Dynamic Business Logo
Home Button
Bookmark Button

Search for the ‘long tail’ with Google

google long tailGoogle is often asked its opinion about the future of the internet. What will the next innovation be? What will the internet look like in 2020? The success of a company like YouTube – coming from nowhere and reaching hundreds of millions of users on its fifth birthday – shows how arbitrary an answer to this question can be. A key characteristic of the online world is how it rapidly evolves by tapping into the demands and interests of almost two billion people around the world, all connected, creating, communicating and searching for information.

Chris Anderson’s 2004 article The Long Tail saw a new economic model born out of this global marketplace. His catchphrase redefined traditional understandings of a sustainable business and reshaped the way entrepreneurs assess their ‘addressable market’. The long-tail theory is also known as ‘economics of abundance’ or ‘everything, all the time’. It suggests that businesses capable of selling specialist, low-volume products to people actively seeking them can collectively match the revenues of large-volume, mass-market products, by tapping into a customer base which is no longer confined by geography.

In this way, the internet has levelled the playing field for businesses. Not only has it cut the costs of logistics, distribution and service, but it has also opened up national and international markets to smaller local players. Consumers of every product and service are now searching online in their millions before they buy, and by being ‘found’, online small businesses can quickly win new customers outside of their traditional reach. Think about how quickly eBay emerged and rewrote the rules for auction houses, or how companies like Expedia revolutionised the established travel business.

And as the web keeps growing and we spend more and more time on the internet; some 17.6 hours per week according to recent Nielson figures. According to Nielsen’s 2010 Internet and Technology Report, March 2010, our online search habits are also becoming more sophisticated. We’re getting smarter about finding the needle in an ever-growing haystack.

So what does all this mean for Australian small businesses? Thousands of Aussies search for ‘restaurants’ and ‘football merchandise’ on Google. These terms represent big inventory products. But in line with Anderson’s mantra, there are also thousands of much more specific terms that make up the long-tail of queries, such as ‘Indian food in Newtown Sydney’ and ‘Newcastle Knights jersey from 1980s’, and so on. Many small businesses neglect long-tail search trends in their online marketing, preferring to attract customers who enter more generic terms into the search box, and risk missing out on sales as a result.

Long-tail search marketing can be a more effective way to get bang for your buck. Take Tickle Me designs, a custom-made stationery business, whose founder Bonnie Leung has tapped into this trend by targeting her online marketing towards only those consumers who enter very specific search terms into Google. With a marketing budget of just $200 a week, Tickle Me bids on precise AdWords keywords such as ‘customized wedding invitation’ and ‘cartoon wedding invitations’, rather than the more competitive and expensive generic ones like ‘wedding stationery’. This strategy ensures her ads appear only against specific searches, so her business is connecting with captivated and interested customers.

Bidding on niche terms typically costs less and has a higher conversion rate because highly refined searches most often occur when a customer is at the pointy end of the sales cycle. Someone searching for ‘Gluten-free muesli suppliers in Darlinghurst’ is on a mission for a solution, and close to making a purchasing decision, whether through the click of their mouse online or by visiting the bricks and mortar store.

There are a couple of ways you can identify the long-tail in your market. While you probably have a clear idea of the unique aspects of your offering, you may not know how your customers are looking for your product or service online. What are Aussies thinking about each June? They’re wondering about the Queen’s Birthday honours list and tax deductions, with the end of financial year looming. How do I know this? Because I’ve checked out the search trends on Google’s Insights for Search tool, which shows which queries spike at certain times of the year.

You see, the internet has become so important in our lives that it acts as a barometer of what we’re interested in and how we’re looking to spend our money. And that makes the online world an incredibly powerful place for getting inside the minds of your customers at the moment they’re interested in your products or services. For a tax accountant, these kinds of insights, combined with some smart thinking about how to maximise their online presence, can allow them to accurately target their precious marketing budgets.

For example, searches for ‘costume hire’ clearly jump in popularity every year during August and October to coincide with the annual children’s Book Week in August and Halloween in October.

Advertisers can take advantage of seasonal events such as Book Week by adjusting their search marketing to reach these online researchers, including long-tail search terms such as ‘children’s book week’, ‘home made costumes,’ and ‘Aladdin’s cave costume hire’ to their AdWords campaign. Once advertisers have identified a trend and want to decide which long-tail search terms to bid on, Google’s Keyword Tool is a great place to start researching. For example, if a costumer hire business is setting up a campaign to leverage the spike in searches around Book Week, they can use the Keyword Tool to brainstorm long-tail search terms that relate to children’s costumes.

The long-tail of search queries is all about tapping into the mass market through an accessible medium. Small, local Australian businesses (even the company operating from home with a marketing budget of just a few dollars a week) can use search marketing as the gateway to reach this more sophisticated customer. So hop online and be found by this new breed of consumer today.

–Will Easton is Google’s small business expert

What do you think?

    Be the first to comment

Add a new comment

Will Easton

Will Easton

View all posts