If you’re looking for a new way to generate web traffic but you haven’t yet tried to optimize your content for long-tail keywords, then now’s the time.

What Are Long Tail Keywords?

If you’ve never heard the expression “long-tail keywords” before, then you’re probably fairly new to search engine optimization (SEO).

Long-tail keywords are keywords that are three or more words in length. In reality, though, they can be entire sentences.

Consider the way-too-popular search term “blue jeans.” You can imagine how difficult it would be to optimize your site so that it ranked in the top ten for that keyword.

However, you might stand a fighting chance if you go for something much more descriptive and specific. For example: “fade  blue jeans for plus sized women.”

Now that’s a lot more detailed. Keep in mind, though, the search traffic for that long-tail keyword wouldn’t be nearly as high as the search traffic for just plain old “blue jeans.”

“So wait,” you might be asking. “If the traffic isn’t that great, then is it worth my while to even optimize for long-tail keywords?”

Yes. We’ll cover that in a moment.

About That Funny Name (Long Tail Keywords)

Why are these descriptive search terms called “long-tail keywords?” There’s a good reason for it, actually.

There’s such a thing as the search demand curve. It’s a line graph showing searches per month for the most (and least) popular keywords.

The search demand curve a downward-sloping line as you examine it from left to right. On the left-hand side are the more popular search terms and one the right-hand are the less popular terms.

The graph appears to have a long tail on the right that represents about 70% of the search terms. That’s where the name comes from.

Keep in mind, though: the search terms on the right of that graph aren’t necessarily 3 or more words in length. It’s just that the longer search terms tend to fall on that side of the graph.

Why Long Tail Keywords Are Traffic-Getters

So if long-tail keywords receive so little attention from searchers, how will they get you traffic?

Because of one simple word: synonyms.

When you optimize for one long-tail keyword, you’re also optimizing for a variety of other long-tail keywords that each receive only a little bit of attention as well. The net result: you’re aggregating a lot of unpopular search terms into one search term that will get you a lot of visitors.

Keep in mind, Google is extremely intelligent when it comes to comprehending the meaning of words. So it will use synonyms to find just the right match that will provide its users with the best experience.

That means a search term that seems like a good fit for your article, even if it doesn’t use the exact keyword, could easily land that article in the top 10.

For example, consider the search term we looked at above: “faded blue jeans for plus sized women.” Now, suppose somebody searched for “grungy blue jeans for plus sized women.” That might register as a match with Google.

So would “faded blue jeans for heavy set women” or “faded blue jeans for plus sized ladies.”

You can see where this is going.

Hummingbird Is Your Friend

Hummingbird is also a friend to webmasters who optimize for long-tail keywords.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Hummingbird, it’s the algorithm Google launched back in 2013 to improve the search experience. It’s all about trying to derive intent.

And how does it do that? With synonyms and context.

Here’s more from Search Engine Land:

In particular, Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.

Certainly, Google is able to determine more about the user’s intent as the user gets more specific. And how does the user get more specific? Often with more words in the search field.

That means if you optimize your article for a very specific intent, a user might find it from Google even if it doesn’t use the exact search term.

So again we see the wisdom of opting for long-tail keywords.

When it Comes to Long Tail Keywords – Go Big or Go Home

That Hummingbird algorithm doesn’t just give the user results based on search intent. It also strives to deliver quality results.

That’s why you should ensure that you’re writing quality content when you optimize for long-tail keywords.

If you don’t think you can handle that on your own because you’re either too busy or not a very good writer, then you should outsource the task to a professional. You’re going to waste your time if you try to optimize content that isn’t first-class.

Also: it’s a great idea to use longform content with your long-tail keywords. The SEO benefits of longform content are well established.

Where Not to Find Long-Tail Keywords

Before we get into where to find long-tail keywords, let’s look at where not to find long-tail keywords: Google Keyword Planner.

There was a time when Google Keyword Planner was a useful (free) tool to SEOs, but those days are now in the past. That’s especially true if you’re looking for long-tail keywords.

First of all, Google Keyword Planner isn’t technically a free tool anymore. You don’t have access to all of its features unless you’re an active AdWords advertiser.

Second, it’s not that good for long-tail keywords anyway. It tends to show you keywords that are fairly compact and often not very detailed. You need more than that.

Fortunately, you have plenty of options.

Searches Related To…

Although the Google Keyword Planner might not be a great place to start on your quest for long-tail keywords, you can still get some great help from the Google search engine.

Just type in a generic search term and look for “Searches related to…” You’ll find several keywords that will, at the very least, get you pointed in the right direction.

In some cases, you’ll find long-tail keywords that you can use.

For example, head over to Google and search for “home theater systems.” Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page.

Check out the “Searches related to home theater systems” section. You’ll probably see search terms like “home theater systems with wireless speakers,” “wireless surround sound home theater systems,” “best wireless surround system.”

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