The Difference Between Long Tail Keywords and Short Tail Keywords

What do tails have to do with blogging? As it turns out, quite a bit! 

Long tail keywords, an important buzzword in marketing that many non-marketing people don’t understand. The term “Long Tail” was initially coined in 2004 by Chris Anderson in an article in Wired magazine.  The term was initially used to describe the niche business strategy that is used by companies like Amazon.


The difference between long tail keywords and short tail keywords

So, what’s the difference between short tail keywords and long tail keywords?

Short tail keywords are anywhere from one to three words, and they target a mass audience.

Long tail keywords are anywhere from three to five words or more, that target a specific search criteria. A person that performs a long tail keyword search is looking for a very specific item. If you use a long tail keyword for a blog post, sales page, website, etc., you will naturally target a smaller audience.

At first glance, you may think targeting a mass audience is a great thing? After all, you want as many people as possible to find your website when they’re performing a Google (or Bing) search. However, the key to getting found is to rank high on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

Why use long tail keywords?

Marketers use the term to describe the phenomenon that “long tail keywords” could get more traffic combined than the broader, more general keywords. Let’s look at a couple examples.

Example Number 1:

Let’s say the keyword “dog training” gets approximately 2,420 searches per day.

Then you start looking at the long tail keyword phrases for that niche – dog training collars, dog potty training, dog training careers, and so on. When you add up all of the long tail keywords, which are easier to dominate in the Google SERPs, it equals more traffic than if you simply went after Dog Training.

If you have 10,000,000 websites competing for the term “dog training,” but only 361,000 competing for “dog training DVD,” then you have a far greater chance of reaching the first page than you would if you were competing against 10 million pages.

Example Number 2:

Being ranked number one for a broad term like “mp3” would probably take a truly exceptional SEO expert many months of very hard work and a very large budget for buying backlinks to accomplish.

Ranking for a term like “1970s rock mp3s” might be much easier – because it’s a long tail.  If the term gets 50 searches per day, and you rank number three, then you might get 20 or 30 hits to your website per day.

If you rank number 30,714 for the term “mp3,” you won’t get any traffic from that at all.  Finding good long tail keywords is very important, because you need those phrases to bring in traffic.

While some marketers shun long-tail keywords, believing they have to rank well for the prime keyword phrases, others are using it to reach a demographic that has money in hand.  Would you rather get traffic from people searching the word “golf” or from someone who types this into Google: “Taylor Made R580XD Titanium Driver?”

The person who gets more specific with their searches is usually someone who’s ready to buy – someone who knows what they want.

The person typing in golf may want to know its history for a project, might want to take a golf vacation, or could be interested in attending a local tournament. That won’t do you any good if your site sells golf clubs, but the long tail phrase will cater to that crowd.

Pick your long tail keywords and phrases carefully.  Separate your broad, generic terms (short tail keywords) from your long-tail phrases so that you can monitor your Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page) positioning and see how your keyword list is performing for you.

Miss Kemya

So, how much time do you spend searching keywords?


Meet the Author

Miss Kemya is a Marketing Strategist and Social Media Manager at Marketing Sparkler, a boutique marketing firm that facilitates the growth of small businesses through offline and online marketing strategies. She provides both consulting and done for you services to brick-and-mortar businesses and digital brands alike.

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