Long Tail Keywords and the Search for the Holy Grail of PPC


Understanding your product and anticipating what your audience search for is the Holy Grail of PPC account management. If you get these two things right then success will come your way. Sounds simple? Well it is and it isn’t. If you know what people type when they are looking for your product or service, then you will know what keywords to populate your PPC campaign with. The trouble is there’s usually more than one keyword that describes your product, and often those keywords are three, four or five words long. It’s this understanding of long tail keywords that can often be the difference between success and failure

Before I go on I’m going to ask a controversial question; is there value in targeting long tail keywords? I ask this because all the information from Google suggests that increasing your keyword lists with more and more long tail keywords can deliver results, yet here at High Position we’ve looked at the accounts we manage and found that 70% of conversions come from 2 and 3 word searches.

Having worked with all manner of PPC accounts for several years I understand that keywords are the foundations on which you build your accounts, and if a keyword is relevant then you should be using it. However I’m also experienced enough to know that in many accounts there are what I would call ‘bankers’, the keywords that are vital to your success because they consistently deliver conversions.

If we think of keywords in terms of a target then the ‘bankers’ are at the centre and it’s these keywords that you need to focus most of your effort on because this is where you will get direct and visible return on investment. But what about keywords that don’t fall into this category?

There are two ways of looking at long tail keywords, firstly if you target long tail keywords then you also have the knowledge you need to tailor content on your website around those phrases. If you’ve got a wide and varied list of long tail keywords this might be a big job, but giving the visitor want they want is key, so it might be worth the effort, after all this should be the approach you adopt for all keywords that you choose to use regardless of their length. If you do this in theory your CTRs will be high, your bounce rate low and your time on site very healthy. All positives!

Secondly it’s these keywords, as a group, which often generate large search volume, even if the conversions amount to 10% rather than 70%. By generating traffic at consistent and healthy levels not only are you getting people who are interested in your product or service to your site but you’re also generating vital information about the way they behave once they are there which could lead to design or content changes. (See the CRO section for more information)

So, in answer to my own question, yes there is value in targeting the long tail but for more than just one reason and for reasons that aren’t immediately apparent. I haven’t even mentioned the Assisted Conversions and Top Conversion Path reports in Google Analytics, and it’s here that you can start to see the ripple effect of long tail keywords.

Long tail keywords might not get the majority of conversions for you but maybe this is not the best way to measure all longtail keywords, maybe it’s more about behaviour? And if you can identify an extra 1,000 longtail keywords that are relevant that’s potentially 1,000 extra visits from people who want what you have to offer. Surely that’s the most compelling reason to target long tail keywords.


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