The Link between the Long Tail, PPC and SEO

In 2004, the term “Long Tail” was used by Wired.com writer Chris Anderson to describe the advantage online business models, such as Amazon.com and iTunes, have over traditional brick and mortar competitors. Their success is driven by deep catalogs that include highly popular items and less popular items.

For brick and mortar retailers there is a cost associated with local inventory. That cost is substantial and prohibits them from carrying anything except the most popular items.

Online retailers, however, can sell more and make more money because (1) in the case of iTunes, the cost of carrying an item in electronic form is near zero and (2) online retailers can offer 1000’s of unknown artists as well. As a business model serving all those niche markets and customers is called The Long Tail Approach.

The Long Tail approach is also used in Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). In this instance, it means using keywords and terms that are less competitive than others to aggregate an equal, or almost equal, number of visitors or customers.

The less competitive phrases have lower appeal to the more casual searcher, produce lower click-through rates and, as such, cost less to use in a PPC campaign. You trade slightly fewer visitors and clicks for less competition and much lower costs. It’s a good business decision.

For example, the word “puppies” may have a higher click-through rate and cost than “beagle puppies,” which in turn may have a higher click-through rate and cost than “beagle puppies for sale Charlotte.” All three will be listed and ranked by the search engines for the word “puppies” but the person using the additional search terms – “beagle, for sale” and “Charlotte” – will have less competition and lower costs.

If you are in the business of selling beagle puppies in the Charlotte area, the benefits of using the less popular term are (1) it will cost you less money, (2) it will provide higher quality leads and (3) it better describes your business. The Long Tail is a great way to depict the trade-offs you’ll need to make in your search engine optimization and Pay-Per-Click campaign unless you have an unlimited budget.

Steve