Long Tail Keywords Drive PPC Success for Your Practice

Using Long Tail Keywords To Attract Patients

I’m going to drop a harsh reality on you – not all paid search keywords are created equally. 

Google and Microsoft use elaborate algorithms when deciding on what to charge an advertiser each time their ad appears within search results and is clicked. The factors contributing to the price make up a 1 – 10 ranking (10 being the best) referred to as “quality score.” Among the factors used in calculations is keyword relevance.

The more relevant your keywords are to your ads, landing page, and business as a whole, the lower the cost per click the advertiser pays.

So, what are long tail keywords? 

Search queries that are 3+ words in length are typically categorized as being “long tail.” Anything less than that is medium or short tail. 

Short tail keywords are frequently very generic in nature (think “orthodontist”) and receive large volumes of queries each month. They also tend to have many competing advertisers jockeying for clicks from often unrelated industries. 

Long tail terms, conversely, receive much lower search volumes each month because they are typically very specific combinations of terms. In utilizing the “orthodontist” example, a query for “orthodontist located in Seattle” is a long tail variation possibility.

Why do I need to use long tail terms? 

Long Tail Keywords are Often More Relevant 

The more granular the terms a person uses in a search query the more likely that person is to have a very good idea of what they’re looking for. 

In returning to the example above, “orthodontist located in Seattle” is infinitely more specific than the simple “orthodontist” query. The person adding the location in the query is being very specific with their search whereas someone merely looking for “orthodontist” may be looking for the definition of the word, a business listing for their own orthodontist, or an abundance of other possibilities. 

Yes, the volume of searches (and thus clicks) for long tail terms will be lower, but by ensuring your search ads are displaying for relevant long tail searches you will undoubtedly attract some very qualified clicks to your practice’s website. 

That should translate to more visits from prospective patients, which is ultimately the group of individuals your ads should be attracting. 

There is Less Competition for Long Tail Keywords

Marketers frequently look at volume instead of quality when selecting keywords. Rather than closely analyzing terms that are performing well they look at terms that tend to get many searches each month. 

While the volume play can be beneficial it often leaves the lower-volume long tail terms under-represented. That’s a business opportunity, as targeting terms with few or no competitors means that your ads will show up at the top of the search results when such a search query is performed. 

Since visibility is a core component of successful advertising having your ads front and center means a prospective patient is more likely to click on your paid search listing within the results, leading to a better click-through rate and a higher volume of good-quality traffic.

Long Tail Keywords are Cheaper 

Because there tends to be less competition and fewer searches for long tail terms the average cost per click (CPC) you pay when bidding on such terms is typically much lower than the CPC paid for short tail terms. 

If you’re effectively bidding on long tail terms you should have more money to spend on traffic from a greater volume of keywords each month if long tail terms are a key element of your bidding strategy.


If you have the available budget it makes sense to disperse ad spend on both relevant short tail and long tail terms. 

Just remember, long tail terms should NOT be avoided because they generally drive more relevant clicks, often result in better visibility within search results due to less competition, and clicks are normally cheaper than short tail terms.

—Mike Fitterer, Sr. Marketing Manager, Sesame Communications

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Sesame is an industry leader in integrated, cloud-based marketing and patient-engagement solution designed exclusively for your practice. We know that effective patient communication is vital to the success of your practice and the efficiency of your team. With Sesame, you can take your practice to the next level, allowing you to concentrate on what’s really important – your patients!