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The Difference Between Long-Tail and Short-Tail Keywords With Examples



We had an old stone wall by my family's florist growing up. I remember all the little lizards running around the pottery outside on it. They would hide in the larger planted pots and use the water fountains as watering holes. More than once I saw the shop cat walking up with one of their tails in his mouth. The lizards were a species that could drop their tail in case of a predator. I never once saw the cat with a lizard, but he would bring up their tails quite often. This story comes to mind every time I think about long-tail vs short-tail keywords in marketing. The lizards developed a strategy to survive in their environment.

In Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Long-tail and short-tail keywords are for different content marketing strategies. So what are they, and how can a company use them as part of its content marketing strategy?


Short-tail keywords are search queries containing one to three words.

Long-tail keywords are search queries that contain four words or more.

Short-Tail Keywords


Both are commonly used in search engine optimization (SEO) strategies.

Short tail keywords are, as the name implies, short and to the point. They have high search volumes and are very competitive. They are hard to obtain high rankings for your company's SEO because of their simplicity; and the high level of competition for the spots in search rankings. Even if your SEO is perfect, it can take years to rank on the first page of a search engine like Google. However, in certain instances, they can be useful in driving traffic to a company's website.


Examples of short-tail keywords:

  • Men's Shoes

  • Mattress

  • Attorney

  • New Car

  • Apartment for Rent


(Courtesy Semrush.com)

Long-Tail Keywords


Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are more specific and typically contain three or more words. They may have a lower search volume: but they tend to be more targeted and have less competition. These keywords can be very effective in driving highly qualified traffic to a website because they more closely match the user's intent.


Examples of long-tail keywords:

  • Running shoes for women

  • Hypoallergenic queen-sized mattress

  • Divorce lawyer in Fort Lauderdale

  • Affordable new cars under $20,000

  • Apartment for rent in Dallas, Texas

Short-tail keywords may be more challenging to rank for, but they can still drive significant traffic to a website. While long-tail keywords have a lower search volume, they are targeted and generally cheaper for Pay Per Click (PPC) advertisers. We will delve into long-tail keyword strategy at a later date.


Remember, long-tail keywords may have a lower search volume, but they can attract higher qualified traffic which is more likely to convert. While short-tail keywords drive high volumes of traffic, it takes much longer to rank for the keywords; the traffic is generally lower quality and less likely to be converted into customers.

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