What is the Long Tail?

I love the long tail! It’s where real value can be achieved when it comes to digital marketing but what is it I hear you ask.

What is the long tail?

Let me tell you a story.

There once was a may who sold shoes. He sold mens shoes, womens shoes & childrens shoes. He sold them in all sizes and offered a great service. He built a website and he had an obsession for ranking for 3 keywords:

  • Shoes
  • Mens shoes
  • Mens Brown Shoes

He turned his nose up at all other keywords. These were what he wanted to rank for and nothing would stop him but he was ignoring the long tail so we look at the data for searches per month

  • Shoes – 10m searches
  • Mens shoes – 1m searches
  • Mens Brown Shoes – 100k searches

Ok it makes sense – thats a lot of search but the theory of the long tail is that once you get back these high volume search terms there are thousands, if not millions of search terms that not only add up to a larger search volume but also offer a better opportunity for conversion.

Let me explain – it’s all about the intent of the keyword or search term. Think about the buyer behaviour process and the stage they are at.

When you need something and you start researching and you use generic, broad terms – like men’s shoes. You are researching and don’t really know what you want and unless you see some great deal that you feel you will miss out on (FOMO – we will come on to FOMO) then you probably wont buy. Why? Because you are still researching.

So not only is it harder to rank for these competitive, high volume search terms but you will more than likely not see a conversion.

However if this man was to focus on mens brown shoes for a little while…let’s tackle this one step, or shoe at a time.

KeywordMax search volume
mens brown shoes100,000
brown shoes100,000
mens brown dress shoes100,000
brown dress shoes100,000
brown leather shoes10,000
mens brown leather shoes10,000
brown formal shoes10,000
light brown dress shoes10,000

Above is a table of 440K searches – 44% of the search of “mens shoes” however much more specific and more likely to convert that “mens shoes”. This is just 8 search terms and you’re already at 44%. Think about the other thousand searches and other options available. If you add shoe size in to these terms you could treble or quadruple your conversion rate. How about lace or slip on? This opens it up even further.

The generic terms are great for traffic and getting your site or business name out there but they are much harder to rank for. Do not overlook the power that is held within the long tail.

The long tail is where the conversions happen (unless you’re a big brand) so think about what your customer would search to BUY not to FIND.

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