Blogs And The Long Tail Of Search

Lately I’ve seen a lot of questions in small business and webmaster forums relating to how a blog can help a website. A few clients have brought up the idea of adding blogs to their site as well. While a blog isn’t a magic pill for your site, it can improve traffic by becoming a magnet for long tail searches.

Hopefully the idea of the long tail of search isn’t new to you, but if it is you can read the article in the previous link or accept that it consists of searches that are either unique or just occur infrequently over a given month. Often long tail searches involve longer keyphrases, but they don’t necessarily need to. For example if you make up a word and search for it you’ve just created a search in the long tail as it’s unlikely many other people will be searching that same phrase in the days ahead.

Why these long tail searches are important to a blogger is because not many or even any web pages will be optimized for a long tail search. You wouldn’t expect a site to be optimized for that made up word you just searched for would you? Long tail searches don’t need to be made up words and I’ll give some examples in a minute, but for now realize that because very few pages will be optimized for them it’s easy enough to get your posts ranking well. Chances are you won’t need to spend all your time getting backlinks for a specific post. And if you do it will probably only take a few to have your site ranked at the top of the results pages for several of those unique searches.

Ready for an example of what I mean?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about using css borders on divs to create shapesthat are a little more interesting than a rectangle. When I wrote the post I wasn’t thinking about seo or optimizing the page for a focused set of keywords. It was just something I was experimenting with for a site I was working on and thought it would make an interesting topic that some here would find useful. However being aware from my web stats that this blog often gets found with the keyword ‘css’ inside of a longer phrase I made sure to include that in the page and post title. I figured the word ‘borders’ might get searched in conjunction with ‘css’ so at most you could say I was thinking the post might get found for keyphrases that include ‘css borders’ somewhere. Though again I wasn’t consciously optimizing the post in any way and I simply wrote it naturally.

Here it is two weeks later and the post has brought in traffic for the following keyphrases:

  • trapezoid css
  • sample css design for border curves
  • css border curve
  • css shapes
  • cool css borders
  • css border pretty
  • css border radius ie
  • border curve css
  • div shapes
  • how to create shapes in javascript
  • css div shapes
  • css border shapes
  • css angled shapes borders
  • css border shape
  • div border shape
  • css curve border
  • borders and shapes

Have any of those terms brought in a lot of traffic? Absolutely not. Each has led someone to the post once or twice. I think maybe ‘trapezoid css’ has brought me three wonderful new visitors. But there are 17 keyphrases in the list above and when added together the css borders post is pulling in three people on average each day. I won’t be retiring anytime soon based on those three uniques per day, but think about the fact that this blog is probably up to a couple hundred posts now and many of those posts have pulled in similar traffic.

I didn’t do anything special to get ranked for any of those search phrases. I would have been crazy to optimize the page for ‘css border pretty’ and I’m sure over time there will be someone who types in something I would never expect to lead to that page. Even ‘trapezoid css’ was unexpected when I saw it in the stats for the site. Some of the shapes I talked about were trapezoids so the word and variations of the word trapezoid happened upon the page.

Again none of these phrases have or most likely will ever lead directly to a sale. What they can do is help someone find me, this blog, and the site in general. Hopefully the post they find is interesting or useful to them in some way and makes it into their list of rss feeds. Even better are the times someone has found a post and added a link to it somewhere on their site. That does happen and with each new link it should help both the specific post and the site as a whole to rank just a little bit better for those same long tail searches and perhaps even some searches closer to the head.

So without really trying a post can find it’s way to the top of the results for some not so common searches that bring unique traffic and potential repeat visitors. Ideally those visitors will later make a purchase or perhaps link to the page they found, helping to improve it’s visibility in search engine for even more terms. To rank well for competitive phrases it takes links and often quite a few of them. But many of those links can be picked up after being found for long tail terms that don’t require all those links, but can lead to some backlinks if the post in question offers something of quality to someone with a site. And all it took was some good old content.

That’s one way a blog can help your website. By being a way to generate new content that has the potential to capture long tail searches. Most any web page indexed will rank for some long tail keyphrases and the more you have the more likely you’ll pull in some traffic. The terms won’t necessarily be big money makers, though they easily could be depending on the phrase and the page. The traffic will most likely be looking for something relevant to the page which should at least help you find a potential new reader or new backlink. While a single post may not mean early retirement it should be seen as a building block for your overall search marketing and optimization strategy. One post leads to a unique visitor for a long tail phrase, which leads to one backlink for that page leading to a slightly better ranking on the original long term phrase as well as another phrase that just a little closer to the search head. Keep iterating over that process and in time you may have a page with many more backlinks ranking well for a much more competitive keyphrase.

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.


  1. Nice post Steve. I would suggest any site has a blog, Even if it’s only updated now and again and contains nothing but industry news, because it will attract traffic. Plus it’s a nice way of letting your visitors now how much knowledge you have in your industry or field.

  2. Hi Steve! You basically wrapped up every positive aspect I could think of! I’m actually impressed by how many visitors/searches that one post brought in, but I guess that’s the point! And like you said, with hundreds of posts and adding more every month, you can really start to pick up some traffic. And like you said… from there you gain links and possibly even customers!

  3. I wouldn’t say any of those keyphraes has brought in a lot of traffic. It’s still just a few visiitors and I won’t make any claims to any of them leading to revenue, but all I had to do to get that traffic was write what I hope was a useful post. And you never know how many of those people will come back and later add something to my bank account, or tell a friend or add a link.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.