There's no doubt about it, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and keyword research can be tricky!
Effective Content Marketing relies heavily on identifying the right keywords and creating a strategy that leverages logical topic clusters based on the current and future demand of your ideal audience.
A tall order, no matter how you look at it.
The more you understand about keywords going in, the more effective your research and SEO practices will be. And as with anything, it all starts with awareness.
So - what exactly are the differences between long and short-tail keywords? And how should you incorporate each of them into your Content Marketing strategy?
What are Keywords?
Keywords are the foundation of any SEO campaign. They are the words and phrases your potential customers are typing into search engines.
Businesses often develop entire functions around commercial keywords, optimising their website to try and rank for those terms in order to appear higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs) - with the goal of garnering more clicks and ultimately more revenue.
For example, as an Inbound Marketing Agency based in Manchester, we might want to appear higher in the search engine results for keywords such as “inbound marketing services”, “inbound marketing agency Manchester” or even for long-tail, query-related phrases such as “what are examples of inbound marketing?”.
We want our website pages, blogs, offers, and social channels to be visible when a potential customer types these words and phrases into a search engine. After all, search engines are where a huge number of users go to find services, shop and learn.
Keywords are the phrases that potential customers are searching for, which businesses create content around in order to garner traffic, leads, and customers.
The terms and phrases you identify during keyword research can be run through tools like HubSpot, SEMrush or ahrefs to find keywords with a high monthly search volume and low difficulty (the sweet spot, in our opinion!)
Keyword length (long tail and short tail) is more often than not tied to user intent. By identifying the most viable, least competitive and most intent-based keywords to optimise your content for - you can create a content marketing strategy that is both practical and profitable.
Before you embark on keyword research - let's take a closer look at the difference between a long and short-tail keyword.
Short Tail Keywords
Short tail keywords consist of one or two words only - such as 'Lead Generation'.
For marketers, the intention the user had when searching these keywords can sometimes be vague. What does the user want to know? Are they looking for information on what exactly lead generation is? Are they searching for agencies? Is it perhaps someone looking for inspiration on lead generation strategies to implement in-house?
In terms of CPC advertising, short-tail keywords can often be competitive and therefore costly to run a campaign on. These keywords have a high volume of monthly searches and so more companies are likely to be bidding on them, pushing the cost (and competition) up.
Short tail keywords often indicate awareness-stage intent - that is - users searching for general information that's unlikely to result in an immediate sale.
While short-tail keywords are costly, they do still form an important part of your content marketing and keyword strategy.
Long Tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords typically consist of three to four words and beyond, often making use of entire sentences. "B2B Lead Generation Agencies in Manchester" is a prime example.
Long-tail keywords can be used to aid the user with troubleshooting a certain problem or answering a question. They also indicate a more considered intent and may contain telltale words that highlight this.
- B2B - shows that the user is likely searching for services in a functional capacity within an organisation.
- Agencies - the user knows they want to outsource their lead generation efforts, and that they want an agency to provide this service.
- Manchester - indicates that they are looking for a local agency (this specific keyword becomes even more important when optimising for local SEO)
To further illustrate intent within long-tail keywords: “What services do lead generation agencies offer?” Or “Should I Outsource my Content Marketing?” are indicative of a user who a) knows what they want and b) is looking for informational content to aid their next decision.
These keywords also often have a higher click-through rate because the keywords are more specific - and so the results are more relevant. They are also more likely to result in a sale, given the intent behind the search phrase.
Experimentation is key when trying to find relevant longer-tail keywords. Businesses need to thoroughly understand their market, starting with a deep understanding of their ideal customer.
There is an obvious drawback with long-tail keywords as some searches have the potential to be a little too specific, and it can be quite difficult to find long-tail keywords with a high monthly search volume.
A great website to use to help you when coming up with ideas for long-tail keywords is answerthepublic.com.
The lower competition on these keywords means there are fewer people bidding on them. CPCs tend to be relatively low, as is the difficulty to rank these keywords organically.
Optimising for Search Engines: Google isn’t the only one!
When researching long-tail and short-tail keywords, it’s important to remember that other search engines exist besides Google!
While the likes of Yahoo! and Bing are less popular, this might also mean they have less competition - and also an untapped audience.
Try both short and long-tail keywords on multiple search engines and compare your results. What are the differences, and would the results encourage you to utilise other search engines more often?
How Do I Use Keywords In My Content & SEO Strategy?
Keywords form the basis of any successful SEO campaign.
You will create your content around these keywords, and include them on your website where possible to bolster your lead generation and overall online performance.
Both long tail and short tail keywords are important - and knowing when to utilise both is vital for increasing online visibility and organically directing your target customer to your website.
Incorporate long-tail keywords alongside short-tail keywords to ensure you're creating content that satisfies users across every stage of the buyer's journey - from awareness all the way through to advocacy.
A robust internal linking structure will also provide a seamless user experience - and may help to qualify "cold" leads before contacting them directly.
Here are a few quick tips to help you incorporate long-tail and short-tail keywords into your strategy:
- Start with a Content Marketing Calendar to visually map out your content, keywords, new and existing content.
- Be sure to create topic clusters and identify content gaps on your site.
- Use free content marketing tools to help you research, strategise, implement and monitor your keyword-optimised content more effectively.
- Create content that caters to all stages of the buyer's journey.
When you combine the right keyword strategy with SEO, social sharing, paid advertising, email marketing automation and customer-focused messaging, there's simply no turning back. It's proven over and over again to be the most effective lead-generation tactic.
Ready to delve into keyword research? We cover the basics of effective keyword research to help you get started.
Ever considered outsourcing your content marketing? Read up on how outsourced content creation is more cost-effective.