HitTail and The Long Tail – How They Relate

HitTail Best Practices Jun 4, 2006

How does HitTail relate to Wired Magazine Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson’s concept of The Long Tail? It connects on two levels. First, when you graph how much traffic is generated to your site by what keywords, you inevitably end up with the characteristic long tail graph. A very few keywords are responsible for a tremendous amount of your traffic. But when you look at the rest of your keywords, you will notice two things. First, they almost never stop. The long tail of natural search for a site that has a good deal of content is very long indeed. The potential happenstance word combinations (your inventory) is for all intents and purposes, unlimited. And the determination of searchers in stepping through and clicking search results (the demand) is similarly infinite. And very few tools attempt to track your keywords in this way, keeping a permanent record of your keyword click-through (transaction history). HitTail does precisely that. It is possible to pinpoint the first time a particular word combination EVER led to your site. This is the data that gets mined for superior natural search optimization–but it is the graph that you get when you plot keywords vs. hits that invokes Chris’ concept.

The second way HitTail connects to the concept is exactly to how Google’s AdWords campaign does. The majority of Google’s advertisers are smaller businesses selling products that are not necessarily carried in inventory in retail outlets. They’re not on the shelves of Walmart. For people with product that would be difficult to distribute through traditional channels, AdWords makes better sense. You can reach your market no matter how geographically dispersed. Similarly, HitTail endeavors to have the same marketing reach, but without necessarily having to mount a massive paid keyword campaign. Because shelf-space is limited, traditional retail only likes to carry products that will sell frequently enough to pay for the space. It’s often thought of as the 80/20 rule: 20% of the product accounts for 80% of sales. So, it makes sense to only carry the 20%. The rest, and indeed the majority, of products are simply unavailable. The Internet, with sites like Amazon and iTunes changed that, making it possible to carry unlimited number of products, because of unlimited amount of shelf space. And that’s the second way HitTail relates to the concept. Anyone with a product or service to sell, who has a difficult time reaching their market with traditional distribution channels would be wise to look at growing their long tail of natural search in order to reach their market. You are growing your long tail of natural search to sell your long tail products to your customer-base that is dispersed thinly across the world.

This is possible because no matter how competitive things look in the search results, competitiveness slopes off dramatically as you put the third, fourth or fifth word into search. In fact, it gets outright simple to be on the first page of Google results when your term is sufficiently obscure. Professional SEO’s sometimes for the sake of experimentation make up a word to see how long it takes to appear in the search engines, and what position it will achieve. It’s a sort of benchmarking game. The first famous SEO contest used such a made-up word: Nigritude Ultramarine. I did a test last year with the term Googlesteading. So, that’s great for made up words, but you can confirm the effect with long phrases by going to just about any website, picking up a long phrase, and searching for it in double-quotes. It becomes very easy to build a long tail of such terms and phrases on your website that don’t need to be paid for with a PPC campaign. But its only worth putting that sort of work in if you have evidence that those phrases will produce for you. And that’s what HitTail does: provides evidence of what terms are most likely to produce for you, so you can intelligently grow your long tail into areas where demand actually exists.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *