Oct 7, 2009

The Long and Short of It…

If you’ve done any research into Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you may have encountered the term “keywords” before.  I’d like to introduce you to an advanced concept in keywords and keyword and search engine optimization… optimizing for Long Tail Keywords.
First, a quick overview.
Keywords are words that visitors use to find your website through the use of search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc…). These keywords can be divided into two different categories – “Long Tail Keywords” and “Short Tail Keywords.”
  1. Long Tail Keywords – a keyword phrase consisting of 3 or more terms that help you to more accurately describe a product or service that you are targeting on your website. For example, “Shania Twain Christmas album.”
  2. Short Tail Keywords – either one or two keywords used as a broad description for a selection of products or services that you are targeting on your website. For example, “Christmas music.”

The idea of long tail and short tail keywords revolves around the actual search volume (amount of searches completed for any given term over a set amount of time) associated with that keyword or keyword phrase. The broader the keyword or keyword phrase generally means a larger search volume associated with it, and vice versa for long tail keywords. The trick is to find a number of long tail keywords that provide the most search volume and lowest competition. Together these long tails will bring you more traffic than the one or two short tails combined, and not only that, but the traffic you receive from them will produce more conversions!

How to make sense of it all…

What we have discussed so far is the difference between long tail and short tail keywords. Now, let’s review each from the perspective of numbers so we can make sense of all this information.

Below is a chart that visually demonstrates the difference in search volume between long and short tail keywords and phrases…

Search Volume

Search Volume

Notice that there are more searches made for single keywords (short tails) than there are for multiple keywords (long tails). This may make you wonder… “Why are we even talking about long tail keywords?” Let’s take another look at the chart.  Take notice of how there are only a few short tail keywords available for you to target, but there are many more long tails. The “Sweet Spot” is from 2-5 keyword phrases. If we target these multiple long tails, their cumulative searches will outnumber the single keyword that you are targeting. This isn’t the only benefit however.

Below I have a chart that demonstrates the difference in the “Average Position” in the search engines associated with the use of long tail and short tail keywords…

Average Keyword Position

Average Keyword Position

Once again you can see that it is favorable for you to target long tail keywords as it becomes increasingly easier to rank for page 1 SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). This is mainly due to the fact that there is more competition for the short tail keywords. The more competition there is for a keyword, the more difficult it becomes to rank high in the search engines.

“More Competition = Greater Ranking Difficulty”

Next take a look at another chart below that portrays the CTR (Click Through Rate) associated with long and short tail keywords…

Keyword CTR (Click Through Rate)

Keyword CTR (Click Through Rate)

CTR (Click Through Rate) – the percentage of web traffic that “clicks through” to your site after viewing your search result in any given search engine. The CTR can be calculated by dividing the total “Clicks” your website gets by the amount of “Impressions” it receives during the same time frame. Afterwards, transpose the decimal into a percent by moving the decimal two places to the right.

Once again (notice a recurring theme yet?) you can see how long tails can help generate more traffic for your website. By increasing your position in the SERPs you increase your CTR. This is accomplished solely through the use of long tail keywords. What this basically means is that the more people who see your search engine listing… the more visits your website receives.

“High Ranking SERPs = Increased CTR + Greater Unique Visitors”

Finally, let’s look at what really matters, “Conversion Rate”. Below is a chart that shows how your conversion rate increases when visitors find your website through the use of long tail keywords.

Keyword Conversion Rate

Keyword Conversion Rate

Notice how the conversion rate is highest in the 3-5 word range. This is because 3-5 word keyword phrases are more descriptive. What do we know about people who use descriptive terms? Chances are they know exactly what product or service they are looking for. This tells us that if they find your website while using descriptive keyword phrases, the chances of them converting to a buyer are greatly increased.

For example, let’s say that you are walking through the local hardware store. You need a hammer. While walking past the aisles you look at the signs hanging above them. You see a sign that says “Tools”. That’s pretty broad, so where in the “Tools” aisle can we find the hammer we are looking for? Looking down the aisle we see more signs… one says “Power Tools” and the other “Hand Tools”. We know that a hammer is a hand tool, but there are so many! In the “Hand Tools” area we see another sign that reads “Carpentry Hand Tools”, and a series of others that read “Carpentry Hand Tools – Hammers”, “Carpentry Hand Tools – Ball Peen Hammers”, “Carpentry Hand Tools – Claw Hammers”, “Carpentry Hand Tools – Framing Hammers”, “Carpentry Hand Tools – Demolition Hammers”, “Carpentry Hand Tools – Dead Blow Hammers”  and so on and so on (didn’t know there are so many different types of hammers, did you?). My point here is… Who do you think is more inclined to buy a hammer from you today? A person who stopped at the “Tools” aisle and couldn’t see what they were looking for or someone who saw the descriptive signs and saw what they were looking for without having to walk down the aisle and fumble around for it. Almost 100% of the time the answer is going to be the latter.


I have witnessed companies invest their advertising dollars in many ways in hopes of increasing their SERPs and web visibility. From pretty new web designs, pay-per-click campaigns, link building campaigns and more. Truth-be-told… none of the above is the stand alone answer. In fact, there isn’t a “stand alone” answer. The answer is SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and what I have outlined and discussed in this article is only one of many factors that make up SEO. The SEO conglomerate is what, together, makes it possible to generate traffic and sales for your company through your website. Part of this group is “Search Engine Visibility”, and part of search engine visibility is targeting long and short tail keywords together. We do this in order to generate the optimal amount of traffic for your website, with the highest CTRs and Conversion Rates, to bring you the greatest ROI possible for your company.

Contrary to popular belief, SEO isn’t a one shot deal. SEO is an ongoing battle that changes every day, and in order to keep pace you need to review, record and make changes accordingly on a daily basis. It takes time and effort, but if you can’t do it yourself we can do it for you at NetSource Technologies. Call us today for a free consultation and quote (1-800-709-3240), and let us help increase your website’s ROI.

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2 thoughts on “The Long and Short of It…”

  1. […] Keywords are the words that users are using to find your website in search engines (like Google). Keyword Phrases are the word combination(s) or phrases that people are using to find your website. […]

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