LongTailing Vs. HitTailing

HitTail Best Practices Oct 18, 2006

I was recently asked the definition of LongTailing, and had to clarify the difference between it and HitTailing. In a recent blog post, Chris Anderson is calling George Lucas a longtailer, because of this Lucas quote:

Spending $100 million on production costs and another $100 million on P&A; makes no sense, he said. “For that same $200 million, I can make 50-60 two-hour movies. That’s 120 hours as opposed to two hours. In the future market, that’s where it’s going to land, because it’s going to be all pay-per-view and downloadable.”

Longtailing appears to describe is the whole sweeping movement of targeting more specialized niche audiences, while spending less to produce and distribute product. The result is collecting enough customers to support a business, where it would have been impossible before. This is the point Chris hammers in his book about Amazon.com and Rhapsody–a new shape of business. And those who chase that tail are longtailers.

HitTailing on the other hand, while most easily understood in the context of the long tail is merely a way to save marketers lots of time in their keyword selection. Online search marketing is so often about selecting the right keywords to target, which brings in the right audience, which leads to the best return on your marketing dollar. When you delve into longtail marketing, the problem is that the pesky keyword list gets so dauntingly long that you don’t know where to begin. But there’s hits in ‘dat ‘dere tail. And all the online marketer needs is a convenient way to zero in on those tail hits, saving massive amounts of time in both their pay-per-click (PPC) and natural search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

Well, that’s long way of saying that LongTailing applies broadly to business thinking, while HitTailing is only about efficient keyword selection in search marketing.

Even so, we find HitTailing to be a refreshing beacon of simplicity in the world of search marketing, where constantly cleverer traffic analysis results in constantly crowded quagmires of indecision. You can follow click-paths, see drop-off pages, see click hot-spots, pie-charts galore, and even record and play back individual visitor sessions like a VCR. But this wash of data rarely tells you in clear terms what to do next.

HitTail tells you in such explicit terms what to do next, that industry thought leaders such as Markus Merz of performancing.com describe it this way:

HitTail is the hammer-like tool for the hard hearted and disciplined people who urgently want to get their work done. Thirsty for work might be the right manner to approach HitTail. This tool literally throws work at you like that mafia meat ball yelling “I never want to see that guy again! Do something! Now!”

This marks a significant change in the direction of development of analytics software, from a glut of paralyzing information, to a shaping a prescribed formula for success. On the outs are the endless charts and graphs that only an accountant could love, and on the way in are the intuitive and explicit instructions of what to do next. Think of the big change in online maps when they changed from merely showing you a map to giving you turn-by-turn driving instructions. Think of tax software from when it changed from filling in forms to being an automated interview. This is the fundamental change in search marketing that HitTail is ushering in. And it’s exactly what’s necessary to get the world of mainstream marketing to embrace the elusive but key chore of organic search engine marketing.

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