Time to get your math nerd on! Long Tail refers to a Power Law graph, which is a particular shape of data when describing the frequency of each event in a distribution. It has become widely adopted in SEO circles to explain the thinking needed when selecting the keywords you wish to target.
CAUTION: Using this thinking will reduce your cost per click and improve your conversion rates! ;o)
Where is it from?
It was originally popularised in the late 40’s by economists after the war to describe some of the market dynamics of the time. Typically you show demand/popularity across a number of variants/products. It can be used for sales volumes, plotting population of animal species, supply and demand or anything that takes your fancy.
How does it work?
It doesn’t work, quite so much as it is evidenced. And it is seen where a small number of an observed population account for a large portion of the activity.
For example if we recorded the colour of cars on the roads we would find white cars make up a large portion of the distribution, while yellow cars a lot less. Yellow cars would be in the long tail.
And in a market place like Google it is very effective at highlighting those terms that are hyper-competitive (in the head) and those that are less often searched for but similarly less competed for by other websites (in the tail).
How this might look when it comes to SEO is as follows;
How do we target Head Terms vs Tail Terms?
For sound SEO we need to target terms that are in all three areas – Head, Body and Tail.
The head terms are those that any competitive business needs to target, but are competitive as most businesses are targeting them. For these terms we often go stronger with SEO activities and aim to build organic rank, with some ‘top up’ of ad spend.
For the tail terms we find we can get high conversion from users who know what they are looking for and we might find costs per click are a lot lower (certainly relative to head terms). So we often find ourselves steering more of our ad spend into these terms for a solid return on investment.
And for Body Terms it is generally a 50/50 as to how hard you want to focus on them.
So what do I do about it?
As in all SEO and marketing this is a guiding principle. Every case is slightly different and how you define your market has a huge influence over the competitors and traffic you are targeting.
So do solid keyword research, target the areas of your business that are unique and try some new angles while measuring the outcomes and adjusting accordingly.
And if in doubt at all drop us a line, our team will only be too happy to help you amke the right choice or even do this work for your business. Want to learn more about SEO and online marketing? Read below…