Why you should focus your SEO on search terms with more than 4 words (The Long Tail)

I know of many marketers who spend a lot of effort, time and money trying to get their websites to rank high within search engines for head terms, high volume keywords such as bricks, rainwater harvesting, loft insulation, wall ties, LED lights, cladding, aluminum cladding, roof tiles, silver taps and so on. Whilst these types of keywords are attractive because they come with high volumes of traffic it’s not really what you should be focusing ALL of your time, effort or money on. I haven’t come across many marketers who spend time looking at or focusing on the ‘long tail’, you know, the one’s who are about to send you an enquiry. Let’s just remind ourselves of what the long tail actually means:

Long tail keywords are the search phrases with 4 or more words (this differs from site to site but 4 is a good figure I’ve found in the construction industry). Typically, someone (Architect, Contractor, Engineer) who uses a long tail search term are looking for something much more specific and those who are using 3 or less maybe considered as a researcher or someone who is familiar with your brand and will form as part of ‘the head’.

The below diagram explains this a little better:


Too much time focusing on the researcher where competition and volume are high

Target those who are looking for something specific by creating specific content

The example search phrase(s) I’ve used in the diagram are from a recent I audit I did for a tap manufacturer and found that majority of quality visitors were those who were using longer search phrases and were easier to convert, but they still wanted to rank #1 in Google for silver taps. This is ok but it would take quite some time time for them to rank on page 1 as their site was relatively new and they hadn’t built up an online profile compared to some pretty well known established brands with authoritative sites within the market. By creating content which is specific to what someone is likely to search for they are more likely to click on your search result, consume your content and if it answers their question more likely to convert into an enquiry.

Anyway, there’s one thing missing off the above diagram which is very important and that is……….conversions! Conversions being the enquiries, registrations, downloads, subscriptions or sign ups that happen on your website.

Does long tail search traffic generate more enquiries than short 2 word search terms?

Let’s find out. What I have done is taken some real data with permission from a clients data and analysed their long tail traffic over the last 4 months using Google Analytics. By doing this I can see which group of keywords generate the most conversions. It  can help me answer quite a few questions too such as “where should I focus my efforts?” or “what type of content do we need to create?” or “should we be spending more of our budget on those search terms when there is an opportunity over here to beat the competition?”.

Here are my findings for Month 1. Blue line represents the number of visits to the website from the number of words within the search term and the red line represents the conversion rate as a percentage generated by the number of words within the search term.


Month 1 – Visits vs Conversions vs Length of Search Term

As you can see the site has attracted large volumes of traffic for the keywords which have 1 or 2 keywords but relatively low conversion rates. On the other side we have lower volumes of visits from search terms with 3,4,5,6+ words in the search term but nice high conversion rates. Nearly 3% conversion rates for search terms with 5 keywords! My client is very happy with this number and now says “Go get me more long tail traffic!”

What about month 2? Let’ take a look:


Month 2 – Visits vs Conversions vs Length of Search Term

Again, a pretty similar pattern, except some external brand building work caused a spike in conversions from brand related terms that month which fall into the 2 word bucket. Like the previous month, majority of conversions came from more specific search terms with 4 or more words in the search term.

What about months 3 and 4?


Month 3 – Visits vs Conversions vs Length of Search Term

Oh nice! Another 3% of conversions came from those searching for information using 6 or more words! 6 or more words!!! Do you want more of these searchers or the more of the researchers who use 1 or 2 words in their search term which may cost you so much more and take up so much more time?

And the 4th month is no different:


Month 4 – Visits vs Conversions vs Length of Search Term

The site generated over a thousand visits from 2 word search terms yet only converted around 0.5% of that traffic where as search terms with 4 words converted 2.34% of that traffic. Lower volume, higher quality, more intent, easier to convert.

So whilst you are focusing on the high volume keywords it’s important to bear in mind that there are also some lots of nice easy quick win opportunities on the other side that your competitors have completely missed. It’s the perfect opportunity for you to go acquire that traffic and convert it into a lead or an order. You’ll also find that this type of visitor maybe easier to convert rather than the researcher who may require more than one visit (returning visitor) before he/she converts into an enquiry.

So what does an increase in traffic from long tail keywords look like over a period of 12 months?

A well thought out keyword strategy together with an awesome content strategy should achieve something like the below graph (below graph is the long tail traffic to the Pauley Creative website)  which shows an increase in traffic from search terms with more than 4 words over 12 months.


Long tail traffic (search terms with more than 4 words) to website over a period of 12 months

TIP: Open up your Google Analytics and analyse the keywords beyond  the top 25 or top 50 keywords. Review them and go develop the content and publish it on your website to attract more of those visitors.

I would love to hear your thoughts about targeting those who are searching for something very specific and the conversion rates from the long tail. Are you seeing lots of ‘researchers’ come to your site and never returning? Are you seeing lots of researchers who come back and convert into an enquiry on the second or third visit?

About Stuart Dinnie

Stuart has worked in the world of digital marketing for over 15 years. With his measured and planned approach, he has delivered robust digital strategies for construction companies to achieve real business growth. He now heads up the team at Pauley Creative as Managing Director and is leading his team & clients towards digital marketing excellence. He’s worked with over 100 construction clients; helping them on their digital transformation journey, providing sustainable strategies that return year on year incremental growth, delivering award-winning websites and adding value from board level to marketing assistant.

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