Marketing To The Search Engine Tail

When you look at your site and your business a few keywords probably jump out at you. These keywords would seem to be the obvious ones you should target in your search engine marketing and optimization campaigns. They are searched most often and they decribe your business well. What if I told you that there are better keywords to target.

If you took all user searches and plotted them on a graph with the search keywords along the horizontal axis and the number of times the search was performed on the vertical axis it might look something like

The points to the left in the graph would be the search engine head. These are the obvious keywords you immediately think of in regards to your site. The points to the right form the search engine tail.

The search engine tail is composed of longer keyword phrases like ‘4 door blue honda accord 5 speed’ as opposed to the less descriptive ‘honda accord’ or even the generic ‘car’ or ‘automobile’ keywords. Now you might be thinking you should be working hard to optimize your site for car or automobile since more people search for those words and if you can get your pages to rank for the term you’ll have more visitors to your site than you can imagine. After all who types in those long keyword phrases anyway.

People type in the generic keywords when they are first beginning their search. The person who types in car really hasn’t decided what car he wants to buy. He is just beginning his research and not very likely to make a purchase.

The person who types ‘4 door blue honda accord 5 spd’ knows what she wants. She has done her research and decided what car she sees herself driving for the next few years. She is much closer to making a purchase than our ‘car’ searcher.

Which visitor would you rather have at your site? The searches in the tail may not occur as often as those in the search head, but they lead to higher conversion rates. Would you rather have one visitor to your site who makes a purchase or 10,000 visitors who look around and then leave?

Not only are searches in the tail more likely to buy, but the chances of ranking higher in the search engines for search tail keyword phrases is much greater than ranking for keywords in the search head. You can often rank well in the tail with a new site and some basic search engine optimization.

Continuing our car example take a look at the results returned by Google for the following searches.

Search Phrase # of Google Results
car 736,000,000
automobile 98,400,000
honda accord 6,470,000
blue honda accord 1,650,000
4 door blue honda accord 1,170,000
blue honda accord 5 speed 926,000
4 door blue honda accord 5 speed 574,000

Notice how the more specific the search phrase the less competition there is for that keyword phrase. Less competition usually means it will be easier to find your site pages among the results assuming you’ve optimized well.

How are all those low converting and difficult to rank keywords that seemed so obvious sounding now. Putting your search engine marketing efforts into the search tail can provide better results for your site and your business. You have a better chance of being found in the search results pages and also once found have a better chance of converting your visitor into a customer.

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