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What is “the Long Tail” and why is it important?

There has been a lot of talk about the long tail. According to Wikipedia “The phrase The Long Tail (as a proper noun with capitalized letters) was first coined by Chris Anderson in an October 2004 Wired magazine article”. I think shoemoney is the one who made it popular for SEO and SEM. The idea behind the long tail is not new just what we call it. I have talked about it for years.

    The Long tail

to me is a phrase typed into a search engine that is 4 or more words. 3 words I consider medium tail. There are some 3 word phrases that are easy to get and some that are very hard. One of the things that goes with long tail is that most of the time you may only get 1 visitor a month or even one visitor from that term ever. I used to run some pretty busy spam sites that were auto generated from lots of keyword research. One of the things I would see in the logs was that over 50% of my traffic over a month period were from phrases that were only typed in once that month.

One of the armature mistakes that most SEO make is that the focus all their time and effort into ranking for what they think their “money word” is. People think “man if I could just rank for “auto loan” or “debt consolidation” I would be rich”. Yes you will get lots of traffic and make some good money but your conversion rate will suck. It will take a lot of time and effort to get those terms if you can even get them at all. You could spend your initial time and effort going after lots of smaller terms. The long tail terms have a much better conversion rate. Instead of “auto loan” you might go for “no money down auto loans”. If you know what you are doing and can get the big terms go for it. Once you get the big term most of the long tail will just happen. Problem is most people can’t get the big terms.

There are lots of ways to get your terms. Wordtracker is a great place to start. Also it is worth it to invest in some PPC. You will lose money on this but the keyword list it will give you will be worth it. Just make sure you have log files and a program to read them. You can also build your own keyword list. You already know the root phrases that are in your industry. I used MS Access to build keyword lists. Of course it is always good to have lists of cities, countries, zip codes, states, and neighborhoods.

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  • ShandyKing January 17, 2007, 9:37 am

    David,

    “One of the things that goes with long tail is that most of the time you may only get 1 visitor a month or even one visitor from that term ever.”

    About 76% of my traffic comes from search engines and nearly 90% of that is from long tail search. I typically see long tail variations of the same keywords hourly, not monthly as you mentioned.

    I think your readers should know that as long as your blogging, you will see mainly long tail searches as your main source of traffic, that along with your repeat visitors.

    As for Shoe making this term popular for SEO, no offense to him at all but any SEO worth their salt would have figured this out on their own just by looking at their log files.

    What was typing in more then one or two keywords called before Long Tail? I only ever heard of long tail.