Working from the Bottom Up - Long Tail

Long Tail is a term that caught the media’s attention and has been thrown about until we’re all pretty much sick of hearing it. No doubt you've heard the term before, but you may not have a clear idea of exactly what the Long Tail is and how it applies to search.

Long Tail

Even though it now seems as if those Long Tail keywords are the most important ones, you shouldn't discount the value of Broad Head words either. When you’re considering the keywords and phrases that you want to use to market your web site and to rank in search engines, you should be looking at both Broad Head and Long Tail terms. 

The key is how you do it. You have broad, usually very popular terms that everyone is fighting for, and then you have narrow terms that are used by people who are more likely to reach a conversion goal on your site, whether it’s to purchase a product or service, to fill out a form that generates a sales lead, or to sign up for a newsletter or other marketing-related service. Knowing this, your instinct is to go to the heart of the matter and shoot for the audience most likely to convert. 

In doing so, however, you leave a large part of the audience out completely. The broad-term searchers may not be as likely to reach a conversion goal right now, but they might reach that goal in the future, so you also want to bring those searchers to your site. 

Finding the right balance of broad-term keywords and Long Tail keywords can be a little tricky, though. So how do you handle it? I say start at the bottom and work your way up. Obviously, you want to generate a lot of traffic as quickly as possible, but you also need to prove that your efforts are working, so you need to reach people who are going to convert quickly. 

Each Long Tail keyword isn’t going to generate a lot of traffic, but it will generate very specific traffic people who have a goal in mind. Your job is to help them reach that goal. Understand that you’re not going to optimize for one type of keyword over another. It’s not Long Tail first and then Broad Head the two really go hand-in-hand. You should focus on optimizing both. Many web site owners begin with the broad keywords that reach the largest audience and come back later to build pages that are more highly targeted. 

That method works, albeit slowly. Instead, optimize for the broad terms, but also for the Long Tail terms. That means putting together pages as quickly as possible that target both broad terms and more specific terms. You can use multiple keywords per page, so a progression from broadto narrow on a single page works fine. 

For example, if you own a web site that sells electronic gadgets, you’ll need pages that target broad keywords such as electronics, cell phones, MP3 players, and whatever other categories of electronics you might offer; but you also need to include much more specific terms, such as iPhone, HTC G1, iPod, Zune, and SanDisk on those same pages. 

The solution is to create content that is relevant to the narrower Long Tail keywords. In the process, however, it will be nearly impossible for you to create that content without including references to the Broad Head terms. 

For example, the front page of your web site will likely introduce your company, show special offers and featured products, and perhaps have small articles or text-based snippets of information that are targeted to specific products. Each of those broader categories is going to lead to a page that’s progressively more specific with each level of the site into which the user goes.


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