Long Tail Strategy

Keyword Research Feb 5, 2007

The scuttlebutt on the Internet is increasingly about long tail SEO strategy. Chris Anderson helped us identify the fact that “everything else” collectively is as big as the main event. You see that manifesting as things like CSI being the most watched show on television. Now, I know what CSI is, but it by no means is the phenomenon of Seinfeld of a decade ago, or even I Love Lucy of a generation ago. As technology allows us to chose products and media through intelligent search and filters, our need to adhere to the pop culture hits diminishes. This effect, while spectacularly clear in media, is present in all walks of business. Because you can connect a customer with an ultra-particular need with a supplier with an ultra-specific product, the customer gets what he/she needs, and the supplier can actually exist. In a slightly different world (pre-Internet), you would have relied on hearing about such a specialized supplier through word-of-mouth, because they are usually too small to afford advertising. But now, with Internet search, the same supplier has nearly unlimited access to all the specialized customers in the world at virtually no cost. Hence, the long tail strategy.

Now, the long tail strategy for a company that has massive amounts of products, such as GE or Proctor & Gamble, would be different from a specialized supplier, who say creates software for digital signage. The mission of GE or P&G; would be to get as broad a base of customers to buy across as broad a base of products as possible. In database terms, these companies need a many-to-many relationship, and it makes their long tail strategies quite complex to imagine and implement.

The specialized supplier on the other hand has a single, very unique product that appeals to a single, very unique customer. Take for example, the Liter Robot, a very unique automatic liter box for people who are serious about reducing the chore. It’s not cheap and it’s not small. But it does the job like nothing else. But no body knows about it, outside a very small circle. For such a supplier, a long tail marketing strategy is both easy and effective. Just blog. Blog often and use HitTail’s blog writing suggestions as they start to come in. Over time, your access to customers will go from somewhere that must be around 20% (just guessing) to closer to 60%. The idea is that everyone who doesn’t pick up the first available competitor’s device from their local PetCo is likely to Google the topic. And once they’re Googling, you have to have cast a sufficiently wide and sufficiently tight-knit net to capture those customers. And constructing that net is what HitTail helps you do so well.

I know this, because I did it for Scala Multimedia, suppliers of digital signage software to companies needing to turn flat panel TVs and LCDs into rapidly-updatable animated signs. This was 1998 through 2001. No one knew what to call the industry, and through monitoring search hits on an already large site, I was able to divine what people thought the industry SHOULD be called. And it was diverse, with a few winners, such as “digital signage”, but with a far larger set of one-hit wonders, such as “rapidly updatable electronic signs”. Who knew what to target?

I did!

By taking those terms that “almost” worked, where only the most determined searchers found us, I was able to systematically tweak all those results onto the first page of Google. Over a period of about 2 years, I am quite confident that I confounded the competitors to no end. Since I left that company, their standings on some of the “big head” keywords has waned, but their collective traffic across the long tail words has continued to grow unabated. So, while the digital signage vendors are just waking up to the need to get search engine traffic, the leader is years ahead, ensuring that their access to potential customers has gone from say 20% (just guessing) to well over 60%.

Given enough determination and dedicated long tail strategy, I believe that suppliers of specialized products could increase their to 90% of all potential customers.

  1. Avatar
    Martin Kelley

    Hi Mike,
    I’ve been enjoying your tips here. I’m interviewing with a bunch of local web design firms and the issue of SEO invariably comes up. When they ask what I would do to boost a client’s SEO on a competitive search term, I tell them to start a blog for the client and go after the long tail.

    This is not the answer my interviewees want to hear. While they all advertise themselves as SEO specialists, in the end they seem more interested in whether I can do pointless Flash animation. I guess most clients still don’t think strategically about internet publicity and that the wow-factor of a slick site is more rewarded than the relative abstraction of a heavily-used site.

    I have my referrer logs in an RSS feed and every few hours check to see what’s bringing in traffic to my sites. Using the odd phrase–the one hit wonder–as a clue and keyword strategy sounds like a good idea. I’ve added HitTail to more of my freelance client sites and will see what I can do with it.
    Martin Kelley

  2. Avatar
    Mike Levin


    Grow the size of your opportunity funnel. For every three clients who will be too scared to use blogging as a friction-free method of publishing and expanding niche dominance, there will be one who won’t. That’s the one you want as a client.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *