The Long Tail is dead. Long live the Long Tail!

Mon 9 February 2009 17:15, Barry Adams

The Long Tail is dead. Long live the Long Tail!

A recent study has discredited Chris Anderson's theory of the Long Tail of online business. It sparked heated discussions on many blogs about the validity of the Long Tail. Regardless of whether the long tail applies to every form of online business, one thing is certain: it definitely applies to search.

Long before Anderson formulated the long tail theory in his book, search professionals already intuitively understood that targeting longer, more specific search phrases was often a smart move. Users who type in specific terms have specific information needs, and by fulfilling those needs you're more likely to turn a visitor into a customer.

With the growth of keyword-targeted advertising, long tail thinking has become ever more prevalent in the search marketing industry. Not only do campaigns that effectively target long tail keywords generate more business, it also tends to result in lower costs per acquisition. Due to the competitive nature of search engine advertising, long tail keywords are often cheaper to buy ads on. Combine lower cost with higher conversion rates and you've got a recipe for success.

The debate about the long tail will undoubtedly continue for a while. The internet in general is a favorite topic of research and new studies will undoubtedly show results both in favor and against the long tail, with proponents and opponents battling it out on blogs worldwide. As search professionals we're in a position of luxury, as for our industry the debate is already over - the Long Tail is here to stay.

  • Comments (3)
  • SEO
  • Tell-a-cowboy

Comments (3)


    • Dudibob

    Amen to that

    Ma 9 feb 2009, 17:37

  • I don't really agree to the fact that long tail is that. I'm convinced that long tail definately works, but only combined with an excellent account structure, ad scheduling, etc. I do agree in the past long tail where easy conversions for a low cost price and it can still work, but not on it's 'own'. For my clients at I always use long tail combined with generic keywords. I believe that long tail conversions are most of the time indirect conversions from earlier clicks on generic keywords. Unfortunately Google Analytics doesn't have the reporting (YAT) to support my opinion.

    Wo 11 feb 2009, 14:19

  • @Jeffrey, I agree that generic keywords shouldn't simply be ignored (I didn't say that in my blog post either :) as they can and do have value for large, comprehensive SEA campaigns. But the long-tail approach is definitely necessary to get the most out of your SEA budget.

    I don't think that most long-tail conversions are simply delayed generic keyword conversions - some undoubtedly are, but searchers don't tend to visit the same websites when they use generic terms as when they use long-tail terms.

    It's best to be seen on both generic and specific terms, but this is often an unrealistic goal for many businesses. With limited budgets, I believe that long-tail keywords are often a better choice to advertise on than generic keywords.

    Wo 11 feb 2009, 14:35


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