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the "long tail myth"
why long tail doesn't matter in ppc
ssling




msg:3308124
 6:01 am on Apr 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

i have a pet theory that targeting long tail keywords in adwords DOESN'T WORK as we have been led to believe. the reasoning is as follows:

in very competitive markets, the savvy, long standing advertisers will use "broad" keyword matching across their ppc campaign, and this trumps all attempts by newcomers who try to get their ads served for ANY keywords containing the market's crucial *core keywords*.

lets' say,for example, "widgets", "big widgets" and "strong widgets" are the major traffic sources in this market. now, let's say mr. newbie affiliate marketer comes along and when he bids on "widgets" he's lucky to get impressions on page 8.

not so easily discouraged, mr. newbie takes the typical guru advice and bids on long tail keywords like "large green widgets for midgets". Lo and behold, he's still only getting impressions on page 8. meanwhile page 1 of a search for this long tail keyword shows the usual suspects that dominate all the ppc slots on the serps for "widgets".

i contend that broad match on "widgets" and similar short tail *core keywords* from established advertisers systematically trump clever newcomer attempts to use long tail keywords (using any match type).

of course, this only applies to ppc systems like adwords and adcenter. the long tail approach would still work on yahoo in some regions / markets but that's changing too. i don't use other engines so i don't know about the rest.

a corollary to this theory is that targeting long tail keywords for organic search DOES work. many times i will conduct a long tail search and see the *exact* 6 word keyword come up in the page title of the first organic result, but the usual, not as focused results from the big boys on the ppc side.

okay, all you guru's out there. PROVE ME WRONG.

 

martinibuster




msg:3308155
 7:40 am on Apr 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

i contend that broad match on "widgets" and similar short tail *core keywords* from established advertisers systematically trump clever newcomer attempts to use long tail keywords...

Bidding on "widgets" (broad match) can bring a ton of useless traffic like FREE widgets, widget CRACKS, different language widgets, widget reviews (not necessarily on the buying part of the buy cycle, i.e. will convert at a lower rate than "cheap widgets"), widget tutorials, topless widgets, etc. So you have to add negative words (do you use negative keywords?)

If you are coming up against eight pages of ads then maybe that niche is played out and takes a bit more creativity like adding signals to your ads to discourage frivolous clickers (like price points or the word BUY).

Also, being up top doesn't mean you're getting all the conversions. Bidding low can be a filter in itself, don't discount being listed seventh or on the second page as meaning the other bidders are scooping all the sales.

Boxers have weight classes. A flyweight maybe shouldn't get in the ring with heavyweights. By heavyweights I mean folks who have the budget, experience, and technical expertise to make an eight page niche work for them. I'm not implying that you are a flyweight, only saying that getting into the heavyweight ring may be tough and nothing but, and that's the nature of that battle.

The moderators of this forum astound me with the depth of their grasp of the PPC field. I'm certain I'm only touching the surface. I'm nowhere near the expert of those folks and am not a PPC guru. But in my experience in certain niches, certain three+ word keyword phrases convert more than the two word variants that have more traffic.

oneguy




msg:3308272
 11:42 am on Apr 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

in very competitive markets, the savvy, long standing advertisers will use "broad" keyword matching across their ppc campaign, and this trumps all attempts by newcomers who try to get their ads served for ANY keywords containing the market's crucial *core keywords*.

I think you are mostly right, but you can make some headway by targeting long tail keywords with long tail ads leading to long tail landing pages. That can boost your CTR and move you up a little, and also boost your conversion rate making it worth it to even be there. If you try long tail keywords with the same ad and landing page you would use for broad matched core keywords, expect to go nowhere.

Martinitbuster is right about the weight classes, though. Also, if you aren't in the same ballpark price-wise, your CTR won't make up for it. So, sometimes you will only break even by not playing at all.

pmkpmk




msg:3308329
 12:52 pm on Apr 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

My experience is that long tail keywords get too little search volume and drop out pretty soon. But I'm in a niche anyways and maybe my tail is too long...

Rehan




msg:3308574
 5:11 pm on Apr 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Recently I was bidding for "green widgets" and my ad ranked 5th or 6th for the search "green shiny widgets". Once I added "green shiny widgets" to my keywords with the same max bid, my ad moved up to 3rd spot. So in my experience, the long tail keyword has a better quality score for the search targeted by that keyword and consequently it results in a better position and/or lower CPC.

Also, phrase match and broad match don't extend to all variations of the keywords. For example, just because an ad appears for "green widgets" doesn't necessarily mean it will appear for "used green widgets"... That's another reason to specify the long tail terms explicitly.

[edited by: Rehan at 5:12 pm (utc) on April 11, 2007]

arieng




msg:3308590
 5:31 pm on Apr 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

I can't speak for all markets, but for several that I've worked in the OP is dead wrong. Even when I am one of the key players I still make an effort to dominate the long tail. Many of the REALLY big players do what has been described, hit just the high-traffic terms with Broad match. Using the long tail you can beat that strategy because:

1. As mentioned, Phrase and Exact matches seem to be given more relevance to the search and rank higher at the same max bid. No proof of this, but have seen it time and again.

2. Broad and Phrase match do not always match every search that contains the keyword. Google has another algorithm to decide what variations are relevant and it isn't always 100%. If you want to show up for a variation, just bid on the variation.

3. Most of the long tail doesn't even contain the high traffic terms. If you can't compete on "widgets", don't just go for "super duper imported discount widgets in cincinnati". Try model numbers, accessories, widget features, the problems that might cause someone to need a widget (this alone can be huge), and misspellings (not as effective as it used to be b/c of the Google recommendation tool).

Long live the long tail! (And curse the gurus who have made it a catch-phrase). :)

jtara




msg:3308614
 6:02 pm on Apr 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

There's also a technical limitation that Google doesn't like to talk about.

It's relatively "expensive" (in terms of computing resources) to maintain the "bins" for keywords. So, they make it impossible to bid on low-usage long-tail terms by making the initial bid prohibitively expensive.

ronmcd




msg:3308905
 11:35 pm on Apr 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

jtara, absolutely agree. Google initially encouraged advertisers to find the long tail keywords, and the system encouraged throwing as many as possible in to test which worked (worked as in converted, not worked as in achieved a good quality score).

Now the number of keywords per account is heavily limited (relative to the past), google employees will encourage you to use the main broad phrases as has been noted in this forum previously, and worst of all the quality score is weighted against keywords with no history.

Everyone bids on the same keywords, prices increase.

ssling




msg:3309073
 5:23 am on Apr 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

imho, the term "long tail" has come to mean different things to different people. drawing on arieng's point no. 3 above, allow me to draw a distinction, and coin a phrase, if i may:

long tail = a multi word extenstion of a common search term (e.g. widgets becomes short green widgets)
broad tail = a distinct but related search term, of any length (e.g. gadgets instead of widgets, where gadget is NOT a close synonym)

long tail wasn't originally defined that way, but that's the way many people use it when discussing search engine queries.

i think long tail, as defined above, is ineffective for PPC advertisers (as a result of Google Greed, see jtara and ronmcd's posts above) in big money markets. perhaps this is a trend that will move to all markets eventually?

btw, much appreciated the other comments and advice above. at the margin, these techniques make a difference in most markets. i suppose the point i'm trying to make is that PPC advertising is evolving, and this is one of the trends to watch.

jtara




msg:3309082
 5:53 am on Apr 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

long tail = a multi word extenstion of a common search term (e.g. widgets becomes short green widgets)
broad tail = a distinct but related search term, of any length (e.g. gadgets instead of widgets, where gadget is NOT a close synonym)

long tail wasn't originally defined that way, but that's the way many people use it when discussing search engine queries.

I think the original definition - and the one I intended - refers to large numbers of products that sell in small quantities. A good example would be parts for 20 year old cars. Amazon is a great example of a company that does a considerable long-tail business.

While - generally - it takes more keywords to describe "long tail" products - this isn't necessarily the case. In the example above, the products are likely to have part numbers, and these single-word search terms are likely to be effective keywords.

However, IMO, the net effect in PPC advertising the the same - it's still costly for Google to open a "bin" for single-word keywords that aren't often hit.

ssling




msg:3309121
 7:11 am on Apr 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

jtara, yes i agree your definition and example are true to the original concept of "long tail".

however, with its broad / phrase / exact matching technology, google has managed to split the concept as it concerns PPC advertising. hence my distinction.

the notion that google has to maintain costly "bins" for each and every ppc keyword reenforces the idea that they would not encourage it.

alphasource




msg:3310062
 7:32 am on Apr 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

buying long tail *is* effective in several cases:

1. to add to arieng's point, google has been known to change its matching algorithm on occasion. i remember two distinct cases last year (april and november, but i could be off a little). when a broad matched phrase is suddenly getting mapped to different queries, the whole dynamics of the game changes. if you're buying "widgets" broad, and really the query driving most of the volume to that keyword is "cheap widgets", and suddenly "cheap widgets" is not mapped to "widgets", but instead "buy widgets" is, well... you get the point. so it always pays to be thorough and cover your bases.

2. i agree 100% that new advertisers pay through their nose to get distribution on google (and msn and now yahoo). the beauty of long tail terms is that if you get enough good CTRs, this enables you to buy head terms slightly more cheaply. i have seen the CPCs on some head terms go from $18 to $14 for the same position while i do nothing but tinker with ad copy and optimize for high CTR on tail terms. optimizing tail terms CTR is cheaper than head terms, and i play that game even if the conversion on tail terms is sucky because i get discounts on the head terms.

finally, i totally agree with OP that at the margin these initiatives are useful. issue is: the game is so competitive and when you get to the majors, the efficiencies are gained at the margin..

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