Head Term: What Is a Head Term?

A head term, otherwise known as a head keyword, is a popular keyword that drives high search volume. Head terms are very competitive when it comes to ranking, and they are the opposite of long-tail keywords.

These funny names come from the appearance of the distribution you see below. Head terms are concentrated at the peak—they generate high search volumes and a lot of competition. Long-tail keywords are scattered throughout the (you guessed it) long tail. These keywords generate relatively low search volumes, and they aren’t terribly competitive.

head-term-graphic-visualization

Why should I care about head terms?

When you initially think about it, it would seem that focusing on head terms is a great search marketing tactic. After all, they drive the largest search volumes—why wouldn’t your business try to advertise to as many people as possible at one time?

Yes, getting your brand or product in front of tons of eyeballs is an appealing idea. But, there are two key factors you must consider when developing your keyword strategy: competition and search intent.

We’ve briefly touched on competition already. To put it as simply as possible, it’s incredibly difficult to earn the top spot—whether paid or organic—when bidding or targeting a head term. There are too many competitors placing higher bids, boasting better Quality Scores, and building greater Domain Authority. Your PPC and SEO goals should be ambitious and realistic. Otherwise, you’re going to bury yourself in search.

Search intent is the reason someone enters a query into a search engine. It’s informative to review the three types of search queries. Informational search queries, like “film,” come from people looking to learn something about a particular topic. Navigational search queries, such as “Facebook,” have the intent of visiting a particular website or web page. Transactional search queries, like “coffee makers near me,” show commercial intent: they come from people looking to make purchases.

head-term-transactional-query

Advertisers must resist the temptation to focus on high-volume-driving head terms because these queries often lack commercial intent. For example, a search for “software” is unlikely to end in a transaction—the searcher is either hoping to learn, or very early in the purchase process. Alternatively, a long-tail search like “PPC software Google Ads account” demonstrates much more readiness to buy. Therefore, in the interests of your limited marketing budget, it’s a good idea to bid and target the latter.

What are some keyword strategies?

In the world of search engine marketing, and more specifically PPC, two words carry a whole lot of weight: relevant audience. To understand why, let’s think about some of the things that can happen when you show your ads to an irrelevant audience.

People with no interest in your product or service click on your ads. This costs you however much your cost-per-click (CPC) is—which, depending on your industry, could be exorbitantly high—and offers absolutely nothing in return. Advertising to irrelevant audiences is akin to burning money. Burning money is not good for business.

head-term-cpc-increase

People ignore your ads because they have no interest in your product or service.You may be thinking: “Okay, they didn’t convert—but they also didn’t click on my ad and cost me money. That’s not too bad, right?” Wrong! This will tank your click-through rate (CTR), a metric that happens to play a huge part in your Quality Score. As your CTR drops, Google considers your ad decreasingly relevant, thus telling the search engine to punish you in the ad auction. The less relevant the audience, the lower your CTR, and the worse your performance!

We promise, this is all building to an important point: you need to do your keyword research if you want to survive in search marketing. The ultimate goal of your research is to find the sweet spot of keywords that are highly relevant to your business without being so competitive that you don’t stand a chance. Luckily, there are plenty of tools and services to assist you in your research.