The idea of the long tail is one that has been around for a while in marketing circles. It was made famous by Chris Anderson in his book "The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More." According to Anderson, thanks to websites and online shops there is now an infinite inventory on offer to consumers that has resulted in the "shattering of the mainstream into a zillion different cultural shards." These endless niches are therefore a marketing opportunity for retailers willing to cast a wider net and not only concentrate on the top sellers and blockbusters.
In SEO world, the Long Tail applies to the hundreds of key phrases that are used to find a website but which are not exploited or even noticed by the website administrators. Instead, web site owners and SEO experts mostly concentrate on the main 10 to 15 keywords in their marketing strategies, working on ranking for these terms alone. Yet, closer examination of referral numbers show that there can actually be more traffic that comes to a site via the search terms that come after those top fifteen. Unbelievably, most sites get the majority of their leads and sales from the rarely tracked search terms, or from the long tail.
Wag The Long Tail
So how do you wag that long tail? The answer of course, is quality content. The recent Google Panda update was almost certainly the first of many upcoming changes to the world of SEO that aim to put more and more emphasis on quality (over quantity of links). Quality content should always be the most important aim of any website, but it has the added advantage of being a good way (if not the only way) to attract those long tail search phrases.
Quality content doesn't just focus on a narrow range of phrases, so you will almost catch a number of other phrases by accident. If you use well chosen, natural and descriptive or conversational language you will bring in phrases you might never have thought to try and rank for, but someone else might use when they search for something.
As an example, you might be trying to rank for [London limo hire] by writing:
Lenny's London Limo Hire is the number one choice for London limo hire. If you are looking for a company that specializes in London Limo Hire, then look no further etc
(Although if that is how your website reads then you should fire your copywriter this instant...)
Alternatively you could try:
Here at Lenny's London Limo Hire we've been renting limousines to satisfied customers for over fifteen years. Whether you want a limo for a bachelor party, for graduation day, or just to tour London in a limo for the day, we can help
The second paragraph obviously contains a few phrases you might not necessarily concentrate on ranking for, but which will almost certainly bring you leads and customers every so often. You still get your main search phrases but you end up with a well-written site and more natural search terms.
A similar principle applies when you add in a few details to make the site even more local. A couple of sentences on the district of London where Lenny's limo company is based, or even a simple "the number one website for limo hire in south east London" and you attract a number of more specific, (and in all probability more likely to convert) customers.