Small business marketers would do well to consider the SEO long tail

The ultimate key to Google search algorithms is the strategic use of keywords. Using commonly-searched phrases in the midst of high-quality text will yield increased traffic, and ideally, more sales leads. However, what may be the best tactic for small businesses looking for a marketing edge might be to take advantage of the long tail.

Imagine a graph of related search terms, with the likelihood that they will be searched for designated by the vertical axis. If the topic is "computers," there will be a lot more hits for a website that uses that term. Moving to the right are increasingly more specific search terms related to the topic of computers, from "personal computers" to "personal computers windows" to "PC windows Hewlett Packard," down to specific models of Hewlett Packard computers.

The graph of these search terms and their search frequency begins high on the axis to the left and steeply drops down toward the right until they gradually level off. This part of the graph is what is referred to as the "long tail." Here reside the more specific keywords that have a much lower search frequency.

There is an argument to be made for trying to find the most sought-after phrases when peppering a blog or website with keywords. However, there are a few good reasons to avoid the top hits and stick to the long tail.

First, people searching for broad, general terms such as "computers," "law practice" or "HVAC repair" probably don't have any specific product or service in mind. They are browsing through the many general websites that their search results give them.

On the other hand, customers who use a great deal of specificity are more than likely to be hunting for a specific item or service. Searches like "Fort Worth divorce lawyer" or "Mac Book Pro discount Atlanta" are targeted quests for a certain thing located in a certain place. Companies would do well to create websites whose keywords inhabit the long tail. The long tail may not contain quite so many hits for each keyword. However, most of these keywords will be closely related, and using enough of them (when appropriate) can give nearly as many hits as the liberal use of a general term like "pest control" will.

It is also important to note that most of the widely-used general and high-frequency terms will be strictly controlled by large companies, which have the time and money to target the big keywords. Of course, these businesses probably operate in the long tail as well. Unlike small businesses, however, their successes in this part of the picture will be marginal compared to those made in the search term graph's "head."

Small businesses can also focus on very specific search terms. For example, a company named "Big Bob's Eighty Dollar Tax Return" is very unique, and if Big Bob were to begin a concerted long tail SEO campaign on these terms (and those closely related to them), he would see results. All that would remain would be to inject the phrase "Big Bob's Eighty Dollar Tax Return" into the collective consumer subconscious. Through promotional products, branded items and traditional advertising, Big Bob can begin to welcome the customers home.

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