Growth in longer search queries: the long tail

Posted 26/02/2009

Our searches are getting longer:  over the last year longer search queries (over 5 words) has gone up 10%.

And as you would expect, the number of short queries (1 or 2 word phrases) has fallen an average of 4%.

Long Tail Search Data

This is good news for small businesses looking optimise their websites.  It means your customers are searching for more specific phrases, and your business stands a fighting chance for ranking well for these longer phrases.

This forms part of your “long tail” keyword strategy.  One option would be to optimise for phrases that have lots of searches, but also face lots of competition. These phrases typically  comprise just one or two words, for example “solicitor” or “hotel.”  Your chance of ranking well for these phrases?  Nil. The chance the customer really wants your specific business?  Low.

The alternative, or the “long tail” is to optimise for those more specific phrases that show intention on the part of the searcher.  There will be fewer searches taking place, but there will also be less competition, and thus a chance of ranking well in Google.

If somebody is searching for “short break golfing luxury guest house” then are they showing intention to buy?  Yes.  Does the right business stand a chance of ranking well in the search results?  Yup.  Are there lots of people searching for this phrase?  Nope, but capturing those few, perfect searches will be highly profitable for that business.

And this recent Hitwise data confirms yet again that it is worth the effort going for those long tail phases.

Hitwise tracked 10 million US users, but I think it would be reasonable to draw some conclusions regarding our British behaviour.

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Comments
  1. Hi Susan, I absolutely agree re long tail, we’re getting searches on our site for long tail terms we haven’t even thought of! Google analytics is a good way of seeing what searches have worked and then further optimising content. We’re currently top in the international Google organic results for the search term “label translation”. Not resting on our laurels, we have continued to add relevant pages and sub-page content. Not only does this keep the opposition on its toes, it also helps site users find exactly what they want. We’ve added a specific sub-page on food label translation, guess what, virtually no search, but we’ve just gained one of our biggest single orders from about the only person who searched on the term. You may argue that “food label translation” isn’t really long tail, but in our industry there is huge search volume on very short key phrases. The good news for other small businesses is that they can certainly achieve the same results. Cheers Mike

    Mike Hunter

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