I've been learning more about business principles and how they apply to the more interesting areas of my life. A while back I stumbled across the Long Tail concept. Now, you entrepreneurs out there will be well acquainted with this model, but if you bear with me I'll hopefully be able to bring something new to the table. You see, I believe that this business model can successfully be applied to your Economy of Key Words and improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In order to make sure we are all on the same page, I'll provide a little background as well.
In October of 2004 Chris Anderson wrote a Wired Magazine article followed by his own book highlighting companies who were successfully using The Long Tail strategy in their businesses. In the title of his book, Anderson says that the future of business will be selling less of more. This of course is antithetical of what we all learned in our economics course: "Do one thing, and do it well." But, the theory more or less states that, taking the 80-20 rule into effect, a much larger population will purchase from the tail end of the distribution.
Let's imagine that a plumber is starting a business. He can provide certain services and he wants to determine where to best allocate his time. Image with me that there are a grand total of 83 plumbing services that could be offered by plumbers. Of all of the services requested by clients in his area Sink Installation covers 9%; Toilet Installation covers 7%; Tub Installation covers 4%. The other 80 services only cover 1% each. Clearly the primary installations generate more business than any other set of three services. So, he might decide to focus his efforts on these three leaving the others to the less business savvy plumbers out there. This seems like a logical approach, and he could certainly market himself as an expert in these three fields.
The problem is that by doing this he has turned his back on 80% of the market to focus on only 20% where (by the way) there is bound to be more competition. Statistically speaking, in this scenario, it would be more profitable for our profound plumber to abandon the three competitive areas all together and target the other 80. Not only would he open himself up to a larger market, he would avoid much of his competition and even pave the way for referrals from competitors who don't care to offer those kinds of services. It's why new car dealerships fold every year and why Buy Here Pay Here's open up every month. It is a very LONG TAIL.
Let's keep this same perceptive plumber in mind and take a look at his website. He wants to be found in a Google search like anyone else so he finds all of the major key words like plumbing, sink installation, toilet installation, tub installation and joe the plumber. He does everything he can to make it to page one of the a Google search but finds it nearly impossible. Why? There are a LOT of plumbers out there focusing on the same 20%. However, in theory, 80% of the plumber-seekers out there are NOT searching for those key words. They are searching for how to fix a leak, how do i get rid of mildew, how does a kitchen sink sprayer work and my wife wants a new bathroom. Our plumber pal might do better to target his site to be recognized by the well dispersed 80% than by the highly coveted 20%.
We have a reasonable tendency to target everything that we do. I am not even bold enough to say that we (myself included) should broaden our businesses to fit the Long Tail model. However, when it comes to determining key words for SEO we all need to keep the 80% in mind. Our subjects need to extend to topics that are loosely related to our businesses. Our copy should include phrases like how to, learning about and the right way to. Our keywords should bear in mind the whole market, not just 20%.