail. Not to mention the depth it adds to the site....

Damn! You're giving out my secret!
(Yeah, right. Like you can have secrets when it comes to SEO.)

I've been using for about six months now and I've noticed that the vast majority of the traffic to my blog comes from totally obscure key phrases I never would have thought of and thus, never would have intentionally optimized for.

I find it oddly comforting. As long as I write WELL about pertinent subjects, I get found. I don’t have to worry about trying to goose the system. I just have to write well. Personally, that’s a goal I’d rather have than trying to psych out Google.

Great post! The ideas and insights are very worth reading. You really gave me valuable information. Thanks for sharing it!


Excellent post...and thanks for the great examples of effective, deliberate long-tail copywriting, showing that one can write effectively for the user and for SEO. I'll be passing it along.


Great advice - it makes such sense. I've had some discomfort with plying copy with key words. I like the copy to be meaningful - now I understand how to make it more SEO friendly without feeling silly about the copy. Focusing on the local element is particularly helpful for me because I have that aspect of the business to develop as well.

Thank you for a great post. By the way, I'm a former northeastern Ohio resident so this was fun to read.

(on twitter - "Sharonmc")

Thanks for the great post. I'm going to pass this along to our SEO guy! When thinking about the long tail I usually think about PPC. This post will get us thinking about our SEO strategy a little different.

Great article on a great topic. I've used long tail optimization since 1998 and think it is very effective. I've found it especially helpful for small businesses who may not be found for more competitive terms big businesses dominate in the search results. Thanks again for this detailed article on long tail writing.

Some very good examples. And in my expecrience having all those words, that are related to your main keywords in the texts does not only get you more long tail traffic but boosts teh ranking for your main keyword aswell (and will in the future, think LSO).

So very true. I did a write up about that a while back ( long tail keywords convert better.

If someone asks you a specific question you can supply them with the specific answer, the internet works exactly the same way. The more precise the answer the more likely you are to convert the visitor into a client/sale.

One must be careful as people surfing have a short attention span.
I suggest the following. Write a short and a long-term version.

The first paragraph will contain a summary for the user with a short attention span while the 2nd paragraph will contain descriptive long-tail keywords for search engines.

Just like Newspapers do. A summary (paragraph) then the whole story in detail. It is good for everyone involved.

Am I right or wrong? Any other guidelines we can follow?

Thanks and interesting post.

The most important part of SEO is keyword. Search engine optimization begins with the proper and optimal use of keywords and keyword phrases.
Selection of keywords is the most important step. There are many online keyword selection tools available like overture, word tracker, Google adwords etc. Use such keywords or key phrases that target your business. Analyzing each keyword for competition should also be done. When we have highly competitive keywords we usually use a combination of keywords. Secondly after keyword selection comes content. It is usually said that content is the king. Suppose you have a website that ranks high in SERP but if your site does not provide useful content or related content, then the visitor will leave your site and switch to other site. Writing keyword rich content is very fruitful in SEO process. There should be a proper ratio of the keywords and text. There should be at least 250 words of text on the home page and other pages to be optimized. Once proper keywords are optimized it easy to gain traffic.

@ Palcom Online

I agree that your keyword choice is crucial. Why use any particular number of words? If you know that:

"We will find YOU the lowest legal mortgage!"

Will convert? Obviously pages that explain this or contact pages... or whatever may use up more text. I have to disagree that there is ever a perfect, standard, for every page.

Here what I am looking for, the explanation completed with sample, clear and easy to understand.

But anyway, i don't know if I could crreate each one like above :(. Iam not a copywriter at all:)

Very interesting and important information.Thank you for yours valuable guidance.

Thanks for the great information. I look forward to giving it a try.

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Targeting Conversions and Traffic with Long Tail Writing