In the digital age it’s important for businesses to rank at the top of the search results on Google. While Google changes its algorithm every few months in determining site ranks, digital marketers need to know about Google search keywords and how to effectively use them when producing content.

What are Google search keywords?

Google search keywords are the words that users type into the Google search engine. Keywords are part of the Google search algorithm that determines whether your website matches what a user is searching for and ranks it accordingly in the Google index. There are two different types of search words: short tail and long tail.

One way to visual keyword searches is to think of a Chinese dragon. The “head” accounts for ten to fifteen percent of all searches on Google, while mid-length keywords account for another fifteen to percent. Based on this math, long-tail keywords make up roughly seventy percent of searches, so while searches for very specific keywords tapers off from the main head and body of the Chinese dragon, the tail continually stretches on. Both kinds of keywords do come with their benefits and consequences.

Short tail Google search keywords

As the name suggests, short tail keywords are typically three words or less and are known as “head” terms, or general things that pop up in your mind. They’re very simple in what they’re describing and not specific. Examples of short tail keywords are pizza, DVD, and music.

Short tail keywords allow for high volume organic traffic because they aren’t specific. This is a double-edged sword, however, because everyone wants to rank for short tail keywords. For new websites, Google automatically places them at the end of the index, initially making visibility low.

Short tail keywords aren’t targeted because they’re not specific, which leads to low conversions because users might be browsing or doing research before purchasing a product. They’re also costly to bid on in Google Adwords because everyone else is bidding on them.

Long tail Google search keywords

A long tail keyword is typically four or more words in length and is known as the “tail,” because they’re a lot more targeted in comparison to broad short tail keywords. Examples of long tail keywords might be “pizza rack for Detroit deep dish,” “used copy of Moonlight DVD,” and “Mozart music Symphony no 40 1st movement.” As you can see, these keywords are very specific to what the user is searching for.

Long tail keywords might bring in a lot less traffic compared to short tail keywords, but the competition is much lower because of how specific they are. Users generally know what they’re looking for when long tail keywords come into play, so get closer to the end of a call-to-action or sales funnel where long tail keywords become relevant, leading to higher conversion rates. Even if a customer doesn’t immediately make a purchase, they’ll likely return to your website when they’re ready based on their user experience. Due to low demand, long tail keywords will also be much cheaper to bid on in Google Adwords.

Which one should I be using?

Both long tail and short tail Google search keywords have benefits and consequences to using them. For smaller and medium-sized businesses, using long tail keywords is more beneficial for higher conversions, lower costs for Google Adwords and less competition. If a business has an established website with a lot of generalized content, short tail keywords might have more potential and conversion power. This also applies to using hashtags on platforms like Instagram.