When it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) — often our clients have a list of keywords that they think are relevant to their business and that these keywords will be the most successful keywords for their business. The truth is — it’s not that simple.

First, while these keywords may sound like a perfect fit for your business, proper keyword research must be done in order to determine if there is any demand for these keywords. Second, you must survey the competitive landscape and assess whether or not you have the resources and budget to effectively compete with the incumbents.

What is a “short tail” and “long tail” keyword?

A short tail keyword is a brief phrase, typically one to three words long, used as a query in a Google search (or Bing.. hah!) by a user. An example of a short tail keyword would be if a user searched for “cars” in an effort to find a car for sale. Short tail keywords are typically extremely high volume meaning a lot of people are searching for these keywords, although this also means that there are often many competitors trying to rank for these keywords and unless you have a competitive budget or influential online presence, these keywords will be incredibly difficult to rank for.

An example of a short-tail keyword Google search "cars"
An example of a short-tail keyword Google search “cars”

A “long tail” keyword is a Google search of a longer phrase, typically three to five words long (or more). An example of this would be a user searching for “2018 Honda Civic for sale in Los Angeles”. These keywords typically have less search volume than their short form counterparts but often are much easier to rank for.

Long tail Google search for "2018 Honda Civic for sale in Los Angeles"
Long tail Google search for “2018 Honda Civic for sale in Los Angeles”

Due to the difficulty of ranking for short tail keywords, we often recommend starting out with an immediate strategy of ranking for long tail keywords while setting long term marketing goals on reaching those short tail keywords. We recommend this strategy for many reasons which ultimately we believe will be most successful for our clients.

Long tail keywords are easier to rank for

Since there is often less competition, longer search phrases are typically easier to rank for. Rather than competing with global industry giants who have a seemingly unlimited budget, you are competing with a much smaller pool of players, often in a more narrow and less competitive environment. Although these long tail keywords typically have less search volume, they can still be incredibly profitable for your business. If your business is on a regular posting schedule, which is necessary to bear fruit from your SEO efforts, you’ll start seeing results within a few months (or sooner as we’ve seen with our clients).

Long tail keywords typically show buyer intent

This one is more or less common sense but often overlooked. If you think about our previous example, a user interested in buying a Honda Civic, she is much more likely to find a business to buy her shiny new vehicle from a long tail keyword such as “2018 Honda Civic for sale in Los Angeles”, which will provide her with a number of local dealers to contact. From a short tail keyword, for example, “cars”, she most likely will not be presented with a vehicle she’s remotely interested in and even less likely, a dealer to purchase the vehicle she wants.

We believe that for these reasons, long tail keywords are better for business to generate revenue for products and services that are related to the content they are producing and rank for. By ranking for long tail keywords with more buyer intent, you are reaching an audience who is much closer to their purchase decision and, hopefully, who purchase from your business!

Long tail keywords support your short tail goals

Not only are long tail keywords easier to rank for and indicate more buyer intent leading to a purchase, but the content you provide which ranks for these long tail keywords will often boost the rankings of your short tail keywords with much greater volume! There are many factors which contribute to your search rankings but a primary indicator is supportive, relevant information on your website with a strategy of deep internal linking to provide your users which an informative and pleasant user experience.

By curating content around short tail keywords, and creating a system of internal links, your content will improve your ranking for these hard to rank short tail keywords. For example, if you publish content around the topics of car sales and buyer information, ranking for relevant long tail keywords, you’ll start seeing improvements in your short tail keywords!

Conclusion

Man on laptop looking at Google Analytics

Short tail keywords are difficult to rank for and often require a massive budget, time, and influence. Long tail keywords are easier to rank for, often target users with buyer intent, and support your long term goals. SEO is a long term strategy and requires the expertise, insight, and persistence of any marketing campaign. Once you start generating more traffic through search engines, it is important to capture and engage that audience and create conversations and qualified leads through a customer relationship management platform to facilitate your online strategy, improve your sales process, and ensure the success of your business online!

Have questions? Need help? Would you like to learn more about SEO and digital marketing? Contact us today and we’re more than happy to chat!

Author
Bryan Miller

Bryan Miller is an entrepreneur and web enthusiast specializing in web design, development and digital marketing. He is currently attending the fully-employed MBA program at the University of California, Irvine. Feel free to send Bryan a message here.

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