Long tail marketing is an effective tactic closely related to a Pareto distribution. The Pareto Principle is the 80-20 rule in marketing that states that 80% of your business is likely coming from 20% of your customers. Chris Anderson, the editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, is credited with coining this phrase in a 2004 article that described the marketing tactics of Internet companies such as Amazon.
The basic idea is to focus on the core business, but don’t ignore opportunities to bring in incremental web site traffic and new business through secondary channels.
As it relates to search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising the theory says that a small number of targeted keyword search phrases will account for the majority of the searches (green in the chart above) for phrases related to a business. There are usually a much greater number of phrases that are not searched for very often (the yellow long tail). These phrases typically do not have very much competition and in many cases it may be relatively easy to obtain top ranking positions or inexpensive bids for pay-per-click.
Cumulatively, the traffic driven by the larger number of long tail phrases (the yellow long tail) may exceed that of the higher searched phrases. The long tail tactic should be used especially in situations where there are not very many high volume targeted keywords or where competition is very strong for the primary targeted keywords.
Search Engine Optimization and Long Tail Marketing
Many small businesses with small Web sites have a very difficult time driving traffic to their Web sites if the business competes head-on with large Web site for competitive search phrases. Larger businesses with huge Web sits have a natural advantage in search engine rankings due to the amount of informational content mass their sites contain. If you find that it is difficult to compete with these sites head-on, try the long tail approach and seek out search phrases that are not used very often in searches, but are directly related to the business. Write informational articles about these topics and form keyword themes that are focused on the search phrases.
A new site should initially be focused on the phrases that best describe the nature of the business. But on an ongoing basis continue to build information articles focused on related keyword themes that draw in additional traffic for these phrases. This also helps build content mass, which reinforces a central theme for the site. It also results in incremental changes in a site, which is something search engines look for. Active sites get spidered more often than stagnant sites.
Pay-Per-Click Advertising and Long Tail Marketing
We have advocated long tail marketing with pay-per-click advertising for a long time, but we called it something else–skimming nickel clicks. In the case of Google AdWords advertising, the idea behind skimming nickel clicks means that you looks for very inexpensive keywords that are not used often in searches–and therefore are not very expensive. While it can be pretty hard to find $0.05 clicks these days due to the amount of competition for Google AdWords ads, it is typically very easy to find a number of related search phrases where the bid price is half or less of what you pay for your primary keywords. If you are willing to settle for lower positioning for your ads on Google search pages, skimming nickel clicks tactics–or long tail marketing–works well because people who are searching for something and venture past the first page of search results in Google are typically very focused and clicks therefore result in very targeted traffic driven to your web site.
Finding Long Tail Keyword Opportunities
The best freebie to use for keyword research is the Google AdWords Keyword Tool (article updated). This tool will indicate how many times a particular search phrase was used in searches on Google during the previous month. To use the tool, just enter a primary search phrase and the Captcha security key. In addition to the number of searches for the primary phrase, the results typically display a long list of related search phrases that make up the long tail search phrases. The AdWords Keyword Tool is also good for determining which search phrases users do not use in searches. These are the phrases that you can disregard or put on the back burner for a later date. Always focus on the primary opportunities first, but don’t forget to take advantage of long tail marketing opportunities.