Long Tail Vs. Short Tail Keywords & How To Attract More Therapy Clients

Reviewed By: Michael Currie
reviewer image Michael Currie
Michael has been working in SEO for the past 6 years, and has a background in marketing, web design and web development. He has a MBA from the Galardi School of Business and a diploma in web development.

Having a strong online presence is crucial for therapists and counseling services aiming to reach new clients. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is at the heart of making this a reality, with keywords playing a pivotal role in connecting your services with those in need. But not all keywords are created equal. Understanding the distinction between long tail and short tail keywords can significantly enhance your SEO strategy, drawing more targeted traffic to your website.

Below you’ll find the details you need on long tail versus short tail keywords, showing you how they can be leveraged to attract more therapy clients. Whether you are new to SEO or looking to refine your approach, mastering the art of keyword selection will empower you to stand out amongst the crowd so you can connect with those who need your help the most.

Understanding Keywords

Keywords are words or phrases that people use when searching for information online. In the context of therapy and counseling services, these could range from broad terms like “therapy” to more specific phrases like “anxiety therapy for teenagers.”

The right keywords act as a bridge between your website’s content and your target audience, helping search engines like Google understand what your site is about and how it matches users’ search intentions. The effectiveness of your SEO efforts heavily relies on your ability to identify and utilize keywords that not only describe your services but also match the queries your potential clients are typing into search engines.

Keywords can be categorized into two main types: short tail and long tail. Each type serves a different purpose in your SEO strategy and attracts different types of traffic. Understanding the distinction between these two can significantly impact your ability to attract more targeted therapy clients through search engines.

Short Tail Keywords

Short tail keywords, such as “therapy” and “mental health,” are broad phrases with high search volumes but face stiff competition in search engine rankings. They are also “short” in length making them very common and therefore, harder to rank for. Short tail keywords are important for connecting with consumer because they are the words people often use based on what they know about your brand and what they’re looking for online.

From a marketing perspective, short tail keywords draw in customers at the early stages of seeking mental health services, boosting your brands visibility in a crowded online space. So while they are common (and therefore important) most clients go deeper in their search for mental health before they stop on the practitioner they want to hire.

Think of it this way: The short tail keyword “therapy” isn’t specific enough for a consumer to find what they want. A search on “therapy” leads to a deeper search on keywords like “therapy near me” or “couples therapy before divorce”.

By including these keywords in your SEO strategy, you will attract a wide audience to your therapy practice’s website. And it’s important to include them because they are the language we “know” so the commonality is more important than the SEO results for the keyword. This is how you tell your clients you “get them” and that you can offer the help they need. But short tail keywords alone will not net you SEO traffic to your website. The strategy that works is a combination of short tail and long tail keywords.

Pros of Short Tail Keywords

  • High Search Volume: They attract a large audience, offering the potential for significant traffic to your website.
  • Broad Reach: Short tail keywords can capture users at the early stages of their search for information, increasing your brand’s visibility.

Cons of Short Tail Keywords

  • High Competition: The broad appeal of these keywords means you are competing with many other websites, including large, established players.
  • Lower Conversion Rates: Because they are not specific, visitors coming through these keywords may not be looking for the exact services you offer, leading to lower conversion rates.

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are more specific and often longer phrases that precisely describe a particular aspect of the services you offer. These keywords usually consist of four or more words and are much more targeted than short tail keywords. Long tail keywords are crucial for attracting a niche audience who are further along in their decision-making process and are more likely to convert into clients.

These keywords typically have a lower search volume vs short tail keywords, but they bring in traffic that is more specific and targeted. Some examples of long tail keywords include “affordable depression therapy in Chicago” and “online cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia”.

Because long tail keywords are less competitive than short tail keywords, using them strategically makes it’s easier for your therapy practice to rank higher in search results. The specificity of long tail keywords means that the traffic they attract is more likely to be interested in the specific services you offer, increasing the likelihood of conversion from visitor to client.

This, of course, also speaks to therapy niche. And for clients who can niche their practice down, it’s incredibly wise to do so, for the SEO benefits alone.

Pros of Long Tail Keywords

  • Higher Conversion Rates: Visitors coming from long tail keyword searches are usually looking for something very specific, making them more likely to convert if you offer what they are searching for.
  • Lower Competition: Because they are more specific, there is generally less competition for these keywords, making it easier to rank higher in search engine results.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: For paid search campaigns, long tail keywords often have a lower cost per click due to their lower competition.

Cons of Long Tail Keywords

  • Lower Search Volume: These keywords attract fewer searches, so while the traffic is more targeted, it is often less in quantity compared to short tail keywords.
  • Complexity In Identification: Finding the right long tail keywords requires a deep understanding of your target audience and their search behaviors.

How Keywords Affect Your Online Visibility

Keywords play a pivotal role in determining your website’s visibility on search engines. When potential clients use search engines to find your therapy or counseling services, the search engine algorithms sift through countless web pages to present the most relevant results. The relevance of these results is largely determined by the use of keywords within your website’s content, including titles, headings, meta descriptions, and the main body text.

Matching User Intent

Search engines strive to align user searches with the most relevant content, matching the intent behind their queries. User intent is the term SEO professionals and Google itself uses to describe the psychological motivation BEHIND the words used in search. Some keywords have an “informational” intent, meant to explain, teach, define or educate a consumer on a topic. Other keywords are deeper down the marketing funnel and their intent may be commercial, navigational or transactional. SEO tools like SEMRush can tell you the exact nature of a keyword so you know best how to use it in your content.

While short tail keywords are broad and can position your website across various search queries, they may not always lead visitors to the precise information they seek. Most often, short tail keywords align with informational intent whereas long tail keywords can match with any of the four different user intents.

That makes long tail keywords more versatile because many of them align more accurately with users’ specific needs. That “match” is what enhancing your chances that an individuals searching for the exact services you provide will visit your website.

And again, you need to use both short and long tail keywords to have a website that supports all of your website’s visitors. Remember that some people are new to your site and to therapy, whereas others are on your site because they “heard about you” or were “referred to you”. Serving the needs of all of your potential customer is what keeps a therapy practice full and your business thriving.

Ranking And Competition

Short tail keywords are highly competitive due to their broad appeal, making it difficult for smaller practices to rank highly in search results. In contrast, long tail keywords face less competition, enabling your site to rank higher for specific queries. This higher ranking increases your site’s visibility to potential clients who are searching for the precise services you provide.

Attracting The Right Clients

Using a combination of short tail and long tail keywords allows you to cast a wide net while also honing in on specific niches within the therapy field. This strategic approach ensures that you attract a broad audience while also targeting individuals looking for the exact types of therapy or counseling you specialize in. Ultimately, the choice and use of keywords within your content can significantly impact your ability to attract more, and more relevant, therapy clients through online searches.

Strategies For Using Short Tail Keywords

  • Optimize Your Website’s Main Pages: Use short tail keywords on the main pages of your website, such as the homepage and service pages. These are the pages most likely to attract broad searches related to therapy and counseling services. Incorporate these keywords into your page titles, meta descriptions, and headings to improve your site’s relevance for broad queries.
  • Create High-Quality Content: Develop comprehensive, authoritative content that addresses general topics within your field. For example, blog posts titled “What Is Therapy?” or “Benefits of Counseling” can attract visitors searching with short tail keywords. This content should provide value, answer common questions, and position your practice as an expert in the field. Blog content on “How to Make a Good Apology After a Fight” will attract more specific searches and can open the doors to someone investigating your therapy practice for help.
  • Focus On Local SEO: For therapy practices that have an office clients go to, local search visibility is crucial. Include short tail keywords with local modifiers, such as “therapy in [City Name]” or “eating disorder counselors [City/town name]” to target your local market. Google My Business is also key for getting local SEO clients. Both will help your practice appear in local search results, where competition might be less intense than in broader searches.
  • Use Keywords in Internal Links: Strengthen your website’s SEO by using short tail keywords as anchor texts (the name customers click on to activate a link) for internal links on your website. This not only helps with site navigation but also reinforces the relevance of your pages to these broad search terms.
  • Balance Your Blog with Long Tail Keywords for More Specific Queries: While focusing on short tail keywords, don’t forget to balance your strategy with long tail keywords. This dual approach ensures you’re capturing both broad searches and more specific, conversion-ready traffic. With our clients, over time, we spend more time blogging for long tail keywords vs short tail. That approach allows our clients to deepen their niche and the value of their therapy practice in their community.

Strategies For Using Long Tail Keywords

  • Conduct Detailed Keyword Research: Start by understanding the specific queries your potential clients are using. Tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Ahrefs can help identify long tail keywords related to therapy and counseling. Look for phrases that match the specific services you offer, common issues you treat, and questions your clients might have.
  • Create Niche Content: Once you’ve identified relevant long tail keywords, create content that directly addresses these topics. For example, blog posts, articles, or FAQs that answer specific questions like “How does cognitive behavioral therapy help with anxiety?” or “What to expect in your first couples therapy session” can attract visitors who are searching for these exact answers.
  • Optimize For Voice Search: As voice search becomes more popular, optimizing for conversational, long tail queries is increasingly important. Think about how potential clients might phrase questions when speaking to devices and incorporate these into your content.
  • Use Meta Tags And Descriptions: Incorporate long tail keywords into your page titles, meta descriptions, and headers to improve your pages’ SEO and make them more relevant to specific searches.
  • Localize Your Keywords: For therapists serving specific areas, including long tail keywords with geographical locations can help attract local clients. Phrases like “eating disorder therapy in [City Name]” can be particularly effective.

Combining Long Tail And Short Tail Keywords

A balanced SEO strategy for your therapy practice should incorporate both long tail and short tail keywords. This combination ensures you are not only attracting a broad audience but also targeting specific client needs.

Here’s how to effectively combine these strategies to maximize your online visibility and attract more therapy clients:

  1. Understand your niche and target audience
  2. Use short tail keywords for broader visibility
  3. Employ long tail keywords for targeted content
  4. Optimize site structure
  5. Monitor site performance and make adjustments
  6. Integrate keywords naturally
  7. Use social media and other platforms to extend the reach of your content to new clients

Measuring Keyword Success

Use Google Analytics Tools

Employ web analytics tools like Google Analytics to track the performance of your website and its content. These tools can provide valuable insights into how visitors are finding your site, which keywords are driving traffic, and how users are engaging with your pages. Here’s what you need to know about Google Analytics to get started.

Monitor Search Rankings

Regularly check where your website ranks in search engine results pages (SERPs) for both your short tail and long tail keywords. Tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Google’s Search Console can help you monitor these rankings and understand how changes in your SEO strategy affect your position.

Evaluate Conversion Rates

It is not just about attracting traffic; it is about converting that traffic into clients. Analyze conversion rates from visitors to inquiries or clients, focusing on the keywords that led them to your site. This will help you identify which keywords are most effective at attracting potential clients who are ready to take the next step.

Assess Content Engagement

Look at metrics like page views, time on page, and bounce rates to understand how engaging your content is for your audience. High engagement levels for content targeting specific long tail keywords can indicate success in meeting your audience’s needs.

Adjust Based On Performance

Use the data you gather to make informed decisions about your keyword strategy. If certain keywords aren’t performing as expected, consider refining your content or exploring new keyword opportunities. Conversely, if some keywords are particularly successful, you might expand your content in those areas.

Competitor & Keyword Trend Analysis

Keep an eye on your competitors’ keyword strategies. Understanding which keywords they are targeting and how they rank can provide insights into gaps in your own strategy or opportunities to differentiate your practice.

Also stay updated on trends in keyword searches related to therapy and counseling. Tools like Google Trends can help you spot emerging topics or shifts in what potential clients are searching for, allowing you to adjust your keyword strategy accordingly.

In the competitive landscape of online therapy services, understanding and effectively utilizing both long tail and short tail keywords is essential for attracting more clients. Short tail keywords help cast a wide net, increasing your practice’s visibility and brand awareness among a broad audience. And long tail keywords enable you to engage with searches driven by clear, specific intent, attracting clients who are closer to making a decision and thus more inclined to utilize your services.

Whether you are new to SEO or looking to enhance your existing strategy, focusing on the nuanced balance between long tail and short tail keywords can significantly impact your ability to connect with those in need of therapy services. By doing so, you not only grow your practice but also contribute to the broader goal of making mental health support more accessible to those searching for help.

If we can help your therapy practice with SEO, business development or branding, please reach out today.

author avatar
Melanie Gorman
Melanie Gorman is the owner and operator of Crownsville Media. She holds a masters in counseling psychology and has been in the fields of web development, SEO optimization and content creation for more than 20 years.

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