What is SEO and Why Short-Tail and Long-Tail Keywords are Important
Before we can get into Short-tail and Long-tail keywords, we must know why they are used. Short- and Long-tail keywords are on-page SEO tools (SEO-Search Engine Optimization). SEO is the practice of manipulating search engines and their algorithms, such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing to appear higher or lower in the search results. On-page SEO optimizes a websites content, and its HTML source code to best answer commonly searched questions for search engines. This is the opposite of off-page SEO, which is the practice of optimizing links on a website, internal and external. Short-tail and Long-tail keywords used as SEO tools offer more clarity of the content for the search engines’ crawlers or inspectors. In brief, short-tail and long-tail keywords communicate to the search engine what the web page’s content is about and how it relates to common searches made.
Short-tail keywords are search terms that are broad and short, usually containing no more than three words. They refer to generalized topics such as “calculators” in contrast to “calculators allowed on SAT”. Short-tail keywords are beneficial for optimizing a website because of the volume of searches they attract. Although it is challenging to rank for popular short-tail keywords, it would be extremely beneficial to achieve a high ranking based on the number of searches they generally draw. Short-tail keywords are broader because they can contain many different user intents. Someone searching for “calculators” may want to buy one or just need to know how to work a specific function of the calculator. The broad user intent is why short-tail keywords have a higher search volume and, therefore, a more challenging competition to rank for them. General-shorter statements are searched more frequently than longer-more specific statements or queries, as shown below.
Even though short-tail keywords have a high search volume, they have a lower conversion rate. If a user intends to search for how to use a calculator’s statistical formula, but they only search for calculator; your website might populate selling calculators, but that user will not convert into a customer because buying a calculator isn’t their goal of the search.
In the example below, you will notice that the long-tail keywords contain the short-tail keyword or “seed” and expand upon it into something more specific. Contrary to popular belief, long-tail keywords have nothing to do with how long or short a keyword is, but instead how likely it is to convert or how specific it is.
Most people start their search with a short-tail keyword or a seed and use the long-tail keywords that auto-populate to aid them in searching for something more specific. The diagram below visually shows how the search volume and conversion rates alter based on the search term’s specificity. On the left, “Real Estate” is a short-tail keyword and has a high search volume but low conversion rate. As the search begins to be more specific, the search volume decreases, and the conversion rate increases.
Although short-tail keywords generate high search volume, they produce low-conversion rates, and although long-tail keywords generate low search volume, they produce high-conversion rates. If your goal is to increase conversion rates, it is best to invest effort into implementing both of these SEO tools into your SEO campaign. You should target long-tail keywords for their high conversion rates, but also target the short-tail keywords to obtain their higher search volume. Targeting long-tail keywords also will help you rank for the short-tail seed of the long-tail version.
Before you invest time into targeting specific short-tail and long-tail keywords or phrases, make sure they are worth it. Use sites like Moz.com and ahrefs.com to understand the search volume it generates and difficulty it will be to rank for that particular keyword or phrase. If you would like to avoid the complexities of SEO management, I would suggest using an SEO digital consultant such as DCM. DCM can provide your company or website with a full-service SEO marketing campaign. Outsourcing your SEO needs to DCM will take the struggle away from you while improving your market presence and traffic to your website.