Digital Marketing Blog
short tail vs long tail keywords

Short Tail vs Long Tail Keywords – Which Should You Use?

*Updated from April 2017

Keywords – the life blood of search engines. But which keywords should you be using on your website to get the most visitors and appear at the top of Google?

The first question you need to ask yourself is, what do you want to achieve? More visitors viewing your website or more visitors ready to buy from you?

The next thing you need to know are the different type of keywords available and which ones are the best to use for an effective SEO strategy. After you’ve done your extensive keyword research, finding the best keywords related to your business, you’ll have a list of short tail and long tail keywords which will make a good starting point.

So which keywords should you use?

Short Tail Keywords

Do you want to drive a lot of visitors to your website?

Using short tail keywords will often be the most effective way to do this. The challenge with short tail keywords is if you’re just starting out with a new website or never done any SEO work before, you’ll be joining the back of a long queue.

Short tail keywords, also known as “head terms”, are search phrases containing 1 to 3 words. For example, “trainers”, “Adidas trainers” and “womens Adidas trainers”.

Although short tail keywords would generate thousands of visitors to your website, they are highly competitive and harder to rank on Google. However, with a bit of hard work, patience and using the correct approach it is possible to rank for these search terms.

Pros

  • High search volume

Cons

  • High competition
  • Low intent to purchase
  • Low conversion rate

Long Tail Keywords

Do you want more visitors to find what they are searching for and buy from you?

More than 70% of internet searches are made up of long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are search phrases containing more than 3 words.

For example, “Adidas Yeezy Boost trainers” or “Kayne West trainers for sale”. Long tail keywords are more descriptive and allow you to target your ideal customer.

The challenge with long tail keywords is that they are more specific. You’ll receive less visitors to your website compared to using short tail keywords, but the visitors you do acquire are searching for something specific and have a higher intent to purchase.

Although the amount of visitors will be lower it will mean you’re more likely to convert your visitors into paying customers.

From the long tail examples above you know customers are searching for a specific brand and type of trainer. If your website is optimised for this phrase and is found on Google, your visitor will land on the exact page they were searching for and will more likely buy from you.

Compare this to a short tail keyword search. The visitor would land on a page optimised for “trainers”. This could be any brand or type of trainer, making the search less effective and a lower conversion rate.

Pros

  • Low competition
  • High intent to purchase
  • High conversion rate

Cons

  • Low search volume

Long Tail Keywords vs Short Tail Keywords

Short Tail vs Long Tail Keywords

Take a look at the image above and you will see the relationship between high cost and competition against the probability of conversion for short tail and long tail keywords.

Long tail keywords account for 70% of Google searches, so the best approach is to optimise your website for long tail keywords but also include some short tail keywords.

This approach means that you can cover all bases. You’ll be positioned high for long tail searches, capturing visitors with a high intent to purchase but you will also start to climb the ranks for short tail searches.

If you do have success with ranking short tail keywords this will improve your overall SEO and help your long tail keywords rank due to the increased traffic and higher click through rates.

What Next?

What you do next depends on your business.

In our opinion, optimising for long tail keywords is a better option if you want to appear in Google and start to increase your organic traffic. If you need to be found for your short tail keyword, then go for it, but don’t ignore all the extra traffic you can gain from long tail keywords.

The best way to introduce long tail keywords to your website is to create content with a minimum of 500 words per page and start to create blog articles on a regular basis. Long form content gives you more opportunity to include long tail keywords naturally.

Using the correct mixture of keywords is the key to success and you can do your own keyword research and start to optimise your website. For keyword research we recommend Moz’s Keyword Explorer, as it will give you lots of suggestions and data with a 95% or more accuracy.

Let us know what your experience is of using short or long tail keywords on your website.

6 thoughts on “Short Tail vs Long Tail Keywords – Which Should You Use?”

  1. Keyword research is essential part of search engine optimization and search marketing. As both users and search engine depends on keywords to find out about your site.
    Selecting correct keywords either long tail & Short tail which match your content means your site is optimized for showing up in search engine results whenever someone searches for those keywords or phrases.

    1. Hi Hazel, yes, the most important step is in depth keyword research. Doing keyword research can reveal what your customers are actually searching for and you can easily start to capitalise on that.

  2. I would have to say – use both. It’s good if you can rank high for a competitive keyword, but to not target more specific queries is a loss. After all, most second-attempt, refined queries tend to target long tails, not to mention voice searches.

    1. Hi Sam, yes I agree. Using both is the best strategy as using long tail keywords will capture those refined searches. Long tail keywords are going to become important as voice search begins to increase so it’s good to start implementing now.

  3. Thank you for this revealing post. Since I started blogging I have focused completely on long tail keywords. And I agree while the traffic is low, conversion is high. I will start incorporating short tails henceforth to see how the traffic will go. But, I think if your blog or site focus has a buyer intent, then a laser-focused keyword may be better; except where your interest is in the general or broad term. In the end, I think it’s all about experiment and drive.

    1. Hi Valentine, thank you for your comment and it sounds like you’re having good success with long tail keywords and conversion.

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