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Types of Keywords

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process of discovering the keywords used by potential customers to find your products and picking the most relevant keywords that are within your reach and that have a good search volume. And quite often what I find from experience of training companies is people feel that they know what keywords their customers are using.

And sometimes that is true, but sometimes it's not. It's the language that they're using internally in the office. And that can be quite different to the language that your customers are using. So it's a really important process that we spend some time doing.

The importance of keyword research

Why is it important to do keyword research?

Get the right kind of visitors to your site

What's going to happen if you get the wrong kind of visitor to your site? Well, it's likely to not convert into sales. It may convert into leads, but it could be the wrong type of leads, which means your sales team's not going to be very happy.

Identify keywords with high search volume and omit low volume terms

Let’s look at the search volumes for keywords. We can hang on to the phrases that have good search volume, and we can actually cut the keywords that actually have poor volume, that we've maybe thought were good but actually aren't particularly good.

Identify content gaps on your website

Another thing that keyword research is great for is identifying gaps on your website. So these are content gaps and this is more common than you might think.

So, when we lay out a website, quite often it might the web designer is actually leading the process, or maybe it might be your marketing manager, or your CEO who's actually decided what content to have. But it's not necessarily the content that your users or your potential customers are looking for. And you can identify that by doing keyword research.

Target keywords that are within your reach

And the fourth point that we're going to look at is targeting keywords that are within your reach. So, when we look at keywords, we're going to look at the, you know, we're going look at the transactional types of keywords, we're going to look at navigational keywords, and informational keywords. It's natural to think that many of the transactional keywords will be highly competitive or at least, you know, more competitive than the other two types of keywords. And, of course, we will want to target those, but we don't want to forget about the informational keywords which tend to be a little less competitive, but still useful in the marketplace.

Short-tail and long-tail keywords

So let's have a look at the long and short of keywords.

Short-tail keywords

Short-tail keywords are typically one or two keywords. They tend to be less specific, so really, they're quite generic keywords in your industry.

So, if we think of skiing, ski holidays, snowboards, these are all one or two keywords. They're quite generic in describing an industry, and those are examples of short-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords

&If we move on to long-tail keywords, so these are typically three or more words, and they tend to be more specific as well.

So "best time to go to Whistler," so that's a skiing resort in Canada. "Self-drive ski holidays France," so most people take the plane to go skiing in Europe, but some people like to actually drive to their destinations. That's an example of quite a specific phrase. And another one could be "best snowboard for all-round mountain."

Short-tail versus long-tail keywords

Now if we look at this graph, we can see, on the left side, that we've got short-tail keywords. And this accounts for around 30% of all search traffic. And individually, these keywords have high search volume, so things like "ski," "snowboards," but they also have high competition.

Now to the right of this graph, we can see that there's around 70% of all search traffic comes from long-tail keywords. So these are keywords that individually have less search volume but collectively account for a large chunk of the search traffic.

Key differences

Okay, so what we're going to do now is, we're going to look at the differences between long- and short-tail keywords in a bit more detail.


When we think about the intent of a keyword, let's say for skiing, we don't really know what the intent is. Maybe someone wants to go on a ski holiday, maybe someone wants to buy a ski, maybe someone wants to learn how to ski. There's quite a lot of different things people could be looking for.

Compare that to long-tail keywords, and the intent is much more specific. So maybe I'm looking for a self-catering ski chalet in the Cipher, France, that's more specific and that's a long-tail keyword.


When it comes to ranking, the short-tail keywords are harder to rank because they're more obvious. People have thought of ski or skiing as a key phrase and because individually they have a high search volume, people want to rank for those phrases as well.

For long-tail keywords, it's easier to rank for because there's less competition.


When it comes to conversion, because the intent is vaguer with short-tail, it's actually normally harder to convert.

So if someone's typed in "ski holidays in France," and, you know, I would say that's a short-tail keyword, it's relatively hard to convert because there's a lot of ski destinations in France, and we don't know whether they're looking for the high-end luxury, we don't know whether they're looking for cheap.

And if you compare that to a more specific long-tail key phrase, so someone has decided the exact resort that they want to go to, they've decided they do want luxury, and maybe they've decided that they want to be catered for, then that's going to be easier to convert.

Search volume

When it comes to volume, so even though short-tail keywords individually have higher search volumes collectively, it's smaller, compared to long-tail keywords.


Now one thing with short-tail keywords is it is easier to research. There's a smaller number of keywords, so you'll be able to research what those are, quicker. Whereas with the long-tail, it does require more research, what you can look at as a plus or a negative. It's a negative in that it will take more time, but it's a plus in that it's quite possible that your competitors won't go into enough research that's necessary.

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Please note that the module slides are designed to work in collaboration with the module transcript document. It is recommended that you use both resources simultaneously.

Digital Marketing Resources:

Joe Williams

Managing Director and SEO Trainer at Zen Optimise

  • Founder and SEO Trainer at Zen Optimise with 10 years’ experience in Search Engine Optimization
  • Zen Optimise is a London-based digital marketing training company
  • SEO consultant and trainer for hundreds of small, medium, and blue chip companies including Qantas Airlines, Sky, Eurostar, EasyCruise, and Anti-Slavery

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful. While relevant to this module, you will not be assessed on this content.

You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library


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