"The Long Tail," by Wired editor Chris Anderson, made an enormous impact last October. It discusses how the media and entertainment industries will succeed not by only pushing popular, mass-market hits but by also mining the "long tail" of interest among a few people in less-popular media and entertainment properties.
Sure, thousands of people may want to buy a hit song. But add up all those who want to buy lesser-known titles, and they could generate as much, or more, revenue than the hits. As a merchant, you want to tap into both the head of interest and the long tail that trails behind.
The tail makes more sense when you see it illustrated:
Those are the top 100 queries related to shoes on Yahoo’s network, from an article I wrote last September about Yahoo Search Marketing shifting to a broad match system.
A large number of queries happen far less often than leading terms, such as "shoes" or "running shoes," which are at the "head" of the list. Most queries form the long tail illustrated behind the head. Tap into that tail, and you’ve got substantial traffic -- traffic that often converts better than less-general terms.
Search has a long tail, too. I’ve long heard references to a "search tail" or "query tail." Tails aren’t a new concept to search marketers.
It’s great the tail concept is becoming more popular. It’ll help search marketers who mistakenly fixate on only the most popular terms realize they must also consider the tail.
Over the years, I’ve referred to the search tail as getting the "onesies and twosies," those queries that may only occur once or twice in a month. Perhaps they don’t appear important because of their individual low volume, but tap into lots of onesies and twosies, and you can do well.
If you haven’t been mining the long tail, start now! Consider broad matching on both Google and Yahoo For organic SEO (define), create lots of good content that naturally taps into a query’s tail.
Further reading illustrates how the search tail is becoming popular and integrated as part of the more general long tail awareness:
Right now, Yahoo and Google struggle with how to fill out the "tail" of search queries with ads. These are queries that happen only a few times per month but in aggregate represent a huge amount of unsold inventory.
Advertisers focus on high-frequency terms such as "shoes," for example. Yahoo reports the term had over 1 million requests in April 2004. It sells for a top bid of around $0.55, with 90 advertisers competing for it.
In contrast, "winged track shoes" was queried only 27 times last month. No one’s bidding on the term. That’s most likely because the low frequency doesn’t make it seem worth the effort. Yet someone searching for something so specific might convert better than a more generic "shoes" searcher.
Paid inclusion is a perfect solution for unsold ad inventory like this. Simply tell the advertiser you’ll spider his site and let pages appear in the paid placement area for a flat, low-cost rate when space is available. Advertisers can still target the important terms, but they gain easy visibility for other important ones. Yahoo reduces its unsold inventory. Searchers are spared confusion.
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Danny Sullivan left Search Engine Watch as of Dec. 1, 2006.
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