Chasing The Long Tail

HitTail Best Practices Jun 20, 2006

There’s a nice article in Search Engine Watch from January by Patricia Hursh asking whether chasing the long tail of search is worth it. She quotes Harrison Magun of Avenue A/Razorfish, and Kevin Lee of Did-It.com who spoke at a search engine strategies conference in Illinois. The consensus appears to be that yes, it takes a lot of time, and they both stressed that “Pay-per-click advertising is a multi-faceted discipline, and marketers should not become obsessed with chasing keywords at the expense of improving ad copy, landing pages or developing a sound bidding strategy.”

Hmmmmm. Interesting.

The implication here is that chasing the long tail of search is a PPC strategy. This half of the picture doesn’t acknowledge that long tail marketing can be much more effective in natural search. In fact, it’s MORE uniquely suited for natural search than PPC.

My assertion is that you are chasing the long tail BY improving copy and landing pages. However, the “copy” is not ad copy, but rather your website proper. And landing pages are not PPC campaign landing pages, but rather the main pages in your website or blog. And as far as the sound bidding strategy, that just sort of goes away, doesn’t it?

The bottom line given in the article is that chasing the long tail takes time, effort, money, solid analytics and, patience. I will agree with the solid analytics and patience part. But HitTailing dramatically reduces the money and effort. Once again, it’s the eternal golden ratio of service: quality, cost, speed: pick two. With long tail PPC, you get speed and quality, but at an expensive cost. According to the article, you don’t necessarily even get speed. You should! I think you must–otherwise, why use the PPC approach at all? Maybe the time goes into increasingly complex campaign management.

So, the reasons for chasing the long tail of search through PPC are diminishing with the appearance of practices like HitTailing coming onto the scene.

We know anecdotally for instance where we employed some of our super-charged HitTailing, that we have exceeded the equivalent pay-per-click campaigns in the exact same competitive market space. On our side, the client could stop paying whenever they wanted and still receive the benefit. On the PPC side, the benefit is not as large in the first place, AND the effect will stop once they stop paying.

HitTailing is like paying a mortgage, while PPC is like paying rent. At the end of a PPC campaign, you’re evicted. But with HitTailing, you own the house.

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