In order to effectively apply short or long tail keywords and phrases to your website, you must first understand what they are and how they work.
Let’s first review how search engines rank your site. In case you aren’t aware of how this process works, we’ll make it simple for the purposes of this article. Search engines (like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and DogPile) will rank websites within categories and subcategories. So, take the example of the category of “cars”. Every site, which is in the millions, that relates to cars is going to be ranked within the list of search results that would appear for someone searching for “cars”. But let’s be realistic here, no one is going to search for something as generic as “cars”. They will most likely be searching for more specific keywords, like “car dealerships”, “car parts” or “buying and selling cars”. These would be considered “short” keyword phrases.
When optimizing your site, (commonly known as the process of Search Engine Optimization, or SEO) you must perform extensive keyword research in order to formulate a list of the most attainable, easy to rank and effective keywords to apply to your site. And by apply, that means including these keywords on both the front and back end of your website. From page titles, meta tags and HTML coding to page content, navigation and important linking campaigns, keywords are the very foundation and heart and soul of your website.
The more specific the keyword phrase is, the less difficult it is to rank highly with the search engines. The higher you are ranked, the better chance you have of your website being viewed by a potential customer, or better known as the person performing the search. But get too specific, and you run the risk of never being found. Let’s face it, you may show up as the first search result for “car dealerships in Miami, Florida that sell Hondas to women”, but you will most likely never be found. Why? Because no one is going to search for that exact keyword phrase, or at least, it is highly unlikely that they will.
While this very specific keyword phrase would be considered a long tail keyword, it would not be an effective one to apply to your site. But alter it just slightly, and you might just have some luck. For example, “car dealerships in Miami, Florida that sell Hondas”, although shorter, is still considered a long tail keyword phrase and is clearly very specific. This is a long tail that is much more likely to be searched and may actually materialize into a sale for you.
The key to understanding keywords is to have a strategy and manage it well. What that strategy is should be up to you and specific to your business, but how a keyword strategy actually works is always the same. You must select both short and long tail keywords, apply them to your site and maintain your SEO efforts on a regular basis to ensure your rankings are constantly improving.