The value of the Long Tail of Search

The 'long tail of search'

In October 2004 Chris Anderson, an editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, published his famous article: "The Long Tail". According to Anderson:

The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. …

Unless you are a national or international brand with a very large marketing budget, the 'long tail of search' is your key to success in terms of generating more leads and sales from the Internet.

Specifically, if you want to have your web site content rank highly in Google's free or organic search results pages listings, for most businesses, 'long tail' keywords phrases ...

  1. Typically generate a much higher Return on Investment (ROI); and
  2. Are far less competitive and thus much easier to obtain high rankings more quickly.

Main-stream keyword phrases

Consider what a person wants if they search for 'golf clubs'. Do they want:

  1. Some sticks to hit a little white ball? or
  2. A venue for a wedding reception, conference or meeting?

The term 'golf club' is what we would term a 'main-stream' keyword phrase.

'Main-stream' keyword phrases are typically one or two words, have a large number of searches, oftentimes have multiple possible meanings, are often highly competitive and don't typically represent a good ROI.

They are often used by consumers or purchasers very early in the sales or purchase cycle during the 'investigation' phase.

Long tail keyword phrases

Conversely, if someone searches for 'Taylormade Left Hand M2 3-Wood', then even if you don't know what that is, then you can be pretty sure the person doing the search does ... and aren't they waving their money about looking for someone to take it from them in exchange for what they want?

Long tail keywords are those three and four keyword phrases which are very, very specific. Whenever a customer uses a highly specific search phrase, they tend to be looking for exactly what they are actually going to buy. In virtually every case, such very specific searches are far more likely to convert to sales than general generic searches that tend to be geared more toward the type of research that people typically do prior to making a buying decision.

'Long tail' keyword phrases are typically 3 or more words, have a very small number of searches, are very specific, aren't very competitive relatively and typically represent a very good ROI.

They are often used by consumers or purchasers very late in the sales or purchase cycle when they are ready to buy!

And one other thing to note, when you bid on long-tailed keywords when undertaking Pay Per Click or Paid Advertising online, the cost per click is inevitably lower, since there’s typically less competition for these 'long tail' keyword phrases!

The 'Pareto Principle' doesnt apply

The 'Pareto Principle' is otherwise commonly known as the '80-20 Rule'. That is, 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your customers, or 20% of your products or services.

If we were to apply that to Internet search, that would say that the top 20% of search terms would represent 80% of the total search volume.

But that is NOT the case. Studies have shown that irrespective of the industry, the top 20% of search phrases by volume only represent 20% of the total search volume ... or ... the bottom 80% of search terms by search query volume, represent 80% of the total volume of search queries for any industry.

The Long Tail of Search

So, the majority of your opportunity, over 80%, no matter what industry you are in, is in the 'long tail of search'.

So what to do?

The first and most important step is to undertake detailed keyword research to identify your 'long tail of search' keyword phrases.

Then, you need to create unique quality content targetting those 'long tail' keyword phrases. Do bear in mind that this is effectively 'customer-driven' content creation as you will be creating content based on what your prospective customers want.

And finally, employ someone or use the services of an experienced Search Engine Optimisation company to (create and) optimise your web site content for these 'long tail' keyword phrases.

More information?

For more information regarding the 'long tail of search', our keyword research or search engine optimisation services, please feel free to call us on 0419 501 726, send an email to info at or use our contact form on our Contact page to send us an inquiry.

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