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How to do long tail SEO?

When your search results come from lots of places!

     
6:00 pm on Jun 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Hi All.

I launched a site last month and am getting some interesting results. The site provides lots of information about the range of widgets on the market (there's 100's of widgets from different companies and it's very hard to compare them, I help consumers do it).

So, I've started SEOing for the term "Widgets" but it turns out all my google traffic is coming from the individual searches - people searching for "Bobs Widget" or "Freds Widgorama". I have around 150 pages on individual widgets.

How does one SEO for 150 pages? Some of the terms (eg. Bobs Widgets) aren't competitive and I'm in the top 5 after the first crawl, but some are mildly competitive, maybe a few thousand results. To focus on any particular one I could easily get a top 5 spot, but to focus on 150 (and growing), that's tricky.

Any hints?

And: yes, I've thought about getting links from each of the widget manufacturers and while that'll work in some cases, some of them don't want to know about me.

7:56 pm on June 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Theme pyramid (Google).
8:28 pm on June 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the lead. I just spent 30 minutes reading that article & some related ones, definitely got me thinking.

More questions though... do I need inbound links to each of those theme pages? If so, at what level do I aim - the bottom level? One of the mid levels? All of the above?

Also, my site to the best of my current thinking doesn't currently work that will with themes. It goes right from widgets at the top level to 150 "money pages", with no natural hierachy inbetween that I can see. Happy to stickymail you a link if you want to look.

8:32 pm on June 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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How does one SEO for 150 pages?

That depends on how competitive the terms are. The less competitive the terms are, the better. That's part of the beauty of the long tail concept.

Some of the terms (eg. Bobs Widgets) aren't competitive and I'm in the top 5 after the first crawl, but some are mildly competitive, maybe a few thousand results.

For serps with only a few thousand results you might well not need much seo at all.

What you do need could easily be built into your page template.

1: Good Page <Title>
2: Very targeted BRIEF <Description>
3: SHORT, very targeted <H> headlines.
4: Good content with a variety of related keywords.
5: GREAT internal link structure and anchor text.

When you have those, watch you referer logs to see what folks are using as search terms that lead them to your pages.

Let's say your page is about widget repair. If you see referes like "Widget Repair, Location" you'll know it's time to think about adding a section of pages for widget repair locations.

Also pay close attention to your email. If you are getting questions that are not answered on your site you have two choices.

1: Answer the same question over and over via email.

2: Post a page answering the question on your site. The great part of this is that you'll also hit all those people who had the same question and didn't email you to ask.

8:43 pm on June 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Use a 'search term suggestion tool' to look for adjectives people use to describe the content of your site. For example, if your site features red widgets, you may find that alot of folks are looking for "cool red widgets," or "funny red widgets."

Then you just incorporate those adjectives into your pages, preferably in a header or footer.

8:48 pm on June 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Ok, so it sounds like I'm on the right path. I already have good title tags, meta tags and h1 tags for my 150 long tail pages, and pretty good internal link structure, and people are finding a few of them - about 80% of my incoming SE referrals are from about 20 of those pages. So are you saying that's pretty much it? Just sit back and enjoy the ride? What about those pages which don't naturally make the top 10?
9:05 pm on June 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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markbaa,

Consider yourself one of the lucky ones. You are in a field where people search using all sorts of different terms, so you are not stuck battling everyone else for the one or two big money terms.

It is a somewhat different game than SEOing for one big term, and quite a bit easier. The most important thing is to keep adding content so you catch more and more of the various terms that are used. You should be trying to rank for an ever incresing variety of terms.

What you should do is make sure that you have all the tags that were mentioned above in order. They help the SEs know what your page is about, and can easily help you rank better for the non-competitive terms.

Make sure you have good internal navigation on your site. if you go more than a level deep, make sure to have cookie crumbs on all your pages.

You do not need deep links from external sites to every page. They help, but so do your internal links. Let the external site decide how to link to you, and what page they want to link to.

What will eventually happen is you will start crawling up on that main "widgets" term, but if it falls back off in the ranking one month, your traffic will not totally disappear.

In fact, you may be surprised at how little traffic those obvious target keyphrases generate sometimes.

I finally made it to the front page on what would almost certainly be considered the top keyword for my field. But there are 97 keyphrases, that include that word in combination with other words, that each bring me more traffic than that word by itself.

9:17 pm on June 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Thanks BigDave

If you knew what my number 1 phrase was which I'd really love to get a top 10 for, you'd realise the importance of the long tail for me. My competitors (for the keyword - they aren't business competitors) have an unfair advantage - their business model naturally encourages their customers to link to them, so the google number 1 has over 300,000 backlinks according to MSN, number 2 has over 1 million! :(

So, my hopes of getting top 10 in the next few years are pretty low.

Cheers,

Mark

10:35 pm on June 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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In fact, you may be surprised at how little traffic those obvious target keyphrases generate sometimes.

I finally made it to the front page on what would almost certainly be considered the top keyword for my field. But there are 97 keyphrases, that include that word in combination with other words, that each bring me more traffic than that word by itself.

I've had similar experiences. My #1 keyword in terms of referrals is an obvious keyword, but many of the other top 10 keywords and keyphrases are for obscure topics even though I rank just as well for many bigger topics.

The other thing I've noticed is how valuable internal referrals can be. Once you've reached a critical mass of traffic (which is likely to vary by site), having the right links in your navigation bar can be more important than high rankings for those pages in the search engines.

10:42 pm on June 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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about 80% of my incoming SE referrals are from about 20 of those pages

That might be something you want to work on.

Try to spread the incoming traffic around to more pages, which quite nicely fits in with the long tail concept. Adding pages for the new terms found using all the ideas mentioned already should help you do this.

The idea is that you become a lot less dependent on a given page. Brett Tabke uses a phrase I'm especially fond of, it goes something like this...

"It's better to get 1 visit per month from 50 pages that to get 50 visits per month from 1 page."

Some sites and topics may more easily lend themselves to that idea, but I suspect it's well worth working on for most any site.

As far as sitting back and enjoying the ride goes, that's true to some extent, but don't relax too much, your competitiors won't.

11:53 pm on June 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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"It's better to get 1 visit per month from 50 pages that to get 50 visits per month from 1 page."

Thanks for this quote, that's very interesting, and very relevant to me. I had been focusing on going for the number 1 keyword, possibly a futile battle, but you've definetly got me thinking about long tail more and more, and let the big keyword grow of its own accord over time.

I honestly think my site is really good and I've already started getting a few unsolicited truly natural links 2 weeks after launch, which bodes well for the future.

12:38 am on June 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I've always got most of my traffic from the "long tail". But I've never gone hunting that specifically, I just read and review obscure books!
12:46 am on June 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Another way to go after the longtail is to let your users create pages.

For example, I'd bet WW has just about every variation of WWW/Non-www, canonical, redirect, etc, etc issue dominated in the SERPS. Why? Because users do a better job of getting in the brain of the bizarre ways that searchers look for things than webmasters do.

At least in my experience.

11:40 pm on June 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I recently wrote an article on this topic that might help, titled <snip>

[edited by: lawman at 11:59 pm (utc) on June 9, 2005]
[edit reason] TOS 13 [/edit]

1:03 am on June 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Woops. Sorry about the policy violation.

The article is titled The Long Tail: SEO Tips.

Here's the short version:

All the basic SEO rules apply to the long tail -- keywords in titles, headings, etc, but the emphasis gets shifted from inbound linktext development to on-site factors, like good internal linking, site maps, good copy writing, etc...

Use a variety of keyword combinations

Use combinations to target multiple tail terms
Rather than Widget, Blue Widget, or Large Widget, try Large Blue Widget.

Target more keywords
Use google's keyword sandbox or keyword-helper to create expanded keyword lists to guide you in your copy writing

Use search frequency to set keyword priorities
Find out how often specific keyword phrases are searched on. Don't aim for the far right of the tail, use keywords that get several searches per day.

Concentrate on search saturation
Get your pages indexed, make sure they have at least one or two inbound links each

Create a good site map

Attract links from high PR pages - PR plays a bigger role in tail terms than competitive search terms. If two pages have basically the same relevance score, the PR can make the difference in the SERP between #1 and #2. Good page titles and decent PR can rocket you to the top of lots of SERPs at the same time.

Tail SEO in a nutshell:

Build more keyword-rich content, and get it indexed. In terms of over all search engine visibility, you want to concentrate on keyword placement, saturation, PageRank, and inbound links, in that order. Experienced SEOs might pitch a fit about that advice, because traditional SEO holds that linktext on inbound links is a key factor in ranking, and they would be right, but for tail terms, good keyword placement and over-all site-strength are generally enough to jump you to the top.

1:24 am on June 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Depending on the topic, sometimes the #1 moneywords are tough to get but there is a whole range of related words and phrases. So if you build the moneyword pages but don't expect a lot out of em, but start building a large network of related pages around them, this will grow and make your moneyword pages more and more attractive because they are well supported with a lot of related content.

Also link structure can work for you, even if you only go 2 levels. Build a network of sub-topics within your site and use those subtopics as a global navigation bar on every page. Each index for each subtopic will carry some weight, also people will link to them because they cover a smaller range of keywords that others don't nessesarily want to write about but want to provide links to.

homepage - widgets

subindex - round widgets
red
blue
yellow
subindex - square widgets
red
blue
yellow
subindex - oval widgets
red
blue
tan
subindex - widget styles
beveled
fancy
plain

global navigation
home - round widgets - square widgets - oval widgets - widget styles

Another advantage to this is notice the moneyword 'widgets' every subindex page has it in the anchor text and every page on the site has it 4 times right at the beginning of the code if you do it right.
Definitely a site about widgets so the homepage 'widgets' climbs the SERP's for that word and the key subindex pages with it for their respective phrases.

1:41 am on June 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

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What will eventually happen is you will start crawling up on that main "widgets" term, but if it falls back off in the ranking one month, your traffic will not totally disappear.

To me, this is one of the most important aspects of long tail seo. It's also one of the most, if not the most, important reasons to use the long tail model.

It allows you to build a solid base of traffic from less competitive terms while working towards success with more cometitive terms.

"Blue green widgets in small town USA" may not be as glamorous as "Big City Widgets", but property in 1,000 small towns might well be worth more than 1 high profile building in a big city in the long run.

 

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