Short Tail Keyword vs Long Tail Keyword, Which Should You Focus On?

long tail keywords


Short Tail Keywords or Long Tail Keywords?

If you’ve done SEO for your blog or website, you’ve probably asked yourself this question. Well, you’re not alone.
In fact, many people – experienced or inexperienced – face the same dilemma.

The reasons for this dilemma are simple:

  • They’re both great
  • They’re both bad
  • You can’t pick both (you risk getting penalized by Google for keyword stuffing)
  • So, to clearly decide which keyword we should focus on, let’s define what are short tail and what are long tail keywords, then, analyze the advantages and disadvantages of both.

    Let’s take a look at how each type works.

    The Long and Short of Keywords

    Think of short tail keywords as being broad in nature and long tail keywords as narrow.

    For example, “Inbound Marketing” is a short tail, or broad keyword while “Inbound Marketing Buyer’s Journey” is a long or narrow keyword. Both long and short keywords can be used throughout your website’s pages, not only in article content, but also in page titles and descriptions.

    As you refine and define your target audience, use long tail keywords more often than short ones to attract visitors to your page who are most likely to turn into leads and, ideally, customers.

    Long tail keywords provide potential leads with relevant information about your product or service and get those leads to your page more quickly. In addition, customers who use a higher number of search terms tend to know exactly what they are looking for.

    Some basic examples of the two types of keywords are:

    Short Tail Keywords

    Long Tail Keywords

    Self-Help Books Must Read Self-Help Books for Entrepeneurs
    Golfing Magazine Best Golfing Magazines Under $20
    Audio Tape Business Marketing Audio Tape
    Garage Repair Garage Repair Service in California
    Children’s Clothing Children’s Clothing Stores In Seattle

    Strike a Balance

    An ideal marketing strategy, then, is to find the right balance between short and long tail keywords, which allows you to target a wide audience in the first case, but pulls in those all-important specific users in the second.

    When starting out, gravitate towards the use of long tail keywords, as they are easier to rank for and bring in your most desired leads. Again, don’t rule out the use of short tail keywords, but routinely track how the type you choose factors into your site’s traffic and rank.

    Short Tail Keywords

    Long Tail Keywords

    Difficult to Rank Easy to Rank
    Less Likely to Result in Leads More Likely to Result in Leads
    High Search Volume Low Search Volume
    High competition Low Competition
    General to your product or service Specific to your product or service

    Benefits of Long Tail Keywords

    Long tail keywords

    Keywords with 4 words or more brings in the most visitor despite the low search count.

    Long tail keywords may have fewer search queries, but the traffic generated from those search are more likely to be potential leads. Short tail keywords tend to be one or two words long. Each additional word added to a search narrows its focus but, in theory, brings you the most desirable site visitors.

    To optimize your keywords, use enough short tail keywords to attract a high number of page visits by people unfamiliar with your brand, but then target your most likely buyers with the use of long tail keywords.

    Long Tail Keywords Advantages

    How and Why They Work

    More targeted Help to focus on qualified buyers
    Lower cost Less competition for pay-per-click phrases keeps average cost-per-click lower. Less marketing dollars spent on unlikely buyers.
    Play to searcher’s intent Boost conversion rates and increase ROI

    Long Tail Keywords Disadvantages

    How They Limit Your Reach

    Limited traffic Too-specific phrases may lead to losing out on potential leads and result in less visitor to your site
    Underuse of conversion terms Leaving out popular searches can mean failing to reach potential leads who may convert.

    Choosing the Right Keywords

    short tail keywords and long tail keywords


    To achieve higher conversion rates, use both long tail and short tail keywords and consistently study your site’s data.

    A bid manipulation tool, Google AdWords helps you reach your goal of driving as many conversions as possible at or below a cost per action which, in turn, results in more leads for less spend.

    Use Google AdWords’ Flexible Conversion Counting to track the hard, estimated and percent-of conversions that are most valuable and best suited to your business. Hard conversion types – bottom-line numbers – include converted clicks, total conversions and phone conversions (if applicable to your business). Estimated conversions include cross-device and estimated total conversions, while percent-of conversions include click-assisted, impression-assisted and view-through conversions.

    The single most important factor in effective use of Google AdWords is relevance, as Google wants to connect searchers with advertisements that match their search query and help them find what they are searching for. Advertisers who have tighter, more relevant groupings are rewarded by Google with a higher quality score.

    Google Trends

    Google Trends shows how often a distinct search term is queried relative to total search volume across diverse regions of the world. Where traditional research tools are more one-dimensional, Google Trends generates dynamic visual insights that present the life of a keyword phrase through varying demographics.

    In other words, you see how a phrase is trending today, view how it happened in the past and potentially predict how it will convert in the future.

      Use this tool to:

    • Generate consumer-friendly data that can be converted into
      graphs and interactive maps to be embedded into your site
    • Retrieve data dating back to 2004, or for a designated time such as “last 10 days.”
      More specific date ranges can be done in Google Analytics
    • Identify searches that can be grouped together by inference, which means even
      misspelled queries and those that do not precisely refer to your terms are included
    • Gain insight into both your and your competitors’ brands, as well as an understanding of “hot” or trending queries
    • See where media coverage happened, including the article’s title and publisher

    Google Analytics

    Google Analytics helps you understand what happens after potential leads land and click on your site. Use this tool’s reports to give you a leg up in optimizing your site for increased conversions.

    Terminology used in Google Analytics includes Goal Completions, Values and Conversion Rates (measuring the total number of conversions, the total value produced by goal conversions on your site and the sum of all individual goal conversion rates respectively); Assisted Conversions – how many conversions for a channel appeared on a conversion path, but were not the final conversion interaction; Assisted Conversion Value, or the value of the conversions assisted by a channel; and Total Abandonment Rate, which reveals the rate at which a lead’s goals were abandoned.

    Google Analytics identifies your best performing channels, allows you to direct your media spend appropriately and reduces your customer acquisition costs.


    Long tail keywords are key to your SEO strategy, but you shouldn’t ignore short tail keywords. Use your short tail keywords to gain potential leads from higher up the funnel, but realize long tail keywords bring in customers who are looking for your specific product or service. The closer to the buying stage a lead enters your site, the more likely they are to make a purchase or take another coveted action.

    Creating and optimizing effective short and long tail keywords in your SEO plan can be challenging, but the benefits far outweigh any potential difficulties. Learn to use these analytics tools to improve your campaign and achieve the boost to your bottom line you’ve been looking for.

    Download The Definitive Guide To Hashtag Insights Now!

    Updated: 2/7/15


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