There are many billions of web pages on the Internet today, far outnumbering the people on the planet who read them. With so much web content, it’s true that you can literally find anything online. But the vast amount of information to sort through also means that you have to get quite specific when typing your query into a search engine; otherwise, you may never find exactly what you are looking for.

Because of this, it’s essential that any HVAC marketer become familiar with, and optimize their web presence around, long-tail keywords.

What are long-tail keywords and why are they important?
A keyword is basically anything that people might type into a search engine. Each keyword can be classified as either a "head" or a "long-tail" search term.

• Head keywords are the basic, broad categories that anyone might search for. "Air conditioning" would be an example of a head keyword.

• Long-tail keywords are specific search strings that expound upon the head term, and spell out the details of what the person is searching for. "Trane air conditioning repair in Wichita, KS" would be an example of a long-tail keyword.

For HVAC companies, long-tail keywords are generally much more useful and valuable than head keywords. There are several reasons why this is so.

Long-tail Keywords Make Up the Majority of Online Searches
That is actually what the term "long tail" means. It comes from the world of probability or popularity distribution graphs (such as the infamous "bell curve"), where a graph with a "long tail" is focused less on the few general "head" terms and more on the long list of specific searches. So, in the above example, the majority of people will not search for "air conditioning"; they will search for one of the thousands of more specific long-tail keywords.

Long-tail Keywords Have Less Competition
Type the head term "air conditioning" into Google, and the search engine returns 368 million results. The long-term keyword "Trane air conditioning repair in Wichita, KS," produces about 32,000 results. That still sounds like a lot, but it’s less than .01% as many pages to compete with in the search rankings. In other words, searchers are more than 10,000 times as likely to find you when using the long-term keyword.

This lack of competition also applies to online advertising. Since there are relatively few head terms, and they are popular with many different companies, buying advertising placement for those searches can be difficult and expensive. But there are thousands of long-tail terms, and many of them are relevant to only a small number of companies. This makes them cheaper and often more effective.

Long-tail Keywords Provide Hot Prospects Who Are Actively Looking to Buy
Think about why people search for different terms. Someone who searches for "radiant heating," for instance, is quite likely looking for general information on the topic. They may simply want to know what it is, or how it works. They may be considering getting radiant heating for their home, but they are probably at the initial research stage and have not yet made a concrete decision.

On the other hand, if someone searches for "best hydronic radiant floor heating installation prices," they are probably looking for someone to buy from. There is really no other reason they would search for that specific long-tail keyword; they obviously already know a fair amount about radiant heating, and are looking for the best price on a specific system. If you get their attention now, you will be very close to a sale.

Research supports this, showing that traffic generated by longer keywords is more likely to result in sales. Shorter keywords might generate web traffic, as people do their initial research, but long-tail keywords generate profit. And while that’s true for web searches in general, it’s doubly true for HVAC marketers. Few people will casually search online for HVAC terms unless they are facing some pressing decision: either their furnace has broken down, they need to replace their air conditioner, or they are shopping for a complete HVAC system and are nervous about making the wrong decision. That means they will be asking Google specific questions and coming to your site if it offers specific answers.

So, by focusing your SEO efforts on long-tail keywords, you can help potential HVAC customers find exactly what they are looking for--and make sure they get it from you.

Chris Vaughn is the Content Marketing Director for DigitalSherpa, the world's largest content marketing provider for small businesses. With the recent acquisition of SocialTract, DigitalSherpa is thrilled to welcome the HVAC community in to our client family. Learn more about content marketing and check out our free e-books and whitepapers at http://digitalsherpa.com.  Connect with Chris and the DigitalSherpa team on Facebook and Twitter or e-mail Chris directly at cvaughn@digitalsherpa.com.