Demystifying SEO: The Science of Both Long and Short Tail Keywords

We don’t need to say it more than once: Targeting the right keywords is important for SEO rankings and reaching a target audience. But as Google’s algorithm continues to evolve with RankBrain (a machine learning-based algorithm that helps Google process search results and provide more relevant results for users), it’s important to understand how to tap into the science of the user’s intent. 

The user intent of a search query is the single most important ranking factor when it comes to generating quality traffic and leads. With that, a solid SEO strategy utilizing both long and short tail keywords will ensure valuable conversions:

SHORT TAIL KEYWORDS

Made up of 1-3 keywords, it’s tempting to work on ranking for short tail keywords but they’re not always the terms that actually convert. The main focus should be on converting a visitor into a sale, which is much more difficult to achieve in a short period of time.

LONG TAIL KEYWORDS

Because these include a multitude of word combinations, long tail keywords work best for generating qualified traffic and leads. They’re more targeted so they capture the customer at key points through their journey, honing in on the intent to purchase search phrases, which lead to conversions versus short term vanity keywords.

Remember, the idea is to use both long and short tail keywords even if it seems smarter to focus on only one. It’s imperative to understand the symbiotic relationship between keywords and the content on a website. For instance, if a long tail keyword is “How to convert leads,” place that phrase in a blog post title and use short tail keywords in the permalink: Website.com/blog/covert-leads

Websites that have authoritative content have a better chance of ranking higher for long tail keywords – given all things being equal. Over time, websites that rank for long tail keywords will rank for short tail keywords because of their established authority online (an example would be Wikipedia.com). 

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