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Friday, December 07, 2007

Learning about the long tail

This image (the Power Curve/Long Tail) is from Alex Barnett's Blog, specifically an entry "How RSS Thickened My Long Tail". Barnett makes some provocative points -- in the process sharing a cheap work around to download what should be copyrighted music from a Russian source.

Who reads this blog? Obviously, I don't know your individual identity, unless you wish to share it, but a review of last month's statistics tells some interesting things that will be relevant for you in your own online marketing initiatives.

Here are some tidbits:

In the past 30 days, we've had 1,338 visits, slightly more than half from search engines, of which Google overwhelmed everyone else (641 visits from Google compared to 22 from Yahoo, 10 from AOL, and only one from MSN).

Referring sites sent 479 visitors, or approximately 35 per cent of the total. (The largest referrer,, may be my own entries, with 184 visits). Finally 182 visitors came directly to this site; an encouraging and growing number suggesting several readers are bookmarking the site and returning again and again.

Fair enough, but I found something really interesting when I looked more deeply into the Google keyword data.

Turns out the most common keyword search -- with 66 entries -- is this:" Last week, a website developer pointed out that my Plaxo email signature referencing this blog had an error; yes, the spelling here. I expect people following the link from the signature decided to check on Google, and ultimately found the site. (The mistake is now fixed). Not surprisingly, the second highest keyword search is "construction marketing" (56 inquiries) and "change order boat" (19 inquiries).

But consider this point, -- readers used a total of 446 keywords in the past month to find the blog, and 446-53 or 393 are keyword combinations used only once. That means, in my case, the Long Tail -- the bottom end of the Power Curve accounts for almost 30 per cent of this blog's visitors.

I can track other metrics easily, including the length of visit, repeat visits, and the like, and use other tools to determine which parts of the blog are receiving the most interest, and the scale, volume and direction of outbound links. But these observations I think reflect much of the rest of the Internet world, and presumably should be considered in your own planning.

Google is the granddaddy, the big power source, and the most important force in the Internet these days. Duh, we know that.

However, while close to 50 per cent of the this blog's visitors arise from keyword searches (mostly on Google) an astoundingly high percentage of the keywords are used only once -- the "long tail" -- in fact close to a third of the people reading this site are truly unique in their word selection.

The "long tail" information may give you insights should you wish to pay for keyword advertising -- something I don't do (though I have an AdWords account with threshold prices set near the minimum, largely to capture market analytics and data.) Clearly, if others aren't using or paying for these keywords, you will save a lot of money in the keyword auctions -- of course it takes a lot of effort to keep up with all the permutations, and while there are some resources to help you select the keywords, you won't get the depth of data I'm seeing until your site has enough organic search engine placement and relevance to attract enough traffic.

And if you want to know how to get your site to the top page of relevant Google keywords, my advice here will be only useful for you if you are at the top of the Power Curve, or really lucky in the long tail -- start a relevant blog and fill it with original content, sometimes several times a day. (And consider that it took at least six to seven months to get to this stage.)


G.Suvorov said...

I recommend you use for keyword tracking, just trace your best competitors keywords and positions in SERP, they've done all the work allready :-).

Construction Marketing Ideas said...

I dont' really like these commercial 'hits' (presumably automated); I can hit delete on them, but since there is some relevance will err on allowing this one in.

Daniel Smith said...

Mark, I told you about that error in your plaxo sig the day after you hired me! haha Glad you've fixed it though - I'm sure you were missing a lot of hits from that!

Great post too. I am considering starting a blog of mine... something I had been thinking of doing for awhile. Would you have any issue if I did, and if so do you have any suggestions?

Construction Marketing Ideas said...

Daniel, sometimes it takes a sledgehammer to get essential information into my brain. Duhh.
Regardless, of course you may start a blog. Just use common sense and don't libel anyone!

Sonny Lykos said...

Daniel, it's not too cool to rub it in - to anyone, much less publicize it on a blog.

Daniel Smith said...

Hi Sonny,

I was only teasing Mark - I send him notes through the blog from time to time rather than firing up the email client, and he usually doesn't publish a comment if it was meant for him only. In any case, it wasn't intended to be a public ribbing. Anyway, I think Mark can take a gentle stab now and again :P
If, however, I was out of line, I do apologize Mark.

Construction Marketing Ideas said...

Its okay. I can take a shot (deserved in this case) now and again.