short tail and long tail keywords

Short Tail vs. Long Tail Keywords: A Side-By-Side Comparison

Keyword Research Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Keywords are a combination of ideas and topics that summarize your content. In the SEO world, these are the words that are entered into search engines like Google and Bing.

The best way to make sure your content ranks high in search engines is to understand which types of keywords will be searched for by your target audience. This is where understanding the difference between short tail keywords and long tail keywords comes in.

Is it best to use one type of keyword over the other? Which one will have the best impact on your SEO ranking? Stay tuned, we’ll tell you everything you need to know.

The Differences Between Short Tail and Long Tail

Because keywords are the most important part of your SEO, you don’t want to simply pick them out of the blue. The keywords you choose have to make sense for your content.

They also need to have enough impact to drive organic traffic (visitors that come directly from search engines) to your site. You will need to do some keyword research to make the results you want from your keywords.

The first question that will come up during your keyword research is: What’s the difference between short tail and long tail keywords?

Short Tail Keyword Definition

Short tail keywords are search phrases that only contain one word. Because these searches are pretty broad, they turn up tons of results for searchers.

In some cases this is great, but it may not always be a good thing. For instance, simply searching for “tuna” will bring up everything from food blogs to wildlife organizations to news articles about the food supply.

With all of this additional information around this one keyword, it will make it difficult for someone to find a tuna centered recipe you may have posted.

Long Tail Keyword Definition

Long tail keywords are more specific than their short tail counterparts. These keywords are longer phrases that have a minimum of three (or two depending who you ask) words. An example of a long tail keyword is “tuna steak recipes.”

Using long tail keywords will help you target a specific niche instead of the masses. The specifications that come with using them give you fewer websites to compete with.

When someone enters “tuna steak recipes” into their search engine, all of the results will be recipes. This is a lot better than sharing your spot in searches with the varying search results that came up with just tuna alone.

Which Length of Keywords Performs Best?

In this section, we’ll go through the pros and cons of both short and long tail keywords. This will help you make the best decision when performing your keyword research and implementing them on your website.

The Pros and Cons of Short Tail Keywords

Competition: Short tail keywords are useful for driving traffic to a website. However, if you have a brand new site or haven’t used SEO previously, your website will have a lower search ranking.

Meaning it probably won’t show up on the first page of search results. Instead, you will be positioned on a latter page that people rarely click to.

The competition here can end up being too much for a new website.

Cost: Also, keep in mind that using short tail keywords can become expensive. This is because of all the competition surrounding them.

You will have to pay Google AdWords for your business to become visible by using short tail keywords because so many other businesses are using them too.

Conversion Rates: When you use short tail keywords, it’s very possible that you’ll get thousands or hundreds of clicks to your website. But your amount of conversions will probably be in the single digits.

Short tail keywords don’t have very high conversion rates because of the lack of focus that appears in the search results.

The Pros and Cons of Long Tail Keywords

Search Volume: The search volume that comes with using long tail keywords is much less than short tail keywords. This can be both a pro and con depending on your type of business.

If your website is catered to a specific type of customer, this is a good thing because people who you will not be able to convert will be less likely to find you.

Competition: Running an online business is always going to be competitive. There are tons of websites selling similar products and more are popping up every day.

But long tail keywords help you filter through the competition by showing your page to consumers who know exactly what they want. With this method, you will see far fewer website clicks than you will with short tail keywords, but you will benefit in other areas like your conversion rates.

Cost: Google Adwords offers reduced pricing for more specific searches that contain more words. If your business is new, your page probably won’t appear at the top of the search results, but it likely will with time as you become more popular. And it will cost you less money to get to that point with long tail searches.

Which is Best?

The great thing about SEO and running online ad campaigns is that you can track the performance of your keywords to know which ones are doing well and which ones are costing you unnecessary money. This way you can always be on top of your marketing efforts while also learning from them.

In the beginning, things might be a little shaky, which is normal because you’re still learning what works best for you. So, don’t get discouraged.

Short tail keywords will help you generate more traffic to your website, but they are a good way to lose money. While a few of those clicks might turn into sales, going the short tail route is more expensive than it is worth. Afterall, the point of your business is to get people to buy, not simply click onto your website.

On paper, long tail keywords are best at generating paying customers because they take some of the legwork out of finding interested people. With this interest and more specified niches, more of the website clicks you receive will be paying customers. You will, however, have fewer clicks overall.

Start your SEO by using a combination of short and long tail keywords with more long tail. Then, check your search engine ranking every few weeks or so. Looking at your ranking in conjunction with your keyword performance will help you lock down the formula that works best for your business.

How to do Keyword Research

Now that you know all about short tail and long tail keywords, it’s time to learn how to do keyword research in order to find the best words to get you a high search engine ranking. Here are a few tried and true tips for you to check out:

Let Your Customers Choose Your Keywords

Most websites have a search bar on them that customers use to find specific products. You can use the information they type into this search bar to help improve your keyword research.

But how do you see what they’re typing? Google has made it quite simple. So, if you don’t have a Google Analytics account, it’s time to sign up for one.

Turn on this search tracking feature by going into the settings section of your admin page in Google Analytics. Once you’re on that page, you will just need to press the enable button under “Site Search Tracking.”

After a few weeks, you should have a nice amount of search queries that you can look at from your site. These are things your customers are interested in, but couldn’t find right away. If there’s a common theme, you might want to move that item or section to a more visible area on your website.

Also, when you can see what your customers are typing into your search bar, start to come up with content around those ideas, using their words as your keywords. This will improve your ranking on the big search engines too.

Make Short Tail Keywords Work for You

We already know that broad or short tail keywords aren’t the best for your SEO. But that doesn’t mean they’re completely useless.

You can take short tail keywords and expand on them by using a Google search. You’ll notice that when you begin typing something into the search bar, Google tends to finish the phrase for you.

This is because Google has learned user behavior. The suggestions it gives you are the most popular because they are what other people searched for.

So, when you begin typing something, look at Google’s suggestions and think about ways you can implement these now long tail keywords into useful content on your site.

Learn What Questions Your Customers Are Asking

Answer the Public is a free tool that will help you find questions that customers within your niche are asking. This allows you to curate blog posts that answer those common questions which will bump up your status as an expert in your industry.

At the end of the day, these things all become higher conversion rates and more sales for you.

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