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SEO School: What is the long tail?

Long-tail: Get more visitors to the site with "the long tail"

Increase profitability by processing the long tail!

Surprisingly many people still believe that search engine optimization is about appearing high on a few keywords. They set up a few keywords that they monitor and then they think they are done with their site as long as they do not lose positions on the keywords they monitor. 

Nothing can be more wrong - search volumes and potential customers do not use one word but often several keywords to get information. When they do searches on many keywords, they have more specific questions that they are looking for answers to and are closer to a purchase (further down the sales funnel).

It is imperative to appear on several different types of keywords and build landing pages that are optimized around search behaviors. If your competitors capture customers earlier in the sales process, it means that your company will lose in the end due to ineffective marketing.

What is long tail?

The long tail or the long tail as some say in Swedish is a marketing term used in probability theory coined by Chris Anderson who is considered one of the world's foremost marketing gurus. Andersson was also the editor-in-chief of the classic magazine Wired, where he wrote about "The Long Tail"In a 2004 article.

Anderson divided keywords into two different groups: "Head" and "Tail". Head consists of the most common keywords in a niche that accounts for a large part of the website's search engine traffic where a few keywords can generate a large search volume, but there is often a lot of competition for those words. Tail or long-tail however, it consists of less popular keywords in combinations with other words around it.


In the example above, we retrieved all searches within the niche from Google each month and sorted the information into different keywords and categories, which we presented in a search behavior analysis.

The long tail is extremely important

According to a study by Backlink 91.8% consisted of all searches are long-tail keywords. The long-tail keywords, on the other hand, accounted for only 3.3% of the search volume.
According to the same study, 14.1% consisted of searches for questions where the most common concepts were how followed by what, where and by whom.

50% of all searches uses four or more words

The long tail can consist of 10,000 or hundreds of thousands of keyword combinations. Here the competition is not as fierce and has greater volume.

A changed search result

Also keep in mind that the search results have changed and show significantly more than links to different pages. Google shows for example:

  • Pictures
  • Videos
  • Questions
  • Knowledge graphs
  • Local information
  • Google Ads
  • Reviews
  • People Also Ask (PAA)

The advantage of using long-tail

The advantage of long-tail is that it can compensate for the lower search volume by building up more keywords and combinations that in the end still give greater search volume. Then it is also easy to establish position within a niche due to the lower competition.

The primary benefits are that long-tail has a better conversion rate and CTRClick through rate - because those who search in long-tail usually have clear and driven intentions behind the search. Some examples of the most common causes are:

  • Direct searches: You search directly for a company, brand or person.
  • Information searches: You want to quickly find an answer and learn more about a topic.
  • Commercial searches: You intend to buy something and want to know more about a product, price or price comparison.
  • Location searches: You want to get to a certain place.
  • Transactions: You want to perform a task such as registering or buying something.

Many SEO companies focus on a few keywords with large search volume, the problem is that this method does not cover the users' search behaviors and thus misses large and relevant traffic to their websites. One can understand why; head has a large search volume, so you do not need as many keywords as long-tail uses, but the competition is very fierce with players who can sometimes have worked for several years to secure their position around the keyword.

Both head and long-tail are important for marketing, if you ignore any of them, the consequence can be that you do not reach as many users as you had imagined. It is important to know in which context long-tail can be more effective than head and vice versa and adapt accordingly by adjusting the amount of work you allocate to them.

How to create a long-tail report

There are different methods to create a long-tail report. Personally, I usually mix different methods, look at the website, competitors, scrape down keywords, brainstorm even more, download data from Adwords and Google Search Consol and finally print all the keywords in an excel sheet. Excel formatting removes all duplicate keywords. Through Keyword planner you get the number of searches per month.

In addition to the Google Search Console and Excel, there are also some ranking tools such as Semrush, Seolytics and Searchmetrics that with varying success give you the keywords you rank on.

Keyword Analysis Reports

You can create keyword analysis reports based on data from the Google Search Console. To make a simpler report with the Google Search Console, follow these steps:

  1. Select search analysis.
  2. Fill in searches, CTR, clicks and position.
  3. View 500 lines and download as CSV file.
  4. Import the file into Excel.
  5. Select data from text and launch the text import wizard.
  6. Click on the next and select come as delimiter.
  7. You now have a ready-made report that you can process and analyze in excel.

A common problem is the use of Swedish characters. There are functions in Excel to fix the Swedish characters but otherwise you have to manually select search and replace for; å, ä and ö.

Once you have the data in an excel sheet, you can use conditional formatting (Conditional formating) in Excel which is a great tool for visualizing complex data. You can start using color scales for nicer reporting and clarification of all variables and there are predefined rules that you can use. Through this, you can easily identify which keywords you rank on and which you have not written any about, which will help you as it concretizes what needs to be adjusted.

Use statistics from Adwords

When advertising through AdWords, you can generate interesting data through search term reports. There you can sort by the number of impressions and get a variety of keywords used. I did a keyword analysis on a customer who was found to have 33,000 keywords marketed through Adwords over a period of 5 years.

Use different types of tools

AnalyticsEdge has a long-tail report where they:

1. Divide the keywords into individual words.
2. Use regex to delete characters.
Divide several words into multiple lines.
4. Use a soundex function to group similar and misspelled words.
5. Merge with historical data and produce a historical trend analysis where you can see if individual words rise or fall over time.

Examples of tools Analyticsedge


Feeling positive at work
The importance of doing search behavior analysis and knowing your target audience.

Do you want help analyzing long-tail for your industry or company?

Feel free to contact us if you want an investigation into what it looks like for your company. We do search behavior analysis for different companies where we produce search volumes and give recommendations on how the website should be structured.


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