Long Tail KeywordsThose mega-brains at Google have put their mega-brainpower to work trying to figure out what’s going through everyone’s heads as they search. Mostly, it’s so that when you search with long-tail keywords like “margaritas at happy hour,” the search engine can make a good guess at what you’re looking for. Pretty basic, right?

It also applies to AdWords. And it’s not at all basic, when you get down to it.

Those super-smart men and women in the Google labs have also fine-tuned AdWords so that your advertising experience matches up with Google’s best guess about what it is you’re looking for. You know, so when you’re looking for info about places to grab a marg at 5:15, you’re not stuck looking at ads for happy-hour food specials, or recipes for margaritas.

It makes sense. Google pays those brainiacs largely through ad revenue. Because of the cost-per-click model it employs, putting ads in front of searchers that aren’t relevant isn’t going to pay the bills. Thus connecting searchers with the best, most relevant ads possible is job one.

What’s that mean for your AdWords campaign? It’s never been as important to think about how potential customers are going to see your ad, and, in theory, interact with it. Most of the time, this means letting go of broad keywords and delving into the world of the long-tail.

General keywords seem pretty obvious when you’re planning your campaign. They’re connected to your product or service, they’re relevant and the search volume is through the roof. The thing is, they don’t typically convert or bring in visitors who are genuinely interested in your site. AdWords and Analytics show you how well certain keywords are performing, so it’s easy to see when money is being wasted on these general keywords. And, it’s important to note that competition is typically quite high for these generic keywords – which increases your cost per click.

Say, for example, you run a website about the rock’n’roll icons Kiss, and want to drive traffic to it through AdWords. After ticking off the obvious keywords (Gene Simmons, Detroit Rock City, the Starchild), you opt for broader ones, like “face paint.” While it’s true that face paint is indeed relevant to Kiss, the likelihood that people searching that term are hunting down the New York hard rock band is slim. They could be looking for supplies, finding instructions, looking for a professional to book for a party. They’re probably not looking to rock and roll all night and party every day. Sooner or later (and it’ll be sooner, trust me), AdWords will notice none of those people are clicking ads when hitting the “face paint” search. That’s why you need long-tail keywords.

You’ll need to get into the mind of searchers – both your customers and non-customers – to generate a long-tail keyword list that’ll connect with searchers.  Long-tail keywords are strings of three to five words that target very, very specific searches. Don’t even waste your time with something as general as “face paint.” Go long-tail and specific: Gene Simmons face paint; the Starchild face paint, face paint like Kiss, face paint in bands. Sure, your search volumes won’t be as phenomenal, but you’ll be connecting your ads to relevant searches. And Google’s all about relevancy these days.