Why Bloggers Should Focus on Long-Tail vs Short-Tail Keywords

By Josh Koop •  Updated: 12/04/20 •  7 min read

A frequent thought from many bloggers centers around why they would choose to target a keyword that has less search volume. While it sounds like a good idea to target more search volume there can be drawbacks to your success.

Why choose to write on long-tail keywords vs short-tail keywords? The ability to rank a new site with a very well written post on a low competition long-tail keyword will allow new affiliate marketers the chance to begin building traffic to their sites, short-tailed are typically too competitive for a new site to have any chance of ranking reliably.

Since long-tail keywords can get you and your site moving they should be what you target frequently, for many sites this may be where they focus all their posts for the first few years while they build a reputation.

Pros and Cons to Long-Tail Keywords

There are benefits and drawbacks to focusing on a long-tail keyword approach for your website. These points will help you understand when and where you should focus on long-tail keywords.

Benefits to Long Tail Keywords for Blogging

There are many benefits to choosing a long-tail keyword for your posts when you are blogging, they can lead to faster ranking, less competition, ranking for multiple shorter tailed keyword versions, and much more.

Faster Ranking Chances in the SERP

One of the bigger features of long tailed keywords is the chance to find keywords which can rank in days or weeks and not in months. This allows your relatively new blog a chance to crack page one.

One of the bigger issues with shorter tailed keywords is that more competition makes ranking take much more time.

Much Less Competition Overall for New Sites

Users of search engines are making longer and longer search terms each day, when we used to search you would search for “movies near me” and now we have moved into “movies at 9pm playing near downtown”.

Google has said that up to 15% of searches every day have never been made before and this leads to the ability to locate those searches and write content to fill the gaps people are searching for.

Since there is up to 15% of searches that have never been made before this proves there is always gaps and places where you could write content that will get seen and get you visitors.

Able to Rank for Hundreds of Shorter Keywords

This is the key to why search volume is a little bit silly to focus on within ANY tool itself, when you rank for a long tailed keyword you also can rank for HUNDREDS of shorter variants.

These other terms will bring you visitors which will then help you get more traffic per month that the post originally showed. This is why you shouldn’t look at those volumes for why to write content and instead focus on lack of clear answers in the SERP itself for a searcher.

Drawbacks to Long-Tail Keywords for Blogging

There can also be downsides to focusing on long tail keywords when it comes to blogging. They aren’t many site breaking drawbacks to a long-tail approach which is why it is so important to focus on.

Possibly Get Very Low Traffic Per Targeted Keyword

If you choose a keyword that is very specific and not open to searching you could pidgeon hole your content into never really being seen. This happens when someone drills down so far into a topic trying to find low competition.

It would be like looking for a camera lens specific troubleshooting guide based on super low light and near dusk. You may find no competition but this is also sometimes a sign of near zero searching.

Just because you find no real competition you need to understand whether that term would even be searched, maybe it is better to include in a post a level up and use that word as a sub-header instead.

Not Beginner or Newbie Specific

One other thing that may impact you with long tailed keywords is when you build content based on keywords that aren’t beginner concepts, beginners tend to search far more than others and use incorrect terminology sometimes.

If you target beginner friendly content you will have more consistent searches, if you choose something that is very specific you may end up writing yourself content that is valuable but incredibly limited to a visitor which means very little search volume.

Topically Irrelevant

Always think about the person who would be performing the search, there is no “bad” keywords but you can undoubtedly write based on a dead keyword if it isn’t actually related to the real topic at hand.

This is typically down to the “lingo” used within a niche and as a new searcher or new hobbyist may use a term a more versed searcher wouldn’t which can lead you to believe you have a killer topic and actually it becomes a dud.

Pros and Cons to Short-Tail Keywords

As with the above on short-tail keywords, you are going to have some reasons why they are worth your time and focus along with some reasons why they should be avoided to have your site be able to grow.

Benefits to Short-Tail Keywords for Blogging

Now the short tail approach can have benefits and these will be typically in the form of higher search volume itself.

Incredibly High Search Volume

Since these words will be a part of many, many other longer tailed versions of the same keyword you have a huge velocity in pageviews that can occur if you are able to rank on the first page for a short tail keyword.

For many people who start a blog and use the long tail version you will gain pageviews 10-100 at a time, with a short tail keyword this could be in the thousands at a time which is why they are so easily able to sucker in newer bloggers.

Drawbacks to Short-Tail Keywords for Blogging

While the short tail keywords can provide a massive spike in traffic if you can get onto page one they have some solid cons based on being able to even reach that first page in almost all circumstances.

Almost Certain to Need Links Built

For most content on short tailed keywords there is going to be tremendous amounts of websites already targeting the keyword, many of which will have large and well established websites which will mean needing to work on getting links to your content.

For me this is not an exciting task and most certainly will maybe give you a short term boost once added but Google is constantly targeting trying to remove false signals which means you could be in a treadmill or replacing links constantly.

Maximum Competition

Due to the increased search volume these keywords will have much more competition from other websites, if you manage to gain ground those same competitors will typically fight to get their rank back.

This can leave you in a predicament of fighting to gain ranks only to lose it again which ends up stopping you from generating fresh new content and stalling your website growth, competition is welcome but typically once your site is much more aged and established.

Final Thoughts on Long-Tail Keywords vs Short-Tail Keywords

When you are building a blog having focus on those keywords that appear to not provide search volume can yield much greater results than people will give them credit for, ranking for hundreds or even thousands of keywords in SERPs.

Building this way gives you a strong base of content for when you choose to begin targeting shorter keywords, you will have supporting posts that you will have ranked that you can then point to the shorter tailed content to help power it up.

Doing the reverse is a dangerous game that leads many to quit and just give up before they ever get started, once you start you need to commit at a minimum a year of writing content and learning the craft to start becoming successful.

If you want to start building a blog today please check out our getting started guide which can help you get a low cost starting niche website up in less than an hour so you can begin your journey today!

Josh Koop

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