The true value of long tail search words

Long tail search phrases are often seen like a bonus, the one’s you don’t go after, the longer phrases and search strings that you rank for and get traffic for but never set out to achieve.

If you want a recap and some reading on what long tail search is I’d recommend this post and the one’s it links to. Al also did a specific post on it previously, long tail keywords have been explained very well before yet I still see webmasters getting hung up on top rankings for a few prized keywords which is an easy trap to fall into.

Checking your ranking for your top 3 keywords may make you feel better but by improving content and getting user submitted content you can glean more traffic through long tail search than you can from your main keywords.

Over the last 12 months the stats for my tattoo site help illustrate the long tail keyword benefits available by adding content, the main problem I had was my site is image based, not great for any keywords never mind long tail, this was something I had to and did address.

The main area I could address is the rate my tattoo area, this area lets users submit their own images which adds content but usually people are lazy and it’s easy to stay hands off and be lazy too, when people upload an image they often don’t give it a descriptive heading and lack clarity in the description, they just want to upload their image and have it rated like any other site.

So all images submitted are now moderated, thankfully my wife agreed to update this are of the site and before going live the title and descriptions are sometimes edited to make them reflect the image better, so when someone uploads an image called ‘tattoo’ which is one of my main keywords but doesn’t really describe the image, my wife now edits it in the admin area to call it ‘wolf with blue eyes’.

Time consuming? yes, but it really does make an overall difference for something that takes a few minutes everyday, when you get hundreds of images with good titles and descriptions you can increase your traffic by thousands. I also implemented a comments system, again moderated and being mainly image based this can add text and get users more involved.

To show the power of long tail search I will quote some numbers from July ’07 to July ’08

From the 9 million visitors, search sent 5,516,749 total visits.

My main keywords being tattoo, tattoos, tattoo designs account for 2,134,324 of these visits.
So without the long tail I could have had less than half as much traffic as I did!

I have 3 main keywords which bring in less than 50% of the search traffic, so how many keywords did the site rank for in last year remembering most of my content is image based?

Search sent 5,516,749 total visits via 157,337 keywords

About Scott Jones

Scott hails from the north east of Scotland and started earning online at the end of 2000 building websites for local businesses during which time he won an award from Lord Alan Sugar for Excellence in Enterprise. After having quite a bit of success with domaining Scott mainly runs educational evergreen websites which generate over 3 million visitors per month but is always on the lookout for a fresh thinking out of the box way to turn a buck. Follow on Twitter.


  1. Did you ever come across fellow science writer Carl Zimmer’s science tattoos emporium

    He’s just moved his blog to Discover magazine so the tats went with him

    David Bradley’s last blog post..Sunbathing, Frozen Fleas, and Heavy Metal

  2. Hi Scott,
    What else can you do to attract long tail searches ? For example would it be a good idea to put posts / articles based on the long tail keywords ?
    If so, would it be worth the effort ? Since each long tail kw brings only a few searches ?

    att’s last blog post..How to prepare for CCNA / CCNP or any similar exam

    • Long tail bring in a few searches individually but those searched add up to huge numbers which is what I was trying to say in this post. My long tail search brought in 3 millions visitors while my main top keywords brought in 2 million visitors, it’s more than worth it!

  3. Excellent example given, for my blog too even if i rank in the top for highly searched keywords, the long tail search words are always the winners because they are suffixed/prefixed with best, top, reviews, ratings, sucks, coupons etc 🙂

    Amit Bhawani’s last blog post..Kodak W820 Wireless Digital Photo Frame

  4. Even if your comments are in moderation dont you think, a message showing “Your Comment is in Moderation” should be displayed to make sure the commentors dont refresh the page and try to resubmit. 🙂

    Amit Bhawani’s last blog post..Kodak W820 Wireless Digital Photo Frame

    • Not really been an issue to date Amit, if lot’s of dup comments were submitted I’d look at it but it isn’t something that has caused issues.

  5. I’m banking on long tail searches to boost my site - if Google would only hurry up and index it properly that is! Would you guys recommend looking for the top 10 or 20 search terms and making landing pages for them?

  6. Scott, are you saying that you’re creating pages from the searches that your visitors have done on your page?


    Mikael’s last blog post..Linkbuilding With Niche Forums

  7. yes it does mean that but i dont think its possible in most CMS, as the current plugins are only available to couple blogging CMS only.

    Amit Bhawani’s last blog post..BlackBerry 9500 Mobile Phone Review

  8. Thanks all 🙂
    I hate to sound stupid, but I still don’t understand how to exploit the long tail !
    For example for CG, would you write separate articles targeting individual long tail kws ?
    Would you write a single article to cover a number of long tail kws ?

    Sorry about the very basic questions, both Scott and Al have explained it all very well in a number of posts, it’s just me !
    Ps: I might have posted this here
    if so, please delete.

    att’s last blog post..How to prepare for CCNA / CCNP or any similar exam

  9. I agree. It’s not always easy to figure out what you should be doing to get long-tail traffic, but I’ve found that you often don’t have to. By getting links and optimizing for high-traffic terms, the rest sort of works itself out.

  10. I think if you create great content and the site is popular, you will get a lot of traffic for long tail words even without intending to. By focussing too much on particular long tail words means you may create custom content geared towards those longtail words, which, in my opinion at least, is not the way to go and results in slightly unnatural content.

  11. Yeah, I’ve found the very same with my sites. I used to skip over things like alt tags and captions, etc, as a picture should speak 1000 words. But after a short while I realized that a picture doesn’t speak at all to search spiders!

    Justin Cook’s last blog post..What to do when you’re dropped from Google’s index

  12. I can’t beat your numbers, but I can beat your ratio. On one of my sites, the long tail is the source of *all* the visitors: 42,324 total visits via 16,624 keywords! I think only the first 100 or so phrases have more than 1 visitor per month.

  13. Do you rely on just the content to bring the longtail searches or do you do anything offsite to help? How many pages of content do you have on your tatoo site? Great post BTW.

  14. I always try to name my images and then use appropriate descriptions (usually the same as the name), but never seem to get any traffic from this - or at least that I’m aware of.

    Maybe it will build up over time - the blog part of the site is just over a year old?

    Zath’s last blog post..Perpetual Gamer: Free Fantasy Football

    • I dont get much traffic from images either, there’s an option in googles webmaster tools for enhanced image search - I’ve just turned it on so will see if this generates any extra traffic.

  15. What a wonderful article. Thanks for your job!

  16. Well to start with that is an impressive number of visitors, wow, you know your stuff. As for long tail I am slowly starting to understand the benefits that it brings, I mean I would not search tattoo as the Scottish Tattoo will come up. Great post, thanks Goran

  17. It is all about keyword development. We agree that the combination of both image and text make full meaning for understanding. Perhaps keywords are most commonly spoken and used in writing by people for particular topics. Thanks for post.

  18. I have found something similar for one of my blogs. There are some long tail searches I’m on page one for that seem quite bizarre. You’d think they’d be extremely rare, or total one offs, yet they just keep on keeping on.

    This is why blogs are so great. I see the internet as being a kind of word soup. The more words you have in there, the greater the chance they keep getting scooped up. So if you just keep on blogging, you’re sure to end up with search engine traffic eventually.

  19. Long tail keywords lend themselves to blogging, as it is easy to create more pages of content & theme them based on the long tail keywords you are targeting. I also find that long tail is something which corporate sites are not willing to entertain - mainly for branding reasons. Corporate loss is a bloggers gain!

    Dom’s last blog post..Scratch Proof BlackBerry Storm Screen

  20. I know this is a little bit off topic, but it is about search engine optimization so I figure some of you SEO guys wouldn’t mind answering my question: Is there any way I can make my website rank for a term overnight? If yes, can you please link me to the post? I searched all of this website but couldn’t find any info. I’ll keep checking back every day to this post to see if any of you have answered my question. Thanks a lot guys:) -Jake

    Jake SEO is Hosting’s last blog post..102 ways to make your blog a superstar

  21. I always start off by targeting the long tail terms as best I can and depending on the location of the target audience the regional terms. These are the terms that are easier to rank and allows you to show quicker results to a client. After this my ultimate aim is always going to be the top level generic terms.

  22. Hi Scott,

    Completely agree that targeting long-tail searches can achieve significantly better results than chasing after the generic, short-tail searches.

    I recently did some research on PPC searches containing different numbers of words (i.e. short, medium and long-tail searches), and came to a similar conclusion to yourself: that long-tails en masse can drive significant quality traffic. What’s more, since people making long-tail searches are often further along in the buying cycle and are therefore more motivated to buy, conversion rates are often much higher.

    Although the research was carried out with more of a PPC focus, the general principles still apply for SEO.

Leave a Reply