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Long-Tail Keywords: What They Are And How To Use Them For SEO

Including long-tail keywords in your SEO strategy is key to effective keyword research. Targeting long-tail keywords is vital because they don't need high domain authority or thousands of backlinks to rank well in search engines. I'll show you what long-tail keywords are and how to choose the correct long-tail phrases for your content marketing strategy.


  • Long-tail keywords are phrases that have at least 3-5 words and usually have low search volume. These phrases are more specific and have higher search intent than short keyword phrases.
  • Long-tail keywords tend to be less competitive and have higher business value because they indicate transactional user searches.
  • There are several ways you can find and analyze long-tail keywords - from using SEO tools to Google Search Console, and even your competitors' pages.

What are long-tail keywords?

Long-tail keywords are longer, more specific search phrases, usually with relatively low search volumes. They are typically at least 3-5 words long, and often have higher conversion intent.

Adding keyword modifiers to long-tail keywords helps narrow down how specific and targeted they are. Keyword modifiers are words that you add to your seed keyword for a more precise search.

For example, "jeans" is a broad head term but "black skinny jeans for women" is a long-tail keyword query with modifiers. Or take "Abraham Lincoln" and turn it into a long-tail keyword with "Abraham Lincoln birthplace."

It's important to understand that all search terms with 3-5 words aren't long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords must constitute a more specific search intent.

So-called head keywords invite the most search traffic and are difficult to rank for because every web page is going after them. Medium-tail keywords are more specific and generate a decent amount of monthly traffic. Long-tail keywords in comparison, have the lowest monthly search volume and are hence, easier to rank for since most websites want to focus on keywords with large search potential.

The graph below depicts how keyword length impacts search volume.

But the number of long-tail searches is the highest because of keyword modifiers that can generate many of them. The overwhelming majority of 95% of the keywords researched online have a search volume of up to 10, according to Ahrefs.

Long-tail queries generate a limited amount of traffic but can add up because many people are still searching for them. This way, you can rank for less competitive keywords while still reaching your target audience.

Your content strategy should target keywords with low search volumes rather than only trying to compete for more popular queries. The purpose of choosing these keywords is to find niche queries that are lower down the buyer's journey and have high commercial search intent.

Why are long-tail keywords important for keyword research?

Your keyword research process should consider all search opportunities; however, long-tail phrases should always be a part of a comprehensive keyword strategy. Below, I will discuss two main reasons why long-tail keywords are important.

Long-tail keywords are less competitive

long-tail keywords are easier to rank in the search results for several reasons. First of all, there's an infinite number of them. In every niche, you can find several of them with relatively low search volume but still generate relevant traffic that can add up.

As opposed to short and medium tail keywords, they aren't targeted by companies with lots of resources to create content. For example, using Keyword Surfer, we can find that there are 2900 monthly searches for the broad keyword "learn SEO' in the USA.

A long-tail keyword variation of the same term, "learn SEO for free" has only 320 searches.

Long-tail keywords also have lower keyword difficulty scores. Keyword difficulty can be helpful in judging how hard it would be to rank for a specific search query.

In Surfer's Keyword Research tool, you can see the MSV (monthly search volume) and personalized keyword difficulty for every keyword. Considering both metrics together can be useful in judging your potential to rank for a particular keyword.

For example, the broad-level keyword "best instrument" has a medium keyword difficulty and an MSV of 1020.

Whereas a long-tail keyword like "musical instrument for 5 year old" has a much lower search volume but an easy keyword difficulty rating.

This tells us that pages targeting a head term are more challenging to rank for than long-tail variations.

It's important to note that not all long-tail keywords will be easy to rank for. For example, phrases like "how to buy bitcoins" are popular competitive search queries even though they are long-tail keywords.

It would be challenging to rank them. Alternatively, long-tail keyword phrases are much better to target, such as "ways to buy bitcoin" or "how cryptocurrency wallet works."

Long-tail keywords have higher business value

Broad keyword searches tend to result in generic content which is fine if you are looking for general information. However, users looking to make a purchase have already acquired basic information and want to seal the deal. 

Long-tail keywords are more likely to reflect commercial search intent, meaning that the person using such phrases wants to buy something. And most of the time, the person already knows what they're searching for.

Using the Keyword Research tool, we can see this in practice. For example, the generic search term "what instrument should I play" has informational search intent; folks here are looking for general information early in their buying journey.

A more specific ask, "best ways to learn guitar" signals a more aware potential customer investigation from someone who has identified their choice of instrument and is closer to taking action.

You can pick up clues from the SERPs too. For example, if someone wants to buy an iPhone, they probably already know exactly which one they like and would search for "iPhone 14 pro max 128Gb deep purple" rather than just "iPhone 14." to finalize the transaction.

While the search results for "iPhone 14 pro max 128Gb deep purple" are dominated by e-commerce stores, the query "iPhone 14" generates articles like release date announcements or reviews.

How to find long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords that are worth targeting can be tricky to find. Below you'll find tips for identifying long-tail keywords that support your SEO strategy.

1.Use Surfer Keyword Research Tool

When you want to generate any keyword ideas, it's worth taking help from keyword research tools. Surfer Keyword Research, for example, provides semantically related keyword suggestions and organizes them by topic clusters to make finding long-tail keywords easier.

Let's take an example to see how it works in real life. Let's say you want to create content around the keto diet, and this is the keyword you put in Surfer Keyword Research. 

Surfer will provide you with dozens of related keyword clusters grouped by their head topic, such as "keto for vegans" or "keto fruits."

Select any generated keyword cluster for a detailed view to uncover long-tail keywords related to the main keyword. For example, clicking on the keyword cluster for "keto fruits" reveals many long-tail keyword ideas.

As you can see, these queries are much more specific – they are long-tail keywords. You can also see that most of them have lower search volume than their primary keywords. The Keto diet is a highly competitive niche; hence the keyword difficulty is still challenging for long-tail terms.

Since each keyword cluster is a topic by itself, you can use them to create pillar pages and topically related supporting content. In addition, all the supporting keywords in a topic cluster are linked to each other and the parent topic, establishing topical authority.

2.Find keywords your competitors are ranking for

Analyzing the competition can be a great way to find long-tail keywords. Such analysis can reveal phrases that your competitors rank for but you don't. 

Use a tool like Surfer Audit to find long-tail keywords your competitors use on an existing page. For example, say you want to write an article about the head term "choose enterprise CMS" and Webflow already has a page on the keyword.

Enter the page URL and its primary keyword.

Click Create Audit after selecting your country and device preference.

Then go to the Terms To Use section and choose Phrases to reveal a report that lists long-tail keywords for the page.

You can also find keywords used by your competitors by analyzing the search engine results with Surfer SERP Analyzer.

Just enter your primary keyword.

On the report, scroll past the graph to click on the new Keywords tab. You'll find a list of long-tail keywords here.

Clicking on the Popular phrases report will show you several long-tail terms grouped by your competitors' pages in the search rankings.

3.Use Google Search Console

Google Search Console is the best tool to monitor the keywords your content is ranking for. After all, the data comes straight from Google, so you can safely assume it's the most accurate. 

After setting up Google Search Console for your domain, go to Performance > Search Results in the left menu. In the Queries tab, you can see a list of keywords your content already ranks for. 

You can sort them by the descending number of clicks or impressions to uncover the most searched queries your content appeared for in the SERPs. Use the Top queries filter and tap your spacebar once to find the most long-tail keywords you rank for.

You'll find many long-tail keywords for which your pages already appear in search engines. Using these, you can find even more similar long-tail topics to add to your content writing.

For example, if your pages already rank for "intercultural communication practices," you can add modifiers to find similar long-tail keyword variations. Examples like "why is intercultural communication important" or "cultural differences in communication."

4.Use Google's SERP data

It's always worth checking out the SERP data. In the case of long-tail keywords, pay attention to People also ask, as questions are great long-tail keyword material. 

Also, look at the Related searches section at the bottom of the page. For example, if you research the term "learn SEO," you'll find the "SEO free course with certificate" in the related searches section, which is already a long-tail keyword.

Some folks recommend looking at Google autocomplete; however, they are primarily broad-level competitive terms. In addition, because the feature is designed to give you quick access to popular search queries, these terms will have high search volumes and keyword difficulty.

Google autocomplete serves the same terms to many people, so these queries are more competitive than other long-tail keywords.

5.Browse forums and online communities

It's helpful to have a hand on the pulse of your audience and know which terms they use. Forums often provide insights into what terms people are using to search for specific topics. This can help you identify opportunities to use those same phrases so your content resonates with potential customers.

By joining conversations in these spaces, you can find long-tail keywords for your website or blog. Online forums and communities like Reddit or Quora will help you extract popular questions and common phrases to use as your long-tail keywords. It's also worth checking out Facebook groups, social media, and comment sections as well as websites like Ask The Public and Wikipedia.

By reading through comments, feedback and discussion threads, it is possible to gain a better understanding of what people really think about those topics. This can help you decide how to craft content around those terms accordingly.

6.Talk to Customers

People often research the solutions to their problems on the internet, and their questions are great long-tail keyword material. Pay attention to the most common terminology in support tickets and sales queries to find specific long-tail keywords for your web pages.

Talking to customers is essential to content research and strategy. It will help you understand customers' needs and preferences better, which can influence product development and marketing campaigns. By engaging with customers directly, businesses can also gain valuable insights into what type of content resonates best with their audience.

Long-tail keywords and short-tail keywords

Here are several areas in which long-tail keywords differ from short-tail keywords.

Low search volume vs. high search volume

Short-tail keywords generally have high search volumes. For example, the keyword "Facebook group" has a monthly search volume of 12,100, according to the Keyword Surfer Chrome extension. On the other hand, the phrase "how to create a group on Facebook mobile" has 90 monthly searches.

High business potential vs. low business potential

Targeting long-tail keywords with purchase search intent can make a massive difference in conversions. For example, a search for "kindle" generates rankings, reviews, and even book recommendations. However, the phrase "kindle paperwhite 5 signature edition" shows mostly e-commerce stores.

Low competition vs. high competition

Long-tail keywords, in comparison to short-tail keywords, are less competitive. This is because companies with lots of resources efficiently target short keyword phrases. There are also much fewer of them than long-tail keywords.

If you look at the search term "healthy food," you'll see that it has 246,000 MSV and the first page includes mostly renowned magazines or government sites. However "healthy food eating chart" has only 40 MSV, and the SERP consists mainly of blog posts, so it would be easier to rank for.

Specific search queries vs. generic search terms

Short-tail queries are more generic than long-tail keywords. As a result, they don't provide a lot of information. For example, if you type in "protein powder" in the search bar when you want to, you probably won't find what you're looking for quickly. 

Instead, search for "vegan protein powder" to see relevant results. These longer phrases are much more specific and help you find the answer you're looking for.


Unlike other SEO trends, finding long-tail keywords are crucial to a keyword research process that brings results. All too often, head terms grab the attention because they are the most popular. But everyone is going after them, and unless you have a ton of resources - they can be tough to rank for.

Instead, build your SEO strategy around targeting long-tail keywords that are easier to rank for and can help boost your conversion rates because of higher user intent. Then, as your blog grows in stature and you notice more first-page rankings, aim for keywords higher in the buyer funnel.

Let me know which keyword strategy you prefer and why in the comments below. 

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Screenshot of Surfer SEO Content Editor interface, displaying the 'Essential Content Marketing Metrics' article with a content score of 82/100. The editor highlights sections like 'Key Takeaways' and offers SEO suggestions for terms such as 'content marketing metrics