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Nancy Andrews, Dan Thies and longtail search

If you are on the mailing lists for Area51Marketing or read Dan Thies blog who is on the faculty of Stompernet, then you may well have come across a little ‘toy-throwing’ about the concept of long tail search and whether you bother to optimise for it or not as a small business. Just to clarify, the generally accepted concept of long tail search is where you get visitors arriving at your site due to a very specific and statistically uncommon phrase. So if you are for instance selling chocolate, then an (extreme) long tail search would be something like ‘Where can I buy a chocolate fountain’.

So back to the spat. I see something similar in my involvement with football blogs in that two supporters from opposing teams see incidents in the same match entirely differently. It’s almost as if they were not watching the same match at times. This is what I see happening here. Nancy contends that optimising pages for long tail search results is a waste of time and Dan says not to write off long tail search results so easily. In fact what he is saying is that the basis of the argument from Area51Marketing is that they are creating a phony issue which they then can sell a remedy for. Trouble is they are both right. You really wouldn’t want to spend time optimising your site for every possible long tail search result as a lot of them won’t yield sales. Dan says, you do want to modify your website copy on the basis of what searches are bringing visitors in although it is true that you may not get more sales from it.

Taking the above chocolate example, if a visitor typed that search in, they may be looking to buy or just compare prices. This is the nub of long tail search optimisation. It is also where you have to use your intelligence. Do you think including this in your copy would help create more sales or not? If you think it will, you include it and test to see what difference it made. So both are right, but coming at it from different angles, I suggest you take what is good from both and ignore any posturing. Something which did disappoint me was the tone of Dan’s posts on the subject which could easily be described as condescending, and the very blatant (and simplistic) spin put on his comments by Area51Marketing in their video. Shame really, they both have a lot to teach anyone in the Internet Marketing game.

If you want to check it out for yourself, Area51Marketing and Dan Thies are the places to go, but you will have to give up your email address to Area51Marketing to see the second video where they attempt to answer Dan’s post. Now I don’t suppose it’s a list-building exercise, or am I being a tad too cynical?

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