Long-Tail vs. Short-Tail Keywords: What Sets them Apart?

Keywords are generally split into two separate categories: long-tail and short-tail. In this quick guide, we’ve outlined the difference between long-tail and short-tail keywords, how you can find them, and which will deliver the best results for your firm.

What are short-tail and long-tail keywords?

A short-tail keyword is a generic search term that usually consists of between one and three words covering a broader topic. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are typically more specific and will contain three words or more.

This can be confusing initially, as it would be easy to assume that a ‘keyword’ would always equate to just one word. But as search engines have improved over the years, the term has increasingly been used to refer to longer multi-word search queries as well as one-word search entries.

What is the difference?

One of the main differences that sets short-tail and long-tail keywords apart is the level of search volume they generate. For instance, if you successfully rank for a short-tail keyword like ‘divorce solicitor’, you’re likely to see a significant influx of visitors to your web page.

But before you put all your efforts into finding short-tail keywords, you should consider the time and resources you have available. Short-tail keywords are highly competitive, so it may take months or even years to successfully target them.

As short-tail keywords cover broader areas, it’s also possible that the people using these search terms are in the initial stages of their research. So they may not be ready to commit to using your services. This won’t always be the case, but we’d suggest looking at the traffic you generate and whether this is helping you achieve the goals you’ve set.

On the other end of the spectrum, long-tail keywords are often more niche, meaning the search volume is likely to be lower. But the advantage to this is that it could bring the right people to your site quickly, which could lead to a rise in conversions.

So which type of keyword should you go after? We’ll look into this further in the final section of this guide.

How do I find long-tail and short-tail keywords?

Before you set out to conduct any kind of keyword research, you should consider the services you’re offering and how you think people would search for these online. Once you’ve done this, try entering the search queries you’ve come up with into a tool like Ahrefs or Semrush.

Both Ahrefs and Semrush offer a number of free services that could help you with your keyword research. So if you don’t want to set up a fully paid account, you could still benefit from the search data collected by these sites.

Using tools like Semrush and Ahrefs, you’ll be able to see the estimated search volume for each of the terms you enter, as well as additional keywords you may not have considered previously. Bear in mind that each tool may give differing search volume estimates, so they should be used as a guide.

Usually when you type a search term into a search engine optimisation (SEO) tool like Ahrefs or Semrush, the first few keywords to appear are short-tail keywords. As you scroll down, you’ll notice that the search volume declines and you’ll begin to see long-tail keywords instead.

Another helpful tool for finding long-tail keywords is Google. Their auto-complete and People Also Ask functions are particularly useful. For example, if you type ‘accident claim’ into the search bar, you’ll be provided with a variety of multi-word queries to include on your page.

After gathering your chosen keywords, you can begin to incorporate these into your content. But remember to use keywords in a way that looks natural – if you don’t, you could risk penalisation from Google and this may negatively affect your rankings.

Long-tail or short-tail – which is better?

Long-tail and short-tail keywords can be used together or separately, but both will deliver different results for your firm. So think about what you want to achieve with your online content, and the type of audience you want to visit your site.

For example, if your priority is driving up organic traffic over a prolonged period of time, short-tail keywords may be the best search terms to target. But if your main concern is increasing conversions, long-tail keywords may be preferable as your content is more likely to match user intent.

Whichever keywords you choose to target, remember to consider traffic potential, search intent and keyword difficulty. We wouldn’t suggest choosing a keyword solely because it’s a short-tail or long-tail keyword.

It can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to choosing keywords to target for your content. You’ll want to make sure you’re focusing your efforts on search terms that will bring a return, and it can help to have an expert on your side.

To find out more about how we could boost your marketing efforts and support you in generating high-quality leads, get in touch with us today.


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