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Long Tail and Short Tail Keywords, What’s the Difference?

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Long Tail and Short Tail Keywords

In today’s sophisticated digital marketing sphere, keywords can no longer be stuffed haphazardly into blog content or pay-per-click ads. Modern keywords are carefully researched and strategically integrated into high-quality content. Typically, however, these keywords fall under one of two main categories: long tail and short tail. Read on to learn more about long tail and short tail keywords — and to determine which is the best fit for your digital marketing campaign:

Word Count

It’s no secret that word count is a key difference between long tail and short tail keywords, but confusion remains regarding how long, exactly, each type of keyword should be. Typically, short tail strategy maintains a cap of just three words. While the long tail category includes any search above three words, most long tail keywords feature between four and six words.

Search Volume

Short tail keywords tend to attract a higher volume of searches than long tail. This can be positive; the right short tail keyword can generate considerable traffic organically, particularly if a given page achieves a high ranking on Google. Unfortunately, short tail’s impressive volume can also mean additional competition, making it far more difficult to score that coveted first page spot in Google search results.

Targeted Versus Broad Searches

Short tail keywords are typically utilized in broad searches, as specificity can be tricky to accomplish with just three words. Each additional word allows for a much narrower and therefore better-targeted result. The risk with long tail keywords, of course, is getting too specific and eventually cutting potential website visitors out of search results altogether.

Click-Through and Conversion Rates

Long tail keywords tend to deliver a greater return on investment in terms of both click-through and conversion rates. With click-through, the ROI boost can mostly be attributed to reduced competition, while higher conversions can be attributed to better user targeting.

Natural Voice

Long tail keywords can sound unnatural if not incorporated well into content. It’s easy to integrate two or three words, but a four or five-word phrase can easily sound forced if included in the wrong sentence. Sophisticated users demand an authentic voice; they will quickly abandon pages stuffed with lengthy or awkward keywords. Q&A-style content may provide a viable workaround by incorporating long tail keywords in titles and subheadings that sound natural.

Voice Versus Text-Based Searches

Web users increasingly rely on Siri, Alexa, and other voice-based search services to transcribe their requests. Typically, these searches take question form. Smartphone users probably won’t ask “Siri, Denver garage door?” Instead, they’ll use specific, natural phrasing such as: “Siri, how can I find a deal on garage door repairs in Denver?” Hence, long tail keywords can be more mobile-friendly than their short tail counterparts. This understanding is key as experts anticipate that over half of searches will be voice-based by 2020.

Long tail and short tail keywords both play a critical role in web optimization strategy. Ideal keyword length can vary considerably based on your platform, your targeted audience, and the concepts conveyed by selected keywords. Effective marketing means striking the perfect balance between long tail and short tail; achieve this and you’ll see immediate improvements in your search campaign’s ROI.

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