[STUDY] The Long Tail of Search: Why The Fastest Path to More Traffic Might Not Be Where You Are Looking

[STUDY] The Long Tail of Search: Why The Fastest Path to More Traffic Might Not Be Where You Are Looking

The savvy search marketer understands that it is often significantly easier to move up in the search rankings for multiple keywords whose search volumes, when combined, total that of the one desirable keyword. However, disproportionate focus on these ‘head terms’ is often exacerbated by the executive who wants to be at the top of Google for highly competitive terms.

Over a nine month period we analyzed thousands of keywords in our SEO platform SearchlightTM, to measure the impact of implementing its on-page recommendations on natural search visibility, and to gauge the difference in movement for long-tail vs. head-term search queries.

Our Findings

Rank Movement: Keywords with on-page optimization activities moved, on average, more than one full page in the search results.

Head vs. Long-Tail: Long-tail (low volume) keywords with on-page optimization moved, on average, more than one full page in the search results.

Conversion Rate: Conversion rates for long-tail terms were 2.5x higher for long-tail queries than for head terms.

Download the full study to learn more.


About Nathan Safran

Nathan is the Director of Research at Conductor and leads Conductor’s research and content team. Nathan is a monthly columnist at Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch. Nathan’s research on digital marketing has been widely covered in both industry publications and mainstream media such as Techcrunch, Venture Beat and the Washington Post. Prior to joining Conductor, Nathan was an analyst at Forrester Research.

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  • http://www.michaelfokken.com/ Michael Fokken

    So how do I convince our SEO company we hired to change to long tail? Or would it be better to just move to another company?

    But if you get 3x as much traffic from a head term than a long tail term, wouldn’t it be better to go for head terms?

  • http://www.conductor.com Nathan Safran

    Hey Michael,

    I think our general comment on SEO strategy would be there is room to target both long tail and head terms (in most cases, in fact, it is probably advisable as a strategic approach).

    Our goal with the research was to make the point that many SEO strategists neglect the long tail because of the appeal of head term search volume, while if they were to focus on a handful of long tail terms their search volumes would total that of a single head term. And, as the research shows, conversion rates are often higher for longer tail terms than head terms so less visitors will produce more conversions.

    As for making your SEO company aware–start by sending them the research :-).

    Senior Research Analyst

  • http://www.clayburngriffin.com Clayburn

    If your SEO agency isn’t thinking about long-tail, then you need a new SEO agency. Usually the SEO has to get the client on board with long-tail as they tend to obsess over the vanity keywords.