The Short and Long-Tail of Search Engine Optimization


You have most likely heard of the term “keyword optimization.” If you haven’t, the gist of the concept is to optimize the content of a webpage to maximize the probability of a user finding your site on Google, Yahoo!, or some other search engine. Seems straightforward enough, right? Keyword optimization, nevertheless, becomes difficult when choosing which keyword(s) to optimize for. A common strategy is to choose “obvious” search terms and optimize the content for this keyword — which sometimes really means: use that keyword as often as possible (remember, there are diminishing returns to keyword usage!). What many people don’t realize is that such a strategy can hurt, rather than help, your search engine results.

Suppose that you are a dentist with an infosite dedicated to dental implants. You want to draw traffic to your website by pushing it to the top of the Google search page. An easy method of doing this, one might think, is to use the term “dental implants” as often as possible. The problem with this is that there are thousands of dental implant providers out there, all of which might be using the same exact SEO approach as you. In other words, you are competing with thousands of other websites which are optimizing for the same exact search term. You might, instead, refine your optimization by adding your city name: e.g. “Dental implants in Albuquerque, NM.” You are now dipping your big toe into the world of long-tail SEO optimization.

What do we mean when we say “long-tail” optimization? Consider the curve to the right, which represents a hypothetical distribution of search terms. The red vertical line illustrates a cutoff, with main keywords — e.g. “dental implants,” “Invisalign®,” and similar search terms — lying to the left of it.Definition of long-tail search distributionThis represents approximately 10 percent of searches. What this implies is that there are thousands of websites competing for only 10 percent of searches. To put it into perspective, not only are you competing with thousands of websites for the same keyword, but you’re competing for a relatively narrow segment of the online search market.

Roughly 90 percent of searches will use search terms other than the most common keywords. This includes something to the tune of: “Invisalign in Placentia, CA.” It also includes more complicated searches, such as: “Clear plastic braces.” A well optimized website will, therefore, also optimize for these additional search terms. The problem is that this is easier said than done. As we move to the right of the distribution curve, the number of times any given search string is used decreases. Put another way, suppose the long-tail consisted of 1,000 different terms, each of which is searched for twice a day. Optimizing for only one will only get you about two hits a day at most, and you’ll be missing out on the other 1,998 potential search hits.

Long-tail SEO optimization throws many marketing agencies off, because there is no canned strategy that really works well. Adding every single search term into your content is not only impossible, but it also hurts your search rankings. Google and other search engines know when your content is spam, and they will penalize you for it. Search engines, by the way, will also penalize you for over-optimizing a certain keyword. Your content should flow and it should be informative. An unnatural number of major keywords will dilute the quality of the writing and Google, et. al., will pick up on this and push your site further down their rankings.

The cold, hard truth is that there is no simple SEO strategy that will “trick” search engines into ranking your site above others. The best approach is multi-faceted. At Now Media Group, our strategy consists of:

  • Quality Content: Our copywriters deliver unique, original content designed to inform your readers. Furthermore, we personalize the content for those most likely to be searching for it by considering demographic data, including age, gender, interest categories, language, and geographic location.
  • Long-tail Optimization: One of the best methods of addressing long-tail searches is by writing quality content that focuses more on informing and entertaining the reader. As it turns out, that is exactly the type of content searchers are looking for. Focusing on delivering high value writing is the best way to reach out to that long-tail, because you are less likely to over-optimize for a few keywords and more likely to include an eclectic mix of terminology.
  • Maximize User Experience: Our websites are built with your readers and clients in mind. Search engine rewards pages which are easy to navigate, have a friendly layout, and minimize redundancy (i.e. redundant linking and duplicate copy will hurt your webpage’s ranking).
  • Fresh Content: The older your website is, the less likely it is to be highly ranked by a search engine. The assumption is that content that hasn’t been recently updated is less likely to be useful to readers. Now Media Group offers consistent and original blogging to keep your content fresh and up to date.
  • Innovative analytics: SEO optimization has not been perfected and it probably never will be. The best SEO strategy is dynamic; it changes with new information and new data. Now Media Group employs various data aggregators and collects its own organic data to keep track of which strategies work and which don’t, ensuring our clients the most effective SEO campaign possible.


The bottom line is that the best SEO strategy is to optimize for your readers and patients, not for the search engine. Keep in mind that search engines are just intermediaries between websites and users, and the algorithms they employ are intended for that purpose. If you try to “trick” the search engine, the search is going “trick” you by pushing your website further down the rankings.

Contact Now Media Group for Customized SEO Optimization

At Now Media Group we want to connect you with the patients and clients who need your services. Our objective is to bring your practice business by providing your clientele with useful information about the services they’re interested in. Let us benefit you, by benefiting those seeking your expertise. Contact our team to learn more about what Now Media Group can do for you and your firm.

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