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Illustrating the Long Tail

Posted by randfish

The long tail of search demand has been around since the dawn of web search and, since that time, search marketers have been attempting to tap into the powerful stream that high quantities of unique content can provide. I recently came across some great data from Hitwise (about 1 year old, but still highly relevant) showing off just how substantive the long tail can be. Bill Tancer’s post – Sizing Up the Long Tail – gives some stats:

…the head and body together only account for 3.25% of all search traffic! In fact, the top terms don’t account for much traffic:

• Top 100 terms: 5.7% of the all search traffic

• Top 500 terms: 8.9% of the all search traffic

• Top 1,000 terms: 10.6% of the all search traffic

• Top 10,000 terms: 18.5% of the all search traffic

This means if you had a monopoly over the top 1,000 search terms across all search engines (which is impossible), you’d still be missing out on 89.4% of all search traffic. There’s so much traffic in the tail it is hard to even comprehend. To illustrate, if search were represented by a tiny lizard with a one-inch head, the tail of that lizard would stretch for 221 miles.

Top 10,000 Search Terms by Percentage of All Search Traffic

The truth is my research is still greatly understating the true size of the tail because:

• The Hitwise sample contains 10 million U.S. Internet users and a complete data set would uncover much larger portions of the long tail.

• The data set I used filtered out adult searches.

• I only looked at 3-months worth of data (which were some of the slower months for search engines).

To help put this in perspective, I made a few spiffy charts that can help to illustrate these points:

Long Tail Search Traffic Distribution

In this first chart, you can see a representation of Hitwise’s data from the four chunks Bill broke down.

The Search Demand Curve

In this next representation, I’m showing the classic “long tail” style curve, but color-coded to help show the various areas of keyword demand. Note that you could conceptually say that the 9,000 of the top 10,000 terms should technically fit into the chunky middle. Bill classified them thusly in his post, but I tend to think that at those demand levels, we’re still talking about “head” of the curve figures.

For both of these graphics, there’s a large, high-res version available by clicking the chart. You can find lots, lots more on our Free Charts page :-)

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5 Tips on Building Your eCommerce Dropshipping Business

Even if your ecommerce dropshipping business is booming, you are probably always interested in tips about how to get even more sales!
Keeping your business alive, growing and thriving is an on-going process that never ends.
For all intents and purposes, your ecommerce business will always be a work in progress!
So, staying abreast of current developments and trends, and making sure that you are up on the things you need to know in order to keep your business growing is a vital part of being a netrepreneur.
Here are 5 handy tips to help build your dropshipping business:
1. Plaster your website address and business name on everything you possibly can! It’s easy for you to remember your own name and web address, but the average consumer probably won’t. Even if someone has bought from your dropship sales site, they may not be able to remember its name or website address if they want to buy from you again. So, make it a little easier to be remembered or found by enclosing a business card printed with the name of your business and the web address with every order sent out. It would be even better to make your business card a fridge magnet or pocket calendar that wouldn’t be thrown away for a while!
2. Give consumers a reason to visit your site! Have contests, promotions, sales, surveys, freebies….anything and everything to attract customers!
3. Make use of blogs and have your own website forum. Blogs can be a big benefit for ecommerce entrepreneurs! Having your own User Forum on your site allows visitors and customers to interact and develop a sense of belonging. This is a good thing for many reasons.
4. Learn and understand the workings of major search engines. This is a truism that you will see repeated a lot on the internet: If you don’t exist in Google—you don’t exist. Search engines can work for you or against you. Be sure that you know how to harness the power of search engines to work for you.
5. Have a domain name that makes sense in correlation with your ecommerce business. Ideally, it should leave users in no doubt whatsoever as to what can be found on your site. If you are selling tropical fish, fir example, make your domain name something that makes this reasonably clear; such as: tropical fish.com instead of some cutesy, obscure and confusing name like: flutteryfins.com.
Never rest on your laurels in ecommerce! Always strive to build your dropshipping business, making it better all the time!

Start your own online dropship business today!

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Getting Long Tail Traffic From Custom Google Maps

long tail searchOne of the neat things about being a small business owner is how creative you can be in your marketing efforts. Earlier this week, local search expert Chris Silver Smith shared yet another long tail search opportunity for SMB owners using Google Custom Maps to try and attract new eyeballs. And it’s actually kind of fun!

A few years ago, Google introduced My Maps, which allowed users to create personalized maps with their own placemarks and area information. It was part of the UGC crazy and allowed people to make maps for virtually anything they found interesting. Once created, map owners could build them out and optimize them by adding descriptive text, photos and video and then share them with others on the Web.

They’re fun. But how can a small business owner taken advantage?

According to Chris, these maps are more than just fun. They’re a great long tail search tactic.

Because of the nature by which most people search, if optimized correctly these custom Maps can receive a LOT of traffic. I moved to Troy, NY a year ago. And when I got here I would often search directly within Google Maps to find local establishments. Google Maps and Yelp was how I found coffee shops with wifi, a salon to get my hair cut, places to eat, etc. I’m not the only one taking advantage of Google’s Search Nearby functionality. Lots of people do it. And if you can hit on something with a large search volume, Google will display your UGC map right along with the regular map results.

Take a look at a search for Catalina Island, CA.


Google is also showing UGC maps on the newly-launched Google Place Pages. And if you’ve filled out a Google Profile, you can drive traffic back to your main site by including a link in your profile.

So how can SMB owners take advantage?

Think of a value-add map that you could create to highlight local areas. Maybe you can create a map of the best date spots in your town, highlighting your restaurant. Or if you’re an independent theater, how about the best places to see a movie? Or the best pumpkin picking spots in your areas? Or all the vendors in town you’d need to plan a wedding?

Often being helpful and creating something that betters the community is an excellent way to brand yourself as an expert in a certain area and expose you to more customers. Because you get to completely fill out (and optimize) the content located within all the Google Maps info bubbles, you’ll also benefit from having more content in Google. Use the keywords that people would be searching for in Google Maps in order to find you, but also think outside the box a bit.

Once you have your idea, create your map following the super easy instructions below:

  1. Go to Google Maps
  2. Click My Maps
  3. Click Create new map.
  4. Add a title and description for your map.
  5. Decide whether the map should be public or unlisted. Public maps are automatically included in Google Maps search.
  6. Use the icons in the top left corner of the map. These include:
    • Selection tool. Use this to drag the map and select placemarks, lines and shapes.
    • Placemark tool. Use this to add placemarks.
    • Line tool. Use this to draw lines.
    • Shape tool. Use this to draw shapes.

Being a small business owner gives you a license to be creative and creating custom Maps is super easy. Use it to your advantage!

From Small Business Trends

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Forget Your Big Idea. Be Simple.

be simpleICanHasCheezburger.com is a site based solely off user-generated content (i.e.,  content they didn’t create) and has achieved 1 Billion pageviews in its two years of existence. The book based off the concept was an instant New York Times bestseller and the second in the series is due out soon.

Oh, and if you’ve never seen it, icanhascheezburger.com is a site dedicated to displaying silly cat pictures that users can adorn with even sillier nonsensical captions. Yes, that was someone’s  BIG dollar idea.

Ben Huh, the guy behind the site, spoke at Search Marketing Expo yesterday and shared with the audience the two reasons why the site is a success.

  1. It’s simple.
  2. It makes people happy.

It’s genius.

I think a lot of small business owners forget to be simple. They think that in order to compete with the guy down the street that they have to be bigger and more impressive. That to be taken as seriously as the Best Buys or the Staples they need to offer a full line of products and amaze people with their sheer size. Somehow in the business world we’ve decided that size = credibility and authority. But that’s not true.

Your idea doesn’t have to be big. It has to be simple.

During yesterday’s keynote at SMX, Ben noted some other companies that have leveraged this idea of “simplicity”:

  • Starbucks is the simple place between your home and your office.
  • Google gave us a simple way to find information.
  • Facebook make it simple to connect with our friends online.
  • The Cheezburger network (which ICanHasCheezburger.com is part of) made it simple for people to be happy for a few moments of the day.

That’s what people are looking for. The Internet gave us the ability to reach millions in one shot. It changed the way a lot of businesses operated. It dared them to come up with the biggest idea they could and then market it to everyone. That’s rarely where success is found.

Instead, find the simplest idea you can and then market it only to those people who would be interested in the service. That’s how you find a loyal community, one that will grow and become viral. It’s also how you put yourself in the position to be able to make complicated products down the road. Ben asserted in his keynote that the reason Google can stick its hand into everything and release a slew of different products today is because, for awhile, they only did one thing well. They did search. That bought them the freedom to be where they are now.

You’re not Google and you don’t have to be. Instead of trying to do more than your competitors, figure out how to simplify what their throwing extra steps into. There are a million free services out there – Google Apps, WordPress, Skype, YouTube – that have made it easier to be “simple” without a lot of overhead. Take advantage and make it simple for people to find happiness. That’s what they want. And that’s what they want you to give them.

If you want to be better than your competitors. Don’t figure out how you can one up them and add extra features to their services. Instead, strip them down. Make them easier. That’s what we’re all looking for. A way to make it easier. Whatever that “it” happens to be.

Editor’s correction note:  actually it wasn’t $1 Billion in revenue as originally noted, but 1 Billion pageviews and a multi-million dollar business, and the post has been updated accordingly.   Still – EXTREMELY impressive for such a simple idea.

From Small Business Trends

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7 Ways To Own Your Google 10

It’s becoming more and more important for small business owners to “own” their Google results. In a world where you are what Google says you are, when someone searches for your name they need to be able to find you. The real you. Not a lookalike, another company with the same name or that social profile you thought you had taken care of it. Business owners must protect their brand, and sometimes that means doing just a touch of proactive online reputation management to secure your Google 10.

Your Google 10 is the top ten results that appear when someone does a Google search for your name. How do you go about ensuring you own all ten spots? Surprisingly, it’s not that hard. Here are some of the sites and profiles you’ll want to grab and pay attention to.

Grab your .com: Chances are you already have this one and it’s naturally ranking very well for your brand. Congrats. That’s one listing. Time to go after the other nine. ;)

Join Professional Directories: Whatever your industry, there are guaranteed to be at least a handful of directory or resource sites you can join to help customers find you, while also helping you to take advantage of the company profile pages they offer. Often these directories will require a small application fee for your profile to be reviewed, but if you’re able to choose targeted sites, you’ll get both customers and a major search ranking benefit from them. To find these directories, try doing a search for [your industry] + directory].

Get Social: Besides just being a great way to reach out to customers, social profiles are known for how well they rank in Google due to their authority and all the links being pointed at them. If you’re looking to claim some space, try creating a Facebook Fan page, Twitter account and corporate accounts on sites like LinkedIn, Crunchbase, Naymz, etc. Don’t just register the accounts, though. Actually build out the profiles and make them useful. There’s no sense ranking a profile if the information on it isn’t up to par.

Target Industry-Specific Social Sites: Thanks to the social media boom, there are social sites now geared toward virtually every industry on the planet, whether it’s finance, sports, art and design, programming, SEO, etc. Find your niche and get involved. Create accounts on these sites and engage in the community when it makes sense. Many of the smaller social sites will also allow you to link to your “mainstream” social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook, etc. Take advantage of this feature. The more links you get to each account, the stronger it will become and the better it will rank. If there are any forums in your area of specialty, consider creating usernames on those as well.

Make Media: The search engines like media. In fact, they like it so much that they’re starting to replace “regular” search results with images, videos and news clippings. Because so few companies are being proactive about media content, you can often overtake competitor listings simply by creating media content and optimizing it – including the name of your company in the title, file name, description and within the tags, etc. As mentioned before, video and small businesses go really well together. Obviously, Flickr, YouTube and Vimeo are great sites to focus on for these purposes. [If you’re really adventurous, perhaps even create your own podcast!]

Guest Blog: Guest blogging is a great way to increase visibility and bring visitors to your site, but it can also be an effective way of grabbing more search real estate. Offer to provide a blogger with unique content in your site. In return you’ll often be given a brief bio box which will allow you to link out to your Web site and maybe even some other prominent profiles or content pieces. If the site owner is agreeable, you should also put your name and company name in the Title tag of that entry.

Speak At Local Events: Look for opportunities to speak or get involved with local events in your niche. These spots usually come with speaker bios that you can build out to rank very well (and very easily) for your name and company. They’re also exactly what you want to be ranking for when a potential partner or prospect goes searching for your brand. It shows that you know what you’re talking about AND that you care about your community.

If the list above looks a bit overwhelming, fear not. Chances are you won’t have to create each and every account mentioned in order to secure and protect your Google 10. However, variety is the spice of life…and Google rankings.

From Small Business Trends

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Crawling & Indexing – It’s Not as Simple as Just In or Out

Posted by randfish

Short post tonight as I’m just back from a short trip with Mystery Guest to celebrate our one year anniversary (which was awesome, BTW) and need to get caught up on lots of email.

Let’s start with a quick quiz – which of the following statements is true?

  • A) My pages are in my XML sitemaps file, so they must be getting crawled
  • B) My pages have been crawled, so they must be in the index
  • C) My pages are in the index, so they must be able to show for queries
  • D) None of the above

If you guessed A, B or C, congratulations, you’re part of a large contingent of folks doing SEO who are (rightfully!) a little confused about how the engines might be doing this. I’ve created a quick graphic to help out:

Levels of Indexation

The takeaways here aren’t tremendous, but they can be valuable to help explain to SEO outsiders why pages may not be drawing traffic even though metrics like appearing in your XML sitemaps, showing in Google Blogsearch queries or appearing to be crawled in Google Webmaster Tools suggest they should. If you want to determine if a page (or set of pages) are actually included in the engines’ main indices, there’s only two definitive ways to know:

  1. Perform queries that show the page appearing in the results (without having to use the &filter=0 in the URL string)
  2. Check your traffic logs to see if queries are actively sending the page traffic

This is why I love the metric of # of pages that received at least one visit from search engine X each month. If that number is trending in a positive direction, you can at least rest assured the engine is indexing (and holding onto) your pages.

Comments are strongly encouraged on this topic (particular since I didn’t get to cover it in great detail). Thanks!

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Getting Comfy In Google Webmaster Central

One of the best free resources out there for small business owners are the free tools available inside Google Webmaster Central.

If you’re not familiar with GWC, Google provides site owners with free access to a series of tools aimed at improving their Web sites. All you have to do is register your site. Once you do, you’ll be provided with insight into how Google views your site, how your site is performing, which keywords you’re receiving traffic for, any crawl errors you may have, and more. If you haven’t experimented with it, now’s a very good time to start taking advantage of everything Google offers up.

So how do you get started?

First, register your site. As with most things, it takes just a few minutes to sign up and verify to Google that you own your site. Once you’re registered and logged in, you’ll have full access to your site dashboard.

Through your dashboard, you’ll be privy to a lot of very important information about your Web site.

  • Site Configuration: From this section, you can submit a Sitemap to make sure Google knows about all the important pages on your site, specify which pages you want to appear in the search results and which are off limits, remove outdated site links, select a custom or default crawl rate and tell Google if you’d like the www or non www version of your Web site to be the preferred domain.
  • Your Site On The Web: This section gives you information on your top search queries, what you keywords you’re ranking for, where you get the most traffic, who’s linking to what pages on your site, the most common keywords on your site, and where you’re linking internally.
  • Diagnostics: This section will alert you to any errors that may be present on your site. You’ll be able to see if Google encountered any kind of crawl errors on your site, get crawl stats (how many pages are crawled per day and how long Google spent downloading them) and get HTML suggestions straight from Google.

The tools available through GWC really present site owners with a goldmine of information that they use to help themselves and Google better understand what’s happening on their sites. By reviewing the information provided by Google and then acting on it to improve weak areas of your site, site owners can capitalize on traffic, eliminate crawling roadblocks, make spidering easier for Google, find broken links and more.

To stay updated, you may also want to check out and subscribe to the Google Webmaster Central blog. You can also find videos on ways to improve your site on the YouTube GoogleWebmasterHelp channel.

From Small Business Trends

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This Week in Search for 9/3/09

Posted by Sam Niccolls

Henry Ford said that if he had asked his customers what they wanted before he built the Model T, they would have said they wanted a faster horse. The reality is few people are industry leaders. Most try to make faster horses. But had the need in 1907 been for web analytics and not transportation, Avinash Kaushik would have been a likely candidate to put America on wheels. So prompted by something Avinash said in a blog post earlier this week, here are some analytics quotes that’ll get the ole pistons firing.

Avinash Kaushik Quotes that Belong on Hallmark Cards:

7. Not segmenting data is a crime against humanity.

6. Never let your campaigns write checks that your website can’t cash.

5. I believe God created the internet so we could fail faster.

4. Magazine advertisements are faith based initiatives.

3. All data needs context, even server errors go up and to the right over time.

2. Bounce rate is brilliantly dumb. It shows that your customers came, they puked, they left.

1. Social media is like teen sex, everyone wants to do it. No one actually knows how. When finally done, there is surprise it’s not better.

Five Thumbs

  • Tips for eCommerce websites: From site architecture to product interlinking, Everett Sizemore’s post is a shopping cart of tips and tricks that eCommerce marketers shouldn’t abandon.

Four Thumbs

  • Seth Godin: comparing your business to the status quo: The best airport restaurants are those that compare themselves to other restaurants, not other airports. The lesson here is simple yet poignant: if your customers crave better food, don’t be afraid to go gourmet, even if your competition is happy serving McLeftovers.
  • Robots exclusion protocol tutorial: For those looking to learn more about robots files, Bing’s post on robots exclusion protocols is informative, as well as digestible for non-technical folks.

Three Thumbs

  • Submitting a Sitemap on Bing: In June Bing rolled out Sitemap.xml support, but if you’re looking to create, submit, or validate a Sitemap with Bing, the post on their webmaster blog is a great tutorial.

Two Thumbs

Rocking on YOUmoz

From actionable seminar re-caps to ethical SEO debates, there were many fantastic YOUmoz posts this week. Apparently dummerboy9000 was not the only mozzer who read Jen’s post about creating great UGC blog posts and noticed that YOUmoz links are followed.

  1. SEOmoz Training Seminar Takeaways by Whitespark
  2. How I got 200 Backlinks for Free by Trafikant
  3. Extreme Local Optimization Put to the Test by Rstellers
  4. Standing Out in the Crowd by Sly-grr
  5. The Ethics of Search Engine Marketing by Thomas M. Schmitz
  6. My Twitter Experiment at SEOmoz Training by KitsapKing
  7. Immersion at the SEOmoz Day Spa by erikellsworth

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