Between short-tail and long-tail keywords, which is the most effective for SEO?

Dibbyyan Nath
9 Min Read

So, you want to rank highly on a search result page, divert a lot of traffic to your website and increase the clicks to your blog. A successful SEO strategy depends heavily on optimizing keywords. Keywords are the buzzwords that can direct traffic to your website and increase your ranking on a search result page. To achieve this finding high converting keywords are essential. A report by Ahrefs states that 92% of all keywords get less than 10 searches per month, making it crucial to harness keywords’ power in your SEO strategy.

While researching keywords, you would have come across two types of keywords: the short tail keyword and the long tail keyword. Short tail keywords consist of general search queries made up of 1 or 2 keywords. They are very generic; hence they attract high search volumes. On the other hand, long-tail keywords are more specific, containing 3 or more keywords by attracting lower traffic volumes.

Let’s Understand In-depth About The Two Types of Keywords 

Take an analogy of a coffee shop. There is a famous coffee shop in XYZ shopping district, and they want to attract more customers online by selling their renowned coffee roast. Instead of having coffee as their keyword, they should go for long-tail keywords like ‘best coffee roast to buy in XYZ shopping district’. This SEO strategy helps attract customers online who are interested in buying coffee roasts leading to more clicks and conversions.

If they used the generic term coffee as part of their SEO strategy, they would have certainly attracted more traffic volumes, but it wouldn’t have led to more conversions. They would have attracted all kinds of people who want to learn the health benefits of coffee, search for coffee recipes, or are willing to know the history of coffee, etc. It is unlikely these users would have led to conversions. So, using short tail keywords here would attract people who aren’t interested in buying coffee, and they would be wasting their time and yours.

Difference between short tail keywords and long-tail keywords

FactorsShort tail KeywordsLong-tail Keywords
Word Count1-2 words only3 or more words
Search GoalTo find generic informationTo find specific information
Traffic VolumesHigh volumes, poorly targeted traffic leading to lower conversionsLow volumes, high targeted traffic leading to higher conversions
The intent of the searchThe reader is not very sure of what he or she is searching forThe readers are very sure of what they are searching for and have the intention of fulfilling a specific goal
Difference between short tail keywords and long-tail keywords

Now getting well versed with both types is very necessary for fulfilling your website goals. To fully optimize the SEO strategy, one needs to understand these terms better and understand their difference. You need to understand what kind of traffic you want to divert to your website leading to more clicks and conversions.

When to use Short tail keywords?

From the above points discussed, short tail keywords help divert high volume traffic. It mostly depends on your website goals. If you are a seller of laptops online, you can use the keyword ‘laptop’ to generate the most traffic to your website. The competition for short-tail keywords will also be high due to the high traffic volume. When you use the keyword ‘Laptop’, even well-known players in the field like Dell, HP, Lenovo also get listed in the search result pages.

Using short keywords can also get expensive as Google ad words charge a premium for common short search terms. So, suppose you have newly opened your website and want to increase your online presence and sell a generic item like a laptop. In that case, having this keyword as part of your SEO strategy might help raise awareness of your website to users.

Short tail keywords will generate high traffic volume, but your competition will also be increased. The conversion rates might be low as people with all kinds of search intentions will visit your website.

When to use Long tail keywords?

Expanding on the same example, you own a website selling laptops online. But there is one thing you do, which is your specialty, which sets you apart from your competition, that is you sell all kinds of laptops under the same roof. You should provide after-sale service with the best kind of warranties and guarantees on all your laptops. The website on which you sell laptops should provide excellent repair service as well. 

So, you can use long-term keywords as part of the SEO strategy to attract people who want to browse through laptops and like to be assured of their purchases with the guarantees you offer. Your long-tail keywords can be something like this ‘All kinds of laptops with best guarantees’ or ‘Laptops with best prices and guarantees’ or ‘Best priced laptops with excellent repair service.’ 

It would attract customers who want to buy laptops and are interested in the warranties and guarantees you are offering and keen to look at the repair service you provide as mentioned on your website. 

Since you offer something that sets you apart from your competition, long-tail keywords come in handy.

Long-term keywords generate low traffic volume, but there will be less competition at the same time. They will be fewer sellers online selling the same service as you are. The cost is low for long-tail keywords than short-tail keywords as the search terms are more specific. All this leads to more conversion rates, and you will target the traffic who will buy from you.

The Take-Away

There is no simple answer to the question, “Is short tail keyword better or long-tail keyword better?” It all depends on your SEO strategy and the website goals you have envisioned. It would be best if you customize it according to your website plans. No one can say that one is better than the other. The SEO strategy changes according to the time and need of the hour.

One good strategy is to use both short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords. Expanding on the laptop analogy, if you want to attract more customers to your site for recommendation and purchase, then using a generic short tail keyword like ‘laptop’ or ‘best prices’ can be utilized to your advantage to attract potential customers in the future. People who want repair services might also visit your website leading to conversions.

Using long-tail keywords as part of your SEO strategy will also direct customers to your website to buy laptops at reasonable prices. Though the traffic might be low, it will lead to more conversions as you target a specific traffic group to buy a laptop. The short tail keyword is useful in directing the initial traffic to your website, and the people from that group who want to buy will linger on your website leading to conversions. The long-tail keywords are suitable for the long term and create a niche for yourself online.

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Dibbyyan Nath is a well-known entrepreneur, philanthropist, and the Chief Creative Officer of Inteliqo Research and Services. Mr. Nath, over the past two decades, has donned a lot of hats, while writing has remained his first love. Now he aims to express his experiences, as the head of a digital marketing, content creating, and website development company, through his love for writing. To keep up with the young entrepreneur and his thoughts
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