When it comes to SEO, everyone wants to rank in the top 10 for their keyword. As a Phoenix SEO, that is the reason people hire me. But what a lot of people don’t understand is the value of key word phrases. Today’s search engine users are getting more and more sophisticated. Back in the early days, people would type in their keyword and up would pop results. Often those results did not return exactly what they are looking for. While most of the major search engines have been good about improving their results, users have learned to narrow their search by performing searches for phrases instead of individual words. For instance, someone looking for “cars” would get millions of results, only some of which are actually useful. So to improve those results, people perform more specific searches like “used cars” or “Honda used cars.” We in the SEO industry refer to hits for these phrases as the “long tail.”

I’ll let you folks in on a little secret. Sometimes the amount of traffic coming from long tail phrases is greater than the traffic from one strong keyword. I know it sounds crazy, but looking at my personal sites and those of my clients I’ve seen this distinct pattern emerge time after time. While one or two key words will get thousands of hits, these phrases may get 10 or 20. But there are hundreds of phrases contained in a site.

The long tail is your friend for two distinct reasons. Number one: you are getting traffic and from my perspective, all traffic is good. Number two: your visitors are getting a better search experience because they are more than likely to find exactly what they are looking for on your site. A happy targeted surfer is more likely to convert to a sale.

So should you be targeting long tail terms? Of course! When I plan a SEO campaign, I’ll pop open a spread sheet and type all my key words in one column. In the next column I’ll put in all the modifiers, i.e. the stuff that makes up the phrases. Going back to my previous example, I’ll put “cars, automobile, and autos” in column one. In the next column, I’ll put in “Honda, Toyota, and Chevy.” In the next column I’ll put in “new, used, and previously owned.” Now comes the fun part, mixing and matching. Start making phrases with all your words. Mix and match is the name of the game. When you’re done, take your combinations and pop them into your favorite search engines. See if there is actually any competition for those phrases. Once you’ve done that, use a tool like WordTracker or Overture’s free tool to see how often people actually search for those phrases. When you find a combination that has few competitors and a high number of searches you’ve got a winning phrase that should get you some nice long tail traffic.

Now that you’ve got your list of phrases, make sure to incorporate them into your SEO friendly ad copy. You need to be smart, and write it so it’s as appealing to people as it is to a search engine spider. I guarantee when you start consciously targeting the long-tail phrases you’ll get more target traffic to your site.