Long-Tail vs Short-Tail Keywords: What Is the Difference?

long-tail vs short-tail keywords
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Many businesses are not conversant with SEO, and it is understandable because SEO is not a simple thing, after all. However, most of them are still aware of the benefits of using the right keywords for their business website.

Keywords are a significant part of SEO campaigns.

They are the phrases and words that your potential customers or site visitors type into the search engines. 

Generally, keyword research is among the most important, and high return undertakings in marketing. Because of that, ranking for the best keywords can make or break your business site because keyword intent is a crucial aspect of paid search.

When you don’t have a good understanding of the intents behind your site visitors’ searches, your internet marketing campaigns will certainly fail. 

Understanding what are long-tail vs short-tail keywords, how they are used and when to use them will help your business generate better marketing strategies. 

Continue reading to understand more about these keywords and how you can use them to build a successful business website.

Understanding Short-Tail Keywords

One of the general types of keywords is short-tail keywords or head terms. They are three words or even less, and are usually the most generic and popularly searched keywords. 

These keywords are the first thing that you think of when you are looking for information over the internet. Short-tail keywords are the smallest group of words that may not make a full sentence. 

However, they make some sense once typed on the search feature of a search engine. These keywords are not quite specific, but their intention is to get a broader audience, or to research product or service before making a purchase.

For example, “laptop stands,” “basket weaving,” “best face cream,” and so on.

Short-tail keywords get the highest number of searches, and the shorter your keyword, the greater the search volume.

The high search volume of these keywords eventually leads to stiff competition because many websites are fighting for a piece of internet traffic. 

The main focus of these searches is quite broad. That’s because, without extra keywords in the keyword search of a user, the search engine cannot determine what they’re looking for accurately. 

Short-tail keywords bring lots of traffic to your business website, which can benefit your establishment. Even though many clicks might not convert, these keywords can bring in a big portion of your target population. 

Furthermore, the increased traffic you get can have a great impact on your organic ranking.

Understanding Long-Tail Keywords

SEO involves using keywords in online campaigns, but you need to utilize the right keywords to see good results. Long-tail keywords refer to more specific and longer terms that users are more likely to utilize when using voice search. 

Site visitors can also use them when they are closer to the point-of-purchase. Long-tail keywords contain four words or more that indicate what the potential customer is looking for and their intent. 

These keywords might be a bit counter-intuitive initially, but they can be quite beneficial if you know how to utilize them.

The more specific words you include in your website or product, the higher the chances of attracting more qualified consumers. 

That’s because customers searching for things specific to your offerings are more likely to buy your products than a person who’s only performing a general search.

Long-tail keywords are pretty easy to rank for as they are more specific, resulting in less competition. 

Generally, the more specific your keywords are, the lower your costs will be because of lower competition. Long-tail keywords are less competitive and more targeted, and therefore have lower costs. 

Having more-detailed keywords with all the specifics you require will allow individuals to locate your website or products quicker and better.

For example, “how to weave unique Christmas baskets” is more specific and can help people locate your site easier than using the keyword “basket weaving” alone.

You can easily manage long-tail keywords by establishing better and clear communication lines between your company and the active customers you already have. 

Long-Tail vs Short-Tail Keywords: Pros and Cons

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of long-tail vs short-tail keywords.

Pros of using long-tail keywords

  • Low Competition – When utilizing long-tail keywords, the level of competition is quite lower. That’s because the search is more specific and detailed, resulting only in a few individuals targeting that particular keyword.
  • Less Costly – The costs of internet searches for a long-tail keyword are less costly than short-tail ones. That’s because a long-tail keyword has a lesser search volume than a short-tail one, meaning lower potential traffic. 
  • Intent – The intent of long-tail keywords is clear because site visitors or customers are looking for specific services or products. These people know what they want online, and the kind of traffic you get shows your best chances for quick conversions.
  • High Conversion Rate – The rate of conversion is high when utilizing long-tail keywords because the individuals are already aware of what they are searching for when coming to your site. They are in the buying phase of the customer’s purchase journey already and are simply trying to locate the best supplier.

Cons of using long-tail keywords

The drawback of utilizing long-tail terms is that the number of searches is quite lower than that of short-tail keywords.

That is due to the many individuals looking for general keywords instead of specific long-tail keywords. The potential traffic is also lower due to the low search volume. 

long-tail vs short-tail keywords

Pros of using short-tail keywords

  • Traffic – The main benefit of using head terms in internet marketing is that they appeal to a wider audience. Utilizing these keywords can easily drive lots of traffic to your company website.
  • Easy to determine relevant keywords – Short-tail keywords make it easy for you to know the relevant keywords to your company offering or specific market. 
  • Easy to write about – Short-tail keywords are pretty easy to write about when creating your website content. It’s important to ensure that the keyword you use flows well with the rest of the content.

Cons of using head short-tail keywords

  • High Cost – The cost of utilizing short-tail keywords is extremely high. That’s because people spend a lot of cash on Google Ads due to the increased search volume and the competition. Therefore, you’ll have to pay more than your industry competitors to rank high on search engine results with short-tail keywords. 
  • High Competition – One of the biggest downsides of short-tail keywords is the high level of competition on the search engines. That makes a lot of sense because of the high search volumes. If your company does not have enough brand awareness, it’ll be difficult to rank high with short-tail keywords.
  • Intent – The search engine cannot determine what users are looking for accurately or what their intent is with short-tail keywords. Targeting a keyword that might have a different intention often leads to low conversion rates.
  • Low Conversion Rate – Even if you enjoy increased traffic with a head term or short-tail keyword, you only get a few conversions. That is why it’s good to utilize a long-tail keyword instead of a short-tail keyword to increase your rate of conversion.

Long-Tail vs Short-Tail Keywords: Which One Should You Go For? 

As you can see, targeting long-tail keyword vs short-tail keywords is less competitive. The traffic generated by these keywords has a high probability of bringing in conversions as well. 

It is also easier to rank high on search engines with long-tail keywords. And the users who visit your company website through the long-tail keyword are more likely to become paying customers.

An internet search with long-tail vs short-tail keywords is more specific, and users know what they want when searching the internet compared to short-tail keyword searches.

long-tail keyword search

Short-tail terms are mainly used by potential buyers in the early stages of looking for a service or product, especially when researching before making a purchase.

In summary, long-tail keywords usually provide small and medium businesses with: a higher return on investment than striving hard to compete with the large companies that dominate the market.

The opportunities provided by short-tail keywords are also worth looking into, but you should focus on the long-term. 

You can only find the quickest and most promising returns in long-tail keywords because they drive the most beneficial traffic to your company website.

How To Get The Best Long-Tail Keywords

When you are building your company website‘s content, the keyword taxonomy you use must naturally include both narrow and broad terms.

Regardless of the type, age, or size of your company, you know that long-tail keywords must be a crucial part of your search engine optimization plan.

The long-tail terms you find can be utilized as the main topic and title for a blog post, cornerstone content piece, video, or any other kind of content. You can also use them as some variations to enhance the optimization of a longer article or guide targeting a single primary keyword. 

Besides, if you are running some niche marketing campaigns, using more specific long-tail keywords will make your marketing efforts more effective. So, where can you find lead- and traffic-driving long-tail keyword variations? 

Below are several tips and tricks to help you get started.

  1. Use different keyword research tools
  2. Use Google Suggest and Related Searches
  3. Try Google Suggest and Related Searches
  4. Borrow Ideas From Your Competitors
  5. Mine Your Analytics

1. Use Different Keyword Research Tools

You need to use a wide array of keyword tools whenever you are doing keyword research. If you’re using one keyword tool all the time, you are most likely missing out on lots of long-tail term variations and selling yourself short.

A good place to start is the Google Keyword Planner, but if you are searching for more specific long-tail keywords, you can try other available options as well, such as:

Ubersuggest is a free keyword research tool

You can also use social media tools such as Twitter Search and YouTube’s keyword tool to do your keyword searches.

The more keyword search tools you use, the more long-tail term variations you are likely to get.

2. Try Google Suggest and Related Searches

One of the best sources of long-tail term variations is Google Suggestions.

All you have to do is start typing the primary keyword you have into the search box of Google to see the variations the search engine suggests. 

use Google Suggest to find long-tail keywords

If your primary keyword turns up in the suggestions, you will know that it is a phrase that people are looking for. These suggestions might not give you the kind of variations you are looking for, but they may inspire good content.

Related Searches utilize the same principle as that of Google Suggest.

related searches help find other long-tail keyword suggestions

While Google’s suggestions appear when you are typing your query, suggested related searches usually appear below the first web page of the organic results. 

You can get relatively more suggestions here, and they might also be more personalized.

3. Browse Q&A Forums and Sites

Question and answer forums can be a great source of relevant long-tail term ideas. Questions make good long-tail keywords because it’s obvious that these individuals are looking for information and answers. 

However, you need to do a bit of keyword research to look at the version of every question with the right competition level and search volume. You can use sites like:

  • Yahoo Answers
  • Quora
  • Answers.com

4. Borrow Ideas From Your Competitors

When you are chasing a keyword, it is always a good idea to check out your competition.

Begin with the mid-tail and short-tail keywords that you are planning to rank for. 

And then check the forms of keyword variations utilized on the web pages that rank in the top 10 spots. The variation of keywords used in these pages should give you a good idea of the long-tail terms you can use to drive more traffic to your site.

5. Mine Your Analytics

Your search analytics can easily tell you most of the keyword queries that typically lead people to your company website. You can find many long-tail phrases that are currently driving internet traffic to your site. 

These keywords might be quite relevant to your company but not targeted by any page on your website yet.

You can assess all the keywords used for relevant and good long-tail terms that you can later turn into web content. 

Depending on your traffic flow, you can also set a time frame to something big to help you get lots of data to review. You can also use the data to look for patterns that will inspire more specific and lead-generating long-tail keywords.


Both short-tail and long-tail terms are beneficial for the internet marketing strategy of every business. It is a good idea to use both groups of keywords inside your internet marketing strategy to increase online traffic and conversions.

Using short-tail keywords during the beginning of your sales funnel can help bring in traffic to your site. You can use long-tail keywords for advertising your content towards the end of your sales funnel to help attract prospects that will later convert into sales. 

There is no easy way to perfect your search optimization plan. But understanding the main differences highlighted in this article should help you perfect targeting the right terms. 

If you need support with your business SEO strategy or would like assistance in stepping up your internet marketing game, schedule a 20 minute breakthrough call with us, and we will be glad to help.

If you are interested in other marketing resources, check out our blog or our resources page.

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Air Force veteran and online marketing authority, Micha is a pragmatic problem solver with relentless dedication to his clients’ success-- with a passion for helping businesses achieve exponential and sustainable growth. He serves clients as a strategic partner who believes in addressing their digital challenges head-on by implementing quantifiable best practices. His hobbies include billiards, chess, mountain climbing, and traveling with his loving wife and kids.

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