Why I became a long-tail keyword junkie.

Cheetah with long tailIt used to be easy to win with keywords.

Go back ten years and everything was different. If you spent a little time learning the rules, and had access to a decent keyword research tool, you could get yourself placed high up on page one of the Google search results almost every time.

Why was it so easy? For a few reasons.

First, most internet marketers didn’t have a clue when it came to keywords. So with a little knowledge and the right tools you could beat them every time.

Second, there were a lot fewer websites back then. Today? Tens of millions more websites and who knows how many blogs.

Third, Google’s algorithms were a lot less complex and sophisticated. So if you knew the rules, you were good to go.

Back then a few keywords smarts could translate into making a lot of money.

And then came Google’s Panda update. And then Penguin. And then Hummingbird, which was less of an update and more of a complete engine change.

Why did they do this? Because while most of us were simply following the rules, a significant number of people and companies were manipulating those rules. They were gaming the system.

Google wanted to punish the bad guys, the bad players. They wanted regular web users to find quality content on page one of the search results, not the stuff that had been manipulated to beat the system.

Google was taking action to protect the value of its own service.

And they succeeded in doing just that. (They ended up inadvertently punishing a lot of good guys too, but that’s another story.)

The outcome is that getting listed on page one of the Google search results is now a whole lot harder.

Even 8 years ago I could get listed on page one for my hobby site about coffee with the single search term, “coffee”.

Not any more. Not in my wildest dreams.

But I can still get on page one with a term like, “How can I descale my Keurig K-Cup brewer?”

That’s a much longer keyword, or key phrase. It’s referred to as a long-tail keyword.

Here is another example, from another industry.

A primary or top-level keyword for a search might be, “hotel in Cancun”.

But that’s a very competitive term. It puts you head-to-head with companies like Expedia and Priceline.

A long-tail and related keyword or phrase might be, “pet-friendly hotels on the beach in Cancun”. Much less competitive. Much more likely to give you a page one result.

A long-tail keyword is, as its name suggests, longer. It contains several words. It is also used by fewer people when searching on Google. The upside is that it’s much less competitive.

And this is why I’m a long-tail junkie.

I can no longer win with the primary keywords. But I can win by living in the long-tail.

But what about the downside? After all, if fewer people use the term, fewer people will find you on Google and come to your site.

True. Which is why I now have well over 1,000 pages on my coffee site. If you want to win with the long tail, you have to write a lot more high-quality pages or posts.

There is no way around that.

But that’s exactly what I do. And that’s why my coffee site now gets more traffic than ever before.

It has been suggested to me that by pursuing the long tail I am somehow marginalizing my site, being pushed out to the edges, and perhaps delivering less value to my readers.

I disagree. First of all, I still create pages optimized for those primary keywords, like “coffee”. I just don’t expect to get much direct traffic to them from Google.

That core information on the topic still exists on the site.

And by creating so many pages optimized for long-tail keywords, I think I’m actually adding tremendous value to my readers by delving deeper into the topic and delivering a lot more detail.

That’s how I see it, and it’s working just fine so far!


About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.

Writing for the Web

If you found this post helpful, sign up for my e-newsletter and get a free copy of my 35-page guide…

Writing For The Web #1 — 7 Challenges every Writer and Copywriter faces when writing for the Web.

Sign up and I’ll send you the link for the download, and then you’ll receive my most recent post as part of my e-newsletter every Tuesday morning.

Sign Up for my Excess Voice Newsletter…


(Your email address will be used only for the purpose of sending you this newsletter, and you’ll be free to unsubscribe at any time.)

1 thought on “Why I became a long-tail keyword junkie.

  1. Hello Nick,

    Thank you for this article and for your expertise/insights. What you say about Google is true, although I would add that they also make such amendments for monetary gain. While they are the undisputed leader in their domain, it does beg the question of “who are they to determine who is the good or bad guy?”…especially when they continue to change the rules of engagement.

    I very much appreciate your enthusiasm for writing and your graciousness in sharing your knowledge with readers like me.



Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.