A central focus of SEO copywriting is SEO keywords. These are the words people use when typing a search query into a search engine. They can be broadly divided into two categories - short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords. Which should you be using for best effect? Let's take a look...

What Are Short-Tail Keywords?
Also referred to as core keywords, short-tail keywords are just one or two (perhaps three at a stretch!) words in length. The search terms cars or car dealerships are examples of short-tail keywords. As you can appreciate, such short-tail keywords are highly searched for: cars garners 124 million global monthly searches and car dealerships over four million. From these examples, you can see that short-tail keywords are highly competitive. 

What Are Long-Tail Keywords?
Long-tail keywords consist of three or more words, constituting a phrase or sentence (and usually containing a core keyword). Long-tail keywords ask a more precise question of search engines or request more specific information, for example, how to polish a car or car dealerships in Durban. Long-tail keywords are less competitive than short-tail keywords - how to polish a car, for example, attracting 90 500 global monthly searches and car dealerships in Durban 2900. 

Short-Tail Versus Long-Tail Keywords
Whilst many folks choose to zone in on short-tail keywords, indications are that it's more advantageous to focus on long-tail keywords. Since they're more competitive, targeting short-tail keywords means that:
  • It will be harder to gain a decent organic position on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
  • Your conversion rate is lowered, as these keywords attract web visitors who are less further along the purchasing decision process
  • Pay-per-Click (PPC) campaigns will be more expensive, because of their high traffic potential.
Long-tail keywords, on the other hand:
  • Have a higher conversion rate, as they're used by people who have higher purchasing intent
  • Have a lower bounce rate, as they represent a more precise match between content and user-query
  • Make good positions on the SERP more accessible, since long-tail keywords are less competitive
  • Expand your search footprint, as a broader range of keyword combinations are at play. 
In addition, the emergence of voice-activated 'personal assistants' like Apple's Siri and Google Now means that natural language searches are increasingly important. So, rather than barking a simple one or two-word command, people are asking questions just as they would a human PA - find Italian restaurants in Sandton, or directions to uShaka Marine World, for example. Here's where content featuring long-tail keywords comes into its own!

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