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A tale of two tails


Within Blogger, the platform that I use to publish this site, there is a rather neat statistics function that allows you to monitor how many visitors are coming to your site, where they are coming from and, in the even that they are coming from a search engine, what key words and phrases they have used to get here.

Whilst there are some rather obvious ones – “simon john cox” is right up there – a number of people have navigated their way to this site via some…well, slightly unexpected searches.

“Top 10 character names” is one, which does make sense as I wrote a post about that, but then “colours and italian deli” is an inward phrase that I have no idea about. “Pics of zombies from day of the dead” brought some people to my Vampires vs. Zombies post, a post which presumably also provided my favourite search term: “sentient zombie”.

These are all fairly decent examples of long tail search terms.

A short tail term is something like “novel writing” or “fiction blog”. My website is about novel writing and fiction and blogging, but there is no way that anyone will find my website by searching for those terms. Millions of people will search for those phrases, and millions of websites will contain them, so my website will appear approximately on page 69,430 in a Google search. And if anyone were to find it and click on it, the search is so vague that it probably wouldn’t be what they were looking for.

By contrast, a long tail term is something like “tunbridge wells flash steampunk” or “scientific magic realist short story”. It’s a highly specific phrase that has very few people searching for it, but it’s so specific that if your website contains it then it will probably be on page 1 of any Google search, and if someone clicks through to your website then it’s so specific that it’s probably going to be highly relevant to them.

This relates to the “long tail” marketing theory, which says that, given enough time, selling relatively small quantities of a large number of unique, less popular or niche products will generate as significant an amount of revenue as selling a large volume of a far smaller number of highly popular products.

When applied to search engines, you can paraphrase this as saying that, given enough time, a large number of unique or niche search terms will generate as significant amount of traffic as a small number of general and hotly contested search terms. After all, given infinite monkeys with infinite laptops and infinite time, every possible combination of words will be typed into Google (though whether you’ll live long enough to see them is a different matter, of course). 

Anyway, for this reason (and for my own amusement) I will be trying to include some very specific long-tail phrases in each of my blog posts from now on, in an attempt to drive people towards my short stories (such as The Restoration Man and Totentanz – click on them links, people!). See if you can cheap Facel II fiction short story Amazon Smashwords spot them!

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