How to Use Short-Tail Keywords to Increase Your Website Traffic

November 23, 2023

Joanne Camarce

Driving organic traffic to your website is an art. It takes planning, skills, and inspiration. A new approach to short-tail keywords may be valuable if your efforts don’t yield the desired results.  

Short-tail keywords are search terms that are brief and to the point. They consist of one or two words but are never longer than that. 

They may seem simple. But have the potential to boost search engine optimization and increase traffic. 

Today, we’ll embark on a journey to explore: 

  • The benefits of using short-tail keywords
  • How to identify the right ones for your business
  • The best practices to incorporate them into your website content. 

By the end of our guide, you’ll have a solid understanding of using short-tail keywords to boost traffic and increase conversions. Read on and discover our best tips. 

Why short-tail keywords are fundamental for SEO

Short-tail keywords are the most commonly used search terms. And they make up a significant part of all search queries. They’re essential to your SEO strategy because they help search engines understand website content and match it to the user’s search intent

Incorporating keywords into your content is vital. It increases the opportunities for your website to rank on search engine results pages (SERPs). Whenever someone searches for the right keywords, you’ll get targeted traffic.

However, it’s worth noting that short-tail keywords are highly competitive because they’re so popular with users. So, ranking for them is incredibly challenging. 

graph explaining short-tail and long-tail keywords

Image Source

A study revealed that less than 20% of our search traffic can come from short-tail keywords. Nevertheless, 70% originates from long-tail keywords, proving their effectiveness in driving our online presence.

For that reason, you must identify the right short-tail keywords for your local search. It’s a great starting point. 

How to conduct short-tail keyword research

The first step in using short-tail keywords effectively is to conduct keyword research. 

The process involves using keyword research tools to discover pertinent, high-value keywords. They help you gain a competitive edge. Next, you’ll determine which ones are worth targeting. You can follow our step-by-step method:

Brainstorm potential short-tail keywords

screenshot of AnswerThePublic

Image source

To start, brainstorm a list of short-tail keywords related to your business or topic. Consider what your target audience searches for. 

Tools like AnswerThePublic (ATP) offer valuable insights into the real queries users enter into search engines. Use it to find questions to answer in your content, other keywords to include, and topics to cover later. 

Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Semrush will also help you generate keyword ideas and fine-tune the terms you get from ATP. 

Damian Grabarczyk, the co-founder and growth marketer of PetLab Co., says, “To brainstorm short-tail keywords, our strategy revolves around identifying keyword clusters and understanding the high-intent search behaviors within these groups. We focus on keywords that encapsulate our product range, ensuring they resonate with a wide audience yet have the potential to drive targeted traffic. This method has been transformative. For instance, after implementing this strategy, we observed a 20% increase in organic traffic and a 25% uplift in conversion rates within just a few months. It’s about striking the right balance between reach and relevance. By aligning our keywords with market trends and customer insights, we’ve increased our site visits and attracted customers further along the buying cycle, ready to purchase.”

Determine keyword difficulty and search volume

After you develop a list of potential keywords, it’s time to analyze your keyword metrics

Look at their difficulty and search volume. Keyword difficulty equals how challenging it is to rank for a particular keyword. Search volume indicates how often people search for that keyword each month.

screenshot of Ahrefs Keyword Explorer tool showing a short-tail keyword with low difficulty and high volume

Screenshot provided by author

Aim for keywords with these main traits: High search volume and low difficulty. These are “low-hanging fruit” and are the easiest to rank for.

Narrow down your list of keywords

After your analysis, narrow down your list of potential keywords. Ensure to include only a few of the most relevant and valuable for your business.

You’ll want to target these keywords in your website copy and content. 

Incorporating short-tail keywords into your website content

Incorporating keywords into web copy and content isn’t always as easy as you’d think. It takes creativity and flexibility. It’s essential to work within best practices so your user experience (UX) remains exceptional and Google’s bots can easily crawl your website. 

Here are some best practices to keep in mind as you work those keywords into your content.

Keep short-tail keywords natural

When incorporating short-tail keywords into your content, it’s essential to do so naturally. Don’t keyword stuff (overuse keywords just to hit a target number of uses) or use them in an unnatural way. Instead, include them in a way that makes sense and adds value to your content.

Harness short-tail keywords in page titles and meta descriptions

Include short-tail keywords in your page titles and meta descriptions.

screenshot of Google search results showing meta titles and meta descriptions

Screenshot provided by author

They are the first elements users see in search engine results when they find your website. Incorporating the right keywords, especially short-tail keywords, into your metadata increases the chances of your content appearing in search results. 

Optimize your website content for short-tail keywords

Optimizing your website content for your target short-tail keywords is fundamental. What do you optimize? The short answer is everything. 

Depending on your niche, your website could include blog posts, product pages, landing pages, and other relevant content.

Include your keywords in headings and subheadings, and sprinkle them naturally throughout your content. On product pages, include keywords in product descriptions and alt text for images. Blog posts should contain target keywords in the introduction and conclusion, the title, and at least one subheader. 

Beyond natural placement, let’s look at other best practices for incorporating short-tail keywords.

Best practices for using short-tail keywords

Adhering to best practices will keep your SEO strategy on track and your user experience optimal. Here are the most essential best practices to remember when targeting short-tail keywords. 

Focus on relevance

It should be obvious, but always and only target relevant keywords. It makes no sense to target an irrelevant keyword, even if it’s a tempting low-hanging fruit.

Staying relevant will help your website appear in the right search engine results pages. Offering a straightforward user experience and improving the average session duration on your site.

Use short-tail keywords as “seed” keywords

The tool will also offer additional keyword ideas when searching for relevant short-tail keywords using Ahrefs or Semrush. These often include terms users also search for and related keywords. 

screenshot of Ahrefs' keyword ideas

Screenshot provided by author

Some suggestions are short-tail keywords, while others are long-tail keywords. Utilizing both (as long as they’re relevant) is the best strategy to optimize your content marketing and website copy. Try taking these suggestions and entering them into AnswerThePublic for additional content ideas. 

Check competitors

Competitor analysis is key to a successful SEO strategy. This is where tools like Ahrefs and Semrush really shine. 

First, find your competitors by checking the list of your “organic competitors.”

screenshot of Ahrefs results of organic competitors

Screenshot provided by author

Then, enter the top three results into the Content Gap tool. 

screenshot of Ahrefs Content Gap tool

Screenshot provided by author

Click on “Show keywords,” and the tool will provide a list of keywords your competitors rank for that you currently don’t. From that list, you can choose relevant keywords you want to pursue. 

screenshot showing the keywords resulting from Ahrefs' Content Gap analysis

Screenshot provided by author

Measuring the success of your short-tail keyword strategy

Unfortunately, SEO isn’t a strategy you can set and forget. It constantly evolves and changes.

As a result, you must track specific metrics and use analytics to measure your success. That way, when strategies and tactics fall short, you’ll know what went wrong and how to adjust and improve. 

Here are the top SEO metrics to track.

Search engine rankings

Check your search engine rankings regularly.

screenshot of Ahrefs organic keywords list showing SERP rankings

Screenshot provided by author

They’ll show you where you rank in search engine results for your target keywords. Use tools like Ahrefs for information related to your search engine rankings, including any changes in ranking, when the tool updates your rankings, and which page on your site ranks for which keyword.

Website Traffic

Tracking your website traffic is vital. It helps you see if there’s been an increase in visitors since you started using certain keywords.

Google Analytics is an outstanding tool for tracking website traffic. It lets you see your overall site traffic as well as individual page traffic‌ — ‌that way, you can see which pages are most popular with users and which pages might need improvement. 

Conversion rates

Finally, you must verify if the strategy attracts qualified traffic to your website. So, you must track your conversion rates.

Google Analytics and HubSpot help track your conversion rates. Their features help you identify opportunities for improvement.

Must-have tools

We’ve already discussed a few of the best tools to streamline your process. Let’s take a closer look at these tools and a couple of other must-have tools that can make all the difference in your SEO strategy. 

Google Keyword Planner

Screenshot of Google's Keyword Planner, displaying the top navigation menu, and sign-up form.

Image source

Google Keyword Planner is a free tool to help you 

Customized keyword suggestions and competition-level insights provide fundamental elements to enhance website visibility.

Starting price: The Google Keyword Planner tool is free to use. All you need to have is a Google Ads account to access it.

Free trial: You can use it for free with your Google Ads account.

Money-back warranty: N/A


Screenshot of SEMrush's features page  displaying the top navigation menu, login, and sign-up form.

Image source

It is an all-in-one SEO and digital marketing tool. It helps website owners and marketers to optimize their online presence.

Semrush has robust features, including:

  • Keyword research
  • Competitive analysis
  • Site auditing
  • Backlink tracking
  • Social media analysis
  • And more.

The platform continuously updates its features to stay up-to-date with industry changes. Providing users with the most accurate and helpful data possible.

Starting price:

  • $119.95 (monthly) for the Pro Plan.
  • $229.95 (monthly) for the Guru Plan.
  • $449.95 (monthly) for the Business Plan.

Free trial: Yes. Semrush offers a free trial for seven (7) days. During this time, users can access all the features of the Pro plan.

Money-back warranty: Semrush offers a 7-day money-back guarantee for all its paid plans. If unsatisfied with the service, you can cancel during the first seven (7) days and receive a full refund.


A screenshot of Ahrefs' home page displaying the top navigation menu, login, and sign-up buttons.

Image source

Ahrefs is a paid tool for keyword research and also analyses features of SEO performance. The tool’s features include:

  • keyword research
  • Backlink analysis
  • Content analysis
  • Site audit
  • Keyword difficulty
  • Search volume data
  • And more.

Starting price: The starting price for Ahrefs is $99 (per month). The Lite plan includes access to all tools and features for one user with limited data and reports.

Free trial: Unfortunately, they currently don’t offer a free trial. But they do have a 7-day trial for $7. It gives full access to all tools and features.

Webmaster Tools Account: You can sign up for a free account and gain access to metrics like keywords you rank for and your website’s backlinks. 

Money-back warranty: Ahrefs offers a 7-day refund guarantee. It doesn’t include the trial plan.


screenshot of Frase home page

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Frase is an SEO optimization tool that searches the top SERP results for any keyword (short-tail or long-tail) you enter. It then provides recommended secondary and semantic keywords to include in content to optimize it and compete with those SERP results. 

Its features include:

  • SEO research
  • Competitive analysis
  • Content scoring
  • Content briefs
  • Outline builder
  • Custom templates
  • And more

Frase easily competes with other AI optimization tools like SurferSEO and MarketMuse at a much lower price point, making it an attractive alternative for smaller businesses. With the help of its AI, content creators can optimize their blog posts, see how they stack up to competitor’s content, and avoid keyword stuffing – all in one user-friendly dashboard. 

Starting price:

  • $14.99/mo (4 articles/monthly) for the Solo Plan.
  • $44.99/mo (30 articles/monthly) for the Basic Plan.
  • $114.99/mo (Unlimited articles monthly) for the Team Plan.

Free trial: No… BUT if you want to try Frase before subscribing, they offer a 5-day trial for $1. 

Money-back warranty: Frase offers a 5-day money-back guarantee for its subscriptions. If unsatisfied with the service, you can cancel during the first five (5) days and receive a full refund. This does NOT apply to the 5-day trial for $1. 

The takeaway

Short-tail keywords are a valuable resource to increase website traffic and boost your SEO efforts.

Conducting thorough keyword research, incorporating short-tail keywords into your website content, and measuring your success is fundamental for crafting strategies to improve visibility and skyrocket your website’s traffic.

Focus on relevance, target high-value keywords, and stay up-to-date with the latest trends to ensure your short-tail keyword strategy remains effective over time.

Remember to balance short- and long-tail keywords in your overall strategy and optimize for success using our recommended tools. 

To your success!

Frequently asked questions

What are some common mistakes when using short-tail keywords?

It’s always best to stick to ‌best practices and avoid unnecessary penalties. 

Avoid the following to harvest the fruits of your marketing efforts:

Keyword stuffing

Once upon a time, in the early days of the internet, keyword stuffing would improve search engine rankings. That’s no longer the case. 

Users and search engines now recognize overusing keywords to manipulate search rankings as the bad form it is. It can result in a poor user experience and reduced credibility for the website.

It’s a confirmed negative ranking factor for Google, so don’t risk it. 

Ignoring long-tail keywords

We’ll say it again: while short-tail keywords are essential for SEO, you shouldn’t neglect long-tail. These more specific search terms are often easier to rank for – leading to more qualified traffic to your website.

Ignoring them can lead to missed opportunities for qualified leads and increased sales for your business.

Neglecting user intent

When choosing short-tail keywords, it’s crucial to consider user intent. Your target keywords should match what users are searching for. Make sure to provide the content they expect to find. 

What are the benefits and drawbacks of short-tail keywords?

Familiarize yourself with the strengths and weaknesses of short-tail keywords. Its widespread use in SEO and digital marketing doesn’t mean it’s the right approach for everyone. Familiarizing yourself with the pros and cons of this strategy can help you decide whether to use it. 


  • Higher search volume
  • Increased brand exposure
  • High traffic potential


  • High competition
  • Lower conversion rates
  • Lack of specificity

It is up to you to ponder the perks and benefits of incorporating them into your strategies. Each case is unique; what works for other digital marketers may not work for you. Weigh the risk and reward, experiment by following best practices, and track your results.

Joanne Camarce

Joanne Camarce

Joanne Camarce is a Houston-based Director of PR Operations at uSERP. She leads the charge on everything from strategy to execution. Besides her passion for SEO and content, her hobbies revolve around Japanese culture, art, and music.