Long Tail and Short Tail Keywords: Which is Better for SEO?

By Jessica Bates , on February 21, 2013 | Go to comments

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Top SEOs understand that a high ranking on Google depends partly on how well you’ve optimized your website for certain keywords. We’ve devoted an entire post to conducting keyword research, and you may want to check it out while you’re compiling your desired keyword list. For this post we’ll examine the difference between short and long tail keywords and discuss how you can use them to increase your exposure through SEO.

Long and Short Tail Keywords Explained
Short tail keywords are one or two word phrases, such as “Nashville pet” or “German shepherds.” These are broad and commonly searched keywords. There’s more competition for short tail keywords since they are more commonly used.

Long-tail keywords are typically three words or more, and they are more of a phrase or question than a broad description. The long tail keyword from the previous examples might be “find Nashville pet for adoption” or “adopt a German shepherd in Nashville, Tennessee.”

Which types of keywords are best for SEO purposes? The answer depends a lot on your market and the competition of your keywords. You can find out how competitive your keywords are using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. They tell me “Nashville pet” averages 14,800 monthly searches; “Nashville pet adoption” averages 1,300 monthly searches.

Long and Short Tail Keywords Analyzed
Several studies have shown long tail keywords have higher conversion rates than short tail keywords. This makes sense when you think about it. A user who searches “adopt a German shepherd in Nashville, Tennessee” is probably closer to adopting a dog than one who types “Nashville pets.”

Search Engine Watch, an SEO marketing company, conducted a telling study of short and long tail keywords specifically analyzing them for impressions, clicks, conversions and profitability.

The study leaders categorized keywords by the number of characters to keep their research organized. Keywords were broken down in intervals of five characters. Keywords between 11 and 20 characters received the most impressions and clicks at nearly 60 percent. However, keywords between 31 and 35 characters converted the most customers.

A different study published at Calculate Marketing shows the conversion rate improves as the number of words increases.

“People who make longer, more specific searches have already done their research and know exactly what they want,” says study author Alan Mitchell. “They are further along in the buying cycle so are more likely to open their wallet.”

Using Long and Short Tail Keywords for SEO
One tip to help you create long tail keywords from short tail keywords is this: don’t hit enter. Go to your Google search bar and start typing a word. Google autocompletes your search queries as you type them. To test this theory, I typed “Nashville pet” into a Google search query and didn’t hit enter. Google showed me longer keywords beneath my search bar – “Nashville pet products,” “Nashville pet rescue” and “Nashville pet adoption.” This type of research will give you an idea of what other users are searching for on the Web, which can improve, strengthen and diversify your keywords.

Though studies show long tail keywords help you rank higher, short tail keywords are still effective. . For many of you, short tail keywords like “dentistry” or “plastic surgery” are highly desirable and are extremely relevant to your businesses. Match these keywords with a location or description to make them even more helpful. “Nashville dentistry” will help improve your Google maps SEO, and “Nashville cosmetic dentistry” can further distinguish your business. Your potential customer will also assume that you offer tooth whitening or porcelain veneers because you’ve specified yourself as a cosmetic dentist. Now here’s the warning: Don’t feel like you have to add a location every time you include the word “dentistry.” This will probably annoy your human reader, and it may even cause them to abandon your website. You may have seen content so cluttered with keywords that you lose the real meaning.

Keywords should feel natural when you read them in your content. If they stick out to you, odds are they’ll stick out to your readers. Always choose your readers’ experience over the itch to add multiple long tail keywords just for search engines. Provide clear, meaningful and well-researched content, and your potential customers will find you. In other words: build it, and they will come.

If you have questions, ask! We’re here to help you decipher the murky SEO waters. Sinai Marketing can also take care of your SEO hosting needs so you can focus on satisfying your customers.

  1. February 21st, 2013 at 09:26 | #1

    Hi !!
    My name is onne selviana , I’m from indonesia..

    I think , long tail keyword is easier than short tail keyword to competion..
    And I usually use long tail keyword to make a new post or some iklan..

    Thankyou :)

  2. February 21st, 2013 at 20:20 | #2

    first of all – your post is very well written – nice comparison and long tail title of your article is also very effective. My advice to all readers – Don’t focus more on long and short tail keywords – Make your titles users friendly , use HQ content for your reader not for bots and forget everything to get good results in search engine.

  3. Amin
    February 21st, 2013 at 23:07 | #3

    That’s exactly how I thought it would be! My mind was that international visitors who look for short-tailed keywords such as “dentistry” or “wearing braces” would hardly be counted as customers since we don’t know what they’re looking for! Long tail keywords on the other hand will bring you the right people whom you can count on, for your market. That’s interesting! Thanks for the good article!

  4. behzad
    February 23rd, 2013 at 05:14 | #4

    Well in order to say short keywords bring more customers to the business or long key words, you have to run a survey but it seems right to say long tailed key words show more details and it means those persons who are using them in their search might be more serious in their purchase ; however it just can be a hypothesis.

  5. Ghoncheh
    February 24th, 2013 at 00:30 | #5

    I always wondered whether long tail keywords are more profitable than using short term keywords for searching purposes or not, but this article helped me a lot with considering the customer or clients’ point of view. I completely agree that users who search prefer to use long tail keywords depend on the market which they are looking for. I got surprised because I always use long tail keywords or number of characters to keep my search result more precise. Actually, through increasing the number of relevant keywords ordered as a noun group and use of enough relevant keywords together you can build your search more specific. This article helped me to find a good way to distinguish between the impression of short term and long term and also choosing the efficient keyword for SEO purposes or for link building to achieve my SEO goals of my website more easily.

  6. February 24th, 2013 at 23:51 | #6

    It is very difficult to rank short-tail keywords but it is clear that these keywords give a lot of traffic and business. Now the trend has been changed and usually SEO are working on long tail keywords and keywords phrase. Your post is very comprehensive to understand the technicalities between long-tail and short-tail keywords. I personally use long tail keywords because these kinds of keywords take less time and easy to rank rather than short-tail keywords.

  7. February 25th, 2013 at 03:48 | #7

    Here are some interesting facts that i have experienced personally. On one of my SEO projects i started out with targeting highly competitive short tail keywords, in 15 days my longs tails were up. On another projects i did the reverse, targeted long tail which brought my short tail on 2nd page.

    in the end, the most conversion making keywords are long tails.

  8. February 26th, 2013 at 07:23 | #8

    Thanks Jessica , You have explained the post very beautifully with good comparison . I think now Long tail key words are more important for seo in good link building than short tail keywords.

  9. February 27th, 2013 at 03:21 | #9

    To hire the top rank of the page perfect selection of the keywords is very important because primarily it works to elevate the page-rank. In my view long tailed keyword is more efficient than short tailed keyword. I’m glad to get your opinion. Thanks!

  10. February 28th, 2013 at 12:15 | #10

    Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it’s truly informative. I am going to watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you continue this in future. A lot of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  11. March 2nd, 2013 at 08:20 | #11

    Great post..’ Thanks , dear you nice sharing with me.

    It is very effective for me, again thanks……

  12. March 3rd, 2013 at 04:33 | #12

    if u are new to seo and want quick result then u must target long tail keyword it boost your confidence

  13. March 3rd, 2013 at 15:32 | #13

    In my tests I definitely see a vastly increased conversion rate in the long tail keywords.

  14. March 3rd, 2013 at 22:23 | #14

    Since there are too many new updates from google ranking long tail keyword is the best option also ranking those keyword wont be big issue ad this kind of keyword has less competition.

  15. March 3rd, 2013 at 23:38 | #15

    Hi Jessica,
    Although short tail keywords have high competition, sometimes searching with them doesn’t lead us to a good result.
    unfortunately there are some companies that try to get rank for any unrelated keywords. they just try to show their market in any way. I absolutely disagree. Because this kind of link building is not professional. we should help search engine to find the best results for users. I think using log tail keywords make search results more related. So I like them more than short tail keywords.
    It’s a personal idea.
    Thank you Jessica

  16. March 7th, 2013 at 01:04 | #16

    I agree with your point of view of this article. This is a good article. Very timely given us so much useful information. Thank you!

  17. March 11th, 2013 at 23:53 | #17

    Using good keywords for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will be good. But don’t use keywords too much because they will be considered as spam by Search Engines.

  18. March 13th, 2013 at 01:23 | #18

    Ranking in the short term for any website is difficult with short keywords. So using long tail and targeting those long tail keyword would bring some kind of traffic to the website. Also, over using keywords is considered spam.

  19. March 13th, 2013 at 01:28 | #19

    Well I would say that long tail keyword can easily rank in search engines. They will not have too much competition and will not be present in keyword databases because search volume is very minimal.

  20. March 13th, 2013 at 01:31 | #20

    I agree with the previous comments. Long-tail keywords can give a really incredible ROI coz they’re less competitive to rank for PLUS people usually using such search queries are often more qualified and more likely to convert.

  21. Jessica Bates
    March 16th, 2013 at 12:53 | #21

    That’s a great point. And conversion is what it’s all about, isn’t it?
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  22. Jessica Bates
    March 16th, 2013 at 12:54 | #22

    You’re right. Keyword stuffing is bad, bad. It’s bad for real visitors looking for great content, and it’s bad for Googlebots scanning your website.

  23. Jessica Bates
    March 16th, 2013 at 12:55 | #23

    Thank you, Shima! Your opinion is greatly appreciated, and I agree with you. :) Thanks for reading and commenting.

  24. March 20th, 2013 at 02:19 | #24

    Good Information Jessica – long tail keywords are a must – especially if your business provides services.

  25. Anonymous
    April 4th, 2013 at 05:37 | #25

    Great post. I’ve always been a firm believer that you should use a mixture of both long tail and short tail keywords. This way you have a balanced blend of achievable and feasible ranking targets.

    Short tail keywords may have large search volumes but will be very competitive to rank high.

    However, long tail keywords, will have less search volumes but lower competition, so it will be easier to achieve high rankings. Furthermore, long tail keyword customers are more likely to make a purchasing decision as they know exactly what they want.

  26. Tom
    April 24th, 2013 at 03:48 | #26

    Great information Jessica. I’ve always tried to get a good balance of short tail and long tail keywords. This way I still receive traffic to my website.

  27. Anonymous
    April 28th, 2013 at 22:45 | #27

    I personally think that long tail keywords are easy to rank because these kinds of keywords don’t have enough competition therefore we can get good position on them. If someone wants to rank short tail keywords he/she should start from long tail keywords because directly working on short tail keywords is not approach. It will be a waste of time and energy.

  28. Anonymous
    May 15th, 2013 at 04:27 | #28

    Long tail keywords are easier to rank as well as guaranteed to bring prospective clients.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Enter above code:

Letters are not case-sensitive