What are long tail keywords?

If you have started any kind of Search Marketing campaign, or talked to a consultant about it, then you've probably heard about long tail keywords.  That being said  I'm almost positive that the vast majority of them never explained what the heck long tail even means.

The Definition

If you want the technical definition written by mathematicians for mathematicians, then by all means click the link to wikipedia,  and begin pounding your head against your desk.  For those that would much rather it be put into terms that can be understood by someone without a PhD, refer to Dino down below.

Ilz5k

Yes, this is a picture of a dinosaur, but it is the perfect way to explain long tail keywords. Dino's body represents the distribution of searches for all the different keywords in a given industry.

For example if we are looking at all the keywords that are related to the printing industry, Dino's head would be the number of searches for Printing.  That’s because the keyword Printing is so generic, and so many things can fall under the category of printing. Think about all the different things that could fall under the category of printing. That’s why the more generic the term, the more searches, and more competition.

So if the keyword Printing is where the head is, then 4/4 offset business cards with satin AQ coating would be on the far end of the tail. The more specific, the fewer searches, and in most cases less competition. Those are all huge benefits, but because of how specific the search is, people that search for that term likely know what they want and are looking to buy.

Your goal is to find a happy medium, where there is relatively low competition, but the search terms are specific enough that your target audience can still find you.  This is the money area, it falls in the area between his stomach and the thick part of his tail.  These are the types of keywords that are perfect for smaller businesses that don't have huge advertising budgets.