Most web site owners know the importance of search engine optimizing, and might even consider themselves to be familiar with every trick in the book. As you optimize your site, you are probably advised to focus on important, short keywords and phrases that are search for very often. The problem with these terms is that they are highly competitive. Though it is important to use popular keywords, there is a great deal of value to using less common long tail keywords as well.
The term long tail keyword was coined in 2004, and came about as a social-statistical theory by Chris Anderson. This theory basically suggested that it is possible to exceed the sale of high demand items with the combined sales of uncommon or unpopular products. The idea of focusing on specific items rather than broadly popular trends has proven to be a quite successful endeavor.
For instance, if you have a company that specializes in unique gourmet catering, you will probably use "gourmet catering" as a keyword. While this is going to put you in the correct category, it might not affect your search engine rankings at all. Gourmet catering is a very highly sought-after service, with many different companies competing for business, so it is difficult to rank highly with these popular keywords.
You might get 30 or so percent of your business and traffic from these popular keywords, which is certainly significant. You may only get 5% of your traffic from each more specific search such as "kosher gourmet catering," "vegetarian gourmet catering," "vegetarian cocktail party catering," etc. If you have enough of these different long tail keywords, you can end up getting an additional 30% of business from these combined services of low-demand.
With these longer phrases, you are still advertising and selling the same basic products, but you are focusing on much more specific consumers. Your rate of sales per search will also increase because the consumers who search for these specific products are already in the market to buy. Instead of catching people in the stage of learning more about a product, or simply shopping around, you'll catch them on their last leg of their search: the purchase. You are now able to open up your site and company to people who want what you, specifically, have to offer. Whether you are providing catering services in Tampa, Florida or web marketing in San Diego, California, using long tail keywords can perfectly round out your Internet marketing campaign.