Why you want to target long-tail keywords
Competition makes it difficult to optimise for popular keywords
Unless, you are an oligopolist or monopolist with little to no competition you may not have to worry as much as someone who competes in an established industry with many players - like most of us do. Let's assume that you are selling shoes as a small retailer. You are not selling any shoes but instead focusing on vintage shoes which is your USP (unique selling point) in your area. Searching for "vintage shoes" online on ebay still results in a great number of results since there is a market. With ASOS and Ebay taking the top spots it can be a taunting task to compete with such high authority sites. It usually takes time till your site can be optimized for major keywords - if at all. Several factors, such as content, authority, and popularity amongst others decide of how well you rank.
In summary: Make major keywords part of your strategy, but do not expect those to rank well within days/weeks/months if you find yourself in a competitive industry. Include long tails in your strategy to benefit from faster online visibility and higher conversion rate.
Increase online visibility faster
The beauty on long tail keywords is that they are very specific. So if you are offering some rare vintage shoes in colour green, shoe size 7 and from a certain manufacturer in your area (which happens to be Kingston upon thames) then there is a pretty good chance that you rank somewhere on page 1 of google if anyone searches for it. So it all comes down to content - the information must be on your site and presented in a way that Google and other Search Engines consider it relevant. We found that for long tail keywords, it's less about having established a great site authority by gaining a tremendous number of backlinks, but rather having the page on-page optimized - especially content, URL's & metadata.
In summary: Having your content and pages optimized will help you getting on the front pages of search engines for long tail keywords within a short period of time. Once search engines have indexed your site - you will start appearing.
Aim at your target market to increase conversion
Other benefits of long-tail keywords are the higher probability of decreasing bounce rates as visitors to your site find what they were looking for. Hence you are attracting your target market. What is the purpose of 1,000 visitors if only one person finds what they were looking for and convert? Back to our previous example of running a small vintage shoe store. Assuming that you have optimized your page, a person who requires green vintage shoes in Kingston will most likely find you and hopefully also buy from you. So what you are doing is increasing the number of targeted traffic and whilst lowering bounce rate - and that is what you want.
Perhaps also worth noting that users who are about to make a purchase are using information and transactional queries, which are long-tail queries. In the latter case they know what they are after and are prepared to buy. Hence, transactional queries become important when optimizing for ecommerce!
In summary: Long-tail keywords help you to attract your target market and lower bounce rate. Users prepared to make a purchase run transactional queries which are long-tail keywords that are highly specific.