Keywords in Your Crystal Ball

Keyword Research Jan 25, 2007

In my current SEO consulting engagement, the topic of the long tail occasional rears it’s head (swings its tail), and the question ultimately comes around to whether or not the pursuit of the drips and drabs of traffic in the long tail are worth it. I always answer that it comes down to how efficiently you can focus on the long tail. If you don’t have a good strategy, that way lies ruin, because there’s just so much junk in the tail. If you put out a page on every obscure multi-word term, you’re just going to trash up your website to turn one serendipitous hit into two.

So, you focus on things that are producing hits for you already, right? Uh, not quite. If a term is already working for you (i.e. coming up in the first page of search), then it’s a waste of your time to focus more energy on that same term. It goes into the “done” bin. It’s time to focus on more obscure terms. What about the most obscure? Uh, nope. If you do that, you’re in the “turn one hit into two” arena, and no one wants to be there. The idea is to turn one hit into thousands. You want to tap into undiscovered veins of traffic gold.

OK, so you can discount terms that are working too well for you. And you can discount terms that are unlikely to ever work again for you, using indicators such as number of words and semantic pattern matching. You basically clip off the top and bottom of the list, leaving the sweet spot in the middle. Just how big is this sweet spot, and how much time have you saved?

Well, we adjust our thresholds so that we issue just the right amount of lucrative spot-on terms to our HitTail users. But in general, it equals about 5% of the overall keyword list. And keep in mind, a HitTail keyword list is already heavily filtered with philosophical goodness, in order to keep bad data out—such as keyword-stuffing by your competitors, and even your own search-and-click competitive benchmarking. Yep, we filter the clicks out that skew the data, making our remaining 5% of writing suggestions more like 1% of the gigantic keyword list that you’re probably dealing with today when you pull it out of your analytics package.

But it doesn’t stop there. HitTail only ever records every keyword that leads to your site from each source once. That’s right—so, if “blue widgets” led to your site from www.google.com, we’re never going to record it again (from that source), so our keyword tab works more like a radar system for historic events in the life of your website. Every keyword that appears under the keyword tab is celebrating it’s birthday as a referring source to your site, making the HitTail keyword list all the more insightful and fascinating to watch.

But perhaps the most addictive aspect of HitTail is the infamously impossible Ajax real-time search hits. Sure, it’s not really real-time, with a few second delay. But at last you can do what everyone intuitively thinks they should be able to do when they look at their log file: watch the real-time flow of visitors as they arrive. Once again, our magical patented filtering is at play here, ensuring that every entry under the Search Hits tab represents just one user. So, if you have 10 hits in an hour, that’s an influx rate of 10 people per hour. Don’t you wish all analytics were that simple? It’s the sort of “pulse” of the website that today’s generation of “wait ’till tomorrow” analytics software isolates you from.

So, we get back to the original question, of whether it’s worth chasing the long tail of natural search? Yes, so long as you have a sane approach to zeroing in on the most worthwhile terms. It’s like if you had a crystal ball looking at all the terms that MIGHT produce well for you, and told you the ideal order in which to target the terms, so that you pick up the most traffic most quickly. That’s the sort of crystal ball that we’re endeavoring to create here at Connors Communications with HitTail. And while our skills of prestidigitation are pretty sweet, we’re not the super-seer of the Web just yet.

Give us time.

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