What Is The Long Tail?

The “long tail” is a term used to describe a type of marketing or business model that focuses on a string of “niche” products and services, rather than the top few hot products. The phrase “the long tail” was coined by writer Chris Anderson, who subsequently wrote a best-selling book by the same title.

Anderson and his concepts have since become very prominent in the internet world, having an influence even on major search engines. The term “long tail” comes from the look of a graph charting the popularity and inventory of products and services. At one end of this graph appears a short spike where the sales of mega-products can be seen, while on the other end there is a “long tail” mapping less popular products, in other words those with low demand and sales.

It’s claimed that the future successful business model will be in following the “long tail,” (i.e., selling many less popular products and services, rather than chasing the megahits). The arguments of Anderson and others concerning the long tail include that, with large enough storage and distribution, these less popular products could do as well or better than the bestsellers in the long run.

One very successful company that is often cited as an example of the long tail is the online seller Amazon, best known originally as a bookseller but now the largest online merchant of a million plus products. What we are really discussing is simply the “supermarket” or “superstore” business model, providing numerous small volume products rather than a few megahits. In reality, the long tail has always been around, but it hasn’t been named as such.

“Diversification” is one word that describes this type of marketing.

An example of the business changes occurring because of “long tail” thinking is theater-release movies that follow the “long tail” business model, in November 2006 super producer George Lucas announced he would quit making such movies, instead turning to TV. Lucas said that for the same price of making a blockbuster hit like “Star Wars” he could create 50 or so two-hour movies for TV and web feeds such as Netflix instead. This same sort of thinking is occurring in almost every significant field of business.

One thing that has made the long tail more feasible for all types of business is the internet.

The internet and the type of technology it represents have had an enormous impact on traditional business models and popular mainstream media, such as the television, radio and music industries. This impact will continue to be felt for many years to come, and the term “the long tail” is likely to become permanently entered into the business vernacular, as more people base their businesses around it.

Long tail is a very important ingredient in Engine Optimization being embraced by a huge number of businesses and growing daily. So, how will it help your internet business?

The theory is simple really. You can make just as much money or maybe more out of the less clicked keywords than the more popular keywords for your given product or service.

Although this may have not been feasible some years ago, with the advance in many keyword and analytical software programs, it is now possible, indeed, probable.

So lets examine this a little more.

The premise is that by knowing many or even all of the keywords and phrases that bring in say 20 to 30 percent of your traffic, you can capitalize on this by meshing or organizing these keywords together which then leads to a snowball effect on the search engines and creates many more rankings.

As you build more and more of these keyword pages or blog postings, your incoming traffic will start to climb and within a given period of time, 50 or 60 percent of your traffic can be supplied through these many additional higher rankings or long tail optimized keywords and phrases.

Such a shift away from having to compete with many other websites in your business field does and brings many benefits.

1. The option of removing the use of some paid advertising completely.
2. The option of minimizing some advertising and campaigns.
3. The option of scaling down search engine optimization campaigns.
4. Due to the expansion of keywords and phrases, the option to add additional and or up-sell products.
5. With more pages, the use or larger use of monetized advertising could be used. i.e. Google AdSense.

This is a small list of the benefits that a long tail campaign may bring, however the main points are reduction in costs and increase in profits.

Combine this with the current low prices of placing new material online and the minimal fees required to have new content written in economically growing countries, you have a very cost effective marketing plan.

Lastly, one of the main focal points or benefits of such a campaign would be the major search engines themselves.

What the search engines love is on topic, keyword rich content pages and lots of them!

Submitting many of these long tail” keyword pages will then lead to many first page rankings, thus helping your whole website via the downward flow of a higher ranking score. In turn, this helps all pages, even those that have a high level of competition and may have previously required search engine optimization.

At the end of the day, a very well thought out SEO marketing campaign is about utilizing all options available for maximum return. For your business, long tail search engine optimization may just be one of those options.


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