SEO – Long Tail Keyword Basics

long-tail-keywords Whether you’re a pro or just beginning to grasp the basics of search engine optimization, it’s imperative to understand keywords and exactly how they work. Long tail, short tail, no tail (?) and so on. SEO buzzwords are enough to make your head spin, but alas, Zen Agency is here to clear up your keyword discombobulation.

So, you’re looking for a new toothbrush. And not just any toothbrush … a blue, musical toothbrush that sings “You Are My Sunshine.” (Don’t roll your eyes, you know you want one.) You sit down at your computer to order said toothbrush, and you type a few words into the search bar.

Voila … keywords. The words you use to search for whatever it is you’re looking for. It’s that simple.

WHAT you type into the search bar is where the confusion begins. I’m willing to bet since you’re a smart shopper who knows exactly what you want, you’re going to type in something along the lines of “blue musical toothbrush you are my sunshine.” (This is a long tail keyword, meaning it includes not only a main keyword but a very specific description as well.) In less than a second, google provides you with very long list of websites that are most likely selling blue, musical toothbrushes that sing “You Are My Sunshine,” or discussing them for whatever reason. (You’d be surprised what people will talk about on the internet.)

Now … let’s think like a retailer. You have toothbrushes. A lot them. They sing and you want to sell them online. You say to yourself, “What keywords would I like to rank for? What keywords will bring customers to my site?” The obvious keyword to select would be “toothbrush,” right? That way anyone looking up anything at all to do with toothbrushes will find my website.


And not just wrong for one reason … wrong for several reasons:

Reason You’re Wrong #1

Ranking for a simple keyword like “toothbrushes” would take a VERY long time. Think of how many websites there are out there already that are well established and contain content regarding anything in the world that has to do with toothbrushes. The competition is enormous.

Reason You’re Wrong #2

You say, “SEO person, we hear what you’re saying but we still want to rank for the word ‘toothbrushes’ and we’re willing to wait as long as it takes.” But ask yourself, even if you do succeed in beating out Wikipedia, Walmart, and Amazon in the search results, are you really getting the RIGHT kind of visitors to your site? Wouldn’t be better to target someone who is actually in the market for a musical toothbrush.

Reason You’re Wrong #3

“Alright, SEO person, we get it now. Let’s target the keyword ‘buy musical toothbrush.” You are learning, grasshopper. This keyword phrase would be considered “short tail,” as it contains a very general keyword along with a descriptor. The next step is to see what sort of competition there is for that keyword phrase and how difficult it will be to achieve a good ranking with it. That’s where your SEO guru comes in with our magical, mystical techniques (analytic programs and common sense) where we carefully measure out how effective particular keyword phrases will be for your campaign. Depending on the results, we will recommend a wide variety of short tail keywords as well as what’s referred to as long tail keywords.

What were long tail keywords again? 

Remember the keyword phrase “ blue musical toothbrush you are my sunshine?” That’s a long tail keyword that will bring visitors to your site who are looking for exactly what you’re selling. Bingo. This is the type of traffic you want, and the good news is, the competition for long tail keywords is much, much lower, therefore it makes it easier for you to achieve top rankings in a lot less time.

“But SEO person, the traffic for that keyword phrase is very low. How can that be good?”

The key is to target a multitude of long tail keywords so that you’re bringing in visitors for a wide variety of very specific reasons. People are visiting your site because you have what they want. And that’s what we all want after all, isn’t it?

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Joseph Riviello

Joseph L. Riviello is the CEO and Founder of Zen Agency. Joe's agency builds websites and web applications that attract, engage, and convert. Joe has over 30 years of experience in entrepreneurship and he is an expert digital marketing strategist who specializes in conversion-centric e-commerce experiences and cutting-edge solutions that maximize growth and profit. Check out Joe featured on:,,,

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