We’ve talked about how keyword research is one of the big factors in determining your SEO success. When deciding on which keywords to use, a big question often comes up: should you use short tail or long tail keywords? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each one.
What are Short Tail and Long Tail Keywords?
Short tail keywords are just 1-3 words long. A sign that reads “drinks” on a restaurant window would be a short tail keyword in a blog post.
Long tail keywords are 4 or more words long. Because of their length, they tend to be more specific. A bar sign that reads “Single Malt Scotch Whiskey” is much more specific than just saying “drinks”, and would be an example of a long tail keyword in content.
Short Tail Keywords Pros and Cons
Short tail keywords can be effective for driving traffic to your site. The shorter the keyword is, the higher the volume of searches. If you are able to rank for a short tail keyword you will see an increase in organic traffic.
Because of the high search volumes with short tail keywords, everyone is trying to cash in. Competition is high, so ranking becomes more challenging. Unless you are a major distributor, showing up on the first page of search results with a short tail keyword like “whiskey” will be difficult.
Another downside to short tail keywords is that the conversion rate is low. While you might receive a lot of traffic with short tail keywords, a lower percentage convert to sales. Part of this may be that viewers searching for general terms are looking for miscellaneous information rather than a specific product or solution.
Long Tail Keywords Pros and Cons
Long tail keywords are not effective for bringing high volumes of traffic to your site. Longer terms are not searched with as much frequency as shorter terms. However, if you offer a niche service or product, high volume traffic might not be your goal. For those who want to target a specific audience, long tail keywords can help.
Competition is low with long tail keywords. This makes it easier to rank for most longer terms. Not many people may be searching for “locally sourced handcrafted beers”, but those who do can find themselves at your business site because of your use of long tail keywords.
Conversion rates are higher as long tail keywords become longer. Visitors are searching for very specific items, which increases the probability of making a sale or completing a transaction.
So which is better, short tail or long tail keywords? The answer really depends on your needs and goals, but try to have a mixture of both. Need inspiration to find those long tail keywords? Try Answer the Public or Ubersuggest.
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