Got A New Web Site? Go for the Long Tail.

“The Long Tail” is an economic concept that was coined by Chris Anderson of Wired Magazine to describe the business model of and several other online retailers. The idea is that the overall demand for less-popular products can exceed the demand for the most popular items added together. How can this concept be applied to a blog or e-commerce site?

Advertising Expenses

One of the common ways of driving traffic to your site is to use Google AdWords or other advertising campaigns based on keywords. Common keywords, like “ringtones” or “dating” can be prohibitively expensive on Google, particularly when quality score comes into play. Other advertising systems may cost less but produce less profitable traffic.

The ‘Sandbox’

Another common way is to use organic search results. It is also very difficult to rank in Google results for common keywords. Google’s often mentioned ’sandbox algorithm’ is said to be designed to keep newer web sites lower in the search results of the high volume keywords until they’re considered ‘trusted’. The sandbox, from what I understand, isn’t a single algorithm but the interaction of several ranking factors Google uses. Whatever it is, it will take time and aggressive link building to achieve good search position results for popular keywords.

Long Tail Ads

While popular keywords get the most ad buyers there are millions of combinations of words where there is little competition and little traffic. These phrases constitute the Long Tail. You can bid on many of these and, in many cases, get the same number or even more click-throughs as you would with a top 10 keyword. For example, you might pick “Macaw Ringtones” as your keywords rather than just “Ringtones”. You’ll probably see some smart people who did exactly that in the contextual ads that appear on this page since my text will have triggered their Long Tail thinking. You can do the same with your ads and you will make more money than you would otherwise.

Long Tail Search Results

The other Long Tail effect you can use to defeat the ‘Sandbox’ and to attract new visitors. I’ve used this on this site by working with the term “BlogRush Sucks”. As of this writing this site, which is barely a week old, ranks #1 on the term. New visitors come to here attracted by my dislike of that service.

That’s how the Long Tail works with search. You find phrases that you want to emphasize and create pages about them. All you have to do is make the content of value and original and use a little standard SEO techniques like using the proper H1/H2/H3 tags and so forth. If you’re doing this for a blog, it’s really a matter of staying “on message” just like a politician. For e-commerce, it can work two ways. You can have a huge number of products like Amazon or you can find unique things about your site and promote them with online press releases and product reviews.

Finding the Long Tail

There are three tools I use to gather Long Tail information: WordPress Stats, Google Analytics, and HitTail. Hopefully you’re familiar with the first two if you run a WordPress blog and Analytics if you run any site. However you may not heard of HitTail. They’re like Analytics although they concentrate on the Long Tail values of your site. Using it you can quickly find which combinations of words are bringing people to your site and adjust your campaigns or topics to grab more traffic. They do charge for over 100K hits a month but their service is free if you’re below that.

I hope this article has been helpful to you. Let me know what you think by leaving me a comment.


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2007-11-25 04:17:59

[…] Got a New Website? Go for the Long Tail. by Frank at […]

Comment by Jan the fish
2009-03-18 08:55:46

You can also use the AdWords Keyword Suggestion Tool which I, BTW, strongly recommend. It helped me to understand what people want the most.

In addition, it isn’t so hard to get ranked well for short competitive phrases. You just need good content, some links and a good domain name. If you’re lucky and find a word1word2 domain no matter if it’s a .com, .org, or .net tld, then you’re very close to the success! One of my domains got top10 rankings for word1 word2 (rather let’s not mention these words :) ) a two weeks ago in Google. It’s cool, because I haven’t done any SEO for it!

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