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We have all heard about the long-tail of search marketing. And odds are that even if you have not intentionally implemented such a strategy, you are to some extent utilising broad or phrase match keywords, thus capturing a long tail of varyingly relevant searches.

Long-tail keywords are phrases that are not often searched for individually, but in aggregate can create a sizeable opportunity. And with increased user sophistication and complexity of queries, the opportunity grows larger.

According to an Experian Hitwise US report (October 2009), about 60% of searches consisted of only one to three words. What is more intriguing though, is the increasing proportion of longer searches, constructed by five or more words.

Experian Hitwise Keyword Lenght US 2009

Another eye-opening statistic is from Google, stating that 20-25% of all searches are brand new, ergo having never before been searched for.

Simplistically, there are two approaches to long-tail paid search: source thousands of relevant keywords in an effort to capture them all as exact matches, or rely on the broad and phrase matches to trigger the tail searches. The optimal solution is rarely one or the other, but a mix of tactics. The perfect sauce depends on available tools and processes.

Keyword length and unique queries

To find out what number of search phrases have resulted in a click, simply pull a summary “search query” report from Google, or similar report that shows actual search queries, de-duplicate and count the number of rows.

A recent campaign analysis in the software sector revealed that the total 1000 clicks resulted from over 750 unique search queries, and no keyword clicked more than twice; a proper long-tail that drove volume traffic.

For analysing the keyword length, Excel is often the tool of choice. The following function will count the number of words (assuming the query is in column A with headers) by using the empty spaces to separate words, while removing leading and trailing spaces:

LEN(TRIM(A2))-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A2," ",""))+Rows(A2)

A good visual representation of how the long-tail works is a line chart plotting the keyword length and the number of impressions. These will typically have an inverted relationship.

Keyword Length and Impression Chart

So what do these two pieces of statistics actually tell you?

Not much in isolation. However, they are all useful in conjunction with analysing the quality of search phrases, comparing the patterns with similar campaigns for benchmarking and ultimately understanding how well the current campaign structure is corresponding to actual user behaviour

Magnus Nilsson

Published 8 March, 2010 by Magnus Nilsson

Magnus Nilsson is Managing Director at RED Performance, a Norwegian based performance agency. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

5 more posts from this author

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Anonymous

very interesting/thought inspiring article...i get plenty of long tail search queries coming from my broad match keywords, but its the 2 word exact match keywords that always seem to convert...

over 6 years ago

Magnus Nilsson

Magnus Nilsson, Managing Director at RED PerformanceSmall Business

In my experience, it greatly depens on the type of product. However, when you're analysing the conversions, are you looking on the whole click-path, or just the last click?

over 6 years ago

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Alex Avery - Inbound Marketing Consultant Melbourne

Nice article.

Beyond user behaviour and increasingly diverse search strings, another reason long tail PPC is important is because of the algorithm. PPC ads are selectively shown on their relevance and having too few terms (even on broad match) in your keywords list may mean that your Ads fall off page 1 against a seemingly relevant query. 

Let's say you target: X Y. If someone searches 'X Y', 'Y X', 'A X Y' or 'T G Y X' your Ads may appear. But if they then type in 'T G H B N X Y', the relevance of your Ad may have diminished, and your Ad may not show on page 1 - despite the search phrase including your target keyword phrase. Targeting longer tail search queries will improve at least five things:

1. Improved Visibility: Your Ad is more likely to appear.

2. Improved CTR: Long tail campaigns allow better customised Ad Creative.

3. Improved Conversion: Long tail campaigns allow better targeted landing pages. Reduced navigation leads to increased conversion.

4. Decreased Average CPC: Well targeted long tail keywords can be much cheaper and thereby drive down your average CPC.

5. Increased Quality Score: CTR across your campaign is at the heart of Quality Score. Using "long tail", effectively, over time, can drive up the QS on your whole campaign.

There are even cases where you should consider starting a campaign in the long tail, before switching on the head of the campaign. It's always a case to hire an experienced Inbound marketing consultant to help design and build your campaigns.

over 6 years ago

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Anonymous

reading the feedback i could do with more info about the difference between the whole click-path and just the last click as mentioned by Magnus?

over 6 years ago

Magnus Nilsson

Magnus Nilsson, Managing Director at RED PerformanceSmall Business

Analysing the click-path means simply to use a tracking technology that tracks the complete user journey (either cross-chanel or just search). Example> a person starts to research a product by searching "compare widgets", reads a couple of articles and decides a brand and then searches for "brand x" and converts. WIth last click methodology and tools (e.g. adwords own reporting), you'd be under the impression that only the branded term (which was the last click) is actually converting positively. The "assist" of the generic "compare..." phrase is not taken into consideration. The first step is to simply get some technology in place. The second and more difficult bit is working out how to action the data you'll gather (e.g. should you portion some of the value to the "assist" keywords, and then how much?).

over 6 years ago

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Evan

Nice post...long-tail is so important.

over 6 years ago

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Wiesner Vos

Nice post. We have also done some recent long tail research. This got me thinking of the Pareto effect and its applicability for the keyword tail. You can read some of these thoughts on our blog

http://www.clicks2customers.com/c2cblog

over 6 years ago

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