Short-tail vs. Long-tail Keywords: A Comprehensive Guide

Choosing the right keywords for your website is an essential component of a successful Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy.

But which keywords should you use for your website among short-tail vs. long-tail?

Worry not.

Our short-tail vs. long-tail keywords guide will help you decide which keywords are right for your business, and how you can use them to your advantage.

After all, your keywords can improve the visibility of your website in the SERPs and ensure your content reaches the right audience at the right time.

So, knowing the difference between short-tail and long-tail keywords can help you create an effective keyword strategy.

Let’s understand them in detail.

Short-Tail vs. Long-Tail Keywords: Understanding the Two

All businesses want to learn how to get on the first page of Google. Optimizing your website with the right keywords can help you get you there.

But for that, it’s important to have a basic understanding of short-tail and long-tail keywords and how you can use each of them to your advantage.

What are Short-Tail Keywords?

Also known as “head terms”, short-tail keywords are search terms that typically contain one to two words. They are general and broad in nature which makes them more competitive as they are searched for more frequently. These terms typically have huge volumes.

For example, “running shoes” is a short-tail keyword. When you search for this term on Google, you get an enormous amount of results within seconds.

Image via Google

Although short-tail keywords receive a lot of traffic, the generic search may not cater to the specific search intent. This means you may not attract your target or niche audience to your website using short-tail keywords.

What are Long-Tail Keywords?

Long-tail keywords are made up of three or more words and are generally more specific than short-tail keywords.

They are more descriptive to match specific user intent and attract a niche audience to your website who may be interested in your product.

Image via Google

A user looking for ‘affordable running shoes for flat feet’ is more likely to come across your website and make a purchase compared to someone searching for the more generic term “running shoes”.

Short-Tail vs. Long-Tail Keywords: What’s the Difference?

Now that you’ve got an understanding of the basic differences between short-tail vs. long-tail keywords, let’s dig deeper.

Search Volume

Long-tail keywords have a lower search volume as compared to short-tail keywords. That said, the volume is highly targeted, meaning they’re the best bet for you if you want to bring in more qualified traffic to your website.

Image via Semrush


Since long-tail keywords are more specific to your business, chances are, not many other marketers are looking to use the same keywords in their keyword strategy. This means you can rank well for targeted long-tail keywords with relative ease as they have lower competition compared to short-tail keywords.

Conversion Rate

Long-tail keywords have a higher conversion rate as compared to short-tail keywords as they’re better targeted.

When a user uses long-tail keywords, they are likely looking for a specific product to meet their needs. They are far along in the buying process.

On the contrary, when a user searches with short-tail keywords, they are likely trying to start their research phase and are not ready to make a purchase yet. Hence, short-tail keywords have a lower conversion rate.


Since short-tail keywords have a large search volume, there’s bound to be a ton of competition on them for Google Ads, meaning they have a higher CPC.

As they are used by a wider audience, marketers are willing to pay more for these keywords to rank for them to improve their brand awareness.

Conversely, long-tail keywords are less expensive due to lower competition and less search volumes. This makes them more affordable yet targeted.

How Can I Find Short-Tail and Long-Tail Keywords?

An optimal SEO strategy should mix both short-tail and long-tail keywords to reach a wide range of potential customers and increase conversions for your business.

With the right balance, you’ll be able to attract customers at each stage of the sales funnel. Additionally, you’ll get the best of both high volume and better targeting.

Here are some ways you can find impactful short-tail and long-tail keywords for the best results.


You can brainstorm potential keywords by putting yourself in your prospect’s shoes and thinking about the phrases they would use to find your business.

Look at Autocomplete Suggestions

A great starting point to find some long-tail keywords is by looking at Google’s autocomplete suggestions that can let you know the top search terms users are searching for.

Image via Google

Look at Google’s Related Searches

Another spot where you can find long-tail relevant long-tail keywords that you can use to optimize your website is the bottom of your search results page.

Image via Google

Use A Keyword Research Tool

Lastly, there are many tools that can help you carry out in-depth keyword research to identify the best short-tail and long-tail keywords for your business.

For example, Google Ads Keyword Planner can help you generate short-tail as well as long-tail keyword ideas to boost the rankings of your website.

Apart from that, it can help you estimate the traffic you can expect from each keyword and the cost of running ads for those keywords.

Image via Google


Q1. Should I use long-tail or short-tail keywords?

A. You should use long-tail keywords when you want to draw a more targeted and specific audience to your website. Long-tail keywords are likely to match their specific intent and have a higher conversion value.

On the other hand, short-tail keywords can be used to attract a wider audience to your website or to rank web pages for general search queries. They can also be used to create brand awareness and increase the visibility of your website.

Q2. Are long-tail keywords better?

A. Long-tail keywords may be considered better for SEO as they are more specific. Users who search for them are often further along in the buying process, which makes it easier for them to convert.

However, long-tail keywords are best when used in conjunction with short-tail keywords. Finding the right balance is crucial to making a comprehensive SEO strategy.

Q3. What are short-tail keywords examples?

A. Short-tail keywords are short and generic. Some examples of short-tail keywords include “fitness”, “SEO”, “beauty”, “science”, “artificial intelligence” and so on.

Q4. What is a long-tail keyword example?

A. Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific. Some examples of long-tail keywords include “how to start exercising for beginners”, “SEO services for small businesses”, “affordable beauty products for oily skin” and so on.

Q5. Are long-tail keywords cheaper?

A. Yes, long-tail keywords are generally cheaper as opposed to short-tail keywords. This is because long-tail keywords have lesser competition and they are less common. As these keywords don’t garner as many searches, they are in low demand and that translates to less money being spent on ads for them.

Bottom Line

To conclude, the debate between short-tail vs. long-tail keywords can be a difficult one for businesses to navigate. This is mainly because both short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords can play a huge role in driving traffic and leads to a website.

While short-tail keywords are generic and more competitive, long-tail keywords are specific and have low volumes.

It’s important to strike the right balance between the two for a well-rounded SEO strategy. This could be the key to optimizing your website for search engines which can ultimately result in higher conversion rates for your business.

Still have questions? Ask them in the comments section.

Gaurav Sharma

Gaurav Sharma is the Founder and CEO of Attrock, a results-driven digital marketing company. Grew an agency from 5-figure to 7-figure revenue in just two years | 10X leads | 2.8X conversions | 300K organic monthly traffic | 5K keywords on page 1. He also contributes to top publications like HuffPost, Adweek, Business2Community, TechCrunch, and more.

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