keyword research long tail short tail

Keywords are a huge contributing factor in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and writers should always try to use as many relevant keywords as possible. However, it is crucial to identify the line between sufficient usage of keywords and over-usage. You don’t want to end up sounding like a robot to your target audience.

In this piece, we’ll talk about the two most popular types of keywords – short-tail and long-tail keywords. The question in hand; which is better, short-tail or long-tail? Honestly, there is no straight-forward answer, and it would be inaccurate to say that either one should or should not be used. If you’re having a dilemma and are not sure of how and where to use the correct keywords, you should know that you are not alone. Anyone who has ever gotten into marketing would have suffered from the same problem. Furthermore, these are not the only two types of keywords. There are at least 10 other types of keywords. But let’s start with these two.

Short-tail Keywords

The general guideline for short-tail keywords is anything with 3 words or less. They are more general words, and are harder to rank, but do serve a purpose nonetheless. For example, if you are writing a blog piece about baking a chocolate cake. Your significant short-tail keywords would likely be words like “cake”, “chocolate cake”, “bake”, or “how to”. Depending on your content focus, you should try to insert short-tail keywords that are expected to be used in searches that may show your site as one of the search results. Short-tail keywords have the potential to generate an enormous amount of volume in searches, but you have just as much competition from other sites that are using similar words. Ranking is far from easy. Here are the pros and cons:


  • Potentially very high search volume.
  • Appeals to a broad range of audience.
  • Easier to insert into your content.


  • Very high competition, subsequently very difficult to rank.
  • Potential to drive the wrong kind of traffic to your site.
  • Lower conversion rate due to unspecified targets.

Long-tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are easier to rank because they are a specific string of words used to form a sentence that is relevant to your content. They are harder to get a hit in a search, but they drive the targeted audience to you a lot more accurately. Anything more than 3 words would be considered long-tail keywords. Let’s say you are writing about fitness apparel. A short-tail keyword would be something like “running” or “gear”. Your long-tail keywords will be a combination of more words, like “compression gear for running”, or “running gear for beginners”. In order for your long-tail keywords to rank, your audience would need to search for exactly those words. Similar to short-tail keywords, long-tail keywords also has its pros and cons:


  • The correct kind of audience will be directed to your site.
  • Better conversion rate from the successful targeted group.
  • Less competition for keywords, which results in easier and quicker ranking.


  • More difficult to incorporate relevant keywords into your content.
  • You will need to really understand your target personas and cater to them.

So, to answer the original question – which is better?

Both types of keywords are great for SEO ranking. You just need to figure out the balance, and how to use them based on what you have planned for your content and your business. In order for you to decide what kind of keywords you need to use, you have to first ask yourself, what is your goal, and what exactly are you trying to achieve? You either want more traffic to be driven to your site, or you want more potential buyers. Or maybe you want both. Either way, as long as you are able to generate sales from your strategy, you are doing it right.

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