Over the past years, there has been much talk by the PPC management & SEO communities about long-tail keywords. Do they still work? Are they worth the effort? I will tell you that without a doubt yes, but before we going detail let’s start more from the beginning.
What Are Long Tail Keywords Really?
Long-tail keywords are search phrases that tend to be longer than just 2 – 3 words. Often, a searcher will use a long-tail keyword in a follow-up search after trying a short, broad keyword phrase because the broad phrase returned only general results, not specifically what the searcher was looking for. For example, our friend Matt is looking for a new set of golf clubs. A head search (or general search) would be golf clubs, golf irons, etc. Now if Matt is looking for a specific brand of golf clubs such as Cobra, Titleist, or Taylormade he would be better suited to use a long tail keyword such as Taylormade r11 golf clubs instead. As a rule of thumb, long tail keywords follow these core features:
- Consist of at least four words or more.
- Have a higher degree of specification specifically to the searcher’s goal. Searchers who use long-tail keywords tend to be further down the purchasing funnel which is a good thing.
- Have less competing pages and companies bidding on them. This does make it easier to rank higher for these terms in SEO and get a better results in your PPC management campaign.
- Have far less popularity in terms of searches performed on them.
- Send you a higher qualified visitor.
Like we discussed earlier, long-tail keywords have undergone some dramatic changes in the past few years in terms of how industry experts value them. These changes are reflected in how long-tail keywords can best be applied in both organic search and Pay-Per-Click (PPC). Let’s look at organic search first.
The use of long-tail keywords in organic search over the past few years has been affected primarily by these things:
- The search engine algorithms have gotten increasing more sophisticated they way they display results has changed as well.
- Increasing organic search competition due to the inclusion of “blended” search results such as images, videos, tweets, etc.
- The increase in highly authoritative social media sites has created more competition for these terms.
What About PPC Management Of Long Tail Keywords?
Of course Google went back to the drawing board and came back with the Quality Score concept, they began penalizing AdGroups that contained lots of low frequency keywords by reducing the overall click-through-rate of the AdGroup. This had the effect of pushing ad positions down while, at the same time, increasing the cost per click for the advertiser.
Today, Google has gone back and done some more tweaks by actually disabling long-tail keywords that were not generating enough impressions, in Google’s opinion. Infrequently-searched keywords generate few clicks and very little revenue for Google, so in a sense, one can understand this move. However, sometimes a low-frequency keyword phrase can actually deliver a few conversions before being shut off, and that hurts.
If you are one that believes in conspiracies, you would think that Google has done this on purpose or just the cost of doing business, but the net result is that Google seems to be forcing advertisers to sponsor mostly broad keywords, using broad and phrase matching options in their paid search marketing campaign. Broad and phrase matched keywords generate a higher number of impressions, but also a greater number of low quality clicks. Ultimately, this has led to higher pay per click costs for advertisers and greater revenues for Google.
In summary, the use of long-tail keywords has seen a shift that you need to be aware of. Today, long-tail keywords can no longer be targeted explicitly and profitably through your paid search marketing campaign, but they still have great shelf life for PPC management. Now with the organic search world, they still are a great sandbox to play in. By no means are long-tail keyword dead!