At WordStream, we firmly believe in the power of the long tail for cost-efficient, high-converting paid search marketing campaigns. Long tail keywords are an effective marketing tactic for every kind of business.

However, if you’re a niche, specialty business and you haven’t yet embraced the long tail, you really need a reality check! Long-tail keyword marketing is absolutely crucial for specialty businesses.

Let’s say you run a business that specializes in designer shoes that come in hard-to-find sizes. Broad head terms like “shoes,” “men’s shoes,” “women’s shoes,” “sneakers,” “flats,” etc. aren’t really going to work for you.

Why? Because your target market is a very small fraction of the general market for shoes. You’re targeting people with unusually small, large, narrow, or wide feet. Chances are those consumers haven’t had luck shopping at just any shoe store, so they’re probably not going to search or shop using such basic keywords. They don’t want to waste time looking at shoe sites that don’t carry their size. They’ll search using specific long-tail keywords like “shoe stores with large sizes” or “extra narrow women’s shoes.” Using long-tail keywords in your PPC campaigns will help you target those highly qualified customers.

In addition, when you focus on your target market with the right keywords, you avoid getting too much traffic from the wrong customers. If you use broad, general keywords in your PPC ads, you’ll end up getting lots of clicks from customers who probably won’t buy from your store, since they don’t need specialty sizes. Those extra clicks that don’t result in conversions will damage your Quality Score and drive up your PPC management costs—and broad keywords are more expensive to begin with!

Long-tail keywords are cheaper, less competitive, and better targeted to your specialty customer base. What’s not to like?

Examples of Long-Tail Keyword Marketing

Let’s take a look at some long-tail keywords in action. I googled “hard to find shoe sizes” and one of the sponsored ads really stood out:

Because a relevant keyword (“Tough to Find Sizes”) actually appears in the title of the ad, my eye goes right to it. The text of the ad names specific sizes, which picky customers are probably looking for. The only other ad here that addresses the searcher’s specific needs is the FootSmart ad, which is pretty good, but could have been even better with a relevant long-tail keyword in the title. (The “free shipping” information is nice to know, but it could have been moved to the text of the ad.) Overall this screenshot highlights a missed opportunity—most advertisers are not taking advantage of long-tail keyword marketing.

Let’s try another long-tail keyword search: “eco-friendly trash bags.”

Again, a couple of these stand out—only two of the ads appear to directly address the specific query. These two ads not only use the “eco-friendly” keyword in the title, they use the space in the ad to bolster the claim, noting that the bags are biodegradable and nontoxic, likely buzzwords that these specialty customers would be looking out for.

This goes to show that using long-tail keywords appropriately can really make you stand out from competitors with less of a focus on your niche market.

How to Find Long-Tail Keywords

So where do you find these long-tail keywords to use in your PPC campaign? Here are a few idea to get you started:

  • Your analytics: Mine the keyword reports in your web analytics application to find long-tail keywords that real visitors and customers are using to find you. This is your best source of personalized data.
  • Keyword tools: Free keyword tools are getting better at providing extensive suggestions, down into the long tail. (With WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool you can get hundreds or even thousands.)
  • Competitive research: Take note of what other businesses in your niche are doing. Do their ads seem more targeted to your specific customer base? How can you compete?

Don’t forget to keep track of how your keywords perform—you may be surprised which terms work best.

Elisa Gabbert is the Content Development Manager at WordStream Inc., a provider of an advanced AdWords Tool set for researching, organizing and grouping large numbers of AdWords keywords. Elisa is a frequent contributor to the WordStream Internet Marketing Blog and you can follow her on Twitter: @eGabbert.