What are Long Tail Keywords?

Long Tail Keywords are the longer, highly specific phrases people use when searching in search engines.

Long tail keywords are search phrases with longer word counts. Their length makes them more specific than searches with fewer words.

“Buy breathable running socks” (4 words) is an example of a long tail keyword, whereas “buy socks” is a short tail keyword. There isn’t an official cutoff, but marketers generally start counting phrases with 3 or 4 words as long tail keywords.

Highly specific phrases make up the vast majority of search volume. This means only focusing on highly popular search terms is a missed opportunity. Bill Trancer put this into perspective in a 2008 post analyzing Hitwise data.

There’s so much traffic in the tail it is hard to even comprehend. To illustrate, if search were represented by a tiny lizard with a one-inch head, the tail of that lizard would stretch for 221 miles…”

The Long Tail

The descriptor “long tail” is a nod to a concept in statistics that describes a distribution of data which has signifiant results away from the “head.” In the chart below the head is in green, and the tail is in yellow.

the long tail

Chris Anderson helped popularize the term “long tail” after writing the book, The Long Tail.

Here’s how the long tail relates to search engines. Below, the number of words per search is graphed on the x-axis and the volume of searches is graphed on the y-axis.

longtail keyword research

Marketing Strategies

Conducting keyword research to find long tail keywords around a specific niche can be a fruitful marketing tactic, specifically in advertising and SEO.

Long tail keywords are more specific, so searchers are more likely to know what they are looking for and therefore more likely to buy something.

In online advertising, longer search phrases are also less competitive. In other words, more advertisers are bidding to place ads on the most popular search engine result pages. This is also true when it comes to organic SEO efforts, with less competition for these queries, it can be easier to get rankings than for shorter, more popular searches.

Pinning advertising to long tail keywords can be a better return on investment. You can see better results from bidding on many long tail keywords rather than wasting your budget on one or two highly competitive phrases.

Long Tail Keyword Resources

Long Tail Keyword Experts


  • longer, specific keywords
  • long tail search phrases

Image Credits: Generic long tail from Hay Kranen / PD; Marketing long tail from Placester