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The long tail of search

Now that I have finally finished a book review of "The Long Tail" by Chris Anderson, I can finally write about using the principle of the Long Tail in search engine optimization.

What is the Long Tail of search?

First of all, let's define what the Long Tail is when it comes to SEO. The Long Tail of search defines the non-competitive, usually 3-5 word keyphrases that site visitors use to find websites. A broader definition would also include the type and topics of content, word phrasing and such that attracts visitors, using the Long Tail keyphrases.

Generally, the Long Tail keyphrases can be seen once or twice per month in the server logs, but because of the sheer amount of such keyphrases, sites with a log of great content can get pretty decent traffic.

Why use the Long Tail of search?

Normally, product site gets visitors by several types of keyphrases:

  • product names, brands: adidas shoes
  • general keyphrases: running shoes
  • the Long Tail keyphrases: running shoes trail mud

While it is obvious that a company should make it is easy for visitors to find its site by the first group of keyphrases by simply knowing where to place keywords and also make some effort to cover a more broad, second group of general queries, by doing some keyword research and providing good product descriptions, most companies simply don't know there is an opportunity to cover a much larger potential market, don't know how to do it or are reluctant to invest resources in it.

That's why there are still niches without a competent leader and you can be one of them. Especially now that every competitive advantage has been studied to an extreme, siezing the Long Tail of your search engine traffic may be the one that will bring your competitors to their knees. It'll require some work, of course.

How to use the Long Tail approach in SEO?

To cover a broader market, more efforts are required, when compared to basic SEO optimization (in fact, no effort is required to rank for a website or company name, mostly). To market the Long Tail, the website owner or the webmaster should know what his Long Tail of search is comprised of to have something to start with.

As the Long Tail keyphrases are less relevant to the website, there is a wider field to cover. But as it is quite broad, you'll need to know what to target, because you don't need any untargeted traffic.

The magnificence of the Long Tail of search is that you don't know it untill you have optimized your site and have some content on your site to attract it. Sure, there will be some Long Tail queries in your logs, but it will be only a tip of the iceberg.

To conquer the Tail of search, you need to create a rich foundation of content to be found. The tricky part is to know what content to create. If your focus is on providing value to your customers, it'll be easier for you.

To capture the long tail, you need to create content that not only is relevant to your product or service, but also which is related to your producr or service or even remotely related. You do this because you need to target not only people who know about you and your product, or just what they need - that's pretty simple - but you need to attract people that have the same problems, as your target audience, who are looking for a solution, a solution not only in your field, but also in a related one.

An example of targetting the Long Tail of search

Let's study an example of men's, for instance. Sure, you need to write basic product descriptions, the benefits of using your socks over others, but you will also need to provide tips on keeping your feet comfortable, how to keep mens feed healthy, how to pick a suitable pair of socks for a constume and for which occasion, and so on.

This way you not only attract people who are interested in socks, but you attract people with a wider variety of topics, related to socks. All of the above will have a chance to buy from you. (Check this more detailed example of content ideas).

Final word

By looking out of the box, by attempting to do your best to provide value to your potential cutsomers, you are able to find new ways to think of how your product may benefit them. This approach will open new ways of marketing your product as well. And lastly, this will allow you to get more visitors to your website. If you do everything right, this will be just some icing on the cake.



Thanks for the article. I found it very interesting. I have several clients who work in some of the most competitive marketing environments in the UK, and although its difficult to convince them of the need for long tail analysis and personalised web pages it is the only way they are going to continue to grow their businesses.

Thanks again!

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