Increasing your conversion rate is a fundamental goal of any online store—the idea is to have buyers, not browsers. One method of increasing conversion rates is by utilizing the power of long-tail keywords.
A long-tail keyword is an SEO term that refers to a keyword with low search volume, and are typically at least three words long. They are different to head keywords, which have high search volume, and are typically comprised of just one or two words.
An example of a long-tail keyword is “black skinny jeans”, while a head keyword would simply be “jeans”. Clearly the former is far more specific.
While head keywords are generic, and often the starting point of a customer’s journey, long-tail keywords are far more specific and descriptive. Customers searching for long-tail keywords are likely to be more aware and focused on a particular product that they want to purchase, rather than simply browsing a range of products. Targeting long-tail keywords attracts buyers, not browsers, and makes a sale up to 2.5x more likely to occur (we’ll get into the math later on).
Before we go further, we do need to address the elephant in the room. Long-tail keywords do have less search volume than head keywords, and do generate less traffic individually. However, when added together, mid-to-long-tail keywords make up 85% of all search traffic, so targeting a large number of long-tail keywords can be a far more effective strategy than targeting just head keywords.
Long-tail keywords result in increased conversion rates because when visitors arrive to your store via a long-tail keyword they are far more likely to be looking for a specific product. If they discover a website offering a product that matches their search query, then they’re much more likely to buy: up to 2.5x more likely, to be precise.
Put another way, let's imagine we have two customers coming to a real-world physical retail store:
The first customer enters the store looking for jeans. They have a look around the store, not quite knowing what they want to buy (or if they want to buy anything at all), and feeling a little overwhelmed by all the options available to them. They might try on a few pairs of jeans, but ultimately can’t find anything they really love, and ultimately leave the store without buying anything.
The second customer enters the store looking for black skinny jeans. They don’t suffer from choice overload, because they’ve already mentally filtered the entire store down to the three pairs of black skinny jeans available. They try on all three pairs, choose the pair that fits them best, and make the purchase.
All of these factors—the specific intent of the customer, the lack of choice overload and decision paralysis, and the clear path to purchase—all apply to online stores too, and explain why visitors from long-tail keywords convert up to 2.5x more often than those from head keywords.
Not only do long-tail keywords have a higher conversion rate once customers arrive at your store, they also have a higher click-through rate from the search engine results page (SERP). As with conversion rates, this increase is due to the specificity of long-tail keywords.
For example, when searching for “jeans”, 61% of users leave without clicking on any of the search results. When searches are just slightly more descriptive, with a term like “men’s jeans”, this number falls to just 43%. More specific long-tail keywords reduce this even further.
On average, for results on the first page (ranks 1–10), click-through rates for long-tail keywords are 83% higher than those for head keywords. In addition, optimizing for long-tail keywords typically moves you up 11 positions in search rankings, compared to just 5 positions for head keywords, so you’re far more likely to get on the first page of Google for a long-tail keyword.
Let’s come back to that elephant in the room for a moment. On average, long-tail keywords do generate less traffic. However, some long keywords actually generate more traffic than short keywords, particularly in the context of ecommerce. For example, 450,000 people search Google every month for “sneakers”, while 673,000 people search every month for “nike sneakers”.
Even for those keywords that do generate less traffic, there’s a sweet spot where the benefit of the increased click-through rates and conversion rates counterbalance this drop in traffic. Looking at the graph below, that sweet spot lies with search terms comprised of 3 to 5 keywords.
There’s a lot to digest here, so this handy infographic from Blogging.org might be a useful cheatsheet for you to save and refer back to:
If you’re looking for an easy way to start reaping the benefits of long-tail keywords to increase conversion and click-through rates for your online store, I recommend using a tool like Semrush. You can start by researching keywords related to your product catalog, focusing on keywords with a reasonable search volume (at least 1000 per month), and a low keyword difficulty. Then, create pages on your store that target and capture those keywords.
However, the real power of utilizing long-tail keywords for your online store comes when targeting large numbers of them at once. If you’re looking for a comprehensive solution, Merchstack lets you automatically create and manage thousands of attribute-based pages targeting high-value long-tail keywords, while avoiding over-indexing.