Building Long-Tail Keywords for Small Businesses

Written by Jeff Cole on July 12, 2017

Man with magnifying glass over search bar. Looking for long-tail keywords

Good SEO strategy takes the form of dozens of different methods because search engines are complex and people use them for almost everything. Each kind of optimization allows search engines and users to find you in different ways, from basic keywords to off-page links, with even more striated implementation suggestions.

As a small business, you need your marketing team to focus in on very few effective methods, then take the time to build a more rounded SEO strategy once you’ve achieved a good starting place in the ranking. One of the most popular and effective ways to cut through the entry-level crowd and be found quickly by your ideal customers is the use of long-tail keywords. You have probably heard this phrase thrown around a few times in marketing circles, but you may be surprised how easy they are to build and integrate.

Quick Guide to Long-Tail Keywords

Company, Services, and Products: ABC Dentists – Family Dental Care and Orthodontics – Cleanings, Cavities, Braces
Neighborhoods and Cities You ServePhoenix,  Mesa, Glendale
Product Details and TraitsDental X-Rays – Porcelain Veneers
QualifiersBest, Cheap, Fast, Hot, Popular
Industry Questions“Where to find …?”  – “What kind of ___ do you need for …?”

Understanding SEO Keywords

The purpose of a search engine is to bring its users the most relevant available results per search. To do this, the algorithms crawl through the internet reading content and ranking sites based on their traffic, the number of external links to their content, and how much of their content appears to be useful and informative data. This method effectively filters out most purely promotional web content while favoring companies that clearly state their products and services. Keywords are not special words that get you points with search engines, but rather words and phrases you predict users will ask the search engine to find for them. Therefore you want to identify the actual words people will use when they search and embed those words and phrases into your content.

Most companies have no trouble understanding the first level of SEO, which involves listing your basic products and services, along with any information you would put on a business card. Company name, industry, service types, hours, and local area. However, to tell a search engine which information is important, you need to state your long-tail keywords many times and throughout your content. This quickly turns into SEO Copywriting.

Why the Long Tails?

On the first level of SEO, simply “coffee shop” or “family clinic”, you are competing with every other online business in your industry for search result positioning. As nice as it might be, you can’t all be on the first page, or even the first three pages. On the flip side of this, a search engine user looking for in-home healthcare probably isn’t looking for every service across the country. If they only want post-surgery nursing services in the Denver area, there will be a much smaller pool to choose from.

Long-tail SEO keywords are formed by what customers want. They differentiate between someone who wants an electrician in Boston or Santa Fe, and those who want similar products in separate niche markets. Two construction contractors, for example, could be across the street from each other and serve two completely different products and clientele. Because of long-tail keyword SEO, searches for specific products like custom kitchen remodels and backyard fence installations will be guided to the correct websites. Once again, when choosing your long tails, the key is knowing how users search.

What Users are Looking For

When a search engine user wants something, they often use very specific terms. Consider the classic coffee shop joke about over-complicated lattes. Customers use search engines to research options and find exactly what they want. If you sell a “UV light air purification system”, targeting this long tail combination is going to get you more customers who have done their research and are seriously considering a purchase. The same method works for every possible industry, event planning to manufacturing. The key is to find what customers will search for at the moment they want your product. Here are some examples:

“plumbing for antique fixtures”
“creative home remodel contractors”
“companion care for my elderly mother”
“energy-efficient hybrid water softener”


As people become more comfortable with search engines they begin to talk to them more like an assistant, and you can use SEO to help the search engines answer. Long-tail keywords often form questions and you can calculate for users asking the question in full form. When deciding which questions to integrate into your SEO list, think about it the same way as you would a FAQ. In fact, FAQs are a great way to create content that answers long-tail keyword questions. The questions themselves can be anything relevant to your industry like “Where can I find carved oak fence panels?” and “How to fight wasps?”. Remember that not everyone bothers with grammar for search engine questions.

Building Your Long-Tail List

When building your collection of long-tail keywords to integrate into your content, consider and study the search patterns of your users. You can catch them early in the process at “Does my child need braces?” or later at “kids braces in Denver”. You can be ready to offer specific services like “pet-friendly hospice care” or catch them when they need you most with “last minute in-home elder care”. You can even draw them in with modest claims to provide the “best electricians in Chicago”. Long-tail keywords allow you to reach customers when they most want what you can provide.