The cornerstone to success in search advertising, keywords are the words and phrases that describe or relate to the content of a webpage or a website. Marketers need to know the relevant range of keywords that target customers enter into the browser’s search box, when they seek the information or services provided by the site. This forms the basis for search advertising and SEO.

Advertisers should narrow the possibilities down to a manageable list, choosing a combination of keywords that would attract target customers, at different stages of their journey.

Long Tail and Short Tail Keywords

Exhibit 18.6   Long tail and short tail keywords.

Keywords may be classified as long and short tail (Exhibit 18.6).

Short tail keywords are phrases with only one or two words. They tend to be generic in nature, often pertaining to the category as a whole, for instance “shampoo”, “marketing”, “marketing analytics”, “washing machines” etc. They generate high search volume, and since they attract high level of competition, the bidding for these words tends to be high. Marketers may use these keywords in their ads to draw high traffic to their home page. Conversion rates, however, are likely to be low.

Long tail keywords are longer phrases that more specific in nature. For example “anti-dandruff shampoo”, “marketing analytics for practitioners” and “front-loading low suds washing machines”.

They generate low, but better-targeted search volume that leads to relatively higher conversion rate. They also attract lesser competition.

Category, Brand and Competitor Keyword

Besides long and short tail descriptors, keywords may also be classified according to whether they target category seekers, the company’s product or brand seekers, or the competitor’s product seekers.

Category keywords are the generic short tail keywords, relating to almost any product or service in the category. For example, Shampoo, Soap, Body Wash, Feel Fresh etc.

Brand keywords are the phrases that are tightly bound to a brand. Taking Dove body wash as an example, these would include “one-quarter moisturising cream”, “real beauty”, “self-esteem”, “Dove body wash” etc.

Competitor keywords target a competitor’s keywords. This can be an effective strategy especially for a small player if the target competitor is a much stronger player. Taking Dove once more as an example, if the brand wants to target Johnsons body wash, they may target the Keyword “for all you love”.

When pursuing competitor keywords, one needs to be mindful of legal implications especially when targeting trademarks such as brand names, as this is illegal in a number of countries.

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