When To Use Long-Tail And Short-Tail Keywords For SEO

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Keywords are such an important part of search engine optimization, or SEO. You’ve got to target the right keywords in the right way to bring the right customers to your website. But you can’t choose just any keywords—you have to be strategic to get the most mileage out of your content. 

Whether you find keywords through audience research or Google Keyword Planner, they’re a must-have for organic SEO. Savvy businesses don’t use just one type of keywords for their campaigns, either. Learn how to combine both long-tail and short-tail keywords into your organic SEO strategy. 

Short-Tail Keywords

When we talk about keywords, most people immediately think of short-tail keywords. These keywords tend to be short, with three words or less. They’re general, high-level phrases that won’t say much about search intent, but they get a lot of search traffic just the same. 

For example, short-tail keywords like “SEO” or “marketing agencies” may get a lot of traffic, but they don’t say much about a user’s frame of mind. They’re great for users who are looking for general information over specific, intentional results. 

Why short-tail keywords matter

Most businesses start with short-tail keywords. Problem is, they don’t always branch out from short-tail keywords. They think there’s no point in exploring other options, like long-tail keywords, because short-tail gets more traffic. After all, why would you target long-tail keywords when short-tail keywords get five times the traffic? 

The thing is, short-tail keywords do get a lot of traffic. But they’re incredibly competitive. You aren’t going to rank for the keyword “SEO” unless you’re more recognized than Moz, Search Engine Land, or Neil Patel. Marketers have to remember that short-tail keywords are so competitive that you have a slim chance of showing up on page 1 of the SERP. 

As far as quick wins are concerned, you won’t get there overnight with short-tail keywords. Although it’s hard to rank for short-tail keywords, businesses should still target them. You never know what a little elbow grease will do for your short-tail keyword rankings. Consider a long-term strategy to help you rank for short-tail keywords. 

When to use short-tail keywords

Remember, short-tail keywords are very general. Because they’re so short, they don’t go into a lot of detail. That’s why they’re ideal for targeting early-stage customers who are just entering the funnel. 

Customers do a lot of research online before they make a purchase. Short-tail keywords are perfect for awareness campaigns designed to get more customers into your funnel. And since the awareness stage is all about impressions and traffic, short-tail is perfect for this kind of campaign. 

Short-tail keywords are also used to help refine your SEO strategy. There’s nothing wrong with starting with a short-tail keyword like “shoes” and getting more granular from there. Brands use short-tail keywords as seed keywords to brainstorm more relevant long-tail keywords. 

Don’t forget to place your short-tail keywords in your page URLs, meta descriptions, and social posts. These easy wins can help you rank for these hyper-competitive keywords more easily in the long run. 

Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are phrases that are longer than 3 words. These keywords are often super-specific and show a lot of intent behind the search. If your short-tail keywords are “SEO” and “marketing agency,” the long-tail equivalents would be “SEO for small businesses” and “marketing agencies in Chicago.” 

Why long-tail keywords matter

Businesses don’t always like long-tail keywords because they tend to get less traffic. But when it comes to SEO, we have to stop looking at traffic alone as a metric. 

In the case of long-tail keywords, they might get less traffic, but their conversion rates tend to be higher. So you might get fewer people on-site, but they’ll actually become a customer. Isn’t that what you want? 

Long-tail keywords are great because they tend to be more unique and specific. The more specific you can get, the easier it is for your business to rank higher for that keyword. It’s the perfect way to get quicker SEO gains. Think of long-tail keywords as a way to pre-qualify traffic before they come to your site. It ensures your visitors are looking at content tailored to their specific interests. 

When to use long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are perfect for boosting your SEO rank. If you just can’t seem to get SEO momentum, start with long-tail keywords first, and then move on to the more competitive short-tail keywords. 

Do you have a brand new site? Or maybe your existing site has low authority? Either way, you should target long-tail keywords first. There’s less competition here, which means your brand stands a better chance of showing up for that keyword in a search. 

Businesses also use long-tail keywords to target customers who are lower in the funnel. Because the queries are longer, you’re able to understand the searcher’s intent. For example, if someone is searching for “ice cream shops near me,” you can guess that they’re ready to buy ice cream within the next hour or so. That’s the power of long-tail keywords: you can target customers who are ready to take a specific action, hopefully leading to a sale. 

The Bottom Line

You need a mix of both short-tail and long-tail keywords to get the most out of your SEO strategy. Neither approach is better than the other; you have to choose a mix to be competitive. Keywords fuel SEO, and it’s important to choose the right combination of kindling to build your momentum. 

But don’t let the keywords take over the content. Both human readers and search engine bots can see through keyword-stuffing. When in doubt, always deliver value first with your content. Keywords should be a secondary consideration. 

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Have patience and put in the time to build your SEO presence. It can take several months of elbow grease to improve your SEO rankings. 

Not sure how to overhaul your keyword strategy? Let a pro take the reins. Logical Media Group’s team of experienced SEO pros can optimize your strategy for results. Schedule your free brainstorming session now. 

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