Do Your Paid Search Keywords Have a Long Tail, Short Tail or No Tail?

Written by  November 24, 2008

Keyword with long tailDepending on your strategy (branding / exposure vs. sales for example) the way you structure the keywords in your paid search campaigns can determine whether a visitor to your site is ready to buy or just window shopping.

The buying cycle of any potential customer goes through stages. They start in a research stage and move through various stages until they ultimately have enough information to make an informed buying decision.

As they progress through these stages, the length and types of keywords used becomes more specific.

For example sake, let’s say we sell Nintendo Wii video games at our online store. This is a very competitive market by nature and could cost you a bundle in paid search if you don’t watch your approach.

Potential customers for the Wii Games you sell will be at various stages in their buying cycle. Some may be new to video gaming and are curious as to what the Wii is, what games are available for them, and about how much it may cost to purchase a Wii console while others are more advanced gamers and know exactly what they want.

To be more specific, let’s say you have in stock the Wii Game called Carnival Games Mini Golf. Let’s also say your paid search budget is not unlimited and you need to maximize those clicks you get from your ads to give you the best opportunity at generating sales.

Naturally, your site itself plays a big part in the conversion process as does the ad itself (in addition to a number of other factors) but you can begin to qualify visitor traffic starting with the keyword itself.

A progression comparison of searches might look like this for example.

Early stage. Contains more researchers and window shoppers looking for information or options available to them. These “broad scale” style keywords often drive more traffic, but that traffic can be less qualified to buy.

Example Early Stage (Broad) Keyword(s): Nintendo Wii; Nintendo Wii Games. These types of keywords are typically what an early stage information seeker types in. Because they are less informed they tend to use more broad (general) style keywords in search.

Consider this. In our current example, those users who type in these search terms could be looking for the actual game console, games to play on their console, or could simply be looking for more information on what a Wii is. Because of this, you might get the click, but your chances of closing the sale are decreased to some degree only because the visitor likely has not yet determined exactly what it is they need.

Mid stage. Still contains shoppers often in the research stage, yet they have narrowed down their needs to a particular product type. These shoppers can become buyers under the proper circumstances and therefore you can pickup some qualified traffic with these types of keywords.

Example Mid Stage Keyword: Wii Sports Games. Visitors using these types of keywords are a little more qualified. They may already have a wii game console but are still seeking more information on what games are available specifically relating to sports.

Because there are a number of different sports game titles for the Nintendo Wii, these searches will be presented with multiple options from which to choose. If you are trying to sell the title “Carnival Games Mini Golf”, then you may have some success with these visitors but understand that the bulk of them could be looking for other sports titles and are not interested in the title you want to sell. This can cost you money and decrease your conversion.

Advanced stage. Visitors that arrive in the advanced stage of their buying process typically have done the research and know exactly what it is they are looking for. Because of this they often use longer combinations of more exact keywords to find what they seek. These more exact keywords are what are called long tail keywords. These more exact keywords often drive less traffic, but that traffic typically is more qualified to buy.

Example Long Tailed Keyword: Nintendo Wii Carnival Games Mini Golf Video Game. It is obvious by the exactness of the keyword that the visitor knows precisely what it is they want. They are no doubt looking for the Nintendo Wii video game called Carnival Games Mini Golf to play on the Wii Console. They are not seeking just any sports game for the Wii, and they are not searching for the Wii Console itself (the mechanical device that actually plays the games.)

Because you offer this game for sale, the chances of this visitor purchasing from you increase greatly as they have found the single item them desire at your site. Of course this does not take into consideration price conscience buyers, or other factors, but you can be sure that the click you generated from your paid search efforts is qualified to buy the product you sell.

So the next time you go in to review your paid search campaigns make note of the types of keywords you are using. You may find out that the reason your campaign is not as productive as it could be is because you haven’t taken the time to more precisely target your ideal customer starting with your keywords.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Related articles other people have read:


2 Responses to “Do Your Paid Search Keywords Have a Long Tail, Short Tail or No Tail?”

  1. Alex D on November 25th, 2008 6:56 pm

    Thank you for very informative article! I completely agree with your concept.
    However I believe that problem with ‘Long Tail’ keywords is that they are often completely unrelated to your ad. You may want to try This site can give you keywords that are related to MINDSET of the user who is interested in your ad. Try it.
    Thanks again.

  2. Eric Leuenberger on December 1st, 2008 10:06 am

    Thanks for the info Alex.

    It takes time to develop the proper Long Tailed keywords and if that time is spent, and the ads are grouped to properly allow for this (which will also help your quality scores) then it works very nicely. You just have to be very aware of the keyword(s) used in relation to the ad copy.

    In addition, you can very easily overcome any possible ad copy issues by using “keyword insertion” to dynamically insert the specific long tailed keyword directly into any title or description. Just make sure the landing page is related to the ad in some way.

    In fact, you should be split testing at least 4 different ads per ad group against each other in order to find out what has the biggest impact on conversion so in relation to that the various copy elements will come to light.

    In the end and speaking from experience of managing over 100 + paid search campaigns for some very big market players, the long tailed keyword always wins out in the end conversion wise but it can take time to find the right mix.

    Thanks again for the information and the comment!

Feel free to leave a comment...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!