What Short Tail Keywords Are In SEO And Why You Should Use Them

Brandon LazovicJanuary 4, 2021

As you craft your SEO strategy, it’s important to consider all stages of the user funnel and ensure that your website ranks well to convert those clients. 

Short-tail keywords are great for targeting clients at the top of the funnel and driving high amounts of organic traffic to your website.

Read our latest article to learn what short tail keywords are, why you should be using them, and how to perform keyword research to find them for your site.  

What Are Short Tail Keywords? 

Short tail keywords are search phrases that consist of 1-3 words. These types of keywords are broad in focus: an example of a short tail keyword would be “SEO” or “Cars”. 

Short tail keywords can also be used as a "seed" that you may use to locate a few longer search term variants. Other names for short tail keywords include: 

  • Focus Terms
  • Broad Terms
  • Head phrases
  • Seed Phrases

They also typically have larger search volumes and higher competition because everyone is searching for these types of phrases at the beginning of their user journeys. 

Why Should I Use Short Tail Keywords? 

Like I mentioned before, short tail keywords have the highest search volumes, so if you can rank for these head phrases, you can drive significant amounts of organic traffic to your website. 

in a study by Raven Tools, 10,000 keywords make up nearly 20% of all searches, despite there being millions of keywords that are frequently searched on the web. 

Looking to learn more about search engine optimization? Read our SEO beginner’s guide for everything you need to know about SEO and how to drive business results through search engines like Google and Bing. 

Downsides Of Short Tail Keywords

Despite there being a lot of potential through targeting short tail keywords, there are some downsides that you should be aware of. 

Short tail keywords are highly competitive to rank for - if your website or brand isn’t one of the most authoritative in your niche, it can be extremely difficult to rank well when targeting short tail phrases. 

There’s a direct correlation with the number of words in a phrase - the more words there are, the  less volume there is, but there’s also less competition so you have a higher likelihood to rank at the cost of less organic traffic being driven for your website. 

Head terms are also broad - as a result, even if you rank well for these types of phrases, they don’t always guarantee conversions despite a large amount of traffic being driven to your website. 

Having said that, it’s important to have a mix of long tail and short tail keywords in your content to maximize the ranking potential of your website pages. 

Short Tail Keyword Examples

Here are a few examples of what short tail keywords can look like: 

SEO Keywords

Let’s start with SEO keywords. An example of a short tail keyword could be: 

  • SEO
  • SEO Services
  • SEO Guide

These are all short in length, highly competitive, and drive a lot of search volume. Compare this with a few long tail keywords: 

  • How To Do Technical SEO On A Website
  • Core Web Vitals For SEO
  • Optimizing crawl budget for SEO

These types of phrases are more specific and drive less search volume, but are more likely to convert a user as they’re looking to perform specific things for their websites. 

Automotive Keywords

Next, let’s move onto automotive keywords that are short-tail: 

  • Cars
  • Car Dealership
  • Car Parts

And now let’s look at some long tail variants: 

  • Chevy car for sale near me
  • Chevy car dealership in Detroit, MI
  • Car body shop in Detroit, MI

Mortgage Keywords

Lastly, we’ll look at mortgage short tail keywords: 

  • Mortgage
  • Mortgage Rates
  • Mortgage preapproval

And here are a few long-tail phrases for our mortgage seed term: 

  • How to get approved for a mortgage
  • How are mortgage rates determined?
  • How can I get a mortgage preapproval? 

Difference Between Long Tail and Short Tail Keywords

Now that we’ve looked at both short tail and long tail keywords, you may be wondering what the difference is between long tail and short tail terms, which we’ll cover below. 

Pros of Short Tail Keywords

  • High search volume
  • High opportunity for website traffic from Google
  • More conversion volume from a single keyword

Cons of Short Tail Keywords

  • High competition
  • Broad search intent - difficult to match intent when it’s so broad
  • Less likely to convert

Pros of Long Tail Keywords

  • Low competition
  • More narrow/specific search intent
  • Easier to match search intent
  • More likely to convert customers based on types of searches

Cons of Long Tail Keywords

  • Less search volume
  • Need to rank for thousands of long  tail terms to get the same level of ROI compared to short tail terms
  • More time intensive to craft curated content for all long tail terms

How To Find Short Tail Keywords

The easiest way to find short tail keywords is to envision the types of keywords that capture your niche/industry. For example, a head term for my website would be “SEO.” For a real estate agent, their head term would be “real estate.” 

Come up with a list of possible terms - once you’ve jotted them down, you can plug them into a keyword research tool such as KeysearchSEMRush, or Ubersuggest to see what the search volume is for those terms. 

You can also perform competitor research as well - enter their URL into one of the keyword research tools that I mentioned above. You should be able to filter the keywords your competitors rank for by word count - pull a list of their ranked keywords and you’ll have another opportunity to identify a bulk amount  of short tail phrases that you can then try to optimize your website for. 

After identifying your short tail keywords, the next step is to ideate long tail keywords for your ranking strategy. Read our latest guide for a deeper dive into what long tail keywords are and how to find them for your website. 

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