SEO and Analytics

How To Use Long-Tail Keywords To Improve Your SEO

January 3, 2023
By Guest

Long-tail keywords can be highly effective when it comes to boosting a website’s performance on search engines like Google and Bing. They’re a great way to reach a more niche audience than your typical keywords because they tend to have a clearer search intent

However, it’s a common misconception among marketers that long-tail keywords are also easier to rank for than short-tail ones. The truth is, it all depends on their usage. 

This article will discuss why and how to use long-tail keywords to improve your SEO. We’ll also cover the different types of these keywords, and explain how to conduct effective long-tail keyword research. 

What Are Long-Tail Keywords?

The term ‘long-tail’ has nothing to do with the length of the search query. It actually refers to their position on a chart known as the “search demand curve.”

Chart illustrating the search demand curve, explaining where the long tail keywords fall.

A head (short-tail) keyword usually consists of just one or two words that can receive hundreds of thousands of searches each month. For example, “Japan” receives 502k searches every month in the US, whereas a long-tail keyword such as “Is Japan open for travel?” receives 2,000.

As you would expect, single-word head keywords are highly competitive and can be extremely difficult to rank for. Ahrefs’ keyword database shows that there are only 31,000 keywords that receive over 100k monthly searches, while the number of keywords with less than 10 monthly searches is closer to 4 billion.

Long-tail keywords typically receive fewer search queries each month when compared to their short-tail (head) counterparts. That’s because this type of keyword is a longer and more complex query – the more words included, the fewer people will match them all in their searches. Think of someone using voice search, or using conversational language.

Long-tail keywords generally offer higher conversion rates due to their specific nature. They might drive less traffic, but those website visitors know exactly what they want. 

It should be noted that there are numerous keywords that are five words or more that still receive over 100k searches. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that all long-tail search queries are less competitive. 

Why Are Long-Tail Keywords Important for SEO?

There are three main reasons why your keyword strategy should include long-tail keywords.

1. They are generally less competitive.

Targeting keywords that relate to extremely popular or trending topics is sometimes a thankless task, and ranking for them is almost impossible. This is why long-tail keywords can be a much better strategy when creating content for competitive subjects.

Many head keywords relating to highly searched topics such as cryptocurrency, significant sporting events, or major social media platforms have a high keyword difficulty (KD) score, making them unrealistic. Therefore, it is recommended to think outside the box and research alternative long-tail keywords with a low KD score.

2. Creating content for long-tail keywords can be easier.

When choosing head keywords that are short in length, you will often be required to elaborate to ensure you have covered every detail so you can outperform the competition. 

However, creating content for long-tail keywords with a low KD score means you can answer the query more succinctly while still providing the reader with the information they need. This makes content creation much easier and more scalable. 

3. There are millions of long-tail keywords to choose from.

Targeting a single long-tail keyword is unlikely to drive huge traffic volume to your website, but targeting dozens can have a considerable impact. Fortunately, there are millions of long-tail keywords you can take advantage of, giving you endless possibilities to reach new audiences. 

Using Long-Tail Keywords: Supporting and Topical 

You should also be aware that there are two types of long-tail keywords that you can use – “supporting” and “topical.”

Supporting Long-Tail Keywords

Supporting long-tail keywords are the variations of popular search queries, meaning if your website ranks for a specific keyword, it will likely rank for the slight variations, too. 

For example, if your site ranks for a keyword such as ‘“lawn care invoice template,” you may also rank for variations such as “lawn care invoice builder” or “bill template.” Similarly, you may rank high in the SERPs for the keyword “professional printing company”, and for supporting terms such as “printing service” or “business”. 

You effectively can target several long-tail keywords with a single piece of content.

Topical Long-Tail Keywords

Topical long-tail keywords contain something that makes them more distinctive from a supporting variation

For example, if you are creating content related to the optometry industry, a supporting keyword could be “what are effective optometry treatments?” This phrase would change to a topical keyword if you added a word such as “nonsurgical” to it (“what are effective nonsurgical optometry treatments?”), as this changes the direction of the content entirely.

This could also be the case for websites that rank well for the keyword “IT support”; if a person searches for the topical “cloud IT support,” this could change the SERPs entirely.

Creating content that targets topical long-tail keywords certainly has merit if you want to focus on super-specific niches

How to Find Long-Tail Keywords: Research Methods

There are lots of keyword research methods you can use to uncover a goldmine of long-tail keywords. Some of these methods are relatively straightforward, whereas others require a little more effort (and budget). 

Ahrefs Keywords Explorer

The Keyword Explorer tool is quite easy to use and can help you discover a range of long-tail keywords, as well as more competitive ones. Simply enter a single word that defines the niche you are targeting, and filter the volumes of results to gain access to thousands of potential long-tail keywords.

The keyword results using Ahrefs Keyword Tool for the search term “angle grinder."

For new websites, the keyword difficulty score filter can help discover less competitive keywords, allowing you to create unique content that actually has a chance to rank.

The “Questions” button can also return a host of long-tail keywords written as questions, helping you create content that provides relevant information to a specific audience. Questions make excellent headings within an article. 

Including a question as a heading and answering it succinctly underneath can help you become Google’s ‘featured snippet’ for that query. 

Search Reddit and niche online communities

Reddit and Quora are often the websites that are used to answer a question after Google or alternative search engines like Bing and Yahoo. These websites can reveal interesting keywords that can then be checked using Ahrefs Keyword Explorer to evaluate their difficulty. 

The same applies to online communities and forums that relate to your chosen niche, tapping into the knowledge of posters who are passionate about the specific subject. These users often have their finger on the pulse so you can keep up-to-date with any new developments. 

This process can be very time-consuming, but when combined with an effective keyword tool, the method becomes much less arduous. Consider free tools such as and Exploding Topics that can help you search for current trends, helping you to further refine your search.

An example of a Trend Report from Exploding Topics

Check the competition

Analyzing which keywords your key competitors are using can unearth some long-tail keyword gems. Competitor keyword analysis can be especially fruitful if you are a local business developing a local SEO strategy. 

To do this, enter the competitor’s URL into a site explorer tool using a platform like Moz or Ahrefs. This will then generate a report of keywords used on their website that are driving organic traffic. 

Repeating this process for all your competitors can help you create a substantial list of potential long-tail keywords. 

Avoid using Google Autosuggest

As well as knowing how to create a good long-tail keyword strategy, it is also helpful to know what to avoid so you are using your time wisely. 

Google Autosuggest has some merit in terms of keyword research when checking what popular search terms are related to certain topics. However, this is not much use if we are looking for low-difficulty long-tail keywords. Google Auto-suggest works best when creating a list of head keywords. 


Long-tail keywords have a relatively low search volume, making them less competitive. This is why creating content that targets these types of keywords can be an effective SEO strategy, helping you rank for search queries that may have eluded your competitors. Long-tail keywords are excellent for new or smaller websites that may struggle to compete with established websites that target head keywords. 

Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.