Many organic campaigns start out with high expectations. There is clear focus and intent on working head keywords to drive traffic and begin branding efforts. However every seasoned SEO knows that with a focused plan, heads will eventually turn to tails. Remain pertinacious, and the the tail will continue to grow and ultimately result in what is known as the long-tail keyword phenomena – a converting machine.
Definition and History of the Long-Tail Keyword
The long-tail keyword is simply a combination of multiple words (usually 3 or more), that are specific and relevant to a product or service sold. In essence, long tails are considerably more definitive and often times used to refine the search process by the visitor.
Targeted buyers anyone?
The long-tail was first introduced by Chris Anderson, which later resulted in the popular book: “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More” in 2006.
The premise of the long-tail is a Pareto Distribution combined with web technology, to introduce the concept of a larger proportion of “buyers” exist in the tail of the distribution. We no longer need to target the head of the distribution scale to produce results, as we did in traditional marketing times. Keep in mind, the theory behind the long-tail is one of shifting away from a relatively smallnumber of searches at the head to a huge number of niches in the tail.
Right Church, Wrong Pew?
If long-tail keywords convert so well, why is there such a high degree of emphasis placed on the head keywords at the onset of a campaign? That’s simple, we’re human and want hard and fast results.
The intent from many organic campaigns is to rank for head or brand keywords in an effort to gain traction in a market. Initial keyword research will show that the head is “where the action is” and becomes too tempting to pass up.
There is one problem though.
Head keywords are often times, too broad and correspond only to people at the initial phase of a buying cycle or information-seeking mode. Hardly an equation for converting visitors. Normally, the long-tail becomes a force when content becomes ingrained in the site. When you look at the web analytics of a mature site with a multitude of tail niches, head keywords represent only a small piece of the overall traffic.
“Forget squeezing millions from a few mega hits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bit stream.” – Chris Anderson
Welcome to the World of the Long-Tail
Depending on market and site authority, there will be anywhere from 3 to 20 head keywords.
The Figure 1 shows a graph of how a head and tail keyword would look in a typical market. The dotted line represents where the head separates from the tail. This is also where the magic begins.
For illustration purposes, below is a recap of one of my sites for a recent 30- day period:
- 42,268 Total Visits
- 36,457 Visits from Search
- 17,424 Keywords from Search
- Top 10 keywords made up 2,727searches
- Top 10 keywords consisted of 7% of the total searches.
- Over 36,000 visits resulted from over 17,000 different keywords!
Lesson learned: you will receive a great deal of volume from the top 10 keywords. However, the numbers pale in comparison to the aggregate total of searches from the other 17,000 keywords.
Search Optimization: Achieving Power with SEO and SEM
Okay, so we know the long-tail keyword is powerful, how do we work a campaign to achieve long-tail and highly targeted results? Every word on your site is a potential keyword, therefore content is the answer.
If SEO execution is adequate at the beginning, companies should easily rank for their products or company name.
While the initial SEO campaign begins to pick up steam, Pay per Click (PPC) can work the tail and long-tail keywords. PPC can prove an invaluable and cost-effective tool to measure and test conversions. The results can then be used to ramp-up an aggressive and highly targeted organic campaign.
Leveraging SEO to brand and unleashing PPC for the long-tail, is a powerful combination that works very well at the onset of your campaign.
Producing tail-bias content is one of the most effective ways to increase the tail of your marketing campaign. Below, is one of many methods to “cherry pick” long-tail keywords and incorporate them naturally into your content to increase search volume over time:
Summary of the Long-tail Keyword Content Creation Method:
1. Using Google Adwords keyword tool, select your main targeted tail keywords (usually one or two main tail keywords) that have decent traffic.
2. Using the same tool, select 3-5 similar longer-tail keywords that have lower traffic volumes than the targeted keywords.
3. Write your content targeting the primary tail keywords, sprinkling the long-tail keywords into the content naturally.
- Long-tail keywords reside toward the end of the Pareto Distribution channel.
- Many leaders of web strategies will want to focus only on head keywords for immediate results and branding.
- Leverage SEO and SEM strengths at the onset of your campaign for best results.
- Long-tail keywords from a healthy head and tail, will result in targeted buyers.
- As a site matures and content increases, tail keywords will increase as well.
- For a mature site, the majority of your traffic will come from long-tail keywords.
- Increase long-tail keywords by increasing content and targeting long-tails in your content.
The long-tail keyword is one of the best ways to target buyers of a market. People at the end of a tail keyword can also be at the end of the buying cycle.
A long term plan of consistently creating quality content using several long-tail keywords, will slowly add massive keyword substance to your site and increase conversions.