Long Tail vs. Short Tail Keywords


When it comes to search engine optimization, the importance of keywords cannot be overstated. No matter if you’re focus is on paid search or developing natural search engine optimization, the type of keywords you obtain for your marketing campaign will be a huge deciding factor for the level of success you achieve.


In order to truly understand the different types of keywords, you need to learn about the difference between “Long Tail” and “Short Tail” keywords. In this post we will discuss the main differences between “Long Tail” and “Short Tail” keywords, as well as the advantages and disadvantages associated with each type.

Main Difference Between “Long Tail” and “Short Tail”


Basically, “Long Tail” keywords are usually 3-5 words, while “Short Tail” keywords are usually only one or two words. Even though “Short Tail” keywords are more commonly searched, they are also the most sought after by businesses. This is why they usually cost more, and produce more competition when it comes to getting your business to show up higher on the results list. On the other hand, “Long Tail” keywords are geared towards more specific search inquiries, which not only target a more distinct audience, but also provide less competition.


For example, if someone searches for “Audi cars,” that would be an example of “Short Tail,” and would obviously produce a lot of competing results; however, if someone were to search for “2017 Audi Q5 for sale,” that would be an example of “Long Tail,” because its five words rather than two, and also much more specific.


Benefits of “Long Tail” Keywords


By focusing on “Long Tail” keywords, you can target the intentions of a search more directly, while also spending less on search engine optimization.


Rather than targeting broad and basic searches, “Long Tail” keywords are directed at targeting very limited searches, which will usually make your business’s ad more relevant based on the search. Therefore, if you focus on “Long Tail” keywords, there is more potential that someone who finds your business through their search will actually become a paying customer. Overall, this will lead to a higher rate of conversions.


Another advantage in using “Long Tail” instead of “Short Tail” is that it will cost less in the end. Since “Long Tail” searches are less common, they are usually less desirable for big businesses, which means they will have a lower cost for use in search engine optimization. This is a great advantage when it comes to increasing your return on investment, especially for small or medium sized businesses.


In the end, by developing a strategy that focuses more on “Long Tail” keywords, you can effectively target a more specific audience, while also spending less.


Negatives of “Long Tail” Keywords


The two main downsides to using “Long Tail” keywords is that the volume of traffic produced will be far less than what would be produced by “Short Tail” keywords. It can also be harder to figure out which words and phrases will work the best.


Depending on your business type and how specific of a target audience you are attempting to reach, having a large volume of random traffic can be a good thing. If your goal is to simply build awareness, rather than focusing more on lead conversion, then the low level of traffic produced by “Long Tail” keywords is usually considered one of its downsides.


Beyond this, since “Long Tail” strategies focus on very specific keywords, it can sometimes be difficult to discover which words and phrases will be successful in producing results. Uncovering what words and phrases people will use outside of basic “Short Tail” searches can take some work, since they are not as common, so using “Long Tail” strategies can oftentimes take longer to become effective.


Benefits of “Short Tail” Keywords


The main benefit of “Short Tail” keywords, also known as “Head” terms, is that they are more commonly searched for, thus producing a much higher volume of search results. Because of this, if you are able to obtain a “Short Tail” keyword for search engine optimization, the amount of people that will find your business will usually be much higher. So if you are attempting to present your business to a larger, random group of people, rather than a specific targeted group, “Short Tail” keywords will work better for you.




Negatives of “Short Tail” Keywords


First off, since “Short Tail” keywords are more commonly searched for, they tend to be desirable by businesses. This means that they will be much more expensive. Along with this, the competition with other businesses to get yours to show up higher on the search results page will be much more intense when it comes to “Short Tail” keywords.


Since using “Short Tail” keywords is such a broad strategy, the conversion of random searchers into real customers will usually be much lower for “Short Tail” strategies. Even though they seem to be more desirable, “Short Tail” keywords will be more expensive, and not as efficient at organically finding new customers.


The Ultimate Decision: “Long Tail” or “Short Tail”?


As you can see, when it comes to the five categories outlined:

  • Volume
  • Focus
  • Competition
  • Cost
  • Conversion Rate

“Long Tail” keywords do better in every category except volume. Even though “Short Tail” keywords can bring awareness to your business, it doesn’t always do the best job at actually converting people into loyal customers. Along with this, “Long Tail” keywords will always cost less, target a more specific audience, and are more likely to convert people into customers; therefore, they are usually the best option when it comes to improving your search engine marketing strategies, especially for small or medium sized businesses.


In the end, if your focus in search engine optimization is to have a better return on investment, while also having a better chance at gaining new customers, “Long Tail” keywords will usually serve your marketing purposes better than “Short Tail.” However, this all depends on the size of your business and your goals when it comes to search engine optimization.