There are as many ways to use search engines as there are search engine users: everyone using Google likes to find things their own way and will apply their own filters to the results page no matter how their results appear. Some people prefer to start with a broad search and then weave their way through the results pages until they find exactly what they are looking. In the extremely technical parlance of SEO, the people using broad search terms are looking for “fat head” keywords. Other people prefer to start with a more narrow search term that defines specifically what they would like to find. Their search might yield fewer results, but people who use search engines this way are hoping to find what they want more quickly. These users are searching for “long tail” keywords. Because one “fat head” keyword will be used more frequently than many different “long tail” keywords, searches for these terms are more competitive. It is important to remember that both types of keywords are valuable to your site. Appearing at the top of a marquee “fat head” search will make your site visible to a fairly large number of people who are all looking for the same thing, but while developing an optimization strategy, it is important to also optimize for “long tail” keywords. These users are still looking for you, but they have entered a more specific term in an effort to get a more specific result.
There is no doubt that winning a more competitive term by appearing at the top of the results pages will boost traffic to your site, but in the process of fighting for the top spot in the ultra-competitive search for “bakery”, bakers optimizing their sites must not lose sight of the people searching for “delicious lemon bars”, “scrumptious strawberry scones”, and “dark German rye bread”. These search terms might not appear anywhere on a list of most frequent searches, but the people using long tail search terms to find specific products or services are more likely to know what they want and are more likely to convert to a sale than a user that uses a fat head search term and then scans several different results.
Long tail searches are also the most frequent type of searches. Fat head searches are popular for a reason—they are broad terms that many people use. But long tail searches account for many more of the actual search terms that people use.
– Andrew Wise
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