Short Tail vs. Long Tail Keywords: Which is Better?

Should you use short tail or long tail keywords for SEO success?

There’s a lot more to SEO than simply forcing in as many keywords as possible, and you should, at all costs, avoid keyword stuffing - it makes your writing look clumsy, and it’s painfully obvious what you’re trying to do.


But none of this means that you should ignore your keywords either. They are how people find your content, and they’re how search engines make sure that your article or blog post, website content or social media are relevant to what your potential client is looking for.


In broad terms, there are two types of keywords: long tail and short tail. There’s a lot of debate over which type is the most effective for SEO, so we thought we’d demystify things a little and explain short tail vs long tail keywords - what the difference is and how to choose which ones to use.

Short tail

Short tail keywords are usually between one and three individual words, and are used for pretty generalized searches, where you don’t need very specific information. For example, if you are looking for general information on a particular type of plant, you would just put the name into your search engine search bar: “wild cucumber”, for instance. This will bring up a lot of varied information on the wild cucumber and you can start getting a general overview of the plant.

Long tail

Long tail keywords, on the other hand, tend to be longer than three words and are used to find much more specific information. For example, you have now found out a good bit of high-level information on the wild cucumber, but you still don’t know if it’s edible, so you would ask the question: “is wild cucumber edible” in the search bar. Now you should find the answer to that question, as well as some pertinent, related information.

Which to use?

As with all things SEO, the answer to using long tail vs short tail keywords in your content is a little more complicated. The answer really is, you should use a combination of both.


Any content you generate should include at least one of each, so that people who are looking for specific information on your product or service will find the answer to the question they’re asking, while people who are just looking for general information could also find it.


For example, if you are a dentist operating out of Denver, you might include the short tail keyword “Dentist in Denver”. If you specialize in a variety of implants, you could include the long tail keyword “types of dental implants” or “”what is a titanium implant”.

How to use them

Short tail: Use these for high volume, low focus traffic. You might get lost in a sea of dentists in Denver, but without them, nobody is going to find you at all. These are ideal for use on your website, particularly on the home, about and product pages.


Long tail: Use these for low volume, high focus traffic. While you won’t get nearly as many potential hits from these, what you will get is high quality traffic - people who are looking for what you offer. These are also good for website product pages, and are ideal for using in your weekly blog posts that deal with specific, detailed issues, offerings and information.


What keyword mistakes have you seen that drive you nuts? Leave us a comment.


Need help identifying the right keywords to attract your ideal client? Send us a message and we’d be happy to help.


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