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Mark Jackson

Reach Today's Search Users With Long-Tail Optimization

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Last week, we discussed the evolution of the search engine user. Search users have come a long way in a short time, an evolution born of necessity. Today’s fast-paced American culture requires multi-tasking and handling each task with precision to save time. Professional marketers, both traditional and interactive, must understand the target audience, tailoring their efforts to meet the user/consumer “where s/he lives.”

Successful search marketing in 2007 requires a plan for long-tail search optimization.

Before getting into the specifics of two methods for addressing long-tail optimization, you should understand one simple truth: Without the content/pages to support the keywords you want to be found for, you will not “magically” rank for those keywords. Take the time to prepare a focused list of keywords, and then go about the task of determining what method works best for presenting this information on your Web site.

You may also want to take a closer look at your current site architecture to determine if such content/pages already exist within your Web site. Perhaps you just need to tweak existing content to address your goals.

Two Methods for Long Tail Search Optimization

There are two methods I'd like to discuss for addressing your long-tail efforts. One involves creating user-friendly copy throughout your site, and the other is creating blogs and other fresh content to draw long-tail queries deep into your site.

User-Friendly Copy

It’s fair to say that over 90 percent of the American population use plain English when they search. It’s the style they know and are comfortable with, so most people will likely search using terms and phrases that make sense to them. However, it is also true that highly-educated searchers try to anticipate how a business might present its products, services, and information. They will try what is comfortable first, and then if unsuccessful, will search with more stuffy, “professional” phrasing.

Even with user-friendly copy, you must use relevant keywords. Copywriting for Web sites is always a balancing act. On one hand, you can get too technical and obsessed with precision during the act of optimization. On the other hand, you can overreact against stuffy impersonal terminology and wind up with copy that is too generic. The goal is specificity within the confines of common language. Knowing your targeted audience, along with its culture, educational-level, and other demographic variables will help you make wise decisions when writing for SEO.

An important “best practice” is to speak with those in your customer service, public relations, and marketing departments to ensure you have a good grasp on the common language used by your target audience.

Bottom line: Don’t allow the CEO to determine your keyword list. S/he will likely have personal preferences and biases based on a lifetime of industry experience that will have little or no bearing on the users' grasp of the language. Once you understand the common language that your intended audience uses, you’ll have better direction as to how the copy should be presented on your Web site.

Blogs and Other Fresh Content Opportunities

Perhaps your current Web site does not contain the copy/pages to capture long-tail keyword searches. Sometimes, the content you would like to have within your Web site just doesn’t fit within the rule of “have pages that describe what you do, but not necessarily how you do it.”

Blogs and other regularly added content (press releases, articles, white papers, etc.) are the perfect vehicle for targeting the “long-tail” or unusual search phrases people sometimes use. This is a good way for building content that describes how you do things in greater detail. A typical blog is written in conversational style, which is perfect for naturally capturing some of the phrases your users employ to find what they’re looking for.

If you regularly send out press releases, these too can contain great keywords; however, all too often, these press releases aren’t archived within an organization’s Web site. If you have written articles, it’s great to distribute through other Web sites, but not at the expense of optimizing your own site. Articles present another opportunity to archive content within your own domain. White papers do wonders to generate press for your company. Once again, are they being archived within your site? By so doing, you are not only providing searchers with additional long-tail opportunities to find you, but you may also be building pages that automatically become “link bait.”

Every business (and Web site) is unique, but many in our industry would confirm that long-tail search traffic can generate high-quality (highly converting) traffic. While it is important to have a strong presence for your top ten keywords, there are many more opportunities to gain targeted traffic by giving proper attention to other methods of growing your share of the pie. The tail helps you reach today’s more sophisticated searchers. And, today’s searchers will always appreciate that you have content relevant to what they are looking for. The more you can marry your Web site’s offerings (in terms of content) with what your target audience is seeking, the better you accomplish your ultimate goal -- to grow your business.


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