Software Marketing Resource Articles: The Long Tail

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Monday, May 29, 2006

The Long Tail

The phrase "The Long Tail" was first used in 2004 by Chris Anderson a writer for Wired Magazine. Anderson used the phrase to describe business models. The article initially referencing The Long Tail referred to the fact that a small handful of blogs have a large number of links pointing to them, while millions of smaller blogs have only a handful of links. Chris Anderson described the effects of the long tail on business models and argued that products that are in a low demand can effectively and collectively make up a market share that exceeds the few of those that are in high demand.

While initially the phrase the long tail was used to reference statistical distributions, like web 2.0 the meaning has been expanded to encompass a marketing mantra.

Capturing The Long Tail
So what is meant by capturing the long tail? Capturing the small volume will result in a collectively large volume.

Keywords and keyword phrases provide a great example of how the long tail works. There are a relatively small number of keywords that receive the vast majority of searches, and additionally there are millions of keywords and keyword phrases that make up a fraction of Internet searches. So by capturing the keyword long tail an Internet marketer targets all of the less popular keywords and keyword phrases, because in mass these less popular keywords are a more significant volume than the popular keywords and phrases for a specific business sector. Internet marketers that are able to "capture the long tail" will receive significant traffic. The long tail includes everything other than the popular terms. The idea is that the total volume of lower popularity keywords exceeds the volume of high popularity keywords.

While the concept of The Long Tail is fairly simple in nature, it is very difficult to implement in practice.

Using the same example in order to grab the keyword long tail Internet marketers need to locate and optimize for keyword neighborhoods. Large online businesses like eBay and Amazon that contain user generated content tend to have an easier time of capturing the long tail. It can be a challenge for smaller online companies. Generally speaking user generated content like that found in forums and blogs, tend to be helpful when optimizing for the keyword long tail. There is no substitute for magnitude and while capturing the keyword tail will help any business increase traffic, it is important to not forget that tip to tail is ideal.


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