Keyword optimization is the first thing digital marketers focus on when they develop a marketing strategy. These keywords have a lot of power in determining how websites are ranked on SERPs. They are a major driving force behind the kind of traffic that comes to your website naturally and via backlinks.
However, you cannot just blindly use any keyword in the content you create. Websites that use keywords without paying any attention to their relevance experience low traffic numbers and high bounce rates. Visitors do not engage with the content on a website or blog if it is irrelevant to their query.
Here’s where a sound knowledge of keyword classification comes in handy. While some keywords can redirect large droves of visitors to your site, others can help you score more conversions. And some will do neither. This post will help you understand two broad categories of keywords and the difference in the traffic they can bring to your website.
In any case, it is always advisable to understand your target audience’s search intent and the keywords that they are most likely to use in search engines. You can also use online tools to identify high-ranking keywords for optimal results. For instance, see this keyword checker; it can easily import a keyword list within a fraction of a second. When you go through the list, you will notice that some keywords have three words or less, while others might have more than three words. Both of these keywords or phrases are vital for a successful SEO strategy.
There are two basic types of keywords. These are:
As the name suggests, short-tail keywords have three words or less. They offer users a broader search result. They are also known as ‘head terms.’ Examples of a short-tail keyword include ‘cute homemade cupcakes,’ ‘best Chinese food,’ or ‘mosques.’ Short-tail keywords are the most widely searched keywords per month and account for 20% of overall searches on the internet.
Long-tail keywords have more than three words. So they are more specific than the short-tail keywords. Therefore any traffic that these keywords bring to your site will most probably remain there.
Long-tail keywords refine your search. Recall the example we gave for a short-tail keyword above. A search for ‘cute homemade cupcakes’ created almost 34,500,000 search results. These included pictures of cupcakes, recipes, and vendor listings. But what if you were looking for stores that sell cute homemade cupcakes in the Bay Area or any place near you? In that case, you need to change the words and specify your search terms. Search for ‘cute homemade cupcakes for sale in the bay area.’ This search result yields 3,490,000 search results with the addresses of the best cake shops in San Francisco. As you can see, long-tail keywords produce more relevant results to the search query and account for 70% of all web searches.
Chris Anderson first coined the term in his book titled The Long-tail. The tail in either term is a reference to a concept in statistics. It refers to the proximity of the data distribution from the ‘head.’ So, short-tail keywords appear in the ‘fat head’ of the graph on the number of keywords and frequency of monthly searches.
How do both keywords affect website traffic?
There is no doubt in the fact that both keywords are vital to your SEO strategy. However, understanding the subtle difference in the kind of traffic they bring to your website can be a game-changer.
Short-tail keywords generate the most traffic. The length of the keyword is inversely relational to the traffic volume. As they are the broadest search category with words related to generalized search queries, more people use them in search engines. This includes people from a vast set of demographics that are difficult to target with a singular strategy. Marketers would eventually have to study traffic analytics to break website visitors down into more sizeable target audiences.
Additionally, because they generate large volumes of traffic, there is more competition. Resultantly, it is almost impossible for smaller companies to rank with short-tail keywords alone. Therefore, well-established businesses or websites with a high domain authority often find these keywords more useful.
It is also essential to understand that people use small tail keyword searches to find general information on a subject matter. This is often the first step of research before an internet user finds exactly what they are looking for.
Though this category of keywords generates high amounts of traffic, the chances of generating leads, conversions, and possible revenue are low. Both low profitability and high competition significantly increase the marketing and operational costs of using these keywords in paid content. Google AdWords charges marketers a lot of money to rank with short-tail keywords compared to long-tail keywords. Therefore it is best to choose short-tail keywords wisely before you pay through your teeth for ranking with them.
The volume of traffic generated with long-tail keywords is limited. As mentioned earlier, long-tail keywords target a specific target audience looking for a particular product, service, or type of content. People will generally use long-tail keywords after using short-tail keywords in the quest for more information. Therefore, the traffic tends to be more concentrated in terms of demographics. Long-tail keywords are an excellent choice for location-based services and products, or if you’re operating in a niche market.
Additionally, this also helps to decrease your website’s bounce rate. However, on the flip side, users who search for shot tail keywords will not find your webpage. This can be both and advantage or disadvantage depending on your niche
As traffic is limited, the competition for ranking such keywords is also low. So there is a higher chance of attracting the right target audience to your website. These keywords work best for newer companies and small businesses. Large volumes of generic keywords will not drown your company.
Since long-tail keywords create more relevance and are used by people further into the decision-making process, they are more likely to generate conversions. The traffic knows what it wants, and it is ready to click on a CTA to make an investment. Subsequently, the cost of conversion is low.
Long-tail keywords are creating a buzz in the industry for their high conversion and retention rates. However, many SEO experts swear by short-tail keywords. So, which should you use in your SEO strategy? The answer is simple; use both. Long-tail keywords bring your target audience to your webpage, while short-tail keywords increase online visibility and brand awareness. A well-rounded, comprehensive strategy uses all the tools available to connect with customers and maximize ROI.