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Keywords are an essential part of search engine optimisation (SEO). Through keyword research, you can start to understand the most common search phrases, and create content that helps both search engines and potential customers find your business; which in turn will increase traffic to your website.

Before we go into more detail on the difference between the two types of keywords, ask yourself, what are you trying to achieve? Do you want more eyes on your page or visitors that are ripe for conversion and ready to part with their cash?

What is a short-tail keyword?

Short-tail keywords, also known as “head terms”, are search phrases that contain three words or less. Think of these keywords as the first words that come into your head when you want to search for something online. For example, “yoga”, “yoga class” and “women’s yoga class”.

The shorter the keyword is, the higher the search volumes. If you can rank for a short tail keyword, you’re definitely going to get plenty of organic traffic! The downside to this high search volume is that the competition is extremely fierce. So if you’re just starting out or have never done SEO work before, you’ll be joining the back of a very long queue.

As clever as Google is, these types of search queries are extremely broad and without any additional keywords, the search engine isn’t able to pinpoint exactly what the user is looking for. If we use the same yoga example from earlier, you can see from the search results below that someone looking for a new yoga mat isn’t going to find what they’re looking by just entering the word “yoga” into a search engine. 

In fact that one word, returns almost 2 billion websites all competing for the same keyword. To help Google figure out what the user is actually looking for, it will even give them some suggested long tail search queries like the below screenshot.

When doing your keyword research, it’s a good idea to start off by typing keywords into Google or Bing and looking at there related search queries that pop up.

Pros of using short-tail keywords

  • Higher search volume

Cons of using short-tail keywords

  • More competitive
  • Low intent to purchase
  • Low conversion rate
  • Higher cost of paid advertising

What is a long-tail keyword?

Long tail keywords are search phrases of four or more words. For example “women’s hot yoga class in South East London” or “which iPhone has the best camera”.

When it comes to SEO, it’s much easier to rank for long-tail keywords due to having a lot less competition. The downside is that you will attract fewer visitors due to the keywords being much more targeted.

However, don’t let the lower search volume put you off as 70% of internet searches are actually made up of long tail keywords. Because the user is searching for something more specific, they have a much higher intent to purchase and ultimately convert into a sale. Even if a visitor doesn’t buy from your site the first time, they are far more likely to re-visit because your site spoke to their needs. 

Another huge benefit of long-tail keywords is the price difference of paid ads. Google AdWords is much cheaper for searches that are specific and contain more terms. This means that you won’t show up very high in general searches (until you build more authority in your industry) but it will cost you a lot less to get you there in the meantime. 

Pros of using long-tail keywords

  • Less competitive
  • High conversion rate
  • High intent to purchase
  • Lower cost of paid advertising

Cons of using long tail keywords

  • Low search volume

Which keywords are more important?

Whilst both types of keywords are important to your overall SEO strategy, they do have slightly different purposes. When deciding where to focus your efforts, think about the question I asked you at the start of this post.

What are your goals? Do you want more traffic or more conversions?

To help you choose what is right for your business, I’ve summed up the pros and cons of both in a table.

I would personally recommend optimising your website for long-tail keywords because the ultimate goal for most businesses is to make sales. If your SEO doesn’t feed the needs of your target audience, they are just going to click on your website and bounce (Google will also penalise websites with high bounce rates).

By positioning yourself well for long-tail search terms, tailored to visitors with a high intent to purchase, you’ll also start to climb the ranks for short-tail searches as well. So, it’s always worth throwing in a few short-tail keywords into your keyword research as well and covering both bases.

How to implement keywords on your website

I’ve talked about the many benefits of blogging before, and one of the biggest benefits of blogging is that it gives you the ability to introduce keywords to your website. By regularly creating blog posts of more than 500 words, you will naturally get the opportunity to include long and short tail keywords on your website.

Using the correct mixture of keywords is the key to success and through keyword research and start to optimise your website. Here are some free keyword tools to help you get started with your own research:

  1. Google Trends
  2. Answer the Public
  3. Keyword Generator
  4. Google Search Console
  5. Bulk Keyword Generator

Good keyword research takes time, so remember you don’t want to throw all that hard work down the drain by keyword stuffing. The most important rule to follow is to include your short-tail and long-tail keywords naturally within your content and to not overdo it! 

If this all sounds like a bit too much work or you’re still feeling stuck, feel free shoot me a message here to find out how I can help.

What Is the Difference Between Long and Short Tail Keywords?

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