By Joe Pulizzi published March 17, 2011

Why Long-Tail Search Rules (and what to do about it)

Listened to Chris Baggott from Compendium talk yesterday at the AMA Content Marketing conference about the power of mixing social and search. Here are some stats from Chris that will get you thinking:

  • 88% of clicks come from organic search (left side). The remaining 12% of clicks go to paid keywords (pay per click). Where are you spending more money?
  • The fastest growing type of keyword search is a length of eight words.
  • The type of search that converts at the highest rate is the four-word search.
  • 80% of readers coming to your blog (on average) are first timers.
  • 70% of searches are considered “long-tail searches” (see chart). Long-tail searches are less competitive and convert at a higher rate.

Long Tail Keyword Effectiveness

Some advice:

  • Chris suggests to take the advice from Zig Ziglar and create content around the “similar situation sale”. In other words, buyers search for information about others who are having the same problems as them.
  • Google’s latest algorithm update places more emphasis on the social sharing of content. That means brands are rewarded in search for content that is shared more in sites like Twitter and Facebook.
  • For long-tail searches, blogs win and win big. Once someone gets detailed enough to type in up to six or eight words, blogs that cover that subject rule the rankings.

A final thought…just checked the Content Marketing Institute analytics.  Over the past 30 days, the CMI site has been accessed in search through 2,249 different keyword variations.  Only 10 keywords received more than 20 visits. That shows you the power of long-tail search.

To get to that point, for the past nine months we have released a blog post every business day, which amounts to over 200 individual blog posts.

Sometimes less is more, but sometimes more is better.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • Dragos Ilinca

    You make some fair points, but the reality is that for most businesses that might be overkill. Instead of optimizing your site for 100 keywords, you now have to do it for 10,000. Sure, many of the phrases might greatly overlap (a lot of 4 word searches have the same 3 words in common). But how do you manage that?

    Do you have some pointers on how to do this methodically and not just wing it?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Dragos…I’m not the optimization expert, so I asked Chris to comment on this. Stay tuned.

      • Chris Baggott

        Great Post Joe. Thank you for the kind words. I have to give credit for a lot of this data to Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz. I’m just a disciple 🙂

        As as far as Drago’s question goes… You have to think of search as a competition. The Search Engine wants to deliver content that exactly matches the searchers intent or query. If I use all 4 words in my title for example and you use only three, all other things being equal odd are I win.

        And that tale is getting longer. Geography plays a huge role in search. So you and I can make the same search and get different results just because we live in different places. So you not only need content that matches the query, you need content that matches my geography.

        This isn’t as hard as it sounds btw. It’s all about expanding the scope of who you include in your content creation strategy.

  • Dave Van de Walle

    Love it, Joe. “Similar situation sale” is a great way to implement this – we’ve found the blog to be a door opener when we use experiences that incorporate things that happen to us in real-life situations. “When we work with Realtors on their social media strategy,” or “Restaurant owners that need help getting a website that converts” are, in my experience, the types of phrases to squeeze into your copy (and not be all keyword spammy about it).

  • Alex Valencia

    Great Post Gentlemen! At WeDoWebContent we implement both strategies for our website and our client websites. Since, we are strictly a content firm we create a project plan for vanity keywords and for long tail keywords. A typical project can have 40 pieces of content monthly that can be broken up into different forms of content and distributed/syndicated to drive traffic to the clients website, blog or social media page. The results have been great! Since we use both startegies our clienst are ranking for some vanity keywords and 1-3 visits on the posts with teh longtail searches as well.

  • Codrut Turcanu

    Any idea how and if recent Google updates will affect long-tail keyword searches? I know they have the option to pre-fill the search field with key terms, saving their users more time.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Codrut…as far as I’ve heard and read, Google is still looking for the most relevant content. The latest update focused on getting less useful content out of the searches.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Codrut…try this site for email marketing stats.

  • Grant

    Great article on long-tailed searches. Google has a product that can be added on to just about any website called “Google webmaster tools.” There is a section called search queries within webmaster tools that allows you to view impressions your site has made on long tailed search phrases. I would suggest every website owner add this to their website as it has show to be a great tool to see what types of search queries are being performed through Google in which your site holds relevancy. Not only will this show you impressions made for specific long-tailed searches performed but it will also show you clicks, click through ratio (CTR) and average website position. We have used this tool for some time and it has helped us measure the effectiveness of our blog article content in how we target our search audience.