Ignore the Long Tail at Your Own Risk

We were contacted by a company touting a top level domain from the 90′s, the kind of domain name you can only dream about acquiring for less than $50K-70K in modern times, however, despite their top 3 ranking for a prominent keyword, they still needed SEO.
ignore the long tail at your own risk
Ironically, they have a mail order e-commerce model that from all indicators is working well for them, so what is the catch? When presented with a plethora of keywords (since they already rank in the top 3 results in Google for their primary keyword) they essentially scoffed with unjust due. According to them, anything less than their primary keyword is of little value to them.

This is where things get strange, upon further inquiry, we were able to determine that 84% of their search engine traffic is hinged on that one keyword. Is this a very SAFE business model? Not necessarily, that is, if you ever want to grow beyond the aggregate traffic of being a one hit / keyword wonder or have to tap out if anything ever happened to your primary / trophy keyword.

The impulse to share the tiered ranking strategies one can implement by assessing competitive market intelligence (by looking at your competition, the market/niche) and what possibilities exist for long-tail search engine optimization were the first thing we wanted to elaborate.

Their reaction, the keywords you present are things we are trying NOT to rank for. The message is simple. Sure, you can acquire blockbuster keywords with thousands of visitors attached, but ignore the long-tail at your own risk. By putting your eggs all in one basket, your business model can disappear in one algorithmic hiccup if the relevance model changes.

For those unfamiliar with the long tail of search, the concept is simple. Instead of someone typing in a broad / nebulous keyword like the word shopping and expecting to find exactly what they are looking for, such a keyword may return a definition of whoever optimized their website best for that phrase (but not exactly what you are looking for).

As a result, people add additional words for long tail queries, by doing so, they are providing additional nodes of relevance for search engines to use term frequency to extract a page with the highest probable relevance and authority on the topic / keyword.

The question is, when you know you are looking for something specific, you use modifiers such as make, model, color, size, brand name, etc. By taking these signals (as a business or webmaster) and implementing coherent naming conventions into pages, proper use of titles, strong internal links and creating segments for distinct types of products, categories and modifiers; you can increase traction for all the items in the website.

Just because you rank for the root phrase (based on the domain name) doesn’t mean you can’t dig deeper and look for additional opportunities for keywords of equal stature that have less competition that are related to your theme.

The takeaway here is, finding a series of strong secondary keywords tiered from the original phrase in tandem can exceed not only the dependency on one keyword, but raise ambient traffic levels to immense proportions.

By them essentially ignoring the long tail, they are only interested in one type of psycho-graphic consumer who thinks along that linear trajectory. Sure, there are a large percentage of people still executing one word searches and perhaps even type in .com traffic for a product, but to deliberately snub the opportunity to double, triple or quadruple traffic is utterly acenine.

Most people use two or more words in search engines to find what they are looking for, why? Because one word searches often result in Wikipedia listings and nebulous search results.

My suggestion, take off the blinders, think as a consumer would think and find keywords  they would type in a search engine if they were looking to buy. With the type of authority the website in question has (ranking for a keyword with 30 million competing pages) acquiring a top 3 position for multiple traffic-bearing stemmed keywords would be merely systematic with a stint of SEO. So, for those who insist on keeping it safe with one word trophy rankings I leave you with a few thoughts for consideration.

Since 80% of most websites get the lion share of visitors from long-tail traffic, do the math and ignore the long-tail of search at your own risk.

Or Stick Around and Read More Posts


  1. SEO Specialist
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Very informative post, that is true long tail keywords should be focused.

  2. Tom Demers
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Great post; this is such a great point. In much the same way you wouldn’t want to rely on a single channel for lead generation (if 98 percent of your leads came through PPC or Email marketing, you would be looking for another marketing avenue) you need to think about expanding/diversifying your keyword portfolio to lower risk…we actually just put up a two-part article on the value of expanding your keyword list: http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2009/04/14/why-most-efficient-frontier-may-be-new-one-value-keyword-discovery-keyword

    Anyway great post!

  3. Danel R. Lehrman
    Posted April 16, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Great point. Stay in the “box” to long and lose touch.
    Look ahead and adjust to what is coming next from Google.
    Have any idea about when Goggle may do the dance again?

    Don’t forget about me please!

  4. project management
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 2:41 am | Permalink

    Very helpful post.. I learned a lot…

  5. ade
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting post, one of the best I’ve read on long tail keywords. Also very inspiring. Thanks a lot.

  6. don
    Posted January 16, 2010 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    great post, I will continue to work on my keyword phrasing. Thanks for the kick.


6 Trackbacks

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