Short Tail vs. Long Tail Keywords: What’s The Difference?

Keywords are one of the most important elements of your approach to SEO. You can think of them as the cornerstone of SEO; without keywords, you won’t rank on Google, and nobody will know where to find your content. With that said, then, it should be obvious that you should be prioritising including the right keywords in your content, learning what kind of keywords your industry targets most often and focusing on them when it comes to building a digital marketing approach.

There are, broadly speaking, two different kinds of keywords. These are “short tail” and “long tail” keywords. You’ve probably heard both of these terms before, especially if you’re experienced in digital marketing, but knowing the difference between them is incredibly important. With the right emphasis on short tail and long tail keywords, you can optimise your content and make sure that it reaches as many people as possible. Here’s a rundown on short tail and long tail keywords and when you should use each.

Short tail keywords

First, let’s begin with short tail keywords. These are essentially broad search terms that consist of just one or two words. Let’s say that your business revolves around selling flowers. “Flower seller” would be a short term keyword, as would “quick flowers” or similar. If the keyword has just a couple of words in it, then it’s a short tail keyword.

As you can probably imagine, short tail keywords tend to be much more competitive on search engines. More people will search for short tail keywords because they’re less specific; broad search terms tend to attract more queries. This means that they result in more traffic, but on the flipside, they’re also more popular, which leads to more competition.

Long tail keywords

By contrast, long tail keywords are phrases that consist of more than a couple of words. “Local flower sellers in Luton” would be a long tail keyword, as would “beginner’s guide to starting a flower shop”. Both of these are long tail keywords because they’re lengthier phrases, searched for by users who want more specific information.

Again, as you can probably guess, long tail keywords usually get less traffic because they’re more specific terms; fewer people are looking for those specific scenarios or search criteria. However, because of that, if you can nail down a long tail keyword, you may well get more traffic in the long run because of how useful your site is for that query.

Are short tail keywords useless?

You might think that because short tail keywords attract a lot more traffic, that makes them useless. However, this is not the case. While you shouldn’t focus specifically on short tail keywords due to the volume of competition surrounding them, you should definitely still try to include them in your content, because the vast majority of your traffic will likely come from short tail keywords.

In any case, short tail keywords relating to your industry are going to be difficult to avoid when you’re constructing content. Let’s take our flower seller example from earlier. If you’re running a flower shop, the phrase “flower shop” is going to be difficult not to include in content, as are phrases like “selling flowers” and simply “flowers”. While you aren’t necessarily going to be able to compete with bigger websites on these terms, including them will still help you to cover all of your SEO bases.

How to come up with long tail keywords

Knowing which long tail keywords to include can be a difficult proposition. After all, if you don’t know exactly what people want to search for, then how can you research a keyword that covers those searches? There are, however, lots of ways that you can come up with long tail keywords that will help your business in the long run. Here are a few methods you can use.

  • Ask people around you. Here’s an idea: ask your friends and family about what they would search for in certain scenarios. Conjure up a situation – a specific flower type for a specific occasion, for example – and then ask your friends, your family, or even yourself what to search for on that occasion. You might well get a long tail keyword you can use.
  • Look at other sites. There’s no shame in looking at your competitors and seeing what they’re doing when it comes to keywords. While you shouldn’t copy them wholesale, adapting certain elements of their long tail keyword approach could help you significantly. 
  • Write content about specific scenarios. One way you can generate long tail keywords is to imagine a scenario, or take one that your customers have experienced repeatedly, and construct content around that scenario. For instance, let’s say you want to talk about flower arrangements for a christening. That’s a good long tail keyword, and you can build content around that keyword, which may give you ideas for other keywords related to the subject!

We hope this guide on long tail and short tail keywords has been useful. Mixing your approach and using a combination of both is the best way to build organic content that ranks on search engines; if you don’t have short tail keywords, your site will lack the general appeal that it needs, but if you don’t have long tail keywords, then you also won’t be able to compete with bigger sites that already have more traffic than you.

Join Our Newsletter

Elevate Your SEO Knowledge: Subscribe for Monthly Insights!