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Determining the Size of the Keyword Tail


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#1 randfish

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 06:57 PM

Let's say I was launching a site targeting the chiropractic industry. How would one go about determining, on the keyword research side, how big (or small) the "tail" of the search terms in that industry are?

Basically, I'm looking for a methodology to measure the value of being listed in the top for a few, hig volume search terms in the head vs. the value of having rankings for the thousands of smaller terms making up the tail. Other than simply using intuition and logic, I can't seem to think of a good way to do it. I know that the real estate industry has a very long tail and the webdev industry has a very long tail, but I don't know about more specific or niche fields... i.e. chemical engineering, commercial re-refueling, veterinary insurance, etc.

#2 earlpearl

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 07:29 PM

I recently saw this question elsewhere. On the one hand I refer you back to DD's thread about the power of 2ndary keywords at seo chat. The long tail works. (and I don't know what the topic of her site is).

In practice if I add content to my site on a vast number of topics and kewords that do not specifically cover the topic, but are long tail and add traffic and some of that converts... great. And the cost of adding and carrying content is less than the revenues...then it pays.

The caveat on that, is Black Knight's comments about measuring resources in site development and work versus the payback.

Typically, one never knows the payback on long tail, or any keywords until you have made the effort. ( :) Of course Google is learning this --due to analytics--but that is another issue.)

Finally I had a recent conversation with a webmaster that has dramatically increased conversions/sales. How. He added tons of content on his site. Much of the content covers issues not directly relevant to the main point of the site...but it fills in tangential information. Much of the content covers topics that are not highly competitive so the site keeps showing up in serps for all kinds of phrases.

People searching on lots of topics that are distantly connected to the main topic...keep seeing the web site. Total conversions are up about 50% from last year. Probably the conversion rate is way down.

I don't think you know till you do the work. Secondly, my experience is that consistent work on long tail comments will find some real winners. They may not be high volume traffic phrases but they may be killer conversion phrases. You definitely won't know about them unless you do the work.

Dave

#3 rmccarley

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 07:36 PM

I asked about this recently and EP was kind enough to give me the same advice as the above. End result though is test and see. It would be great to cut about 80% of the tail out of my work so I could just beef up on the juicy terms...

#4 earlpearl

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 08:09 PM

The lesson learned from the other webmaster was that he added all this voluminous content after studying results on his sites for over a year. He put a lot of things together after reviewing all the traffic from search phrases and links to the site. Then he went after the long tail impact. I have heard this same story in different ways from other webmasters...and I have applied it. It works.

#5 AbleReach

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 09:03 PM

What does your intuition say? ;-)

Just guessing, but I'd imagine that providers requiring professional certification may have a shorter tail with less WOM and diversity of paths to conversion. However, anything touching on people skills, personal taste, fame or controversy would probably have a longer tail.

To approach an "industry," I'd want to get a look at what works for that industry's longer standing niche publications. What concerns re-surface regularly? Are they adequately addressed? Would these concerns be of more interest to customers or colleagues?

Would it be helpful to look at how a customer hears about and chooses who to hire or buy from?

I'm a fan of looking at real life FAQ, if at all possible. What does the end user kvetch about or dream of? Are they asking about concepts or facts? For example, concepts like "why chiropractic?" could lead to a diverse collection of content-rich keywords. Facts like "how many years in business?" or "what are your professional affiliations?" would be less related to content than trust. Bridge topics like "chiropractic after injury," or "low back pain" may include both concepts and facts, and could be good long-tailed link fodder.

This is an interesting question, Rand.

#6 EGOL

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 09:07 PM

Hey Rand.... Instead of wondering about this... Just attack both of 'em. lol


No, I'll give you the answer..... the long tail on chiropractic is *infinite*... and there are massive misspellings of "sacroiliac".

Edited by EGOL, 20 March 2006 - 09:09 PM.


#7 earlpearl

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 09:10 PM

Hey EGOL. long time no see. Spoken like a true mod. congrats.

#8 EGOL

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 09:17 PM

The root keyword for one of my sites has an proper term, and a slag term and a ignorant term (which has a tail on it that you would not believe). Lots of people with similar site go only after the proper term. I know about the other two because I spent 15 years at a government agency listening to the average person trying to explain something simple but they didn't know what words to use.

If you want to know about the chiropractic tail, ask the person at one of those offices who takes the incoming calls!

Edited by EGOL, 20 March 2006 - 09:19 PM.


#9 sanity

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 09:21 PM

I find running an AdWords campaign using broad match and then running an analytics program to see all the varied phrases people come to the site from works well.

It's a good way to find unique, niche terms as well as weed out obvious duds.

#10 eKstreme

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 09:51 PM

This is a very interesting question Rand. Here are some comments and a hot-off-the-press answer.

1. I think we need to formulate the question better. IMHO, it is better to ask about the tails of a keyword, not an industry. The difference is subtle: Each industry has a set of keywords that define it, and each would have varying tail lengths. In a way, it is wrong to ask about the industry-specific tail, because there are many independent tails.

Further, the broader the industry, the more keywords there are. If you are targeting the keyword "software development", then you will see a different tail length when you compare it to "ASP developer" or "C# developer" etc. These keywords, although all related to software dev, define very different industries.

In short: we need to define our industry, i.e., our niche within a realm of keywords. As we should do anyway :) Of course, our definition can be very broad.

2. Now suppose we've defined our niche as an industry defined by a set of keywords. How can we estimate the tail lengths of each of those keywords?

I propose the following method:

a. We ask our favorite search engines for all pages related to our keyword. For example, we ask real estate to see all pages related to real estate.

b. We next ask, which pages really are related to "real estate". Notice the quotes? This gives us another number.

I propose that the ratio of a/b is an estimate of the tail length of the keyword. In essense, the ratio is this: of all the pages you think are related to a certain keyword, which ones are definitely related to that keyword?

To rephrase: If you plot the power graph showing the long tail, the x-axis would be the number estimated in "a" above. The estimate "b" is the percentage of "a" along the axis that overlaps the search term. If the overlap is minimal, then there is no tail. If the overlap is significant, there is a long tail.

Maximally, the long tail ratio is 1, that is a/b = 1. In the case of real estate, the ratio is almost 1 (!). In the case of veterinary insurance, the ratio is very very small. By this method, I think we can assume that the keyword "real estate" has a long tail but the keyword "veterinary insurance" has a very short tail. This makes sense intuitively.

I would love to see how other known short-tail keywords perform using this test.

One final remark: the necessary disclaimer ;) I'm writing this at 2:50 AM because I can't sleep. It is likely I could be very wrong and might lose whatever respect you guys have for me. Please be gentle when you shoot me down.

Having said that, good night and happy tailing.

Pierre

#11 EGOL

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 12:21 AM

Maybe estimating the length of a KW tail is easy. You plot a graph with frequency on the Y axis and keywords (numbered 1 2 3 4 ..... ) on the X axis.

The area under the curve is the search volume and the point at which the curve hits the X axis is the tail length.

I had calculus over 30 years ago but remember estimating the point at which a curve would finally converge on a value. There is certainly a formula out there to fit this curve and estimate that point.

My bet is that lots will be asymptotic as there are infinite terms that people will think up. If I run my logs with one day of data - for a tiny site - the list of querys will be fairly long... and it always amazes me that the terms grow in number with every passing day - even if that log accumulates for months.

Edited by EGOL, 21 March 2006 - 12:27 AM.


#12 eKstreme

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 12:41 AM

Maybe estimating the length of a KW tail is easy.  You plot a graph with frequency on the Y axis and keywords (numbered 1 2 3 4 ..... ) on the X axis.

The area under the curve is the search volume and the point at which the curve hits the X axis is the tail length.

I had calculus over 30 years ago but remember estimating the point at which a curve would finally converge on a value.  There is certainly a formula out there to fit this curve and estimate that point.

My bet is that lots will be asymptotic as there are infinite terms that people will think up.  If I run my logs with one day of data - for a tiny site - the list of querys will be fairly long... and it always amazes me that the terms grow in number with every passing day - even if that log accumulates for months.

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Well you don't need calculus to find the x-intercept (as it's called): where the curve crosses the x-axis is when the y-axis value is zero. So if you have a formula that describes the graph (you can best fit one given a model), then you can set y=0 and solve for x.

As for the asymptote issues: given that our data set is finite, no matter how long we accumulate data, then we will always find an intercept. The problem of course is that the estimate will keep changing all the time as we add more data. I'm pretty sure there is a statistical method to counteract this, but I kinda slept through stats lectures :) Best sleep I ever got!

#13 AbleReach

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 01:03 AM

Wouldn't the ratio of "real estate" versus (no quotes) - real estate - have more to do with how often the two words are used together? "The real value of his estate," is different than "the value of his real estate."

If chatter on a topic is an indication of "tail," then would variety and repetition of associated keywords be an indication of the tail of that keyword?

How would terms with a lot of synonyms be different than those that are usually said one way?

#14 rynert

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 01:54 AM

If the site is live make sure there is a search box where you are caputuring the 'searches' done - a good starting point. \

As Egol mentioned, also check the log files, daily, and where appropriate produce content for anything that appears numerous times.

#15 bragadocchio

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 02:09 AM

If the Design Observer can call Wilson Pickett a Design Theorist, I can call him a marketing strategist. Especially when he said things like this:

"You harmonize; then you customize."

When conducting keyword research, I initially try to avoid getting too caught up in specfic words or phrases, and try to capture categories instead. It's a method that helps me find the general categories that I need to address, and then review more specific ones that I may miss if I focus too much upon keywords themselves.

Taking the chiropractic industry as an example, I'm going to try to find a number of sites that deal with the industry, articles, forums for doctors of chiropractic and for patients, news stories, and more. I'll explore those not so much for keywords, but rather for categories.

I might come up with a list for the chiropractic industry like this one:

Practitioners
Patients
Chiropractic schools
Licensing
Alternative health
Equipment

The list of categories might be bigger than that, but I'll leave it there for now.

I'll then take those bigger categories, and try to create subcategories from them. If another broad category reveals itself to me while I'm doing this, I will add it.

Lets take "patients" as a category. Subcategories might include:

Fears about chiropractic
Symptoms of patients
Public figures who see a chiropractor
Concerns for the young
Concerns for the elderly
Work related injuries
consumer education
Athletes and chiropratic
Patient education

After I come up with a list of these subcategories, I might drill down even further. I listed "work related injuries" as a subcategory. Does it make sense for me to look at different types of work, to see if the types of ailments that might be helped by chiropratic approaches involve some jobs more than others? It probably does, so I would start looking at material involving work related injuries, and chiropractic.

Some keywords, and keyword phrases may suggest themselves to me as I'm collecting categories, and I might make a separate list of some of those. If the list starts getting big, I might see if I have categories that match those. I would try to sort them into my existing categories, or even create new ones.

But my focus is defining my range, and making sure that I expand upon it intelligently, without getting lost focusing upon a handful of words and phrases.

Once I think I have the essential categories, and subcategories, and even smaller categories, I'll start focusing upon keywords and keyword phrases, and alternative and related words. I've got the harmony, now I customize.

#16 Black_Knight

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 05:28 AM

Nice post, Bill (like you do any other kind).

In terms of size, the long tail is indeed effectively infinite. People can always add one more word to a query, or use a different order to their words.

It was not long ago that one of the original guys at Excite, who has recently joined Yahoo, was discussing how the long tail was visible even in the early and mid nineties. He explained that although the top few hundred phrases drew immense traffic, around 97 percent of all enquiries on any given day were not for those types of terms and instead were far more likely to occur only once in a few million searches. He went further and gave us a hard statistic that really shows how big the tail is.

If they were to calculate the average keyword occurrence in any given day, the average occurrence for all phrases came down to 1.1 occurences. Despite the top thousand or so keyword phrases occuring hundreds of thousands of times, and despite the SEO stats of the day telling us that one and two word searches were the norm. If you picked any given search made in any given day, it statistically almost certain to be unique to that day. 97% chance.

#17 rynert

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 06:31 AM

If you picked any given search made in any given day, it statistically almost certain to be unique to that day.  97% chance.

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Out of curiosity I just looked at a random day on one of my sites and of 340 phrases in the logs, 90.5% were unique on that day - not quite 97% but close enough to support the figure :)

#18 earlpearl

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 09:03 AM

Fascinating discussion with both theory and practice.

This has helped frame and articulate my efforts. I've approximated what Bill described. But first some stats.

To date for March through the 20th. 2022 keyword searches. 1,069 individual phrases. Only 143 phrases were used more than once leaving 926 phrases that hit the site one time. (ooph!) The most active keword phrase - 216 visits - about 10%. Certainly a long tail.

Of the keyword phrases I counted about 700 that were generic industry phrases from the first 70 terms. A more critical keyword phrase in my case is generic industry phrase with a geo term (state/city/town names) These are the best conversion phrases because it is a local site. (can be anyone of 3 states - 3 cities - and a myriad of towns).

Typically the industry/geo terms total about 70-80% of the industry total. If that were the case this month than about 60% of the traffic would have a very high (industry/geo) and high (industry) level of relevancy to conversions.

Of interest, the highest single phrase with an industry/geo phrase was 10; about 5% of the single highest industry phrase. That is about typical. What is difficult is that the best conversion phrases are the industry/geo phrases. Frankly I could have lots of individual phrases being critical conversion phrases...and darn if they don't come in 1's and 2's.

What's the point?

I currently analyse keywords from a categorization basis a la Bill and Wilson Pickett's ( :)) suggestions. I wish, though, that I had come about that via learning or reading from Bill's suggestions before spending well over a year looking through endless analysis.

so if nothing else here is a plug for Bill's suggestions.

#19 bwelford

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 10:40 AM

Yes, as usual, Bill has got it right. :)

I go along with the direction of thoughts here. Just a further nuance I might add from my own researches. Any given multi-keyword phrase will see all sorts of variants used by searchers. The order of words may change, plurals may be used instead of singulars, etc. Of course each different variant will give a different ranking of the entries in the SERPs.

That's why the category approach is so much better. I must admit as I read it I thought about mind-maps as a help to the creativity process involved in this approach.

#20 Respree

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 10:46 AM

I'd never heard the term 'tail' in the context of keywords until yesterday (are you guys making these words up?).

I couldn't help but think, doesn't this fall under the 80/20 rule? Does it make sense expend 80% of your time/energy trying to market thousands of keywords that will only produce 20% of your results (traffic, conversions, etc.)? Or am I mistaken in my assumption that it's only 20%?

#21 Black_Knight

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 11:20 AM

I couldn't help but think, doesn't this fall under the 80/20 rule?

Except that its a far bigger split that 80:20 :)

Seriously, the only limitation that often keeps it at about 10% unique referrals over main phrase referrals is the fact that it takes a lot more content to get those tail terms. Smaller sites will barely see the tail at all, and may find it represents only 40% of referrals to their 3 page site if that much.

To get at the whole tail, you would need a huge site, or at the very least, a whole lot of text with a very varied vocabulary.

In general, the best 'long tail' content is that generated by a wide variety of writers, such as community built sites (thus the secret sauce of how community can make such a huge impact) or blogs where mixing different topic posts on a page and indeed, user-built content again (those comments can add so many alternate terms) lengthens the variety of relevant but unpredicted or unusually phrased searches you can match.

In such cases, the major keywords can become almost insignificant, and represent a far smaller proportion of your customer base than you'd have believed - circa 3% of all search referrals.

#22 Adrian

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 11:30 AM

My own anecdotal evidence is quite positive on the idea Respree.
After opening up a relatively large site to be crawled more easily (dynamic URL issues that needed fixing) there was a very quick change in the landscape of search terms being sued to find the site.

Previously you would see things like the company name, or a couple of general keywords producing most results, and relatively few other terms.

After the SE spiders could get at most of the pages including the product pages, which they previously had problems with, I started seeing a large increase in other terms being used to find the site.
Along with other people comments, there would seem to be unique search terms every day. One query might produce one referral, but when you have dozens of unique queries a day, that adds up to a lot more traffic from the SE's than before.

There was a 400% increase in Google traffic because of it, because we had enabled people to find the site using many more search phrases.

It was a days work for our host, and maybe a couple extra days planning it and sorting it out. I think the effort was well worth the reward in that case. Though we were just opening up things we already had. If you have that anyway, and you are trying to branch out some more, that is where the time for research is going to kick in some more I guess.

If you can find some good areas to branch out into though, the return can be very effective.

#23 Respree

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 11:40 AM

You're right, of course.

I sort of regret making that comment. :)

The answer to my own question was right in front of my eyes - with my own site. I have about 300K product related pages and while I catch low numbers for the 'majority' of visitors for any given page, multiply those two and three vistors by 100K different pages (unique keywords) and it, in fact, does add up to more than 20%.

#24 randfish

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 02:13 PM

Thanks for all the thoughtful responses gang. Sadly, it appears we're little closer to a methodolgy - I like Bill's system of starting at the category level and drilling down incrementally, but it still feels like a very hard system to use for comparison.

I realize, too, that there is a general feeling that there's always a great deal of value in the long tail, but I have to disagree, based on several experiences.

In several of our sites, the majority of value is driven by less than 5% of the terms we pull in traffic for - the "head". With those terms, time on the site, conversion rates and retention rates are much higher than with the long tail terms. On other sites, the opposite is true, and the heavy traffic terms result in quick visits and few purchases compared to the tail. So, it's not just about traffic values, but also about conversion values.

Also, Ammon - you noted that a high percentage of search terms each day are unique. I agree, but I think it's also important to realize that serach is becoming more and more navigational in nature - according to data from Comscore and Hitwise, a full 55-65% of ALL search queries at every engine had a navigational purpose in mind. That is, the visitor knew where they wanted to go and was simply using the engine (rather than the URL bar) to get there. At that point, it's really not a "search" engine, but a "nav" engine. Just an aside to consider.

I wonder if we could come up with some ideas for "hints" that would point us in the right direction, i.e. if a category is focused on a common industry term that buyers are likely to think of first, it might be more likely that value is in the head, etc.

Edited by randfish, 21 March 2006 - 02:14 PM.


#25 JohnMu

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 02:30 PM

It would be very interesting to get a black-hat perspective to all of this. After all, they've been chasing the tail for a long time now. All those website generators, article scrapers, text manipulators, etc. all have the goal of generating as many keywords as possible (and as many pages as possible for each unique keyword) to get as many similar queries as possible.

Geoffrey (I hope he's well... :) ) mentioned that he was targeting over 5 million keywords. Sounds like quite a tail to me :)

John

#26 fisicx

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 03:24 PM

Been trying to follow this thread and (as usual) when the subject gets technical I get lost.

Is the 'keyword tail' all those keywords that fall outside the 'main keyword' set? In other words, all those phrases that you think somebody might use to do a search but are not part of your central keyword theme.

Keyword: 'elephant'

Keyword tail: 'what's the largest animal in africa'

#27 rynert

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 03:42 PM

A simple example -

elephant
grey elephant
big grey elephant

very big grey elephant
very big grey elephant africa
very big grey elephant from africa
find very big grey elephant from africa
find a very big grey elephant from africa
find a big grey elephant from africa

The further down the list you go the more options and variations there is, not only mixing the words but also using different words, but the less likely any one of these is typed often - so in my sample I had 90% of all search phrases in one day being 'tail' phrases, each only occuring once.

The discussion is trying to figure out whether you should target the top 3 only and focus on those, or whether you produce sufficient content to capture the majority or unique tail phrases, albeit in low volumes.

Also, how to get the list in the first place.

Edited by rynert, 21 March 2006 - 03:44 PM.


#28 EGOL

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 05:00 PM

The farther down that list you go the crappier the results become. IMO people are learning from experience to not be specific in their search queries.

#29 earlpearl

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 05:32 PM

Rand: With regard to your different types of sites with different types of results...why don't you try Ekstreme's suggestion to see if that approximates his theory.

#30 Black_Knight

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 05:39 PM

The biggest 'secret' to methodology was already given Rand.

One's person's vocabulary is not the vocabulary of 300M individuals.

User-generated content is King for long-tail. Multiple writers is second best, provided they don't share too much vocabulary (i.e. a 'house style'). One or a handful of writers are basically never going to manage much of the long-tail.

This is one of the many reasons why content scraping, especially with the frankenstein pages (bits and pieces of many sources and writers all mashed up to form one page) has been a successful black-hat technique - it's not keyword density, but rather non-key word diversity alongside the central one or two more obvious words.

I'm sure that Ron could tell you an awful lot from his poetry forums about just how big the long tail can be. Sure, "Love Poems" s going to be a hugely important keyword. But the real value is the long tail of searches that included those two words such as "Poems about true love" "true-life love poems" "poems on the subject of eternal love" "motherly love poems" "poems on brotherly love" and the billion other specific queries that hundreds of millions of people may use to search for the kind of 'love poems' they want to find.

#31 bragadocchio

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 05:43 PM

For some background reading, if you haven't come across it before, the concept of the long tail as it applies to search was popularized in a Wired article a couple of Octobers ago:

The Long Tail

One of my favorite quotes from it is this snippet:

What's really amazing about the Long Tail is the sheer size of it. Combine enough nonhits on the Long Tail and you've got a market bigger than the hits. Take books: The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are (see "Anatomy of the Long Tail"). In other words, the potential book market may be twice as big as it appears to be, if only we can get over the economics of scarcity. Venture capitalist and former music industry consultant Kevin Laws puts it this way: "The biggest money is in the smallest sales."



#32 Black_Knight

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 05:46 PM

Off Topic offtopicI respect to the 'navigational searches', you'll find if people were to stop using (or having set for them by well-meaning relatives) search engines as homepages, the number of these would decline dramatically.

Also, if search engines didn't so often automatically grab the focus (move the cursor automatically) to the search box when someone has just opened the browser to that page, and is trying to type a URL into the location bar, but being no typist, are looking at their fingers and keyboard, missing the cursor moving to the search box, this too would remove a whole mass of those 'navigational searches' which were not always intended to be searches at all.

In addition to both of the above, either of which alone accounts for a large chunk of 'navigational searches', if failling to specify a protocol in IE didn't default to a search, and automatic selection of the most likely URL, then MSN would certainly report far far less 'navigational' searches.


#33 bragadocchio

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 05:56 PM

Off Topic offtopicI also suspect that a large percentage of navigational searches aren't because someone is searching for something, and trying to follow a path back to a site via a search, but rather because they are lazy.

Type CNN into the toolbar search box instead of www.cnn.com or http://www.cnn.com into the address bar, and then click with your mouse on the top result - less typing, faster result, and it skews statistics involving navigational searches completely.

And yes, I take that shortcut for a number of sites - espn, cnn, nytimes, and more. There's only so much room for links on the browser link bar.

There's also a "real names" styled application built into the toolbar called browse by name


#34 randfish

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 06:06 PM

Here's a couple direct examples of long vs. short tail at a couple sites:

SEOmoz.org:
Search terms (for 2006)
ip lookup - 6.86%
ip location - 6.22%
seomoz - 4.91%
seo tools - 3.63%
all others - less than 1% each, total of 23,200 terms and phrases

Anonymous.com
Search terms (for 2006)
three word term - 9.40%
three word term - 5.73%
two words - 5.04%
two words - 4.99%
two words - 4.70%
three word term - 3.10%
three word term - 1.70%
two words - 1.59%
three word term - 1.58%
two words - 1.31%
all others - less than 1.25%, 15,000 total unique terms & phrases

What's really interesting is that the conversion rate for those top terms is almost 3X the value for long tail terms, even those that include a geographic modifier (although these are better than the other long tail terms)...

Edited by randfish, 21 March 2006 - 06:24 PM.


#35 rmccarley

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 06:40 PM

Off Topic offtopicOn the offtopic topic the browsers actualy have a faster way to do this. At least with .coms Just enter the domain name then hit ctrl+enter This add the http://www. prefix and the .com suffix and works in IE and FF. FF also has shortcuts for .net and .org but I never remember what they are as I almost never go to those sites.

I doubt this will help correct the issue discussed but it may help you out.

Edited by rmccarley, 21 March 2006 - 06:40 PM.


#36 eKstreme

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 07:36 PM

I want to try to explain my last post about the ratio a bit more. Hopefully this post will clear up the idea a bit more :P

Let's use rynerts example:

grey elephant
big grey elephant

very big grey elephant
very big grey elephant africa
very big grey elephant from africa
find very big grey elephant from africa
find a very big grey elephant from africa
find a big grey elephant from africa


We are targeting the phrase "grey elephant". The question is, how long is the tail for this phrase?

My proposal is that we search for grey elephant, which gives us the first number: In Google's case it's 3.5 million. Next, we search for "grey elephant", which gives 25 thousand. The ratio is 0.7%, which suggests a very tiny tail.

What does it mean in a practical sense? Suppose there is a page for each keyword phrase in our list above, and they are all picked out as related to grey elephant. Our list tells us that if we search for "grey elephant", we should also pick out all of the pages. This means that all pages targeting various related keywords also contain the core keyword phrase: this is the long tail.

If we find that all pages related to a keyword do not pick up the core keyword, then we do not have a long tail.

I hope I'm making it clearer ;)

Pierre

#37 rmccarley

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 07:41 PM

If I understand this correctly you are trying to use supply to determine demand. I don't think it works that way.

#38 dgeary9

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 09:34 PM

Fascinating thread!

I wonder whether some clarity might come from splitting "long tail searches" up into a few categories. At the very least, there are long tail searches done by people who:

1) lack the terminology to put together a succinct search phrase
2) lack the search engine experience to come up with the kinds of cryptic searches that usually work best on search engines
3) have a very specific goal and very specific words to describe it
4) are frustrated by more generic searches and are throwing every qualifier word into the mix they think might be helpful

There are probably more.

Anyhow, given these possible drivers of long tail searches, then I think the answer to Rand's question is, "how much do each of these drivers apply in your case"? For example, people who might be good targets to attract to a chiropractic site might:

1) often lack the correct terminology (or spelling of it!!) to be succinct
2) tend to be older and perhaps less search engine savvy
3) occasionally have a very specific goal (previous chiropractic patients looking for a very specific kind of treatment)
4) often frustrated on the results from a more generic search (non-locally relevant results, directory sites, sites selling back pain products, etc)

In this case, the long tail is mostly a result of lack of precision (I may be way wrong on the target audience here, this is just an example). I'd expect it to be long, varied, and probably full of surprises (and probably lower conversion rates).

On the other hand, I have a client that produces CAD software, and most of their searches are long tail, but pretty predictable, and very strong conversions. I have another client who has a product with a very clear "plain english" search term most people can think up, so she gets some longer searches, but most of her "unique" search hits are accidental (clearly not looking for what she offers), and very low conversions.

How this turns into a methodology, I'm not quite sure. But I think that you could take a few variables (relevancy of short term keyword searches, audience demographic, consistency/homogeneity of language use for key terms, how far along conversion path average visitor is) and start to make a decent guess at the comparative length and value of long tail searches for sites.

#39 DianeV

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 12:59 AM

Off Topic offtopicI'm not sure how many of you talk to regular users on an ongoing basis. You might be surprised to find that a great number of non-Web users use search engines to search for Web addresses that they already know because they think they need a link in order to go anywhere.

These are not stupid people; in fact, they may be highly educated. As noted above, the lack of knowledge about the address bar may be caused by the fact that many ISPs configure their browsers to go to their own search page when they're opened. I guess a "search for anything you need" approach is workable, but it leaves users uninformed about how best to navigate the Web without searching for every darn URL they need (and garners such ISPs' sites a great deal more traffic than they might otherwise get). As a side note, you may discover this in action when you tell someone to "go to blahblah.com" and get the reply: "don't worry, I'll find it". They key here is what I've bolded in that last sentence ... although they have the website address, they are going off to find it. Find what? A link to it, of course. ;)

A little outside anecdotal evidence: I've been subscribing to the free weekly top 500 Wordtracker keyword report since the 90's and have seen, to this day, the same kinds of top searches fill many of the top slots -- always along these lines:

yahoo
yahoo.com
www.yahoo.com

Note how that differs from searches for non-domain keywords (Britney Spears, news events, etc.).

What this means is that a huge number of users are searching for domain names they already know. Which, of course, means that there's a certain in-built skewing to aggregated keyword reports -- particularly about domains.


As to the long tail percentages, I'd suggest that the website topic has much to do with how much of (and how far down) the long tail may be effective. Along, of course, with purpose of website and its goals.

Edited by DianeV, 23 March 2006 - 10:44 AM.


#40 earlpearl

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 11:22 AM

I wish we could determine a predictive quality to sites, phrases, and web topics. I just went through a quick analysis of traffic and conversions.

In the case of my business its rediculously long term. Fortunately it lends itself to some form of categorization.

This is a regional business. Last week we had a little over 700 searches with just under 500 terms

A little over 1/3 of the traffic was for variations on the main industry term. (we rank well for main industry terms). Only 64 visits for the single most popular industry term.

A little over 1/3 of the visits were for variations on the industry term with relevant geo descriptions (this is a brick and mortar business.) But darn, with over 260 industry/geo terms there were over 220 different searches. Two phrases generated 9 searches each. Clearly the majority of these searches were each done only once.

Meanwhile, by far the strongest search conversion phrase is one with a combination of an industry term and a relevant geo term.

So the tricks are to optimize for combinations of relevant terms. Ensure, in this case that the geo terms relate closely within the content. Hope against hope that the snippets under the search ranking make some sense...and then direct them into pages that are strong, relevant and lead to conversions.

All the while, I'm checking the competition to see how they stand on these various terms.

One of the more effective, yet still non-predictable elements in all this is to find strong links that drive relevant traffic to the site. A nice percentage of conversions comes from a certain number of links that to the best of my analytical ability have the following characteristics (in the case of this site): localness, topicalness. And of those...some convert well and some don't. It continues to be trial and error.

Dave



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