How To Effectively Work With A PPC Long Tail When The Tail’s Too Long


Long tail keywords are great. They can often be cheaper and have a higher CTR than more generic keywords. And since long-tail searches are more likely to be made by people who have carried out the majority of their pre-purchase research and are therefore further along in the buying cycle, long-tail keywords can also exhibit considerably higher conversion rates and deliver a higher return on investment.

This is also good and well.

But imagine you have 10 service areas, and want to create a long-tail PPC strategy tailored to all 10,161 suburbs in Australia. Even for a very basic suburb + service keyword strategy, you will soon have 101,610 keywords. And if you want to be tailored and relevant, which is very uncommon, at least in Australia, you will need 101,610 ads. Or 203,220 ads should you want to test 2 different types of messaging.

And that's only with 10 very basic keyword 'stems'. Imagine if you want to permutate 100 keyword stems for all 10,161 suburbs. You will soon have 1,016,100 keywords, 1,016,100 ad groups, and 1,016,100 ads!

Soon you start to receive error messages because you've reached the maximum number of allowed ad groups. Not to mention the sheer inefficiencies of downloading, monitoring, and optimising so many keywords and ads.

Effective Long-Tail PPC

The trick for a successful and comprehensive long-tail PPC strategy is to be effective. Rather than permutating every possible keyword 'stem' with every possible location, build your keywords and ad groups strategically.

Suppose you offer cleaning services all over Australia. There are potentially hundreds of ways people can search to describe the cleaning services you offer, for example:

  • cleaning
  • cleaner
  • cleaners
  • cleaning service
  • cleaning services
  • cleaning company
  • cleaning companies
  • cleaning firm
  • cleaning firms
  • domestic cleaner
  • domestic cleaners
  • domestic cleaning
  • commercial cleaner
  • commercial cleaners
  • commercial cleaning
  • office cleaning
  • carpet cleaning
  • carpet cleaner
  • carpet cleaners
  • window cleaning
  • carpet steam cleaning
  • window cleaning
  • window cleaner
  • window cleaners
  • house cleaning
  • house cleaning services
  • house cleaner
  • house cleaners
  • exterior house cleaning
  • patio cleaning
  • driveway cleaning get the idea. Now suppose you want to permutate these keyword 'stems' with all 10,161 suburbs in Australia. Before long, your campaign setup starts to get impractical and inefficient. You will have to cut back on the long-tail nature of your campaigns, right?


It is very possible to be extremely long-tail and comprehensive, while at the same time creating something manageable and efficient, but it involves a more measured and strategic approach.

First, you need to realise that most combinations of suburb + service, such as 'south yarra exterior house cleaning services' will be so obscure, that they will rarely be searched, if at all. They do not deserve to be added as keywords and given their own ad group with tailored ad messages.

Secondly, you need to realise that there will be other keywords such as 'melbourne exterior house cleaning services' that do get searched, so are worth having as keywords.

The trick to find a balance between the number of keywords (comprehensiveness) and chance of those keywords getting searched (effectiveness).

6 Step Strategy

Finding such a balance is an art, and requires patience and perseverance. But to set you on your way, here's a strategy I often use when faced with such a large-scale long-tail dilemma:

  1. Start small " choose one generic service area keyword 'stem' to permutate with every location (e.g. 'cleaning')
  2. Create tailored ads for each permutation
  3. Let the ads run for about a month to collect data
  4. After a month, run an ad group report to see which locations are searched for more than others
  5. Using this data, create three separate lists based on search volume: high search volume locations, medium search volume locations, low search volume locations, no search volume locations
  6. Armed with the knowledge of which locations are searched for more than others, build out your keywords to permutate other keyword stems (e.g. 'commercial cleaning' and 'patio cleaning')

Theme Analysis

"But exactly which 'keyword stems' do I permutate my locations with?"

This will generally come down to your own keyword research, and the specific areas of the business you are trying to promote.

But if " like me " you want to be more scientific, chances are you already have some great data in order to make more informed judgements.

Assuming your keywords in step 1 involved quite a broad keyword stem (e.g. 'cleaning'), then chances are you will already have been matched to a wide range of searches covering other cleaning areas such as 'carpet cleaning', 'window blind cleaning', and 'cheap cleaning'.

Run a search query report, and carry out some theme analysis to figure out what types of 'stems' are most popular. Are more people searching for 'carpet cleaning' than for 'steam cleaning'. Are only a handful of people looking for 'office cleaning services'?

In a similar way to how you prioritised your locations based on search volume, you can now prioritise your keyword stems based on search volume. If 'carpet cleaning' is searched for very often, you might want to permutate it with your high, medium, and low locations. If 'office cleaning services' is rarely searched for, you might only want to permutate it with your high searched for locations.

Basing your keyword expansions on data, rather than intuition, you can achieve the benefits of both comprehensiveness and effectiveness. You will be targeting long-tails, but only long-tails which are most likely to deliver value.


Effective PPC management is all about balance. Don't just create as many keywords as you can, and hope for the best. You'll probably bloat your campaigns, miss out on a lot of opportunities, and get very frustrated along the way. Instead, take time to carefully plan your campaign, ad group, and keyword structure, and grown it strategically and efficiently using the data you collect.

When building your long-tail strategy, as a quick check to make sure you are heading in the right direction, ask yourself these 2 simple questions:

  1. Is my strategy comprehensive? (maximum coverage of relevant searches)
  2. Is my strategy effective? (minimal obscurity of long-tails, easy to manage, monitor, and optimise)

Whichever strategy or approach you adopt to build your PPC campaigns, make sure it is both comprehensive and effective. Not just comprehensive, not just effective, but both. Good luck!

If you liked this, you might also enjoy How to Find and Target Longtail Keywords That Make Money

About the Author: Alan Mitchell

Alan Mitchell is the founder of Calculate Marketing, helping businesses of all sizes improve their return on investment from PPC marketing with comprehensive long-tail keyword strategies and intelligent campaign analysis.

Calculate Marketing

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