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Keywords. They’re probably the first thing you heard about when you started researching how to build a digital presence for your operation. These are words that specifically let people know what your site, and products, are all about. For example, a company like TripAdvisor, would likely have ‘tours’ as a keyword for their site, so, they would have that word placed in a lot of headlines, content, and metadata around the site. This marks to search engines, and users, that TripAdvisor is most likely relevant to tours.

Now, your operation is most likely relevant to tours, but there’s no way you could compete with TripAdvisor for that keyword. They have more money and much more content that shows Google that they are more relevant to tours in general than your site. So, what keywords can you use to compete in the search engine atmosphere? Long tail keywords.

Some Delicious Context

At its base, the concept of using a long tail relates to volume. Not volume as in sound, but rather  quantity. Let’s say we have a customer base of 100 people, and the product is chocolate bars. Now, 20 of those people really enjoy plain milk chocolate. You make milk chocolate bars and control 20% of the overall customer base. Not bad. Your competitor, on the other hand, also makes milk chocolate bars, but their main focus is making 80 other types of the delicious treat. Now, even if the remaining 80% customers all only liked 1 type of chocolate bar apart from plain milk chocolate, your competitor would likely be crushing you in overall sales. Why? Because they took a “long tail approach”. Instead of focusing only on targeting the market’s biggest individual group of customers (the milk chocolate eaters), which is also the most competitive because of its broad appeal, they focused instead on targeting the niche customers, which in terms of numbers, make up  more of the overall chocolate market. In other words, they favored specifically targeting a lot of different customer types rather than fighting for footing in the crowded milk chocolate market.

You Likely Deal With Long Tail Logic Every Day Without Realizing It!

While the concept of long tail may seem foreign, chances are you use long tail services in everyday life. Netflix, for example, uses the concept of long tail in their services. The service is actually based on a long tail strategy. Before explaining long tail keywords, let’s examine the long tail concept through Netflix’s usage of it.

Netflix provides its customers with streaming services, so that people can select from a wide array of movies and TV shows to watch from the comfort of their homes or wherever they may be. Netflix uses a long tail when it selects what to place on its platform. For example, Jaws is a huge hit, largely considered the first ever summer blockbuster. If Netflix were to put Jaws on the platform, millions of people would likely watch it, even if it may make them afraid to swim for the next couple of weeks. Even if you haven’t seen Jaws personally, you have likely heard of it or at least know it’s about a wicked shark. Now, putting movies like Jaws onto the platform, and other blockbuster movies, are a great way for Netflix to reel in millions of people, but the overall market for people streaming movies and TV shows is much, much larger than that. In the US alone, Netflix is projected to have over 71 million subscribers(opens in a new tab) by 2025. Now even if Jaws and other blockbusters bring in 20 million subscribers or viewers, that isn’t even half of their overall market!

So, where do those other 50+ million subscribers come from? You guessed it – niche segments. The list of segments is very extensive, which is why Netflix is always publishing more and more new content. While a lot of what they make may not seem interesting to you, it is likely interesting to a large number of people somewhere. On the flipside, out of everything they make, you are likely to enjoy a few of those shows or movies – which makes you a part of those niche markets, and a contributor to the long tail logic.

Long Tail For Tour Operators

Enough about chocolate and Netflix, how does this apply to keywords and SEO for your website(opens in a new tab)? By using the exact same logic! First, let’s say that you are operating a tour business that does tours of New York City. Now, you do walking food tours of NYC, whereas your competitors only do walking tours of NYC. You probably want to rank for keywords like ‘NYC tours’ or ‘tours of NYC,’ as they seem the best words to get a lot of people to your site. While ranking for those words may get a good amount of traffic to your site, ranking well for an array of long tail keywords will bring more visitors overall. There will also be an increase in the relevance of those visits, as they will be aligned with more specific search criteria which can then lead to more conversions.

Long tail keywords are simply specified versions of those main keywords, most commonly specified with locations or details of the tour. For example, a long tail variation of keywords for your business, in this case, would be something like ‘NYC walking tours,’ ‘NYC food tours,’ or even something like ‘NYC walking food tours.’ Being specific and providing details is what helps you stand out from the more general keywords, which while still relevant, are likely also to be relevant for your competitors as well. Using more specific and detailed keywords will help you stand out from competitors as well as more general keywords. Even if they are still relevant, trying to compete on those general keywords is a waste of time unless you have the marketing budget equivalent to TripAdvisor or Viator.

Apart from getting a larger amount of visits from long tail keywords, there are other benefits to using long tail keywords on your site. As with all things SEO, relevance is key. Long tail keywords are a good way to ensure relevant traffic lands on your site. If someone searches ‘NYC tours’ they could be looking for walking tours, food tours, bus tours, boat tours, history tours, etc. If you rank for that word and it turns out that they are searching for boat tours, they will likely bounce from your site because you don’t do boat tours. So, like Netflix, long tail keywords are a way for you to target your niche market in organic or paid search. As of January 2020, only around 20% of searches only contained two terms(opens in a new tab) which means that by using keywords of 3 or more terms, you are now targeting the other 80% of the search market!

Finally, long tail keywords also have easier ranking difficulties. For smaller sites that can’t compete with companies like TripAdvisor in terms of advertising budget, long tail provides a realistic goal of driving relevant traffic without competing against the OTAs. So, as Netflix does not focus all its efforts on providing all the blockbusters, you should not focus all of your efforts on ranking just for those high search volume words. Ranking well for an array of long tail keywords will bring you a higher volume of traffic, and more importantly, a higher volume of relevant traffic more likely to convert.


Having trouble thinking of long tail keywords? Our Keyword Tracking(opens in a new tab) service can help you create a list and track it’s performance over time!


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