Does your business have any sort of web presence (if it doesn’t yet, it should)? If so, then you may have already heard of the importance of using keywords. Keywords are any words or combination of words that web users can type into a search engine to find relevant results that meet their needs. The use of keywords on a company’s website is crucial because it allows that website to become more discoverable to web users. In other words, websites that are more discoverable will receive more web traffic. More web traffic equates to more sales. So, it could be said that using both long-tail and short-tail keywords will help your company become more profitable and achieve its long-term growth objectives.

Defining Short-Tail and Long-Tail Keywords

Now that you know what keywords are and what their significance is, it’s time to take a closer look at the different types of keywords. Two of the main types are short-tail and long-tail keywords, and yes, your website should have both of them.

A short-tail keyword may be as short as one word or as long as three. (Note, however, that some SEO professionals prefer to think of a short-tail keyword as no longer than two words.) Short-tail keywords are broad in scope and relatively generic. For example, “recipe” is a short-tail keyword. You can add a word or two to make this more specific, such as: “Ethiopian recipes” or “Ethiopian vegetable recipes.” These short-tail keywords will produce a large volume of search engine results. (As of March 2020, a search for “Ethiopian recipes” in Google yielded 5,880,000 results.)

A long-tail keyword is a phrase that contains more than three words. These are much more specific in nature. Some examples of long-tail keywords include: “Ethiopian recipes that are heart healthy,” “how to cook Ethiopian recipes,” and “the best Ethiopian restaurant near me.” Because long-tail keywords are far more specific, they produce a smaller volume of search engine results. (As of March 2020, a search for “Ethiopian recipes that are heart healthy” yielded 3,670,000 results.)

Understanding Search Volume and Competition

Search engine results volume is one way to compare short-tail and long-tail keywords. Remember that long-tail keywords have a low search results volume, whereas short-tail keywords have a very high volume. This is simply because long-tail keywords are more specific, which also means that fewer people are Googling them.

The volume of search results directly influences the competitiveness of these keywords. Short-tail keywords have stiff competition because of their high volume, whereas long-tail keywords are easier to compete for. To illustrate this point, let’s say you’re the owner of an electronics store. The term “electronics store” is one short-tail keyword you might try to rank for, and you should definitely incorporate it into your SEO strategy because it’s a natural fit for your business. However, it’s going to be difficult to get your website to be the No. 1 search engine result for this keyword, since you face stiff competition (like Best Buy, for example).

Because of this, you will also want to try to rank for a long-tail keyword with less competition. For example, you might optimize one of your webpages for the keyphrase: “electronics store in Fort Lauderdale with LG flat screen TVs.”

In a nutshell, it’s a good idea to optimize your website for “electronics store” because the high volume means more potential customers could see your brand. However, you’ll also need to optimize for very specific long-tail keyphrases because those can attract customers who have a strong intent to make a purchase.

Taking a Closer Look at Buyer Intent

That point brings us to the role of buyer intent. Now, you’re probably already familiar with the concept of the sales funnel, also known as the buyer journey. Quite simply, this is the process by which an individual becomes a qualified lead and then becomes a customer. Here’s a quick snapshot of this funnel:

Awareness phase

Prospects become aware of the product/service.

Interest phase

Prospects conduct research on the product/service.

Evaluation phase

Prospects compare multiple products.

Decision phase

Prospects make a purchasing decision.

Purchase phase

Prospects execute the purchase.

(Note that this is a shortened sales funnel; longer versions include the re-evaluation and re-purchase phases after the initial purchase.)

So, why exactly is the sales funnel relevant to the usage of keywords? Remember that short-tail keywords are broad and generic. By optimizing your website for short-tail keywords, you can get your brand before more eyes. This might not lead to a purchase right away, but these short-tail keywords will help build better brand awareness—the first phase of the sales funnel.

However, because short-tail keywords are not very specific, they are typically associated with a low intent to purchase. That brings us to the second phase of the sales funnel: the interest phase. When prospects are ready to begin the preliminary stage of the purchasing journey, they begin researching specific products and services. For this research, prospects type long-tail keywords into Google, such as “electronics store in Fort Lauderdale with LG flat screen TVs.”

By optimizing a webpage on your site for this long-tail keyword, you’re attracting prospects who have a strong intent to make a purchase. A person who types this particular keyphrase into Google is already fairly certain that they want an LG flat screen TV. They want to find out more about different models’ features, options, and price ranges. This is the second phase of the sales funnel. After this point, they may leave your website to look for other electronics stores in Fort Lauderdale that offer the same product. However, they may later return to your website to make a final purchasing decision. This is why long-tail keywords are associated with a better conversion rate.

We know that keeping up with SEO and doing keyword research is time-consuming work that you would rather avoid, especially since you’ve got a business to run. Partner with Pennington Creative, and we’ll handle all of your SEO and content creation needs. From eBooks to blogs to video scripts for businesses both small and large, our SEO experts have got you covered. Get in touch today at (520) 344-4672 or shoot us an email at

About the Author

Jacky - Digital Marketing Specialist, Copywriting
Jacky Gilchrist

Digital Marketing Specialist, Copywriting