So you know that in order to get your content marketing strategy in place, you are going to need keywords to focus on. These keywords form the foundations of your SEO so it is important to get it right.

But while you know that you have to use keywords, how do you know what keywords you should focus on?

In this post, I will take you through 2 types of keywords: short tail keywords and long tail keywords.

They both have their own pros and cons so it is best to learn about each of them before diving into keyword research.

But first, I need to talk to you about the conversion funnel.

Conversion Funnel

To put it simply, the conversion funnel refers to different stages that the average customer will experience before converting.

Though each funnel does vary, there are typically 3 main stages: Awareness, Interest, Conversion.

It is referred to as a funnel because the first stage yields more potential customers, and as they go further down the funnel, the number of prospects reduce, leaving only prospects that are more likely to convert into paying customers.

The conversion funnel is an important factor to mention because what keywords your prospective customers use will indicate where on the conversion funnel they are currently sitting at.

Short Tail Keywords

Short tail keywords consist of 1-2 words. As you can see, because of its short nature, these searches will not yield specific results or answers. Rather, they are general searches.

Most people who use short tail keywords in their search are those at the top of the conversion funnel. They are merely researching and gathering information.

This is why people will type in “running shoes” as opposed to specific questions or phrases. They just want to learn more about this term. The short term search will yield plenty of results so that they can start deducting what information they need to make an actual (potential) purchase later down the track.


Higher search volume/impressions: Short tail keywords generally elicit a larger search volume. Because they are more general and less specific, these are keywords that are more commonly used than long-tail keywords and subsequently, you will get a lot more impressions (number of times your webpage appears in the search engine result pages – SERPs).

Ranking for these keywords will be great because you will definitely generate a lot more traffic to your website, granted that your title tags and meta description are all optimised.


High competition: Because the keywords are so generic, the competition to rank for them is generally much higher. For example, if you want to rank for “running shoes”, imagine how many other shoe companies there are that you have to compete with that want to do the exact same thing!

While it can be an excellent benefit to be on the first page for similar keywords, it is pretty difficult to do unless you are a big international company.

Low conversion rate: These keywords are targeting customers who are at the top of the conversion funnel and are still just researching the product or service that they are after. There is less chance that these customers will convert into paying customers (at this point).

Related: A Detailed Introduction to SEO for Beginners

Long Tail Keywords

On the other hand, long tail keywords are typically made up of 4 -6-word phrases.

These keywords are more “targeted” than your short tail keywords. They are typically used by prospects that are further down the conversion funnel. These customers are the ones that are more likely to turn into paying customers as opposed to users just looking for more information.

For example, instead of “running shoes” they may search for “black running shoes for women”. You can get even more specific such as including a location in the phrase, e.g. “black running shoes for women in Sydney”.

The more specific the term is, the lower in the conversion funnel the user is. This means the higher the chances that they will turn into a paying customer.

Using my example, now that the user knows more about running shoes, they are clearly looking for black shoes and searching for a store in Sydney.

By narrowing their search term, they are also narrowing down to the results that will give them what they want (aka YOUR business).


Higher conversion rates: These users are in the conversion part of the conversion tunnel, meaning that you are more likely to turn these users into customers. With these specific search terms, they are actively looking for your business to get them what they want.

Low competition: Unlike with short tail keywords, the competition for these phrases are lower as they are more specific and targeted.

High visibility: As there is lower competition for these keywords, it can really increase your website’s visibility in the SERPs.


Lower search volume: One of the things that put a lot of marketers off is that there is a low search volume with these long tail keywords. However, this doesn’t always necessarily mean it is a bad thing. Would you rather have 1,000 impressions of a short tail keyword and turn only 1 or 2 of them into paying customers, or a search volume of 100 and turn 10 of them into paying customers?

So Which Keywords Should You Use for Your Business?

As you can see, short tail and long tail keywords both have their advantages and disadvantages. I don’t think you should stick to just one type or the other, and instead, I recommend using a combination of both with slightly more emphasis on long tail keywords.

The short tail keywords can generate a lot of traffic to your website and help to position you as an expert in your industry. On the other hand, long tail keywords can assist in really targeting users that are more likely to convert into paying customers and increase visibility.

Using both these types of keywords will give you a well-rounded SEO strategy.

Related: SEO Dos and Dont’s: How to Drive Traffic to Your Website the Right Way

How to Look for Keywords

Now that you know what type of keywords to focus on, here are some tools that can assist you in choosing keywords for your business.

Related: 5 Best Free Business Tools That Save You Time and Money

Google Keyword Planner

Keywords: Google Keyword Planner

Of course, you can’t talk about a keyword research tool without mentioning Google Keyword Planner. This tool helps you find new keywords while also showing you search volume data and trends. This way, you can see how well your chosen keyword has performed over a specific period of time to see whether it is worth focusing on.

A great feature is that it even lets you input negative keywords.

Negative keywords are phrases that you don’t want to include in your search. For example, if you are selling wine glasses then you don’t want to include keywords that are related to eyeglasses or sunglasses. It helps to eliminate keywords that seem related to yours but are not.


Keywords: Ubersuggest

Übersuggest promotes itself as a keyword search tool that tells you keywords that are not available in Google’s Keyword Panner. Using this tool is fairly simple.

Just enter a keyword or phrase that is related to your business. Then it will come up with a list of potential keywords that you can focus on. It is sorted out in alphabetical order so it is easy to review each keyword properly. If you are a more visual person though, you can turn this list into a word cloud.

It also gives you the option to look at Google Trends Data (by clicking on a selected keyword). This way, you can see how well the keyword has fared lately. However, for some reason, this never works with me and only comes up with a blank screen but hopefully, it works for you!

If you want to export the list of selected keywords, then you can also do that.

Ubersuggest is a really simple and easy tool to use if you want an alternative to Google Keyword Planner, or like with short tail and long tail keywords, you can just use both.

What keywords do you use for your business? Do you find that short tail or long tail keywords yield better results for your business? Or do you use a mixture of both? Leave me a comment below, I would love to know!


I am a copywriter, creative writer, blogger, and SEO specialist, here to help you grow your business, one word at a time.

  • Yes keyword selection is a very important aspect of content marketing. With growing competition in this area one needs to follow these techniques. Thanks for sharing these valuable information.

  • Hi Emily. This is a great post. I often use Google Keywords Search to help with my post planning. But it does not usually help with my particular topic which I am trying to bring to the forefront: chocolate travel. I will checkout Ubersuggest and see if that is more useful.

    • Chocolate travel definitely is a niche market. Hopefully Ubersuggest can give you some great suggestions.

  • Rose Mary Griffith

    Thanks for the explanation of keywords–the further explanation. Each bit that I learn continues to help my understanding. Thanks!

  • Alexi Mast

    Excellent post! Very valuable information for someone just starting out and enough insight to still be helpful to more experienced bloggers. Well done.

  • William Rusho

    Again, for someone like me, who is just getting into this, this post is so valuable. I think I will do an experiment and start using the different types of keywords above, and take note of responses. It might be interesting in seeing the results

    • Great idea. Testing is a great way to get accurate results with what works best for you.

  • Such an informative and helpful article, Emily. Thank you for putting all of this down. I get lost a bit when it comes to keywords, so this was a very interesting read.

    -Leta | The Nerdy Me

  • Phoenicia Oyeniyi

    Great article Emily. I occasionally use key words in order for potential readers to find my website more easily. When searching on the Internet, I aim to find what I need by narrowing my search as much as I can. I do not want to wade through streams of websites until I find what I am looking for.

    • Exactly. The best way to know how to let readers find you is to understand and emulate how you, yourself try to find posts.

  • Redemption Webcomic

    Driving traffic is something that still stumps me. I am amazed at how I can do nothing as far as promotion and get 20 hits in no time, but then other days I follow a strict Twitter posting schedule…and end the day with only 4 hits. Thanks for all the information and tools here!

    • No problem. It can be hard to get the hang of but you’ll get there!

  • Rosary Natania

    This is a very clear information on keywords, thanks for sharing Emily! I didn’t know much about it before I read your post, definitely informative =)

  • Catarina Alexon

    Great suggestions. But be careful with keywords. If you overdo it Google will punish you. It even happened to Volkswagen because they tried to outsmart Google and they suddenly found that they came up way down on search.

    • Thanks Catarina. Yep, you have to play by Google’s rules in order not to be penalised.

  • Well done Emily! I wish I’d had a clear explanation of keywords like this when I first began blogging. It all seemed so confusing back then, but there is a lot more to learn at that stage than most people realize. Thanks for the interesting read. 🙂