Brad Geddes / PPC Geek
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Author of Advanced Google AdWords.
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Brad Geddes's Theories on Marketing How to Pull off Long-Tail Keyword Targeting and Make More...

How to Pull off Long-Tail Keyword Targeting and Make More Conversions


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No matter what your AdWords strategy is, targeting long-tail keywords is a must if you want to optimise your campaign and generate higher ROI.

I’m sure you know the importance of long-tail keywords, yet, they’re frequently overlooked in favour of larger traffic generating head terms.  I’m here to tell you – if you’re looking to maximise your ROI quickly, then long-tail keyword targeting is a must.

Why Smart People Focus On Long-Tails

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. Individually, long tail keywords produce precious few impressions and they’re notoriously difficult to analyse. As many as 60% of all search queries Google has never had conducted on their engine before;, meaning there is precious little data to optimise effectively. Additionally, global search data rarely gathers enough data on them either, making the task even more challenging.

For many, the safer option is merely to stick to shorter keywords that can be easily measured and adjusted accordingly.

However, long-tail theory says this: long-tail products that are low in demand collectively make up a market share that exceeds bestsellers.

Seeing the bigger picture already?

Despite their problems, they are the search terms that show high commercial intent. They’re keywords that show the user is looking for something very specific and probably further into the buying phase. They’re primed and ready to make a conversion.

Not convinced?

If pay-per-click is a numbers game, then you’d be looking pretty foolish to skip over them – I’m sure you’ve seen a similar graph to the one below (which graph?), but it nicely demonstrates the high value of aggregated long-tail keywords.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that long-tail keywords are definitely the way to go, especially for those on lower budgets that have to squeeze every last drop out of their campaigns.

So how do you go about finding and optimising for these long-tail keywords?

1. Aggressively Target Many Relevant 3+ Keyword Terms

Now this should be pretty obvious. First you’re going to need to find longer stringed keywords that are going to be searched for – they don’t necessarily have to have huge traffic streams though. Only a few hundred searches a month is necessary.

You can use global search data tools to give you basic guidance on keyword estimations – try using a variety of different tools to give you a better understanding though, such as Keyword Spy, Wordstream & SEMRush.

Once you’ve an idea of relevant terms (or are struggling to find specific enough keywords with sufficient traffic), head over to Google and use their Google Suggest feature (add image here of Google suggest showing long tail traffic?) – simply type your keywords into Google and see what variations of the queries are. Remember, if you want to maximise ROI, use queries that show an intent to buy, rather than search – you can use head terms for that purpose (that will generate much more traffic)

Once you’ve clicked a query, scroll down to the bottom to find Google Related searches (optionally, another image). This can help expand the number of queries within your campaign.

Repeat this for all the different variations you collected from Google Suggest to collect a big pool of searched long-tail queries to choose from.

2. Localise Your Queries

Once you’ve got a list of long-tail keyword-strings and queries, you can then add a localizing keyword to further refine searches by a geographical area.

This can include keywords like country name, state, city, region, postcode, address – anything that narrows the scope to a specific location.

Take the following ad:


See how the qualifier in the headline – ‘Physio Services Cardiff’, will be more likely to attract attention for someone within the area over a more generic ad?

Furthermore, this ad has also used a location ad extension to give the exact address and local phone number to further add credibility to their services.

You can link your Google Places account with this extension. If you haven’t created an account yet, you can add all your location detail within Google Local and add it within your AdWords dashboard. Rather than explain it here, simply just check Google’s own tutorial to set yours up.

3. Add Subject Qualifying Terms that Clearly Define Your Product or Service

Pre-Qualifying keywords complement a particular head keyword and give extra information on a particular product or service.

For example, take the search query, polo shirts:


The competition is definitely fierce – that is the nature of short-tailed, head terms. However, there are also a huge variety of types of polo shirts that the user has no wish to buy.

You can generically refine this search with gender-specific products, sizes, types and style, models, colours etc.

How could you make your product more specific? Consider whether your offer is high-end, quality services or cheaper, budget-friendly? Who is it marketed at – small businesses, CEOs, some sort of specialists?

You get the idea.

4. Use Relevant Pre-Qualifying Terms

There are also qualifying keywords that suggest a higher level of commercial intent from the user and filter out more general queries.

PPCHero compiled a good list of qualifiers that increased conversions – some of the results may surprise you.


As you can see, adding some of these qualifiers – especially the top four, show a sizeable increase in conversions.

I recently had success transforming what was is a relatively broad head term, ‘ice baths’, into a longer-tail keyword that lent itself to more conversions, ‘buy ice baths’.

Simple right? However, when comparing both, the results were pretty comprehensive:

  • Buy Ice Baths had just over 3.5% increase in CTR compared to Ice bath (both keywords positive and phrase matched)
  • 5p/10c reduction in CPC.
  • 63% of queries from ‘Buy Ice Baths’ had one of the qualifiers from above compared to just 8% of ‘Ice Baths’.

For those without a big budget to capture conversions from unreliable head terms, adding these qualifiers is a very simple way of maximising ROI with low-cost.

5. Examine Your Own Data With the Search Query Tool

Once your campaign is running and has generated enough data, you can examine the search terms used to find your ad.

Pay attention to what is already available at your fingertips – your own data is better than anything else for your needs. The search terms are typically different from your actual keyword phrases.

  • Are you actually generating many long-tail queries?
  • Are there many pre-qualifying terms that show commercial intent from the user?
  • Are there localizing keywords that show interest in your area?

From your search queries, there may be some that are getting searched more than once. Add these into your keyword list.

Likewise, you may find some keywords that aren’t relevant for your ad at all. Add the keywords that detract away from the relevant intent to the negative keyword list.

Make sure you regularly run your search query report and add new terms you didn’t have before.

6. Tailor Your Landing Pages for Long-Tail Optimisation

Remember it’s pretty difficult to directly optimise for each long-tail variation because of the scalability factor.

Take a moment and step into your customers’ shoes. What are the possible search terms they will be using and the exact information that user is trying to find?

Your landing pages should be ready for all kinds of relevant, but different queries.

The most important factor is to segregate the number of offers as far as possible.

Going by the earlier polo-shirt example, all different variations of colour, sizes, gender, style, price etc (your subject qualifying terms) should be tagged to differentiate your different offers as much as possible. You should try and categorise these as much as possible so readers can filter products by various parameters.

You should also try and use deep landing pages to direct customers to relevant information so they don’t need to navigate away to find any further information on your product.

Let’s demonstrate with an example. I particularly like
Specifiedby’s landing pages for their building product sourcing service plan. Their first landing page compares their products with the reputable RIBA product selector – it’s simple to understand, transparent and seems a lot more credible because of it.


This is going to be optimised for any <brand name> review queries, <competitor> review queries and <brand name> vs <competitor> queries.

At the bottom, they have alternatives to either go straight to the pricing plans or check out more information. There are clear call-to-actions within the button, keeping the attention of the user and directing them either to more information or their service plan page.

clip_image012They have a further two pages of both features and benefits before the pricing plans page, further adding to the scope of possible long-tail keywords that may be searched. For example, benefits of free pricing plans or some variation.

Remember, many long-tail queries haven’t even been searched and are inherently difficult to predict – so providing as much information to satisfy your readers’ problems is going to increase conversions.

Finally, you’ll reach the product page.


This page clearly segregates the different options and prices that are available to the user, with a help redirect for any readers still unsure about making a purchase. Splitting the offers will appeal to various kinds of budgets, whilst the help button will redirect the user to another part of the website and salvage some value from the click cost.

In general, you should be following all the good practices of general landing page optimisation that targets head terms, but differentiate and provide segregated information as much as possible.

Can You Afford Not to Target Long-Tail Keywords?

Head terms have their place in your AdWords campaign – if your budget will allow it.

For those looking to make every penny count, long-tail keywords must make up a sizeable proportion of your AdWords keyword strategy.

They may be low volume, but those super relevant keywords are the ones that are going to generate the most profitable ROI and increase your campaign performance. Can you afford to do without?

Do you specifically try to target long-tail keywords, or generally focus on head terms? How much success have long-tails had for you? Let’s continue talking in the comments!

This is a guest post by Alex Johnson. Alex is a freelance digital strategist who loves all things PPC, SEO and Social Media. He blogs at, helping businesses market themselves better online and finds writing in third person a bit awkward. He’d love to hear from you on Google+ & LinkedIn.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Certified Knowledge. If you would like to write for Certified Knowledge, please let us know.  


  1. Bogdan
    November 20, 2013 at 2:26 am · Reply

    Great post Alex, but what do you do when you’ve spent hours adding long tail keywords to your account only to get that dreadful “Low search volume” keyword status? Repeat the process and try find new ones or try to shorten the long tail keywords you just found?

    • Alex Johnson
      November 22, 2013 at 3:12 am · Reply

      Hi Bogdan! Yeah, I find you have to repeat the process a little. Start with your 3/4 term keyword (that hopefully generates decent traffic), then first add the pre-qualifying terms I mentioned to begin with – just so you’re targeting the searchers looking to buy. Then depending on your search volume, add the other terms if necessary. Depending on what you’re selling, you may find the location gets naturally searched for, as I found with some ads. Hope that helps!

  2. Roger
    November 20, 2013 at 10:23 am · Reply

    Targeting LT terms is certainly effective in PPC, but the big issue I see is Low Search Volume. Google simply chooses not to show your ad for very longtail queries. Even though they may generate 30-40 searches a month and an aggregate of them all certainly is more effective than a competitive head term, you have to find ways around LSV because your ad just won’t show.

    Using broad or modified broad combined with a micro-management of negative keywords is the best way that I have found to get around it.


    • Alex Johnson
      November 22, 2013 at 3:25 am · Reply

      Definitely agree Roger! Modified broad search tends to pull in relevant traffic and search terms you may have bypassed in my experience. This keyword data can help when creating new keyword strings. Add in the negative keywords and your campaign is going to be extremely relevant.

      However, I still say to experiment with the qualifying terms. It really depends on what your ad is selling. I’ve sometimes found pre-qualifying terms refines the head terms. Location qualifiers can sometimes be tough to implement, buy they work occasionally. Find what works for you!

  3. Chris Schwarz
    November 21, 2013 at 1:15 pm · Reply

    I employ these strategies everyday for ecommerce clients! Pull organic keyword & SQR data into a big spreadsheet, I then use the keyword density tool from SEObook to help categorise my new Ad Groups. I actually employ the use of the client to help with the categorisation, it helps pass on information asymmetry between client’s products/nice and my knowledge.

  4. Alex Johnson
    November 22, 2013 at 3:33 am · Reply

    Very good system Chris! Communication between both is vital. What you think is working – high CTRs for example, may not be producing the search terms that are going to sell your client’s product. This is a big problem I had when I first started using Adwords

  5. Alex
    November 22, 2013 at 9:44 am · Reply

    Great post, long-tail keywords can’t be ignored. However, there are two main difficulties.
    1/ Low search volume : especially if you create long-tail list using Excel. To avoid that you can use the search queries to be sure that your keywords are really searched terms. For the search queries that are “low search volume”, modified broad with phrase exclusion is the best way to do.
    2/ Bid management : create labels for the keywords with few clicks and of the same type to manage them as a whole

    • Alex Johnson
      November 23, 2013 at 9:44 am · Reply

      Thanks Alex! Great points on either. Labelling is so important with long-tails as the number of different variations you can have quickly rises.

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