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Short Tail vs Long Tail Keywords: How to Use Them in 2024

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Keywords play a crucial role in any search engine optimization (SEO) campaign. It is essential to choose the right keywords to target for the success of your website.

To ensure that search engine robots accurately understand the content of your website, it is important to include relevant keywords in various elements such as headings, descriptions, and the actual content.

Properly utilizing keywords in on-page copy helps search engines in finding the right audience for your website. Additionally, keywords assist search engines in including your website in relevant search queries made by users.

Implementing keywords correctly as part of an SEO strategy increases the likelihood of higher Google rankings and attracting high-quality traffic to your web page. Companies and online stores can enhance organic website visits by utilizing appropriate keywords.

This article focuses on two types of keywords: long-tail and short-tail. We will explore the differences between these keyword types, their advantages and disadvantages, and briefly compare them.

What is a long tail keyword?

Long-tail keywords are search queries that get a small number of searches per month. They tend to be longer and more specific than their “head” counterparts and, therefore, often have a higher conversion rate.

For example, the keyword “best high schools in Los Angeles” is a long-tail keyword because it only gets 1,000 searches per month.

To qualify as “long-tail,” a keyword doesn’t necessarily have to get fewer than 10 searches per month. And there’s no specific search volume threshold, which would define a keyword as “long-tail.” It mostly depends on the “head” keyword that you’re comparing it to. 

What is a big mistake, though, is to define long-tail keywords by their length in words.

The thing is, there are many one-word keywords that get fewer than 100 monthly searches. There are also keywords five words long (or more) with hundreds of thousands of monthly searches. Here below is another definition and example of a long term keyword.

Pros of a long tail keyword

Very cheap

A possibly unexpected benefit to using low-traffic long-tail keywords is that they are cheaper than short-tail keywords that generate high traffic. Google Ads charges a reduced rate for searches that contain specific long-tail keywords (three words or more). 

With this system, your page might not get as high a rating as you would with a general search, but you still benefit from the low costs. 

Low competition

As you can see above, the search volume is very low. The competition will be easy for any blogger that is thinking of using a long tail keyword. 

The competition for long-tail keywords is much lower than it is for short-tail keywords. Long tail keywords like “best high schools in Los Angeles” will generate particular traffic to different pages. Low competition means that if your page sells these things, there will be few other pages selling these items.

Extremely easy to address

Let’s continue comparing the two sets of keywords above. “High schools in Los Angeles” seems like a rather straightforward question to answer. But if you look at “best high schools in Los Angeles”, it addresses what someone will really get from Google first page. Take a good look at it below;

  • High schools in Los Angeles
  • Best high schools in Los Angeles

The thing is, the more general the search query is, the more details you’ll have to include when addressing it. But if the search query is specific, you can often answer it rather briefly and still satisfy the searchers. In other words, creating content for long-tail keywords generally requires less work.

Other than that, you can actually look for groups of similar long-tail search queries and address them with pages that only have a few differences. 

High conversation rates

Long-tail keywords have a high conversion rate. When people are looking for something specific, it will be easier to find it with long-tail keywords. Because users will find what they need, traffic will likely convert into sales.

The conversion rate will depend on what and where the product or service is being sold. But there is a higher chance of high conversion rates with long-tail keywords. 

Cons of a long tail keyword

Long traffic source

Sadly, the one drawback with long-tail keywords is that they can generate a low level of traffic, especially compared to the traffic from short-tailed keywords. In some cases, this will be bad for some businesses. 

But in other cases, when you’re trying to sell something specific, or you’re trying to target a particular kind of person, then you don’t want traffic from just any kind of person. You don’t want time-wasters cluttering up your online store and getting in the way of genuine customers. 

What is a short tail keyword?

Short-tail keywords are much more general search queries consisting of one or two words. Example, the keyword “digital marketing” is a short-tail keyword.

When searching for more specific results, web users tend to type a longer query (i.e.: a long-tail keyword) into Google or another search engine in order to get more relevant results.

By contrast, if they are only searching for a general topic, then they’re more likely to enter a short-tail query of one or two words.

When looking for keyword suggestions, novice online marketers can be tempted to go solely for short-tail keywords, since these terms often hold the most traffic. However, it’s important to remember that short-tail keywords are extremely competitive in spite of the large number of hits the keywords receive.

Pros of a short tail keyword

High search volume

As you can see from the image below, it indicates that the short tail keyword “Los Angeles” has a high search volume. This simply means that you can write different topics that are based on this specific keyword.

This high search volume is the strong point of these search terms; you could increase your site’s organic search traffic. 

Noticed by a broad range audience

You will be able to reach out to a wider audience without stress. There are people who are searching for this keyword and can adhere to what you have published for them to read and understand. 

According to statics, about 9 million people are living in Los Angeles. This states that there are a lot of people who are thinking of residing in Los Angeles, and they would love to make their own research on this city. You can take advantage of this keyword and write quality topics that surround this short-tail keyword.

More visitors on your site

The higher your articles on short tail keywords, the higher you will be able to rank on Google. These SEO keywords allow you to attract customers in the first stage of the sales cycle.

Cons of a short tail keyword

High competition

It is no surprise that new websites tend to start with long-tail keywords rather than short-tail keywords. But as time goes on – after writing about 50 articles that are based on long tail keywords, they can change their strategy in writing articles based on short tail keywords.

If you look closely at this image above, you will notice that it has up to 1.8m search volume – which is extremely high to begin with, let alone to rank for. It is not advisable for new websites to focus on such keywords especially when it is stated that is high and difficult to rank for.

High cost

In terms of CPC – cost per click, you will be required to pay high in order to be noticed by Google. Let me keep it simple for you to understand – short-tail keywords require you to invest more in advertising campaigns.

Take a good look at this image above, you will observe that the CPC is high – $7.17. This means that if you want to rank for this short tail keyword “online business”, you will have to pay more. 

Too generic

You will notice that Los Angeles is too generic – though there are still a lot of people that will still search for this short tail keyword. 

But there are still a lot of people that are more specific about what they want. There are people that will go for a long tail keyword like “best high schools in Los Angeles” because they need specific and not generic answers on Google.

Longer content

The keyword “business plan” is a short tail keyword and the monthly search is high too. And because of this, you will be expected to write a long article of 2,500 and above words. This will enable you to identify your work and see if your article can rank above other websites with high domain authority. 

Writing a long article that needs 2,500 words can be demanding because it needs lots of research, comparisons, maybe graphs, images, and lots more. But in the long run, after a few years, the article will be able to generate more revenue, more clarity, and more domain authority for your website.

Short tail vs long tail keywords

 Short Tail KeywordsLong Tail Keywords
VolumeHighLow
CompetitionHighLow
Search termsGenericSpecific
Words2 or less3 or more
Conversation ratesLowHigh
CostHighLow

The difference between long-tail and short-tail keywords comes down to popularity. Many people search for short-tail keywords, while few search for long-tail keywords.

Because of that, long-tail keywords are generally easier to rank for and tend to attract searchers with more specific intent. This has made targeting them a widely adopted SEO tactic.

FAQ’s

What are short tail keywords?

Short tail keywords are brief and commonly used search phrases, consisting of one to three words. These keywords are broad and often relatively more generic but receive higher search volumes. For example, “shoes” or “digital cameras” are considered short tail keywords.

And what about long tail keywords?

Long tail keywords are search phrases that are longer, generally comprising three or more words. These keywords are more specific, less competitive, and have a lower search volume compared to short tail keywords. An example of a long tail keyword would be “best running shoes for flat feet” or “affordable digital cameras for vlogging.”

How do short tail keywords differ from long tail keywords?

The primary difference lies in their specificity and search volume. Short tail keywords have a broader scope and higher search volume, while long tail keywords are more targeted and have a lower search volume. Short tail keywords are like casting a wide net, whereas long tail keywords are akin to angling for a specific catch.

Which type of keyword is better for my website?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on your goals, competition, and target audience. Short tail keywords may bring immense traffic, but they face tight competition. On the other hand, long tail keywords allow you to rank higher with less effort, even if the search volume is lower. It’s often recommended to employ a combination of both to maximize your website’s visibility.

How can I make the most of short and long tail keywords in 2024?

To effectively utilize these keywords, start by conducting thorough keyword research. Identify short tail keywords that are relevant to your business and ensure they are included in your website content and meta tags. For long tail keywords, aim for more specific phrases related to your niche and create targeted content around them. Quality content and user intent optimization should be at the core of your keyword strategy.

Are there any tools available to help with keyword research?

Absolutely! There are several keyword research tools available, such as Google Keyword Planner, Tech with Gbenga free SEO tool, Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz Keyword Explorer. These tools can give you insights into search volumes, competition levels, and suggest related keywords to enhance your strategy.

Conclusion

After reading this article, you should be clear on the differences between short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords. Short-tail keywords have a high search volume rate, leading to plenty of traffic and helping businesses get a ranking for their websites. 

Despite the high competition for short-tail being high, they might be worth the investment to optimize your website. But it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t use short-tail keywords alone. 

A website is best optimized when both short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords are used together. Long-tail keywords can bring better quality traffic to your website, and better traffic means that there will be a higher conversion rate for the website. 

A content plan can succeed with a strategic combination of short-tail and long-tail keywords, so it’s essential to pay close attention to the keyword planning and analysis process.

Get started with the keyword software used in this aiticle: Try Semrush for Free.

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Let us know in the comment section if you find this article insightful. Also leave a comment if you have any question, We would love to hear from you.

About the author

Afenuvon Gbenga

Meet Afenuvon Gbenga, a full-time blogger, YouTuber, ICT specialist, tech researcher, publisher, and an experienced professional in e-commerce and affiliate marketing. Are you eager to kickstart your online business, then you're in the right place. Join us at techwithgbenga.com, where you'll uncover the insider secrets to starting and scaling a successful online business from the best!

Before blogging which started as a side project in 2019, Gbenga successfully led a digital marketing team for a prominent e-commerce startup. His expertise also extends to evaluating and recommending top-notch software solutions to boost your online business.

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Afenuvon Gbenga

Meet Afenuvon Gbenga, a full-time blogger, YouTuber, ICT specialist, tech researcher, publisher, and an experienced professional in e-commerce and affiliate marketing. Are you eager to kickstart your online business, then you're in the right place. Join us at techwithgbenga.com, where you'll uncover the insider secrets to starting and scaling a successful online business from the best...

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