Archive for October, 2011

PostHeaderIcon How Big is Your Long Tail? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Aaron Wheeler

 Choosing keywords to optimize for is a tricky business, made all the more tricky as keyphrases grow longer than a couple of words. As Google has said, up to 20% of search queries in any given day are completely unique. Should you try to optimize your tauntaun sleeping bags product page for "tauntaun sleeping bag," for "childrens’ tauntaun sleeping bag," or for "childrens’ star wars tauntaun sleeping bag from hoth"? How can you research whether or not to optimize for such a long tail query?

In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand is back to explain just how long of a tail you should be optimizing for. Have any suggestions on how you do this research? Give us your thoughts in the comments!


Video Transcription

Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re asking the question: How big is your long tail? No innuendo intended. This is a totally serious question for the search world, wink wink, nod nod, say no more.

Many of you are familiar with the fact that the world of search is really dominated by this concept of the long tail. Google talks about this incredible metric that 20% of any search that’s performed every day is completely unique. Google has never seen that search before performed on their engine at all. No one in history has ever made that search. That happens on one out of every five queries every single day.

We are amazingly unique creatures, especially when we get in front of a search box. That’s a great thing, but of course it means that doing keyword research can be tremendously tough. There are a lot of folks who ask the question: "I’ve heard of this tail concept, but I only do keyword targeting and keyword research really on the fat head, maybe the chunky middle." I’ll talk about those in a sec. "I don’t even know how to do keyword research on the long tail. I don’t know how much of an opportunity it is."

This Whiteboard Friday is here to answer that last question: How big of an opportunity it is. Can we measure it? Can we look at the size? Can we understand? Because some industries are going to be very narrowly focused on a few head terms. That’s what people search for. Those are the money terms. That’s where people convert, that’s where the value comes from. In other industries, the long tail is a huge, huge win, and you need to be able to understand that in order to do the right kinds of keyword targeting.

So let’s begin. This is our classic long tail graph. We’ve got the quantity of visits that any particular keyword sends you on this axis, and then down here on this axis, the keywords themselves. This keyword sent a ton of visits. This keyword sends a ton of visits. This keyword sends a bunch of visits. Then there’s this huge tail that comprises usually 70% of all of the quantity. If we were to take this area under the graph, do some calculus, figure out how big the whole opportunity is, oftentimes the tail is 60%, 70% of the full opportunity. It’s because it extends for miles and miles and miles in that direction.

We kind of classify these into three chunks. So we have our fat head, our chunky middle, and our long tail. The fat head, in my view, tends to refer to the things that are very popular in your niche. I say in your niche, because depending on your niche, these may be very different in terms of quantity. I’ve given a rough estimate for SEOmoz. Usually the categories we like to bring them into are something that sends more than 100 visitors each month. If there’s a keyword that’s sending us more than 100 visits a month, we put that in the fat head. That’s sort of a big term for us. If there’s something sending between 10 and 99 visits a month, that’s our chunky middle. If it’s sending fewer than 10, it’s our long tail.

Some SEOs like to have very, very different orders of magnitude on these. Some people might say, "This is only things that send over 1000. This is stuff between 20 and 500. This is stuff that’s only less than 5." Whatever you want to do is fine. You can classify your traffic that way. That’s a good way to go. You should just be aware that this classification system exists. I think this is a very healthy way to be able to look at things.

You tend to look at the chunky middle and the fat head and say, "I am going to manage these." Whatever I’m using, if I’m using the SEOmoz Pro Suite, I’m going to manage these in my rankings. If I’m using Raven or Authority Labs or any of these other services, these are the keywords that I want to care about tracking their rankings, tracking their visits, keeping good tabs on how they’re doing.

It’s harder in the long tail. I might have a subset of these that I’m monitoring as well just to get a sample, but I’m generally not paying attention one-on-one to them. The problem can be when as SEOs we naturally, since we’re paying attention to these keywords we manage and rank track, we get obsessed with them. We stop thinking and worrying about the long tail and the opportunity we’re missing here. Meanwhile, one of our competitors is going, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go ahead and let him win the number two, number one rankings for those keywords. I’m winning over here where there’s no competition, and where there’s generally higher conversions, and where there’s tons more volume." We’re kicking ourselves when we find that out.

Instead of losing out, let’s figure out how much opportunity exists there. Before we answer that, we should know: Well, how much am I currently capturing of these? This is pretty easy. What you can do is you can create advanced segments inside Google Analytics, or you can create segmentation inside Google Analytics for each of these buckets. You decide how big these buckets are. You can say, "I only want keywords that sent me fewer than 10 visits." That works great. Those segments can then be classified and you can say, "All right. This sent me 13,510 visits last month. That is up from the month before, so I’m sort of doing better in my long tail." Or long tail demand’s getting better, whichever. From that, measure the quantity of keywords and visits in each bucket.

You can also measure the quality. Measure quality with one of two things. If you have goals set up, hopefully you have goals and conversion rates set up in your Analytics, that’s a great way to look.

The other way, if you don’t, if you’re just trying to say, "How much is this traffic worth to me from a branding perspective, from a usefulness perspective, from a reaching new audience perspective?" The metric I really like for that is browse rate. The reason I like it so much is because browse rate says on average how many pages did a visitor visit in a single session when they came via this keyword.

Browse rate is great way to say usually, when you have a higher browse rate, that means more engagement. It means someone’s surfing around your site more. They’re spending more time on the site. They are more likely to convert or come back and convert. Browse rate is a good sort of substitute metric. It’s not great, not perfect, not nearly as good as goals and conversions, but if you don’t have that, browse rate is a great way to judge qualitatively: How’s this traffic performing?

You take that and you sort of go, "All right. This is how well I’m doing. This is my trend over time. Am I improving? Am I not improving?" For some people they want to know, "Yeah, but what’s the opportunity? Am I really missing out here, or am I doing a good job?" Just measuring your own progress won’t tell you that. You need broader industry statistics. There’s a number of ways to do that.

The most obvious one, of course, is to go to Google AdWords and try and figure out what the fat head and chunky middle distribution looks like. But because there’s no real keyword research available for the long tail, Google through their AdWords tool or their AdWords API, or Bing through AdCenter, are not generally showing you keywords that send fewer than 10 searches, that have a very small search quantity, but there are tons of those keywords. That’s a really challenging thing to search. Of course, no search engine’s going to be able to tell you what those 20% of queries that they’ve never seen before every day are. So that’s frustrating too. Solution to this . . . it’s not that ingenious, you probably know how to do it, you can probably guess, but let me walk you through it anyway. I think it’s super exciting.

This is asking how much opportunity do you have. Oftentimes it’s a lot. One of the best ways to figure this out – this won’t answer it perfectly, but it does a nice decent job – is to say, "I’m going to go to AdWords or AdCenter and I’m going to create a paid search campaign." This is one of the times when paid search and organic search overlap very, very well. It’s just because the research is so handy.

For my major fat head terms, I’m going to create campaigns around those and target groups in both the exact and broad matches for those keywords: Exact match, of course, the example would be like "chess tournaments." "Chess tournaments" is an exact match. I only want that precise phrase. Google do not show my ad and don’t tell me about that. I want to know only the clicks that I get for "chess tournaments" exactly.

Then I’m going to create another group that contains phrase based matching. Show me phrases that contain "chess tournaments" but not this exact phrase. Meaning things like, if somebody searched for "playing chess in a tournament in Miami." That would show up in . . . well, yeah, it contains the phrase, but it’s not that exact phrase. Or I’m sorry, "Miami chess tournaments" would be in there. "Minneapolis chess tournaments" would be in there. "Pro chess tournaments" would be in there. It’s not the exact phrase "chess tournaments", but it contains that phrase.

Then you have that final bucket of contains the words but is not matching a high-volume phrase and does not necessarily need to be the exact phrase. This could be "tournament style chess games" or "tournament video game chess". All this type of stuff can add up to a bunch, and what will happen when you buy these keywords in AdWords is that they will show you something called impression count.

The impression count can actually be drilled into and you can see all of the terms that send those. From that impression count, you can then take them and segment them into these buckets. You can say, "Oh, okay. We had 500 keywords that had 10 or fewer impressions, so we’re going to put those 500 keywords in here. Then we had another 110 keywords that fit into our chunky middle stats. We had another 42 that fit into the head."

This kind of distribution is incredibly valuable because it gives you a sense for a phrase or a bunch of phrases, if you’re doing this work consistently, how big is the opportunity in the tail? It really does vary. Some things are hyper-geographic, so geographic modifiers get in there. Some things are very tuned to customization and specialization and weird sorts of searches. This happens a lot in the programming world. You’ll see "mySQL calls" have a bunch of volume and then you might say "PHP mySQL calls", and then there’s a ton of long tail weird stuff. Being able to see that versus something that’s much more narrow is really, really handy and where the volume is constrained or confined to the fat head, chunky middle.

Now that you’ve got this process, if you’ve got some budget for AdWords, you can start testing, grouping these things into buckets. You can measure your buckets over time and how you’re performing and you can see: Am I capturing the long tail? Or am I losing out on an opportunity to capture the long tail and maybe I need to be spending a little less time and attention with the fat head and chunky middle?

All right gang, thank you very much for joining me. I hope we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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PostHeaderIcon Sprint Plans to Roll Out LTE-Advanced in 2013

What’s that you say, Sprint doesn’t even have a 4G LTE network yet? Be that as it may, the wireless carrier isn’t about to let such a minor detail prevent it from looking forward to LTE-Advanced, which by the way Sprint is planning to deploy in the first half of 2013. Sprint reckons its customers will see download speeds ranging from 12Mbps to 15Mbps.

Sprint’s vice president of network development and engineering, Iyad Tarazi, made the prediction during an early morning meeting at the 4G World conference, according to FierceWireless. He also said Sprint will deploy its 4G LTE network by the middle of 2012, with at least a dozen LTE devices slated for release next year.

All these plans create a sort of awkward situation between Sprint and Clearwire, though Tarazi said Sprint will still support 4G WiMAX for many years to come because of existing agreements.

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PostHeaderIcon Interviews in Search: Avinash Kaushik

Posted by gfiorelli1

This post was originally in YOUmoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.

One of the things I like the most is to ask questions. Yes, I was one of those unsupportable little kids always asking "Why? What? When?" questions to their parents. And that need to learn new things from others is still there, alive.

That is why in the past weeks I have started an interviews’ series in my blog I Love SEO, with interviews to Rand Fishkin and Will Critchlow and more in production.

The next one would have to be to Avinash Kaushik, maybe the most thoughtful leader about Analytics (sorry, I cannot call him "evangelist"… images of saints are too related to that word in my mind). But, due to the answers he gave me, I believe that is more useful for the SEO community to publish it here.

If I would have to define Avinash just with one word, I would use one he loves and uses a lot: "awesome".

Let me tell you: Avinash Kaushik is not just a great Analytics evangelist (ok, I used "evangelist"), but he is a great mind, a wonderful speaker, a generous man and a funny guy.

As many of us, I discovered Avinash thanks to his blog Occam’s Razor and his books: Web Analytics an Hour a Day and Web Analytics 2.0. But Avinash gives the best of himself as speaker in conferences, and I had the luck to see him "in action" at Be-Wizard 2011 in San Marino and at MozCon in Seattle in July. His passion when speaking is such, that it is not strange that the tweet stream #mozcon, for instance, was filled with praises to Avinash by all the attendees. And it is not strange that he has an huge number of people following him on Twitter, ready to share every single tweet he publishes.

Gianluca: I am one of your 55K (and growing) followers on Twitter, which means more people than a European middle town has. Have you ever felt the weight of the responsibility of having such a huge number of people pending on your tweets?

Avinash: The number of people have never been material to me, I’ve felt the weight from day one.

I am deliberative about my social presence, in any channel, and give a lot of thought to how, and critically if, I should participate in it. My hope from day one is to provide something "incredible, relevant, of value." My tweets and Google Plus posts reflect my varied interests in design, politics, marketing, people and more.

But before I hit Submit or Post I pass it through this filter: "Will my audience find this to be incredible, relevant, of value", if it does it makes it through and I feel I’ve done my part to carry that weight with some responsibility.

Gianluca: I have to admit that your tweets I like the most are the off-topic ones, which you often catalog with #creative and #awesome. How much this search of the awesomeness in everything is essential in your work as an Analyst?

Avinash: I’ve always believed that people stop learning once they get out of school or college. The challenge with that is that we live in a world that is changing by the minute. So my quest to search for "awesomeness" is simply a reflection of the amount of reading I do, on diverse topics, as a part of my quest to learn something new. Hopefully every day.

And I have to admit that life is too small not to always look for exceptional things.

Gianluca: How much is it essential for businesses to understand the value of a well implemented Analytic figure in their structure? I am thinking especially of the small and medium enterprises, which usually tend to underestimate its strategic importance.

Avinash: A well implemented analytics data collection mechanism is an important price of entry. Without it you are coming to play the football game naked. You look embarrassing, and you are going to lose.

My hope though is that small and medium sized businesses will come to appreciate the value that actually using the data will have on their business. In as much I’ve pushed companies, of all sizes, to adopt the Digital Marketing & Measurement Model. That provides them with a very structured five step process to follow, ask the most important questions before they touch the data.

The end result is a better understanding of why it is that you need data, and once you get it how do you focus your efforts to ensure you are answering the right questions. With that comes an appreciation of why an investment in data is critical.

Gianluca: My blog is entitled I love SEO and SEOmoz, is surely one of the most important SEO community online. What do you like of this discipline from your personal perspective? Do you agree with me saying that no SEO can call himself so if he does not own a profound knowledge of Analytics?

Avinash: I love SEO. It is such a fascinating science and the rewards are awesome. The thing that appeals to me personally is that there are a, mostly, clear set of logical things we have to do in order to rank high for relevant keywords. It is fun to do those things at a system or marketing level.

It would not surprise you to learn that what is a lot of fun about SEO is the enormous amount of data available to understand your current situation, understand what it will take to get to the next step, and, my favorite, quantify the business impact of our SEO efforts. Without analytics it is impossible to even be 10% effective at doing SEO. And that is great! :)

Gianluca: Finally, what is the newest challenge of the Analytics science? Are maybe the Social metrics the new western frontier of Analytics?

Avinash: Social is just one more thing to think about, I am not sure that it is a "challenge" all by itself.

In terms of challenges I think there are a couple of very sophisticated ones.

First one is that consumer experience is evolving at such a fragmented rate that most places where we need data from are places where we don’t have, to put it crudely, our analytics tools’ analytics tags. That means that more and more of the data we need to be smart sits outside our immediate purview. Our ability to use APIs, scrapers, multiple tools is going to be super critical.

The second problem, perhaps even harder, is how to deal with this multiplicity from a data analysis perspective. Much of this data is missing primary keys, it is often incomplete, and sometimes even incorrect. And it is rich with information we can turn into actionable insight. Yet from a human capital perspective we don’t have enough people with the right skills.

Time will solve both these problem. But I hope that current and future Analysts / Marketers appreciate this problem and start to invest the seeds of what it will take to solve them in the long term.

And now let me propose you something common to all my Interviews in Search: the Proust questionnaire.

What is your favorite word?

What is your least favorite word?

What turns you on?

What turns you off?
Passive aggressiveness.

What sound do you love?
My kids expressing joy and delight.

What sound do you hate?
Hate is such a strong word.

What is your favorite curse word?

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Pilot, fighter jets.

What profession would you not like to do?
Any I don’t want to do.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
"You were wrong Avinash, I do exist!"


photo credits:
Avinash at MozCon: Thomas Ballantyne
Avinash at MozCon with Rand Fishkin: Dana Lookadoo
Avinash "snowball battle" in San Marino: Everywhereist

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