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The SEO strategy for SMEs: long tail keywords

It’s becoming harder and harder for your website to be found in search engines. More companies are spending money on SEO and search advertising, and Google is giving ads more space on the results pages.

In order to compete as a small or medium-sized business, you may need to change your SEO strategy: stop focusing on competitive search terms and embrace the long tail keyword. Keep on reading to find out what a long tail keyword is and how you can optimise your site using them.

What is a long tail keyword?

The term long tail keyword has nothing to do with the length of the keyword phrase, but it’s based on the search demand curve, as illustrated in the graph below. The most frequently used search terms are head terms; keywords with 1 or 2 words, like “shoes”. There are millions of searches each month for them, and the competition for these search terms is extremely high.

When you go down in the curve towards the "chunky middle", you’ll see the search queries are becoming more specific, but still broad enough to get 10,000s of searches each month. The long tail keywords are at the tail end of the curve. These are keyword phrases with longer strings of words that are so specific they get very few searches each month.

keyword graph

Why focus on long tail keywords?

It's important to point out that when you're targeting phrases in the long tail, the search volume for each individual query will be low, but the combination of many variations together amount to a high volume and lucrative pot.

Many companies focus on the head terms of their business as that is what they do or sell. For example, an online fashion store might optimise their site for the search term “shoes”. Long tail keywords are often ignored by the big companies, because they prefer to focus on these head terms. As a smaller business, it’s not a smart idea to concentrate on head terms because there are a few problems with it!


All businesses want to be found on those terms. This makes it harder for smaller businesses to compete with the large companies who have the money and SEO specialists working all day every day to rank high for these terms.


Google has recently added another advert to the top of the search results, now showing you four advertisements. They’ve also expanded the text for ads on mobile. These changes make organic search results even less prominent on the results page.

Sales conversion

Head terms are very generic and don’t convert sales as well as long tail keywords. When a customer searches for “red leather shoes”, they’re most likely just browsing for inspiration. These customers are only at the start of their ‘online buying journey’. When a customer searches for “red patent leather mary-jane shoes online shop UK”, they’ve finished gathering information and are now looking to complete their buying journey.

By focusing on long tail keywords, you’re avoiding direct competition with large companies. You have no advertisements to worry about, and you’re targeting customers who are ready to make the sale. Very few people are searching for that one long tail search query, so you have to create landing pages for different long tail keyword phrases. With this strategy, you’re ready to pick up all the breadcrumbs left by the large companies!

How can I be found with long tail search terms?

You’ll need to get your hands dirty with some SEO work to optimise your pages for long tail keywords. First of all, you shouldn’t just focus on one long tail search term. Instead, identify a subject or a concept that is quite specific and niche, and aim to target groups of long tail keywords that are relevant to it.

With an e-commerce website you can achieve this by labelling and describing your products on the different product pages. Make sure you don’t have more than sub-sub-categories at the very deepest. See our example below:

  • Women’s shoes
    • Sandals
    • Sneakers
    • Heels
      • Court
      • Platform
      • Mary-Jane

If you provide services rather than products, you could introduce a separate landing page for your long tail phrase. As a nail salon, you might have a sub-page for the keyword phrase “Nail salon vouchers in Glasgow”. Make sure to add in variations of the keyword throughout the content. How you can find these variations, you’ll read below.

2. Get inspired
It’s very helpful to use keyword tools to find out more potential long keyword phrases. These are some of the keyword tools we use: Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Übersuggest and Just fill in your keyword and you can find out more potential long keyword phrases.

You can also look at what people have searched for before, by using the Google Suggest tool. In the below example, you see that “UK” is a good addition to our phrase, and “red leather boots” might be another keyword phrase we could focus on. Note these keyword phrases in your document.

google suggest

3. Write creatively

Open your file with the list of keyword phrases you’ve found that help describe your product or service. As an example, we’ve added some additional keywords that could further describe our “red patent leather mary-jane shoes”:

  • Cheap
  • UK
  • Online shop
  • Burgundy
  • Quality
  • Chunky heel

With your list at the ready you can now write the SEO-optimised content for your landing page. The title of your page should include your main keyword phrase. Throughout the body of the text you want to incorporate your list of additional keywords.

Don’t stuff keywords and terms, this makes a text very hard to read and the quality of the writing in itself is an important ranking factor for Google. Use your keywords in a natural way, describing the product/service as if you were selling it to a customer face-to-face.

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