The Long Tail theory applied to keywords and SEO

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It was way back in 2004 when Chris Anderson, at the time director of Wired USA, introduced for the first time the long tail theory to study economic models, especially those of Amazon and Netflix. According to the US journalist, in short, “products with low demand or low sales volume can collectively build a better market than their rivals, surpassing bestsellers and blockbusters, as long as their sales channel is large enough”. This theory was then used and applied in the world of SEO, but how can this “long tail” theory be useful?

What does long tail keyword mean

Long tail keywords is the name by which we identify the keywords that are typically composed of three or more terms, which are more specific than the more generic search keys, therefore, they have a significantly lower search and traffic volume than exact-match keywords instead.

A definition of a long-tail keyword can thus be “specific and highly targeted search phrase, usually consisting of three or more words”: apparently, taken individually these keywords are often less popular than shorter and more generic keywords, but together they account for the majority of Internet searches.

Take, for example, the keyword “shoes“: it is very generic and highly competitive. But if we extend it to “marathon running shoes,” we have a long-tail keyword, . The latter is much more specific, less competitive and aimed at a more targeted audience.

An immediate way to discover the long tail keyword is to launch a search in the Google bar and take advantage of the autocomplete function, the autocomplete that reports the most frequent branches of the entered term based on the predictions provided by the algorithms.

Examples of autocomplete on Google


A simple example concerns the word “house”: a quick search on SEOZoom reveals that the average monthly search volume is 9.9K, but above all that the Keyword Difficulty is 76 and that the Keyword Opportunity is 23, with more than 2 billion pages indexed on the topic. This alone makes us understand that the british web is full of sites that have already obtained Google rankings with content about the “house” and it is therefore complicated to compete for this keyword – without even going to investigate the type of content better ranking or the presence of any SERP features that could further complicate the scenario.