What are Short Tail Keywords?

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Phil Hughes

Short tail keywords are those that are one, two, or three words long. They are popular keywords that people use to search for information online.

Because they are so general, they have a lot of competition. It can be tough to rank high on search engine results pages (SERP) for them.

That said, short-tail keywords can also be very profitable because of the high traffic volumes they generate. If you can rank well for a short-tail keyword, you can expect a lot of website visitors!

In this blog post, we’ll discuss what short-tail keywords are and how you can use them to your advantage in your marketing campaigns.

Example of a Short Tail Keyword

So, what exactly is a short-tail keyword? The word “marketing” (one word) is an example of a short-tail keyword.

Individual short-tail keywords are searched more often than individual long-tail keywords, but highly specific phrases make up the vast majority of search volume.

For context, an example of a long tail keyword would be “create a monthly marketing report” (5 words).

The Tail

Think of a long-tail keyword as the opposite of short-term ones. It’s not surprising then, that understanding what exactly is meant by “long tail” helps with short tail keywords!

The definition “long tail” is a concept in statistics that describes a distribution of data that has significant results away from the “head.” In the chart below the head is in green, and the tail is in yellow.

How short tail is represented compared to the long tail

Source: Wikipedia

One of the most impactful books on popularizing “Long Tail” was written by Chris Anderson. He helped lay out this concept, which signifies many different things for groups with niche interests or shorter tails—like blogs about cats!

The graph below shows how the long tail of search terms influences Google’s ranking system. The number on the x-axis represents word count and volume, while y reflects pops in searches over time.

Short tail keywords appear within the “fat head” part of this chart.

How short tail keywords make up the fat head of all keyword searches

Source: Rank By Focus

Short-tail keywords are more competitive because they’re easier to rank for. In other words, many advertisers want their ads on the top search result pages of Google when people enter a shorter or less common phrase into the Google search bar – which means there’s even greater demand!

Long tail keywords are the key to success when it comes down to how many people will see your ad and be interested in what you have for sale. Pinning advertising on these phrases can lead not only an increased ROI but also better overall performance across all channels of marketing with less waste– because one or two highly competitive words aren’t worth spending money on emotionlessly!

Short Tail Keywords Search Volume

With the information you now have about relevant search terms and their corresponding volumes, it is time to start looking at your competitors. By figuring out how people might be searching for these same topics differently depending on season or location; we can get even more creative with our strategies!

Keywords by competitor

You’ll likely compile a lot of keywords. How do you know which to tackle first? It could be a good idea to prioritize high-volume keywords that your competitors are not currently ranking for. On the flip side, you could also see which keywords from your list your competitors are already ranking for and prioritize those. The former is great when you want to take advantage of your competitors’ missed opportunities, while the latter is an aggressive strategy that sets you up to compete for keywords your competitors are already performing well for.

Keywords by season

Knowing about seasonal trends can be advantageous in setting a content strategy. For example, if you know that the “Christmas box” starts to spike in October through December in the United Kingdom, you can prepare content months in advance and give it a big push around those months.

Keywords by region

You can more strategically target a specific location by narrowing down your keyword research to specific towns, counties, or states in the Google Keyword Planner, or evaluate “interest by subregion” in Google Trends. Geo-specific research can help make your content more relevant to your target audience. For example, you might find out that in Texas, the preferred term for a large truck is “big rig,” while in New York, “tractor trailer” is the preferred terminology.

Tools To Determine the Value of a Short Tail Keyword

How much value would a keyword add to your website? These tools can help you answer that question, so they’d make great additions to your keyword research arsenal:

  • Moz Keyword Explorer – Input a keyword in Keyword Explorer and get information like monthly search volume and SERP features (like local packs or featured snippets) that are ranking for that term. The tool extracts accurate search volume data by using live clickstream data.
  • Google Keyword Planner – Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner has historically been the most common starting point for SEO keyword research. However, Keyword Planner does restrict search volume data by lumping keywords together into large search volume range buckets. To learn more, check out Google Keyword Planner’s Dirty Secrets.
  • Google Trends – Google’s keyword trend tool is great for finding seasonal keyword fluctuations. For example, “funny Halloween costume ideas” will peak in the weeks before Halloween.
  • AnswerThePublic – This free tool populates commonly searched-for questions around a specific keyword. Bonus! You can use this tool in tandem with another free tool, Keywords Everywhere, to prioritize ATP’s suggestions by search volume.
  • SpyFu Keyword Research Tool – Provides some really neat competitive keyword data.


Short-tail keywords are the bread and butter of any good SEO strategy. They may be less lucrative than their long-tail counterparts, but they’re essential for getting your website found by customers who are actively searching for what you have to offer.

Want to see which keywords your site is ranking for? Try Elementary Analytics free today. We make it easy to track your website’s progress and get insights that will help you improve your SEO game. So what are you waiting for? Sign up now and start dominating the search engines!

P.S. If you’re struggling to get your head around analytics and marketing metrics? I’ve put together a comprehensive guide called ‘What Is Marketing Analytics And Data-Driven Marketing?’. Check it out!

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