Understanding Keywords and the Long Tail of Search

I love researching keywords and the Long Tail. That is what I do. It’s my mission statement, incubator and business plan all rolled up into eight little words.

Everyone Knows About Keywords

This is probably old news. Keywords are words describing the information displayed on a web page. Keywords also communicate what your website is about to the search engines. Keywords can be single words and they can be phrases.

By conducting research on the demand for various keywords, web publishers learn which words and phrases to target when developing content.

Learning about keywords helps you discover valuable information about your customers including changing market conditions, shifts in demand and developing new content for your user’s needs.

By understanding keywords and how they work, a web publisher can design content based around words or phrases that people search for on the Internet. Some keywords are more valuable than other keywords.

By understanding the value of all types of keywords, especially keyword-rich domain names, web developers take full advantage of specialized tactics to increase rankings in search engines.

Have You Heard of The Long Tail?

One of the most interesting revelations of keyword research deals with the Long Tail of Search.

To understand the Long Tail of Search, let’s say that the top 10,000 keywords make up roughly 20% of the searches on the Internet.

The remaining 80% of the searches make up the Long Tail. The Long Tail is comprised of the hundreds of millions of unique searches that may be conducted only once or a few times on any given day.

From 2009, but still relevant today – the top 1,000 keyword search terms comprised 10% of the total search traffic. This means that if you had a monopoly on the top 1,000 keywords, you would still be missing out on 90% of the total search engine traffic.

By researching and developing content based on keyword queries falling in the Long Tail, web publishers benefit by attracting valuable, targeted traffic that competing websites may miss.

Companies That Made A Fortune By Focusing on the Long Tail

Three large companies that capitalize on the Long Tail are Amazon, Apple and Netflix. They offer substantial selections and avoid brick and mortar retail establishments to slash inventory and distribution costs.

Yes, they sell plenty of the bestselling books, music and movies. However, these companies earn more money by selling or offering large quantities of unique items even though the quantities of each individual item is small.

You can get nearly any book from Amazon, nearly any music from iTunes and nearly any movie from Netflix. The Long Tail is one of the main reasons bookstores are going out of business daily and you haven’t seen any record stores or movie rental outlets in years.

How To Capitalize On The Long Tail Locally

The following is an example of the Long Tail applied locally to a pretend business in Mississippi. Okay, let’s say I own a pecan orchard, but sales for pecans this year are absolutely terrible.

I start painting my unsold pecans different colors and glue them to tennis balls in festive designs. I add colorful ribbons and call them Christmas Pecans.

I purchase the domain name ChristmasPecans.com – it’s available – design a website, and include the keyword Christmas Pecans – and variations like Elvis Christmas Pecans or Cajun Christmas Pecans – in unique content developed and displayed throughout my website.

And, I make sure the website is professional, updated daily and includes plenty of information about my products.

According to the Google Keyword Tool, there are an estimated 1,000 global monthly searches that include the keyword phrase “Christmas Pecans.” That’s over thirty searches per day.

If my website is ranked number one – and it most likely will be – I’ll capture those thirty visits. And, I might even make a sale. Who knows, I might make thirty sales.

It’s untapped demand like the example above that is so valuable to us folks trying make a living grinding on the Internet.

The Best Example of the Long Tail I’ve Found

There is a great quote from an Amazon employee who was trying to explain the Long Tail to someone in marketing who didn’t understand why the company offered so many slow-moving titles. The marketing guy thought that Amazon should focus more on bestsellers:

“We sold more books today that didn’t sell at all yesterday than we sold today of all the books that did sell yesterday.”Amazon Employee

Now that is what the Long Tail is all about and should be discussed in Business, Economics, Advertising and Marketing 101 in every university in the USA.

The Long Tail EMDs Are Dead, Long Live The Long Tail EMDs

I’ve read lots of articles about how Google has demoted websites with exact match keyword domains. You know, how content alone eclipses any advantage or disadvantage of EMD keywords and domain extension.

Or, that the right side and left side of the dot don’t have any influence whatsoever on whether a website ranks high or low in the SERPs. Sometimes, when you don’t know how to find the answers, you have search for them on your own.

And, truth is only Google really knows exactly what Google wants you to see in the SERPs. You can pay an SEO ninja thousands to get your website ranked higher in the search engines – and not have one thing to show for it.

On the other hand, a kid could build out a five page teaser site and rank #1 for a multitude of the best CPC keyword phrases. You have to realize that some things are out of your control.

My Formula For Buying Domains and Developing Websites

I like to think that I’ve found some things that are in my control. I can control the domain names that I buy, the websites I develop to put on these domain names and the content I post on the domains. Through trial and error, I found what works for me and it’s a simple formula really:

  • I prefer to buy exact match .com domain names that have meaning and brandability.
  • I install WordPress themes on my domains.
  • I post fresh, original content that capitalizes on the Long Tail of Search with respect to the domain name it sits on.
  • I insert original media on these posts and optimize everything.
  • Rinse and repeat.

There are a few other tips I could mention here, but in a nutshell that’s what I do and it works for me.

Google empowers us with best in class suggestions of what to do, democratizes search, offers a multitude of tools to help along the way and, when we’ve done good, rewards a site with a high ranking. Then there’s just plain, old bad luck.

And believe me, I’ve been on all sides of this issue. I’ve had great sites that sat at the top for years, then disappeared for months at a time and came back and then disappeared again. I say concentrate on what you can take care of and don’t worry about what you can’t control – and always remember the following constants:

  • Anything can happen – good, fair and bad.
  • If you build it – they may come, they may not come.
  • If you try to force it, you can’t.
  • Be prepared do your homework more than ever before.
  • Optimize and then optimize some more.
  • Hard work doesn’t lie.
  • It helps to be lucky.
  • Don’t be afraid to throw in the towel.

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