New Report Documents Insanely Long Tail Of Search
When something seemingly insignificant is able to control a more powerful entity, talk of the tail wagging the dog occasionally comes into play. But according to a new report from Hitwise, the long tail of search is capable of something more akin to launching the dog into orbit.
Dustin Woodward, a Seattle-based SEO and Web analytics expert, tried to look at the top 10000 search terms recorded by Hitwise during a three-month period. What he got was a very strange-looking graph, with data displayed in almost invisible amounts along great stretches of both axes.
"Top 10,000 Search Terms by Percentage of All Search Traffic" (Source: Hitwise)
So Woodard then examined just the top 100 terms, and this sample generated a graph more normal in appearance. He writes, "However, this is just 100 search terms out of the more than 14 million."
It turns out that, at least in this particular three-month data set, the top 100 terms accounted for just 5.7 percent of all search traffic. Expand to the top 500, 1000, and 10000 terms, and just 8.9 percent, 10.6 percent, and 18.5 percent of all search traffic is involved, respectively.
"Top 100 Search Terms by Percentage of All Search Traffic" (Source: Hitwise)
Woodard concludes, "This means if you had a monopoly over the top 1,000 search terms across all search engines (which is impossible), you'd still be missing out on 89.4% of all search traffic. There's so much traffic in the tail it is hard to even comprehend. To illustrate, if search were represented by a tiny lizard with a one-inch head, the tail of that lizard would stretch for 221 miles."
Lone bloggers, SEO professionals, and small businesses (among all other sorts of things) should be able to take comfort in this discovery. Woodard's analysis makes it look like there's plenty of traffic for everyone, without a need for cutthroat behavior and the spending of huge sums of money over the top few search terms.
A better approach might be to optimize for a lot of truly niche terms and see what happens. Be careful not to confuse increased holiday traffic for success - and also not to put your holiday income at risk in the event of failure - but some small-scale testing seems appropriate, at least.
Anyone wanting even more reasons to experiment should know that the Hitwise sample only included 10 million U.S. Internet users, adult search terms were removed by filters, and the three spotlighted months were relatively slow ones.
By Doug Caverly