What is a Short Tail Keyword?
Short tail keywords are search phrases with only one or words. Their length makes them less specific than searches with more words.
“Hotel in York” (1 word + location) is an example of a short tail keyword, whereas “Hotel in York with free parking” (6 words) is a long tail keyword.
Individual short tail keywords are searched more often than individual long tail keywords, but highly specific phrases make up the vast majority of search volume.
The term “short tail keyword” is the opposite of a “long tail keyword,” so understanding the term “long tail” informs what is meant by “short tail.”
The descriptor “long tail” is a nod to a concept in statistics that describes a distribution of data which has significant results away from the “head.” In the chart below, the head is in green and the tail is in yellow.
In online advertising, short tail keywords are more competitive. In other words, more advertisers are bidding to place ads on the most popular search engine result pages for shorter, more common phrases.
What are “long tail” keywords and how do they differ?
Long tail keywords tend to draw less traffic because they’re not as popular as better-known “head” terms. “Head” terms, or “short tail” terms, refer to more commonly used words, for example, “running shoes.” These usually tend to be around two words. Because people will likely search those terms more often than “long tail keywords,” they bring in more traffic and are therefore more desirable. “Long tail” keywords, on the other hand, are less popular but are more targeted to specific searches and come with less competition. We’ll illustrate using the following example: “running shoes” versus “order running shoes online.”
What are the benefits?
- More targeted
- Less competitor
- Lower costs
What are the negatives?
- Limiting or limited traffic
- Under using terms that convert
How to find the best keywords for your property and tools to help?
Researching long tail keywords doesn’t differ much from developing other keyword lists.
Using “long tail” keyword phrases should be part of every search engine marketing strategy as well as used in conjunction with some more popular “head” terms when possible. “Short tail”, or “head” terms, help capture searchers who are higher up the funnel, in the research or informational stage, and help bring awareness to your site. Long tail keywords will help capture people who may be looking for something specific and are therefore much more likely to be in the buying stage. The closer you target a person at the buying stage the more likely they are to make a purchase or take another desired action.