Long-tail search terms – what is it?

Long-tail keywords are actually not keywords as such, but rather search terms consisting of 2-4 words.

The fact that visitors search for more than one word, makes these search phrases much more specific than just a single word.  These search phrases assist marketers in managing the communication between the clients searching for a product or service and the supplier of such a product better.

Long-tail keywords
Long tail keywords on Google Analytics for our Swim blog

Long-tail keywords are quite valuable to:

  • Marketers running pay per click campaigns (the bids on long-tail search phrases cost less, leading to a smaller budget required)
  • Search engine optimization specialists driving organic traffic to sites.  (This is quite valuable to smaller business owners that cannot possibly compete against the big companies.)

I hate re-inventing the wheel, and the purpose of this article is not to repeat what is already available on the internet.  Our friend, Neil Patel, wrote an extensive article about long-tail search terms. Please read this article as it contains valuable information.  (Passing some link juice to Neil Patel here 🙂 )

The purpose of our article today is to share an experiment and results using long-tail search terms for our swimming blog.  We will illustrate how using a specific two-word search term in a SEO optimized article, followed by distribution of the article in social media only, landed us a position on Google’s first page. (Organic rankings)

How do I find the long-tail keywords for my site?

Professional marketers use paid-for programs to assist in the analysis of keywords.  The good news is that smaller business and consultants do not have to use paid-for programs.  Google Analytics is free and is available to everybody that knows how to use and interpret data. (Ensure that your site is indexed following the Google Analytics protocol.)

Step-by-step instructions to find your long-tail search terms:
Google Webmaster toolsGoogle Webmaster tools search console

  1. Log into your Google account and go to Google Webmaster tools
  2. Click on Webmaster tools.  A Dashboard will open listing all the sites you are tracking data for.
  3. Select the site you wish to check for long-tail keywords.
  4. The Google Search Console will open.
  5. Click on Search traffic.
  6. Click on Search analytics (steps are marked 1, 2 and 3 in the graphic on the right-hand-side)

Google gives you the option to select the data you required on the right-hand-side.  (Clicks, impressions, CTR, Position, and then you have the option to choose Queries, pages, countries etc. on the next option)

For the purpose of this experiment, I select Queries (want to see for which long-tail keywords visitors find our blog) and the position in Google for that query.
Finding long-tail keywords

Google search is also a good source of keyword search terms.  Just do a search related to the topic of your website and look at the bottom of the results page.  You can use any of the search terms listed for SEO optimized blog posts or articles:

long-tail keyword phrases

The long-tail keyword experiment:


To determine the effect on rankings when I use a target search phrase consisting of at least 2 words in a 1000-1500 word article.


Write a long-form blog post /article (1000-1500 words) using a selected long-tail keyword as focus search term for the article/ blog post.

Measure results using Google Analytics to establish how high the blog or article is able to rank for the specific search term in Google local (South-Africa in this case).  Monitor the amount of time it takes for the article to reach this position.

Article characteristics:

The published article Title:  Swimming South Africa or SSA rankings 2016

Target search term: SSA rankings (As per Google Analytics results in April 2016)

Article-length:  1260 words with a 0.6% keyword density.

Article publish date: May, 8 2016.

Paid for ads: None, as we want to see how this article ranks organically.

Promotion:  Mainly social media – Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter.


Long-tail keywords results

In the above table (as on 2 May 2017)  the article rank in position 3 / 530,000 search results for the search term SSA rankings in Google.co.za

Not only do we rank no 3 on the first page for search term SSA rankings, but also for the list of long-tail keywords listed below:

  1. Swimming South Africa rankings: 4/520,000 results.
  2. swim south africa rankings: 3/456,000
  3. sa swimming rankings: 4/523,000
  4. south african swimming rankings: 5/634,000
  5. swim sa rankings: 3/537,000

Inbound links to this particular blog post/ article: 117

Conclusion long-tail keyword experiment:

It is definitely still possible to rank organically with quality, SEO optimized articles, granted you have time available to wait for the content to crawl to the top. (This article took approximately a year to reach the first page.)

Using long-form articles to obtain good organic rankings in Google should not be the main objective, rather a strategy where optimized articles are used together with Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns.

The positive spin-off from this experiment is that we now rank for an additional 5 long-tail keywords or phrases.  This is a bit unexpected.

Take-way from this long-tail keyword experiment:

I always test my own sites, despite the results the experts show in their articles.  Reason being that I cannot use their search terms, stats and results for my own niche, target market, geographic and demographics.

I do hope you find this article useful.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require assistance in doing a test like this or require a SEO optimized article.

Please share our article if you like it, or please comment below.

Happy content writing, until next time.