The Long Neck

    August 15, 2006

All websites have a very small set of killer tasks that really matter to the customer. Web management is about perfecting the completion of these tasks.

The 80:20 rule states that 80 percent of wealth is owned by 20 percent of people; that 80 percent of sales comes from 20 percent of customers. As a result of many years of research on websites I have discovered the 25:5 rule.

The 25:5 rule states that at least 25 percent of demand is for 5 percent of tasks; that 5 percent of content is read by 25 percent of people. The 25:5 rule is a type of distillation of the 80:20. Viewed in graphical form it creates a Long Neck.

For years, I have been developing a technique called Customer Carewords. It’s based on the idea that words are the most important driver of action on any website. If you identify the most important words of your customers, you know what they really want.

As a research project, I developed a list of over 100 words connected with tourism. Words such as: planning a trip, vacation packages, getting here and around, accommodation, special offers, things to do and see, etc.

I asked over 1,000 people in 12 countries to scan the list and vote for their favorites. There were 147 words/phrases to choose from. The top 7 carewords, representing 5 percent of the total words, got 35 percent of votes. In fact, the top 7 carewords, astonishingly, got more votes than the bottom 120 carewords.

(See the Long Neck in graphical form)

The top two carewords (accommodation, special offers) got 16 percent of the vote. In every country, accommodation and special offers were the top two. What this says is that the killer tasks for a tourism website are accommodation and special offers. Get these right and you’re well on the way to success.

The concept of the Long Tail is popular today. But if you’re a manager, what should you focus your resources on? The top 7 carewords (the Long Neck), or the bottom 120 (the Long Tail)? Obviously, there is greater value to be achieved by focusing on the Long Neck.

Most websites are not managed. They are at best administered. The hope is that if you pile on every piece of content you have, then people will find a way of getting to the content they need. A website that is administered gives all content relatively equal importance. It’s an easy life to administer a website; no difficult decisions.

In every single website I have carried out the Customer Carewords test on I have found the Long Neck. In intranets, banking and university websites, media and government websites, the Long Neck appears.

If you identify your Long Neck and focus your resources on making the tasks within the Long Neck better, then you will create more value. You will do a better job and you will ultimately get a greater reward.

It’s time to focus. Time to figure out what really matters to your customers; what they really care about. The Long Tail is endless, the Long Neck is concise. A good manager will perfect the Long Neck before they consider the Long Tail.

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