Home SEO Long-tailed vs Short tailed Keywords: Comparison of their Efficiency

Long-tailed vs Short tailed Keywords: Comparison of their Efficiency


SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a tricky business for the fact that Google just keeps on moving the goal posts. Again and again they keep changing what we should and shouldn’t do, and now that the Google Hummingbird update is out it seems that the search engine results may start evolving via the type of content web masters put on to it.
The efficiency of long and short tailed keywords is now up for question, especially since some people think the Google Hummingbird update is going to do away with long-tailed keywords and maybe even the reliance on keywords we have. Here is a quick comparison of short and long tailed keywords.

What is a short tailed keyword?

It is just another name for a keyword, although that term is also confusing. A keyword may also be a key phrase as there may be more than one word in it. “Homes in Atlanta” is technically a keyword and key phrase (making it a short tailed keyword too); just like the words “Homes” and “Atlanta” are keywords in themselves.

What is a long-tailed keyword?

A long-tailed keyword is more like a phrase that could be mistaken for a fuller search engine query. Using the example above, “Homes in Atlanta” is a short tailed keyword, whereas “Cheap homes in Atlanta” or “Cheap homes for sale in Atlanta” are long-tailed keywords. Can you see how the long-tailed keyword may be a full search query? You can imagine how someone may just type “Cheap homes for sale in Atlanta” into the search engine and click to search.

One is more efficient at tight targeting

A long-tailed keyword is more descriptive, which means it is better at targeting. A person typing in “Cheap homes for sale in Atlanta” is going to get more targeted results than a person who just uses “Homes in Atlanta.” As you can imagine, if you happen to have the same long-tailed keyword on your web page then whoever searches for a similarly specific web page are going to find you.

One is more efficient at pulling more traffic

The short tailed keyword are more popular, and part of that is because they are used more often. It is difficult to explain, but when a person types in a keyword such as “homes in Atlanta” along with other words, then they are typing in a more popular phrase. It is even present within a long-tailed keyword such as “Cheap homes for sale in Atlanta.” There are going to be more people using the shorter keywords than the longer keywords, even though when they use shorter search terms they make their results vaguer.

Some long-tailed keywords are rarely ever used

If you were to try the Google AdWords keyword tool and plug in a few long-tailed keywords, Google would tell you to never use them because they are never searched for. You can take this advice if you wish, it is up to you, but the fact is that long-tailed keywords are searched for far less than shorter keywords.

Some long-tailed keywords can put you ahead of your competition

If you do just happen upon a long-tailed keyword that brings you traffic, then it is going to bring you very targeted traffic, which means the traffic is going to be glad to see you there on the search engine results. If you happen to have that special long-tailed keyword that matches the query that your target customers are using, then you will also find yourself very high up the search engine results pages for that query.

Shorter keywords have more competition

There are more people using them on the search engines, so it stands to reason that you are going to have more competition for them. That is why it is so difficult to rank up through the search engine results when you use shorter-phrase or single keywords only.

Shorter keywords attract less targeted visitors

As explained above, if the keyword phrase is shorter then it is open to more of an interpretation. For example, the “Homes in Atlanta” keyword may mean resting homes, funeral homes, homes to rent, homes to buy, and so on. And, if you are just selling houses then you can see how your appearing in the search engine results is going to cause a muddle because most people who are doing the searching do not want you. On the other hand, if you ran your entire website with long-tailed keywords then long-tailed keywords could have you waiting forever for a bit of traffic.


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