Long-tail keywords and their advantages for SEO

Optimising a dental website for “long tail” searches

First off, a quick definition of “long tail keywords” – these are typically longer and less common search phrases that cumulatively, make up the bulk of searches for a particular topic. This is possibly best explained by reference to the following graph published courtesy of “Moz” – a highly respected website focused on all things related to search engine optimisation:

A breakdown of search terms by category and quantity

So how does this affect how we look at a dental website when we are optimising for search ranking?

The “fat head”, “chunky middle” and “long tail”

In the dental context, a typical fat head keyword might be “dentist Birmingham”, the chunky middle, “adult braces Birmingham” and the long tail, “a recommended CFast dentist in central Birmingham”.

Why target “long tail” searches?

There are a number of advantages:

  • they are less competitive and can yield excellent traffic – correct evaluation and optimisation gives you an advantage over competitor practices who are just seeking traffic for common keywords.
  • they can be matched to the questions that potential patients often ask, for example “which dentist is recommended for CFast braces in Birmigham” or similar.
  • because long tail keywords are more targeted, they are often related to searches from patients who are a long way down their decision path, perhaps when seeking a new treatement. As such the “conversion” from these type of searches can be very good indeed. If your website provides a good answer to the question asked by a searcher, you are in a good position to attract their business.
  • recent data suggests that long tail searches are becoming more popular. Search engines like Google are becoming very adept at understanding the context of a user’s search query and delivering accurate answers accordingly. We see more people using questions for searching rather than short queries like “Birmingham dentist”. New technologies, like Google voice search, are also supporting this trend.

So those practices who are “search aware” will be looking to target not just the top keywords but also the long tail and as much as possible between.

How do I optimise my dental practice website for long-tail searches?

First off, you need to identify the types of phrases that are actually being searched. This is relatively easy for the main keyword terms but deeper insight and experience is needed when it comes to the long tail. Various tools are available to assist this, for example the keyword tool within Adwords. At Dental Media, we have access to many Adwords and Google Webmaster Tools accounts which allows a deep insight into the types of terms that are being used by people who are searching for dental services.

Having drawn up a list of terms to target, you can then employ a number of techniques to deploy them on site:

  • an “ask the dentist” page which records questions asked by patients, for example via the website contact form.
  • an FAQ page with in-depth answers to patients questions.
  • a glossary of dental terms.
  • a blog – my favourite tool for optimising for the long-tail. Carefully structured articles, incorporating key terms, for example treatment types and locations, really do help to boost traffic to a site. A blog also offers the opportunity to add fresh, high quality content which Google will reward. We blog on behalf of many clients and can demonstrate numerous page one rankings just using blog articles.

A comment on contextual search

As noted in other articles in the Dental Media blog, Google is now far more adept at identifying the overall contextual relevance and value of website text and no longer just relies on direct keyword matches to deliver good search results. This means that we don’t have to include the exact long tail search phrase that we think may be useful, simply including the terms within the phrase naturally and carefully within our content should be sufficient to allow Google to make a suitable match.


Search “savvy” dental practices need to understand a little about search term distribution and realise the advantages from targeting not just the “fat head” terms but also the “chunky middle” and “long tail”.

If you would like an analysis of your current search campaign to see if these important factors have been taken into account, please call Dental Media on 01332 672548.