One of the neatest observations to gain popularity in the last few years is that of The Long Tail, first coined a few years ago by Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson (here’s the original article).
He noticed that the internet had opened up access to niches – that
searches and national distribution networks had given new markets to
obscure and small-market products. The classic example is Netflix, the
direct-mail movie rental service, that has a huge catalog of titles,
the great majority of which are so obscure that no local video rental
store could afford to carry them. But Netflix actually rents them all
and if you add all these low-volume rentals together you’ll find the
total volume exceeds that season’s blockbusters.
learned just how strong the long tail can be a few years ago when I
worked on Quakerfinder.org, a meeting/church look-up service. For the
first year, the site got moderate traffic from search engines. Google
wasn’t able to index the actual church listings because users were
required to type towns and postal codes in to get results. The only
search engine visitors we got came in on very generic phrases like
“find quaker meetings.”
we were losing a large potential audience, I redesigned the site so
Google could index each and every meeting (adding a few tricks so each
listing traded links with half-a-dozen other listings). Once the change
was in effect (help from our programmer), those old generic search
phrases were still the most popular. But now we got small numbers of
visits on thousands of terms which we hadn’t hit before: “Quakers
Poughkeepsie” and “Quaker Churches in San Francisco,” etc. This was the
long tail in effect. Our visits jumped fourfold within a few months
(see chart). The long tail made us much more visible. (More on the Googlization effort in that year’s analytic report.)
A great new traffic analysis service is called HitTail.
Like many other programs it tells you what search phrases have brought
traffic to your site. But what’s cool is that it gives
suggestions – keywords it thinks will bring even more visitors in. Some
of the suggestions are funny. For example, it thinks I should post
about “traditional sweat lodge songs,” “ticklish armpits” and “how to
dress with personality” over on Quaker Ranter.
But it also thinks I might consider posting on “small church local
outreach ideas,” “new online magazines” and “christian quakers.”
all one was worried about was sheer traffic volume, then a post on each
keyword might be in order. But this would bring a lot of random traffic
and dilute any focus the blog might have (I already get a lot of
traffic on a particular non-typical post that I wrote partly as an SEO experiment).
My guess is you should go through the HitTail suggestions list to find
topics that match your site’s focus but do so in language that you
might not normally use.
I might try some experimental posts on
my personal blog soon. I’ll definitely report back about them here on
the MartinKelley.com design blog. In the meantime, check out HitTail’s blog, which has some good links.