A (Brief) History of SEO
In the early years of search engines when there was no issue like ” Long tail keyword”—as with their predecessors, computer programming commands—the search engines couldn’t understand or accurately cater to the syntaxes of common phraseology, statements, and questions. To achieve the search engine results we wanted, we had to learn to think, and talk, like the search engines—with keywords and query strings. Ironically, as time progressed, several things happened as follows:
- We spent more and more time online (and more time in search engines).
- We learned how to think more like search engines (and also to filter out ad results and fruitless directory/landing page results).
- We went from using myriad search engines with scattered results to identifying a favorite search engine (and speaking its language; for example, AskJeeves, which today is Ask.com).
- Simultaneously, the search engine(s) grew wise to human phraseology and contextual keyword search. Suddenly, a word was not merely a literal word from a dictionary, but search results were affected by the surrounding words.
- Google hit the scene and became king.
- MSN attempted to compete with Google using a new search engine also planted on Yahoo!—Bing.
- The search engines grew with semantic interpretation of keywords, integrating search history, social media content data, and web user interest to affect search results.
- And Google was king.
Google is still king. It keeps releasing notable updates, and YouTube (also part of Google) is considered the world’s second largest search engine. Google’s other search properties include Google Blog Search, Google Images, Google Books, and so on.
Bing, although small in use compared to Google, keeps trying. (At the time of writing this book, Google is at 67% and Bing is at 29% of web search engine usage; see )
But Yahoo! (which still represents 11% of web search engine usage while utilizing Bing as its current search engine) has many legacy search content sites and directories that haven’t completely died yet. Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Sports, and Yahoo! Local are just a few. For obvious reasons, Bing is the default search engine and common home page for Microsoft hardware and Internet Explorer; consequently, it acquires use that way. It will be interesting to see what Yahoo! does going forward with its efforts in publicity. Many big-name search engines that were popular prior to Google have withered to almost nothing. RIP AltaVista, Lycos, and Netscape.
What’s the Long Tail—and Just How Long Is It?
Experienced online marketing professionals know that it’s smart to use keywords that target potential customers who are “behind” in the buying cycle. So how do you find out what these keywords are… and why they are so important?
In professional terms, what we’re talking about here is the concept of targeting so-called long tail keywords.
The long tail keywords are those three and four phrases of keywords that are very, very specific to whatever it is you’re selling. You see, when a customer uses a very specific search phrase, they tend to search for exactly what they are going to buy. In almost all cases, these very specific searches are much more likely to turn into sales than the general generic searches that tend to be more oriented towards the type of research that consumers usually do before making a purchase decision.
To help illustrate this phenomenon, let’s take a look at the typical step-by-step shopping route a customer takes on the way to make a purchase.
The consumer becomes aware of a product.
The consumer seeks information about that product in preparation for a possible purchase.
The consumer evaluates the alternatives to the product (features, prices, etc…)
The consumer makes his purchase decision.
The consumer takes out his credit card and completes the transaction.
The consumer evaluates the product after purchase and decides whether to keep it or return it.
Using the six steps above for a purchase as our model, you can probably already see that you want to target the consumer who is somewhere around step four…
The consumer makes his or her purchase decision.
…because once they have made the decision to buy something, that’s when they start using very specific search phrases to look for their purchase target.
Now the good news…
Highly specific, multi-word phrases tend to be much easier to sort out than more generic, one- or two-word keyword phrases.
Here’s a specific example. Let’s say your site sells guided climbing trips in California. At first, you might consider targeting a generic phrase like “trips. After all, an adventure trip is usually the kind of trip that people like to participate in while traveling on vacation.
However, if you try to go after that phrase, you’ll face direct competition from big sites like Yahoo.com, CNN.com and Travelocity.com. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to eliminate any of those top ten sites unless you’re willing to invest a lot of money and a mountain of time.
But, more importantly, travel is not the best phrase for you to use anyway. That’s because many people who search using that phrase look for items like airplane tickets, sea cruises, or just do very general research on where they would like to go. They’re probably not telling themselves…
“I’m looking for someone who sells guided tours for beginners to climb Mount Shasta so I can take my family on a fun trip this summer.
If they were, they’d be going on more than just a trip.
Even if they were to address a more specific phrase such as mountain climbing, they would be up against heavyweights like About.com, Wikipedia.org, and the USDA Forest Service. And, unless you sell everything related to mountain climbing in all the mountains of the world, the traffic you would get for that keyword is not likely to turn into many sales.
So let’s look at some of the keywords that are specific to what you are selling – keywords that you can start sorting through and generating traffic and sales immediately.
Here are some very specific keywords that relate to customers who are much further down the buying cycle – at least in step three, probably in step four and possibly in step five:
climbing tours in the california mountain
beginner mountain climber in california
guided mountain climbing tours
mount shasta family climbing tours
Of course, these are just a few examples. I’m sure I could think of many more. However, the point is twofold;
The key words in the long tail are much easier to classify.
People who search using long tail keywords are much more likely to become buyers!
More good news…
Of course this suggests that you should create pages that focus on search engines that use long tail keywords. And, since there are so many different long tail combinations that search engines can use to buy what you offer, that means you are likely to be creating more pages.
Well, the news is that Google likes sites that have more pages. It makes the site look more substantial, more natural and even more real in the eyes of the world’s most popular search engine. Keep in mind that your “unique” pages only need to be variants of your main offering(s) but focused on a specific niche of long tail.
Therefore, each and every page will have a unique title, description meta tag, h1 header tag and body content that emphasizes your offer using the long-tail keyword you choose for each specific page. It’s not rocket science, but it sure works well for engaging consumers at the optimal stage of the buying process.
So, instead of focusing on just two or three general, highly competitive keywords, aim for dozens or even hundreds of easy-to-classify long tail keywords.
We can’t talk about SEO and its history without chatting about the “long tail.” So bear with me while I explain this critical attribute to search marketing strategy.
In the 1890s, a little-known company called Sears and Roebuck started mailing catalogs—first of watches and jewelry, then of general merchandise. It revolutionized business. The company was able to offer a broad variety of items to people all over the country. What someone in Maine didn’t want out of the catalog, someone in San Francisco might buy. And because their products didn’t involve multiple shipments, multiple warehouses, and price markups along the way, the Sears catalog could sell products—whether general or niche—at cheaper prices than other stores across America.
From this, an ongoing industry of catalog direct-mail marketing was born. Direct-mail marketing approaches, target segments, and statistical analyses birthed email marketing strategies, list buying, and frequency measurement. Catalogs had been able to reach niche buyers with niche products because the only costs were those of including the specific products in the overall catalog.
Email had the capability to reach audiences through an additional channel and was a low-cost alternative to direct mail. The statistical segmentation of direct mail, and then email, could efficiently market to audience micro-segments.
Because I’m sure the majority of my readers love knowing about the history of statistical calculation, here’s more on that: Email marketing inherited direct-marketing segment testing approaches, where certain materials would be sent to one segment “A,” with an alteration in materials sent to other segments “B” (and additional, multiple segments if desired). In email marketing, recipients could be directed to a web landing page (which could also be slightly differentiated per segment). This “A/B” or “multivariate” testing continues today in search marketing. Whether in PPC advertising or even in SEO, such testing strategies can be very revealing.
I just want to know why no one buys those bright red long johns anymore. Those always look so sweet in old westerns.
In 2004, Christopher Anderson, Editor-in-Chief for WIRED Magazine, wrote an article there about his “long-tail theory” for business in the blog). He then wrote a book about the same and revolutionized digital marketing and SEO.
The premise shows the traditional restrictions of costs, assets, locations, and markets for brick-and-mortar businesses that always hindered them from going after the extreme niche customer.
Anderson went on to show how not only were most of those barriers removed for eCommerce retailers, but the digital realm (search engines and social media) allowed for low-cost marketing, connecting niche product content with consumers all over the world.
Not only could modern businesses connect to previously untapped niche customers anywhere, but by doing so they extended their product life cycle—they could achieve new sales for products beyond their mass markets. This is the “infinite niche”—the idea that there is always one more customer out there worth tapping.
The idea, the moniker—everything about “long-tail” jelled with search engine optimization. Extreme niche keywords could be applied to search marketing. Why should search marketers fight for broad, competitive terms such as “shoes” when they could target
their positioning, and see more successful results, from keyword searches such as “black leather wedge heel shoes for women.” It also follows that someone searching for the latter, and finding related products on a website, is much closer to purchase than someone merely searching for “shoes.”
So why not micro-target accordingly?
Today we face a brick-and-mortar business world continuing to collapse when faced with competition and reduced costs of eCommerce, greater variety of products (long tail), and the shifting sands of the economy. U.S. eCommerce spending has gone from $122 billion in 2007 to $186 billion a year (at the time of this writing. We have arrived at a thought-provoking time in retail called “showrooming,” which means that traditional brick-and-mortar stores are used by consumers to see, touch, and feel a specific product on the shelves. Only then do they go online to make the purchase for a cheaper price. All these issues should be considered in SEO strategy, particularly for consumer goods.
The market forces in this mix include the following:
- Weakened traditional economy
- Growth in Internet use (for work and leisure)
- Fewer brick-and-mortar stores available
- Increased retail competitiveness
- More and more comfort in consumer online purchasing, security, and credit card transactions
- More and more comfort between consumers and search engines
- Consumer behavior driven more by premeditated purchases thanks to personal spending concerns, competitive pricing, ease of online research, and social ratings and recommendations from friends and other consumers.
There’s simply no substitute for research
In the end there is no substitute for doing your keyword research and determining which keywords have enough traffic to be worth pursuing. And this effort must be linked to competitive intelligence research to determine which keywords you will be able to rank based on the sites you will have to compete against.
Of course, our website is the best place to find a huge list of related keywords, as well as how much traffic each one can bring to your site. For many of the sites we manage, at least half of our clients’ traffic comes from these longer, more specific phrases, and that traffic tends to be at a much higher level than generic, one- or two-word phrases.
So, now you have the tools you need to get…
higher sales conversions
and many more pages indexed in Google
…all of which will undoubtedly lead to a much more profitable outcome!
Looking for long term keywords?
Find more of the three and four keyword phrases that are very, very specific to whatever it is you’re selling.
Go much deeper into the long tail of a primary phrase: for each search.
View competitive data for each keyword, allowing you to choose the most promising keywords.
Subscribe to the keyword tool and you’ll get the best service and support available, including
That’s what the major online retailers are saying:
“In just two and a half years, we’ve seen a more than 150% increase in traffic. The more traffic we get, the more subscriptions we sell. We a key tool. The data that is available gives you a better view of your audience than ever before” – Dan Roberts, Senior Analyst, Hearst Publications
“One of my favorite keyword tools is . For almost any term, it gives you 200-300 related words and phrases that real people have recently typed into search engines. our website gives you cost-effective keywords you never would have thought of on your own. Perry Marshall, best-selling author and leading authority on Google advertising