Long-tail and short-tail keywords are part of standard local SEO strategies, but for the uninitiated, they can be just another part of the often-confusing lexicon in the world of search engine optimisation.
The good news is that long- and short-tail keywords are an easy concept to not just understand, but to also implement in your own website content for greater optimisation.
Here is the difference between the two and how you can use them to improve your search engine rankings.
What are short-tail keywords?
In a nutshell, short-tail keywords are keywords with up to three words.
For example, ‘SEO Sydney’ is a short-tail keyword. It is not particularly specific, but it includes the two major words that someone looking for SEO in Sydney would search for.
As a result, short-tail keywords are significantly more popular as search terms. On the flipside, it also means that the competition is much higher, making it harder to rank.
This means if you are going to target short-tail keywords, you will need to really focus on them through sustained SEO best practice. The payoff can be large if you manage to rank well as a result, but it does take more work to reach page one of Google’s results when so many brands are in the ring.
What are long-tail keywords?
The simple explanation of long-tail keywords is that they are any keywords that contain more than three words.
Often, long-tail keywords are questions. For example: “Where’s the best dentist for root canals in Sydney?”
Interestingly, long-tail keywords have risen in popularity in recent years due to the rise in voice search. Typing something into your phone can be time consuming, so we naturally keep these searches short in nature, but asking a question aloud takes hardly any effort at all, making it easier to use long-tail keywords.
In almost all cases, long-tail keywords involve more detail and specificity than short-tail keywords. As a result, people generally search for long-tail keywords less often. However, this can also mean that if you can target these keywords, you may have less competition and more engagement due to your response being a better match to their query.
This can be a particularly useful keyword strategy for small businesses and those just getting started with optimising their websites, as it is easier to start ranking quickly with less competitive search terms.
Which one do you need the most?
If you can only focus on one or the other due to time or budget constraints, your best bet may well be long-tail keywords.
They cost less in pay-per-click (PPC or Google AdWords) campaigns and are easier to rank for in organic search due to lower competition.
They also offer higher click-through and conversion rates, as searchers are better able to find what they are looking for when they are more specific with their searches.
But if your time and budget allows, it can also pay to include a good mix of short-tail keywords as well. Due to the high volumes of people searching for these generic terms, you may be able to improve your ranking and pick up extra engagement with a short-tail keyword strategy as well.
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