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The long tail of search

February 19th, 2009 by mdmcginnis

“We sold more books today that didn’t sell at all yesterday than we sold today of all the books that did sell yesterday.”

That’s what an Amazon employee said. That is, Amazon didn’t get rich from blockbuster hits. It got rich from products that weren’t hits. Just an awful lot of them.

Like, search engine optimizers can benefit from what marketers call the long tail. You may discover that some of the keywords that visitors use to get to your site… well, in the grand scheme of things, they aren’t very popular, not compared to “poker” or “weather”. They may be unexpected. But when you add them all up, you may discover that they bring more visitors to your site than some of the keywords you expected.

Long tail searches are perfect for universities. Our professors and researchers are experts in millions of topics with a small but loyal following. And there’s little competition for long tail keywords, so as long as you use sensible titles and headlines, it’s easy to get to the top of the search engine results for them.

Long tail search optimization will only work, for Amazon and for you, when the resources necessary to optimize for these keywords is extremely small. If you’re a professor of Portuguese literature, you don’t want to spend an hour creating a page about a topic that even fans of Portuguese literature will rarely search for. So I recommend you adopt two separate search engine optimization strategies for your site.

  1. Look at the keywords that visitors search for more often. Write Web pages that specifically target those keywords.
  2. But for long tail keywords, just be real and natural. For every page on your site, provide a title and heading that uniquely describes that page. You will automatically be optimizing that page for those keywords.
Thursday, February 19th, 2009 Search
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3 Comments to The long tail of search

  1. […] have less patience now than in 2005 – Since you must be #1 now, target long-tail keywords.   addthis_url = ‘’; addthis_title = […]

  2. via @mdmcginnis: Eye tracking 2009 vs. 2005 | Aggie Webmasters on March 5th, 2009
  3. […] – the keywords that get millions of searches a month each. But what about the even more potent long tail keywords, that collectively get tens of millions of searches a month – from the most highly […]

  4. Whose website is it anyway? | Aggie Webmasters on April 6th, 2009
  5. […] our special purpose sites are intended for a limited audience. That is, they are focused on smaller long tail topics, so our first priority was to make sure they were findable by interested campus […]

  6. Top search result for “code maroon” is now… Code Maroon. | Aggie Webmasters on April 14th, 2009

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