Long Tail and Short Tail Keywords

Keywords may be classified as long and short tail (Exhibit 18.4).

Short tail keywords are phrases with only one or two words. They tend to be generic in nature, often pertaining to the category as a whole, for instance “shampoo”, “marketing”, “marketing analytics”, “washing machines”, “condo for rent” etc. Since they generate high search volume, marketers may use these keywords to draw high traffic to their home page. Conversion rates, however, are likely to be low, and, except for the market leaders, it may be difficult to secure a high rank on search result pages.

Long tail and short tail keywords - Examples: SEO
Exhibit 18.5 The short-tail keyword “condo for rent” (above) generates 194 million results, whereas the long-tail keyword (below) yields only 40 results.
Long tail keywords are longer phrases that are more specific in nature. For example “anti-dandruff shampoo”, “marketing analytics for practitioners”, “front-loading low suds washing machines” and “chuan park condo for rent block 242”.

They generate low, but better-targeted search volume that leads to relatively higher conversion rate. They also attract lesser competition. For example, in Exhibit 18.5, a marketing analytics website secures top search ranking for the long tail keywords that distinguish the site’s contents.

The number of keywords to target depends on the nature of your website, and its purpose.

To target large number of keywords, it is preferable to structure the site into multiple layers and pages, each page targeting a few keywords. This would normally also improve the navigation and readability of the site.

Choice of keywords must relate to the page’s role in context of the digital marketing funnel. To attract prospects, one should consider short tail, generic keywords, as well as some long tail phrases. On the other hand, it is better to use mainly long tail keywords for leads and customers.

Marketers should use short tail, category descriptive keywords to drive traffic to their home page, and long tailed keywords to direct customers to product pages where the likelihood of conversion is higher.

Less established companies should aim for long tail keywords that better describe the unique features of their product offering, to score higher ranking on search engines. These companies are compelled to advertise for short tail keywords.