SEO Keywords: Keywords vs. Longtail Keywords, What’s The Difference?

Those of you who have worked on improving your website’s Google ranking have probably stumbled upon different terms related to your SEO keyword research—primary, secondary, competitor keywords. We get asked a lot about those terms, but most of the questions we get are related to longtail keywords.

In this article, we will explain to you what longtail keywords are, and tell you why they are a crucial part of SEO, something you absolutely need to pay attention to. Let’s roll!

The Point Of SEO Keyword Researching

Keywords are words users enter in order to find something on Google and other search engines.

  • Knowing what potential visitors of your site want is extremely important. After all, those potential visitors are also your potential customers, and before you can start converting them, you better find a way to attract them to your site, products, and services. And you do that by researching keywords and targeting content to them.
  • Doing keyword research will give you an idea of what people want, and you will be able to adjust your site and content accordingly. By incorporating keywords into your articles and pages, you will make Google’s job a bit easier, helping your site rank exactly where it needs to be.
  • Keyword research is an essential SEO tactic, and it makes sure your site gets quality traffic, attracting people who really want to be there, hear what you have to say, and buy your products. And yes, Google is smart enough, and you can probably rank OK even without researching and targeting keywords, but not doing it is a risk.
  • Some industries such as niche sites and blogs heavily depend on keyword research, and trying to rank for wrong ones can make or break your business. For some other people—local dentists or lawyers for example—not ranking for certain keywords will not ruin the whole business, but it will certainly hinder it from reaching its full potential.

That’s why, no matter what your niche is, you should incorporate some level of SEO, and the optimization often starts with keyword research and targeting.

Singular SEO keywords – mission impossible

Back in the day, when SEO Singapore was still young, you only needed a list of simple, short, one-word keywords to easily rank high, even on the first page of the search results.

However, the Internet grew and is still growing even as you read this, and most short, singular keywords are too competitive, with saturated search results.

Climbing mountains such as “fitness”, “gaming” and similar are next to impossible unless you have unlimited budget and time.

Besides being ultra competitive, singular keywords are also vague, and too many sites rank for them. “Pets” “health” “finance” is just too broad, and trying to rank for those while hoping to reach your audience and not just random people is not a great idea.

For that reason, ranking for singular keywords is an abandoned practice. Instead, online marketers and SEO experts opt for longtail keywords.

What Are, And Why Longtail Keywords?

Longtail keywords are phrases people enter into search, trying to narrow down the results. Unlike regular, singular keywords, longtail keywords have intent and meaning behind them. They are usually conversational phrases people use in normal talk, something like “cheapest airplane tickets” or “best time tracking apps”.

Unlike singular keywords, longtail keywords filter out unnecessary results. “Best time tracking apps” is miles apart from “time tracking” which can show results containing different methods, and productivity hacks. And it is a galaxy apart from “time” and it’s not even worth explaining why.

By targeting longtail keywords, you not only focus on less competitive fields but also get filtered traffic, hitting only people who are genuinely interested in your content and site. So no random traffic that will waste your bandwidth.

Furthermore, longtail keywords are terms users enter further down the sales funnel, and optimizing for them will significantly improve your conversions. Targeting “best water resistant iPhone cases” is putting you much closer to potential buyers than just “phone cases”.

And yes, longtail keywords will draw fewer results in, but with them, you are substituting quantity for quality. It’s much better to convert 1 out of 100 visitors into customers, than 1 out of 10000.

Finding The Balance of keywords for SEO

Ranking for longtail keywords provides great ROI, and that is especially true for running paid ads—less competition means lower costs, and also makes it more likely for people to click on your ads.

However, when ranking for longtail keywords, you need to make sure you don’t get too far. “Best Encrypted Messaging Android Apps” is a solid option. But, “best AES-256 encryption messaging apps for Android KitKat” might be too much.

You want balance  If you focus too broadly, your conversions will suffer, and you will waste traffic. If you narrow it down too much, you are holding your business back, when it has opportunities to grow.

It is important to note that although longtail keywords show much fewer results, they actually attract more site traffic. People rarely search for “internet speed” unless they want to find a definition or a Wiki page. They more likely search for something like “how to improve WiFi speed” or “best mobile network speed testing apps”.

The “long tail” represents all those “unpopular” searches, at least in terms of the total number of search results. But these are actually gold mines, if you know how to find, and target them. Just ask any successful niche site owner.

How To  Find Longtail Keywords?

There are many premium tools you can use to do keyword research, but, you can do it completely fine without paying a dollar, and this is exactly what most people need.

Just enter something that interests you or is related to your business in the Google search field, and scroll down the search results page.

There, you will see “related searches” list, showing you Google suggestions, which is a list of terms people used, closely related to your initial keyword.

Play around with it, click on the results, and repeat the process. Once you start going further down the rabbit hole, you will get a much better idea an insight into buyer’s minds.

This will tell you a lot not only about the SEO strategy your site needs, but also about your business approach in general, and it might give you an idea of what to improve.


Longtail keywords are goldmines, and learning how to research and target them is an essential part of any SEO campaign. Do this incorrectly, and you will lose out to your competitors.

But, finding the right balance between going too broad, or “niching-down” too much is tricky, and requires both SEO knowledge and experience. Although keyword research is something you can do yourself, too much is at stake, and it is best for you to leave it to the pros.



About the Author:

My name is Wynn Zhou - SEO expert in Singapore, and I’m the founder & Director here at Digital M which provide digital marketing and SEO in Singapore. I’ll be getting my 10 years of digital marketing experience, I am personally focussed on getting your business to the top of Google so you can enjoy the growth of up to 295% year on year like my other clients.
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