Keyword length analysis for bloggers – short-tail Vs long-tail

You know that long-tail keywords are easier to rank for. But do long-tail keywords send more traffic than short-tail keywords? Can long-tail keyword optimization increase your blog income? Keyword length analysis will help you to find the answers you are looking for.

1. Define long-tail threshold

Number of words in keyword phrase is a threshold that helps you to put keyword into short-tail or long-tail category. There is no standard length of long-tail keyword. You can define that one-, and two-word phrases are short-tails; 3+ word phrases are long-tails.

2. Get keyword sample

Keyword analysis is expensive and time-consuming process, especially when you have many keywords to analyze and don’t have special tools, except Google Analytics. Therefore, you need a keyword sample of a keyword population – keyword phrases that generated search engine traffic.

There are two kinds of samples: random and time frame. Random keyword sample is randomly selected subset of a population. Time frame keyword sample is a subset of a population selected by date range.

In this example, I use a time frame sample, because it’s easier to get than a random sample. Data is gathered in 2007 by Google Analytics for one website I have access to.

search sent search sent 19,266 non-paid visits via 6,159 keywords

You can see that search sent 19,266 non-paid visits via 6,159 keywords. So, the sample is big enough to be analyzed.

3. Calculate keyword length

Keyword length calculation is damn boring if you don’t know how to automate it. There are many ways to do it, but my favorite is UNIX awk program.

  • Open the Keywords page in Google Analytics, specify a date range, and export data to the TSV (Tab Separated Values) file.
  • Open the file; delete everything except the Keyword, Visits, and Pages/Visit columns including column titles. Congratulations! Now you have a time frame keyword sample.
  • Run awk -F’\t’ ‘{print $1}’ file.tsv | awk ‘{print NF}’ > kwd-length.txt command, where file.tsv is the exported filename.
  • Open both files in a spreadsheet. Copy only column from kwd-length.txt file to file.tsv. Done! (You may use paste command instead of copy-paste. But make sure it doesn’t mix Windows and UNIX end-of-line characters, because they can make your life worse when you will open the exported file in a spreadsheet to make colorful charts.)

4. Analyze keywords and keyword length

There are many ways to analyze a keyword length. First of all, let’s find out a number of unique n-word keywords in a sample. A pie chart is a good choice.

unique keywords pie chart

Numbers tell us that two-word keywords are the most popular. Do they send more traffic than any other keywords?

visits pie chart

Yes, two-word keywords send more traffic than any other keyword phrases – 44% of visits. One-word keyword phrases send 37% of visits. There is a huge difference between short-tail and long-tail keywords. It can be seen from the histogram below.

unique keywords visits histogram

What does it all mean? A few short-tail keywords can send more traffic than many long tail-keywords.

5. Analyze the relationship between keyword length and conversion rate

Search engine optimization gurus say that long-tail keywords can make you reach. Visitors who use multi-word keywords are more likely to make a purchase or click ads. So, you need to analyze the relationship between keyword and conversion rate.

What is a conversion rate? Conversion rate is a ratio between page views and user actions. Action is a purchase, AdSense click, affiliate click, or something else. You should choose your conversion rate and analyze the relationship.

Pages/Visit can be used instead of conversion rate when it’s unavailable. For example, bloggers who don’t want to monetize their blogs (or haven’t done it yet) can analyze the relationship between keyword length and Pages/Visit. More visitors means more page views. More page views means more AdSense clicks and more money.

The histogram below shows the means and medians of Pages/Visit for one-, two-, three-, four-, and other multi-word phrases.

Overall, the numbers are pretty much the same regardless of keyword length. Anyway, readers who use 4-word keywords usually visit 4.41 pages (median 1.5). Long-tail takes the first place. Then follow one-word keywords – 4.33 pages (median 2.4). Visitors who use three-word keyword phrases usually visit 3.9 pages.

What does it all mean? Visitors who use long-tail keywords are more likely to click on ads. Long-tail keyword optimization can increase your blog income.

9 thoughts on “Keyword length analysis for bloggers – short-tail Vs long-tail”

  1. Hadn’t really thought to break down keyword length for anything more than number of searches, but depending on your objective, knowing how the length affects visits and page views can be huge!

  2. We are considering the use of one of the graphics above as a supportive visual to a co-authored book. Can you direct us to the copyrights owner or General Counsel? What e-mail can we send a Copy Rights Permission Request form? And what is the business address to be used on the request? Thanks in advance.

  3. I am the copyright owner of the content, including the graphics. You can send the form to seozero No personal info here. Email me and I will reply.

    BTW, what’s the book?

  4. Thanks for the perfect information. As per my experience, the conversion rate for two and three word keywords is maximum. Then comes single word keyword and after that keywords of length more than 3 words.

  5. As expected the High-traffic Keywords analysis has a higher average number of unique visitors per keyword than in the Full Database. The Full Database is averaging hundreds of thousands of records, whereas the High-traffic Keywords Analysis by definition is limited to records with high traffic

  6. I think there is a definite correlation between long tail keywords and conversion rate. The long tail concept can especially be beneficial for new and small business owners.
    I have an article on long tail keywords as well. Do drop by and give your suggestions.
    Also did some interesting research on mobile phone searches vs. desktop searches. The long tail might shorten in the future.

  7. Most keyword phrases are highly competitive and difficult to rank for because everyone is using them. Regular keyword phrases have the greatest competition.
    Longtail keywords are generally keyword phrases greater than 3 words. Longtail keywords are word phrases that are becoming more prevalent in online internet marketing. Other keyword phrases are over used and longtail keyword phrases offer an alternative at getting more traffic from words that are not used very much globally. Longtail keywords are valuable but not highly competitive which makes them a great resource to use in website meta tags and article writing. There are longtail keyword generators.

  8. I adopted a cat from the humane society, they have him listed as a domestic short hair.He is orangish beige and has a real thing small face, very cute, but unique looking. And a VERY long tail, longer than the usual cats tail.Does anyone know if this is a mix breed? And of what two it could possibly be?

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