Long tail keywords will always be more effective than short tail and the reasons for that are many. Here I’ll focus on the 5 major benefits you’ll enjoy when adjusting your targeting strategy in accordance with the new trends in internet user behavior. What’s important to understand is that these benefits apply not only to online shops and company websites but also to content websites and blogs. So whenever the question is long tail keywords vs. short tail, the answer is the same: the longer, the better.
What are Long Tail Keywords?
Long tail keywords are keyword combinations of 3-4 or more words you’d like to optimize your pages for. Usually you’ll try to match popular search queries or describe your offer as precisely as possible. Of course, in some cases you’ll have to modify the keyword combination, you’d like to use, as search queries can contain unnatural phasing as new training shoes buy or similar that is difficult to include on a page or as a page title.
So, to exemplify the difference between regular and long tail keywords, imagine that you’re offering advice for people with sensitive skin. If you choose to optimize for skin, sensitive or sensitive skin, you’ll be implementing short tail keywords strategy.
If you, on the other hand, choose to optimize for something like problems with sensitive skin or protecting sensitive skin in the summer, you’ll be implementing long tail keyword strategy.
So – long tail keywords vs. short tail – what’s in for you?
The 5 Major Benefits of Long Tail Keywords
Less but more relevant search traffic
When targeting with a single word or a very popular two-word phrase (such as “sensitive skin”, for example), your pages get shown in relation to a wide variety of search queries, some of which aren’t at all relevant to your actual content. For your blog or website this means high bounce rates due to people clicking on your link and expecting to find something completely different. In the same time you might observe quite low conversion rates.
If you choose to optimize for long tail keywords, your blog or website won’t appear in as many search results as otherwise but it’ll appear in relation to focused and highly relevant search queries (“summer care for sensitive skin”, for example). Thus, people who click on your link will most likely find your content relevant and won’t bounce. From a SEO point of view this means higher score.
The fact that you’ll be losing some traffic – in some cases quite a lot of traffic – due to switching to long tail keyword optimization shouldn’t worry you as most of the lost website visitors will likely have bounced anyways. The only case, where such a strategy doesn’t make sense, is when a specific page on purpose targets wide to afterwards distribute traffic amongst more focused subpages.
No matter whether you’re simply trying to rank higher in organic search or adjusting your ads’ targeting, short keywords mean more competition and – in the case of advertising – higher cost. The reason is that each word on a certain blog or website page is counted as a keyword. It’s importance is then derived from the frequency with which it appears and from the frequency with which synonyms or contextual synonyms appear in content and metadata.
In reality this means that you’d be competing with all pages or blog posts out there mentioning the word you’d like to optimize for. Here’s why it becomes really difficult – and expensive – to rank for a single word.
If you choose to optimize for long tail keywords, you’ll only be competing against those who use the same or similar phrasing. While this doesn’t sound so good, it makes in fact a great difference. Costs for advertising will fall dramatically – plus the efficiency of your ads will increase – and your content will come much higher in search results.
It’s important to understand that optimizing for long tail keywords in itself isn’t a miracle strategy. If your content isn’t good enough or you’re in a highly competitive field, you’ll of course achieve less by implementing such a strategy than someone with better content or in a less competitive field. You will, however, in any case see improvement in your metrics.
Long tail keywords vs. short tail and the decision-making process
When consumers need something, they go through a 5-step decision-making process starting with recognizing a need or a problem and ending with purchase/solution and evaluation of the experience. When optimizing for short tail keywords, you target basically everyone who’s at some stage in the process.
For example, if you write a blog where you review different travel destinations, you’d like to reach out to those interested in researching and evaluating different travel destinations. If you, however, only optimize for something like travel or resort, your blog will appear in relation to all possible remotely related search queries and it’ll be competing with travel agencies, hotels, airlines, etc. for the top positions in search results.
If you, on the other hand, optimize for long tail keywords, such as reviews of resorts in Greece or best/cheapest/most popular hotels on Hawaii, you’ll be targeting the right group of internet users – those looking for information about something specific. The result will be higher rankings due to the high relevance of your content, less bounces, and better SEO score.
Ranking by following the search trend
As search engines try to provide as relevant results to users as at all possible, they aim to match search queries with available web pages. In the SEO world it’s known that the closest match to a search query – in combination with other factors, of course – wins the first spots in search results. Thus, it’s important to research and follow search queries’ wording when choosing what phrases to optimize for.
In the past when search engines weren’t able to make sense of natural language, people often used one or two individual keywords when looking for something. Some might still remember “the revolutionary” function Search among results which allowed you to narrow the scope of your search considerably.
Luckily for all of us, these times are over now. Search engines are smart enough to make sense of longer phrases and full sentences as How to write good blog posts, for example. They are in the same time smart enough to match this search query with the best result available.
It’s therefore important that you not only write about good blog posts but also make it clear to search engines that this is what you’re focusing on. To achieve that you have to optimize for long tail keywords that both describe your content as precise as possible and do it in a way matching often used search queries.
More volume=better ranking
Optimizing for long tail keywords affects the number of people seeing your links in search and thus clicking on it. Therefore many bloggers and online shops use a strategy where one product or one piece of content is presented on multiple pages optimized for different phrases. This way they attract more traffic by changing the focus of content or offering a different type of benefit for viewing their pages (price, quality, popularity, etc.).
As a bonus to the more and very relevant traffic you get this way, creating multiple pages affects positively your SEO score. Search engines consider websites with many pages for better than such with only a few. Thus, if you only have one product – and one page you’re displaying it on – you’ll be losing on many fronts. If you, though, take a strategic approach and promote your product to different target groups by optimizing for various long tail keywords, you’ll be able to not only reach all that might be interested in your product, you’ll also score points with search engines resulting in higher positions in search results.
Long Tail Keywords vs. Short Tail – What to Choose?
In this post I discussed the 5 major benefits you’d enjoy if you switch from short tail to long tail keywords optimization. It’s basically always a good idea to do it. Short tail strategy makes only sense for those who can’t figure out how to handle long tail and those who already have optimized for keywords that seem to be working for them. There’re always benefits when adjusting strategy in accordance with the best practice but remember the old saying, which is quite popular in contemporary marketing as well: if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
Coming up soon: How to implement an efficient long tail keyword strategy