Heads or Tails? - How to Profit From Long Tail Keywords that Don’t Exist

February 2, 2017









This is the first in a three-part series on the types of keywords you should be targeting. Section two will follow tomorrow, and the final installment will be published on Monday, so stay tuned! Special thanks to Virginia Nussey, Lisa Barone, and Adam Viener for editorial contributions.









By strategically targeting keywords of varying competition levels you will see more and better qualified streams of traffic.

At a high level, search engine keywords will fit into three core traffic profiles:

  • “Head” – Popular, highly competitive, and broad keywords. These are typically one or two term keywords, such as “search marketing.”
  • Mid-Tier or “Torso” – These are basically what they sound like: slightly longer keywords that drive mid-level traffic volume and are roughly mid-level competition.
  • “Long Tail” – These are the longer, less popular keywords.

The long tail, in aggregate, actually drives more traffic and conversions than head keywords (again, in aggregate). The problem with the long tail is that despite the fact that it drives a lot of traffic, it’s both difficult to manage, and nearly impossible to create a predictive model around. Let’s take a quick look at some interesting long tail stats:

  • 56 percent of buyers who search use queries of three or more words, while only 7 percent use one word or an acronym
  • 20-25% of all Google search queries are unique
  • What Google describes as long tail advertisers make up half their revenue
  • Searchers are using longer queries

What does all this mean? It means that while longer keywords have value (and that the value there is actually increasing), those terms are very difficult to manage. How do you target unique queries? The idea here is that no one has typed these queries before; how can we go about setting up a predictive model so that as these new queries come in, we are well positioned to rank for these “new” keywords?


The answer, strategically, is to aggressively target mid-tail keywords, while intelligently structuring your site such that you can acquire long tail keywords traffic. In this series, we’ll walk through how, exactly, you can plan your:

  • Site’s Information Architecture
  • Interlinking
  • Link Building Strategy
  • Content Creation & On-Page SEO

To effectively rank for mid-tier keywords while being well-positioned to drive long tail traffic (and maybe even rank for the more popular keywords over time).


Tune in tomorrow for the next installment, where we’ll discuss how to structure your site’s navigation and information architecture to successfully target the mid and eventually: the long tail of search.

The Heads or Tails? Series:

Looking for Long Tail Keywords?

Try our Long Tail Keyword Tool or Long Tail Keyword Generator to get tons of traffic-driving long tail keyword opportunites.

Tom Demers

Tom Demers

Tom Demers is Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Measured SEM and Cornerstone Content.

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