Head Tail vs. Long Tail Keywords for SEO

Understanding the difference between head tail keywords and long tail keywords is crucial to good search engine optimization. All modern search engines use a complex set of algorithms and rules to measure the relevance of a website and to decide the order in which to rank the website in its search results. The keywords that are present on a website play a critical role in determining the amount of exposure the site gets on the Web.


Not all keywords are treated the same by search engines. Some keywords, known as head tail keywords or fat head keywords can drive a very high volume of traffic to a website. Other keywords commonly referred to as long tail keywords, generate lower volume but higher quality traffic. By optimizing the use of these terms, website owners can boost traffic and meet their online conversion goals.

Head tail or fat head keywords are basically keywords that are the most frequently searched terms by users on search engines. Head terms tend to be shorter and less specific than long tail terms. The term “dog food” for instance, could be a head term. It is a general and non-specific term that nevertheless can drive a fairly high volume of traffic from people who may or may not be interested in what a website might have to offer. Long tail keywords, on the other hand tend to be significantly longer and much more specific in nature. They further refine a head-term. The term “Purina dog food puppies Naperville” for instance, could be an example of a long tail term. Such keyword terms are likely to drive lower traffic volumes to a site but from people who are more likely interested in the products or services being sold by the website and are more likely to convert.

Head tail keywords are generally aimed at a broad market segment and are therefore often in much greater demand than long tail words. The greater competition for head tail words means that they are also significantly more expensive to buy than long tail words. Many website owners often focus their SEO strategies on head terms and are willing to pay a premium because they assume that the higher traffic volumes will automatically result in greater conversions. Long tail terms cost less to buy on a pay-per-click basis and also to rank organically on a search engine site. They tend to be highly relevant to a particular site or business and are designed to attract people searching for specific products or services.

Long tail terms are harder to construct than head tail phrases. In order for long tails to be effective, search engine marketers and SEO specialists need to know what terms are relevant and trending upward. Long tail terms tend to be more dynamic in nature in terms of their relevance. Keyword-suggestion tools are often not very useful for long tail keywords so website owners need to come up with relevant terms on their own or get help from SEC specialists.