The Long Tail Theory

Gaining a Better Understanding of Keywords and How to Use Them

The Long Tail Theory is a concept that has existed for a long time, but it has gained popularity since Chris Anderson published a book on the subject in 2004. 'The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More' discusses the increasing popularity of hard to find, and niche products in comparison to highly popular items that sell to the masses and how small business can take advantage of this in their online content.

Graphical Representation of the Long Tail Theory


The graph above that represents the Long Tail Theory shows a small number of sellers winning with popular items at the 'head', the red section of the graph - to roughly 20% of the population.

'The long tail', the yellow part of the graph, represents the vast number of niche products, that are sold to the 80% of the rest of the population. (And yes, if you've spotted it, it is another example of the Pareto Principle - the 80/20 rule)

By understanding the ideas behind the Long Tail Theory you can increase the traffic to your website through organic searches for long tail keywords.

The long tail concept has also been applied to websites and keywords, in that a small number of sellers sit at the top of tail by 'winning' on general keywords. The rest of us, yes, thats all of us who consider ourselves to be in small business, need to carefully examine the 'niche' that our business sits within, and find a good selection of long tail keywords to use on our websites. By focusing on long tail searches, there is less competition, and you can use more keywords that apply directly to your business, rather than the more general ones (which are harder to compete on).

What Are Long Tail Keywords?

Keywords are basically split into two main types -

  • general keywords which sit high in the long tail (in the red section)- highly popular, and high competition keywords. A good way to identify a general keyword is that it is made up of only 1 or 2 words.
  • specific keywords which sit low in the long tail (in the yellow section) - low demand, and low competition keywords. A good way to identify long tail keywords is that they are made up of 3 words or more.


The Benefit of Using Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are naturally easier to get search engine rankings for as they are generally low demand and low competition keywords.

This 'low hanging fruit' will help to gradually increase the traffic to your website, and best of all, the traffic is targeted to your business as they are people who are searching for highly specific information.


Long Tail Marketing and Adwords

Long tail marketing is highly relevant in online advertising campaigns- by using long tail keyword combinations you can reduce the cost of your campaign (less competition), and increase you click through rate (higher conversions).

As an example you could use a general term like 'smart phone', but as a seller of HTC phones only, you are better to focus your advertising campaign on 'HTC Legend smart phone', and similar long tail keywords.

This drives a smaller number of potential customers, but who are at the end of the buying cycle; they know exactly what they are want and are in a 'ready to buy' mode.

As small business owners we can take advantage of the long tail as web surfers get savvier. They know that to find a specific item they need to use specific (long tail) keywords. The percentage of long tail searches is increasing, with geographical keywords being utilised too, helping our local customers find us via the internet.

Nicole O'Reilly 



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