Even if you just started doing SEO, you’ve probably heard of the terms short-tail keyword and long-tail keyword. These buzzwords are used in just about any digital marketing article ever written and are the backbone of search engine optimization.

When creating an SEO strategy, an expert is faced with the tough decision of choosing between these two. They are polar opposites in terms of their volumes and difficulty. While most companies focus on long-tail keywords, there’s also an argument to be made in favor of short-tail counterparts.

In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of short-tail/long-tail keywords, how they affect SEO, and what is the best way to implement them.

Importance of keywords for SEO

Keywords consist of one or several words. When we create content for our blog, we do so by focusing on a specific keyword. For example, an SEO blog should cover topics such as “link-building”, “keyword research”, and “guest posts”.

Each one of these phrases has a certain number of monthly searches, which we refer to as “volume”. As you can presume, it’s much better to pursue keywords that have high volume, as you want to get as much web traffic as possible.

The other aspect of keywords is “difficulty”. This pertains to quantitative and qualitative competition that you have to overtake to reach top spots in search engine results.

When assessing the potential of a keyword, we put these two metrics side by side. Ideally, you’re looking to create articles revolving around topics that have high volumes and low difficulty. That way, you can quickly increase the number of unique visitors to your site with minimal effort.

And with that, we come to short-tail and long-tail keywords.

What are short-tail keywords?

Short-tail keywords are phrases that consist of one or two words. For many SEO experts, ranking at the top of SERPs for one of these is considered a crown achievement of their careers. These are the most commonly money-driving phrases that can completely change the outlook of your company.

Here are their main features:

  • Extremely high volume
  • Extremely high difficultly
  • General phrases that have lower conversion rates
  • Can be informative in nature
  • Usually at the top of the sales funnel

The biggest benefit of short-tail keywords is that they can help drive massive organic traffic to your site. Furthermore, if you manage to rank for one of them, this means that you have a healthy website with lots of links.

Short-tail keywords can also make it easier to rank for specific long-tail phrases. Although they’re not as highly converting, they can provide numerous direct and indirect benefits.

What are long-tail keywords?

As you can presume, long-tail keywords consist of three or more phrases. They are extremely specific, drive less traffic, and are easier to rank in SERPs. Examples of long-tail keywords include “link-building in 2023“, “SEO for moving companies“, and “finding guest post opportunities”.

Here are their main features:

  • Low to medium volume
  • Low to medium difficultly
  • Specific phrases that have high conversion rates
  • Address a particular topic in detail
  • Usually, at the bottom of the customer funnel

When a person types in a long-tail keyword, they’re usually well-acquainted with the topic. They’re probably looking for answers to questions or are looking to make a purchase. While long-tail keywords have a much lower volume, they’re generally better converting.

Most companies focus on these phrases, as it’s extremely hard to rank for short-tail keywords.

Also read: Guide on Top of the Funnel, Middle of the Funnel and Bottom of the Funnel content

Long tail keywords vs. short tail keywords

If you’re a small website that just started doing business, it will be really hard to rank for short-term phrases. Even if you’re one of the first players within an industry, there’s a good chance other sites have a firm grasp of these topics.

So, it’s much better to start creating posts that revolve around long-tail phrases. These ones can quickly drive traffic to your pages, which is crucial for business sustainability. In the end, if you can’t make any money for several years, you’ll likely go under.

Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t rank at the top of search engine results pages for short-tail keywords. It’s just that you’ll need a few years to do so. In many cases, the ability to rank these phrases reflects the health of your site. In other words, you have to be one of the most reputable, authoritative sources around.

If you wish to learn more about the topic, we also suggest that you read this LSI keywords article.

Best way to discover short-tail and long-tail keywords

After finding your optimal approach, it’s time to brainstorm some keyword ideas.

If you’ve been in the industry for a while, you probably know what your target audience is looking for. You need to understand search intent to create articles that would cater to their needs.

However, keep in mind that not all phrases are made the same. Some of them will have informational, while others will be conversion focused. For example, any phrase that has the word “buy” in it is considered a highly converting keyword.

The second important consideration is the location. You should always try to optimize for the local market. Always remember that phrasing in the US, the UK, and Australia can be completely different. So, this is another thing that can impact your SEO strategy.

To perform keyword research, you need to use various free and paid SEO tools. Keep in mind that all of these focus on Google, so you’ll need something different for other search engines. Here are a few great options:

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is the essential SEO tool that you’ll use just about every day. It gives users a lot of valuable insights, including keyword rankings and demographic data. Not only can you use it for your own platform, but it’s also fantastic for checking how the competition is doing.

Google Ads

If you’re running paid campaigns, you need to rely on data in Google Ads. The tool shows you how much people are willing to bid for specific keywords. This is basically their “monetary” value on the free market. If a keyword is expensive, this usually shows it can significantly help your website sales.

Specialized SEO tools

There are numerous SEO tools on the market that extrapolate data from Google’s software and use it for keyword planning. AhRefs and SEMRush are probably the two biggest names that come to mind. They are fantastic for assessing the volume and difficulty of various keywords. You can also check other data, such as keyword potential.

Answer the public

Answer the public is a free, nifty tool that shows you what kind of questions people ask regarding a specific topic. For example, it combines your phrase with words such as “what,” “who, and “when” to give you various suggestions. Although not as valuable as data from AhRefs and Google Search Console, it can help you during content creation.

Google SERPs

When you use Google, there are a few small tools that can help you with your search queries. Things such as Autocomplete and Related Searches can be of great value. Autocomplete works as you type, providing numerous keyword suggestions (autocompleting your sentences). Related Searches are on the bottom, and it shows you similar terms to the one you googled.

Google Trends

If you’re looking to make short-term wins, the best way to do so is by using Google Trends. This free tool shows you what people are searching for in different regions over a period of time. The tool doesn’t show actual search traffic numbers but the percentage value of how keyword popularity increased or decreased. It’s fantastic for finding trending topics.

How to find the right keywords?

Subscribing to AhRefs is easy. The hard thing is getting tangible results from its use.

Every SEO company has certain methods they use when researching keywords. These are usually things that stay in-house and are rarely shared online. However, the MiroMind team is willing to share a few tricks:

  • If you’re a small company, it’s much better to start with long-tail keyword searches.
  • Subscribe to Ahrefs or SEMRush. Although Google Search Console can be of great assistance, these tools are much better for finding topic ideas (to use Search Console for your keyword research you already need to have some organic visibility and traffic).
  • When choosing relevant keywords, focus on those that are easy to rank for. Both AhRefs and SEMRush have keyword difficulty scores that go from 0 to 100. To find long-tail keywords, focus on phrases that are in the green zone (up to 20).
  • Analyze the competition yourself by checking Google search results for that particular phrase. Are the first spots taken by major companies? If so, it’s highly unlikely that a brand-new company can overtake them in rankings.
  • Also, make sure that these phrases have at least 1,000 monthly searches. It would be even better if you could find some phrases that provide several thousand visits.
  • Think about local search volume and global volume. Are you only focused on traffic from one country, or you’re looking for leads from various parts of the world?
  • Check the CPC (cost-per-click). It’s a good indication of the keyword’s commercial value.
  • You should consider the commercial intent of a particular phrase. Focusing too much on informative articles won’t help your sales.
  • Is the keyword seasonal, evergreen, or just currently trending? Ideally, you should find evergreen phrases as they can continue providing results over time.

With these simple tips, you should find the optimal phrases for your site.

Keep in mind that keyword research isn’t a static process. These numbers fluctuate all the time, and you’ll probably have to revise the list over and over again.

Do you need an SEO services agency to help you with keyword research? If so, contact MiroMind today!

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