If you’re a small business owner with limited experience in search engine optimization (SEO), you may be scratching your head over the terms “short tail” and “long tail” keywords. Perhaps you are wondering whether they’re relevant to your business. The short answer is yes. A good understanding of these SEO terms is crucial to getting more quality traffic from the search engines. Quality traffic is visitors who convert on your website, whether that means buying your products, using your services, joining your newsletter or whatever action you want them to take.

Short Tail Keywords

Short tail keywords are simple one or two-word phrases such as “dress shoes” or “skiing.” These keywords can bring a ton of traffic to your website if you got a top ranking for them in the search engines. At first glance, it seems that ranking well for keywords that can bring you thousands of visitors a day is a desirable thing. However, there are two reasons this is a bad SEO strategy. First, it may take years, if ever, to beat the competition for these phrases.

The second and most important reason, is that most of the traffic using short tail keywords aren’t relevant to your business. For example, if you provided a dog training service for chronic barking, a top rank for the keyword “dog,” will bring traffic who are interested in looking at dog pictures or perhaps school kids doing research on them.

If you ranked well for “dog training,” this still doesn’t narrow down the searcher’s intent enough to get a good conversion rate. Many of the visitors aren’t local to your area and may be interested in a different type of training. The poor conversion rate isn’t worth the effort and money invested in ranking for short tail keywords.

Long Tail Keywords

Longer search phrases are called long tail keywords. The more words in a search phrase, the more information it contains. This makes it easier to discern the searcher’s intent. If you select long tail keywords with a search intent that indicates a desire for your products or services, the traffic brought to your website are good business prospects.

Sometimes the intent isn’t a perfect fit, but is close enough so that regular exposure to your blog or newsletter will eventually make them customers. For example, people looking to improve their golf putt may not initially be interested in buying a new golf club. However, your golf putting tutorials might make references to one of your clubs that improves putting accuracy. This may convince some to buy your club.

In any case, long tail keywords are easier to rank for than short tail, and convert well if you select the right ones. Although they don’t bring as much traffic as sort tail keywords, there are more of them for you to target.

If you want to learn more about search engine optimization, or have any questions, we can help. Contact us today.