Long Tail vs. Short Tail Keywords: Why You Need Both

William Baker
5 min readAug 29, 2018

Search Engine Optimisation is a critical part of a successful digital marketing strategy.

While companies are finding new ways to generate traffic through social media and word of mouth marketing, search engines still drive the majority of the organic movement online. In 2017, people made 1.2 trillion searches on Google worldwide.

While there are many different components to successful SEO, one of the most important of all, is the right #KeywordStrategy.

Your keywords are what fuel your SEO. These terms are how you and your customers identify your business, and how you make sure that you’re getting in front of the right customers online.

The question is, how do you use the right keywords in your SEO campaign?

What are Long and Short Tail Keywords?

Keywords are the terms and phrases that people look for when they’re searching for your website, product, or company. There are various kinds of keywords, including:

  • Head terms, seed keywords, or “Short tail” keywords: The broad one or two-word phrases you use to describe yourself: i.e. “Branding company”.
  • Body keywords: 2–3-word phrases with “decent” search volume: i.e., “Digital Marketing Services”.
  • Long tail keywords: Low search volume phrases with high degrees of specificity: i.e. “London Logo Design Company”.

As digital marketing trends continue to change, “long tail” keywords have skyrocketed in popularity. Long tail keywords are more specific, which mean that you get a more targeted audience when you rank for them. Additionally, long tail keywords are easier to rank for, because they’re not as competitive as “head terms,” even though half of all search queries are longer than four words.

While long tail keywords are more targeted, they also deliver less traffic overall, and they can be quite hard to find if you’re not used to keyword research. On the other hand, short tail keywords are broader terms — often the first thing a customer thinks of when looking for your product or service.

If you’re searching for a lot of traffic, then #ShortTailKeywords give you the broad reach you need. However, they also come with more competition and risk of “generic” traffic. In other words, you get a lot of visitors, but not necessarily many customers.

How to Make the Most of your Short Tail Keywords

Getting the best results out of your marketing strategy means learning how to blend long tail and short tail keywords effectively.

Both #SeedKeywords and long tail keywords have a role to play in your SEO. Here’s how to make sure that you’re using each option correctly:

1. Use Seed Keywords to Guide your SEO Strategy

In the argument of long tail vs. short tail keywords, think of your “long tail” terms as the narrow focus points in your content, while your seed terms are the “broad” categories you need to look at. Both play their part in your path to a better presence online, but you’ll need to start with your broad terms to help you navigate where you’re going to go with your campaigns.

For instance, knowing that one of your short tail keywords is “Digital Marketing” opens up the door to dozens of long tail keyword opportunities. You can build off your short tail terms by looking at things like the location of your target audience, your customer’s pain points, and the terms your competitors are ranking for.

2. Know How to Place Both Long Tail and Short Tail Keywords

#KeywordResearch is only the first step in a successful keyword strategy. You also need to figure out how you can effectively place your keywords throughout your online campaigns. Keyword placement can be difficult, because if you use your terms too often Google may penalise you for “spammy” content.

There are plenty of great ways that you can combine long tail and short tail keywords in your content marketing strategy. For instance, if your long tail keyword was “How to create a brand logo,” you can place that in a blog post title, and use your short tail keyword in the permalink: www.YourWebsite.com/blog/brand-logo.

Short tail keywords also work well in alt tags, meta tags, and social media updates.

3. Always Give your Customers What They’re Looking for

Finally, remember not to get so caught up in your #SEOStrategy that you end up losing sight of the big picture.

Whether you’re using short tail or long tail keywords, your primary focus should always be giving your customers what they’re looking for online. Your short seed keywords will help to direct your ideas by giving you categories to explore. On the other hand, your long-tail keywords will help you to dive down into deeper topics, and more targeted content.

Every step of the way, think about how your customers are searching for your brand, and what they’re thinking about during each stage of their buyer journey. This will help to make sure that you don’t waste time on unnecessary keywords.

Keywords: The Long and Short of It

Ultimately, keywords are a critical component in any SEO strategy, and it’s important to remember that there are various types to explore.

For most companies, short tail keywords will be the launching pad for the rest of your SEO strategy, and the guide you use to keep your content campaigns consistent. Your seed terms will also help to act as sources of inspiration when you need help with long tail content marketing.

While short tail keywords are beneficial from a broad traffic generation perspective, long tail keywords give you the chance to connect with your customers on a more emotional level. You’ll need to learn how to use both if you want to stay one step ahead of Google. Fortunately, we can teach you how to do just that in our guide to short tail keywords and seed terms.

To create a sensational SEO strategy, you need various kinds of keywords.

That’s the long and short of it.



William Baker

Digital Marketing Executive of creative agency, Fabrik Brands. With a passion for content, in creation and asset preparation, Will easily keeps readers engaged.