Keyword Strategy: "Long Tail" Myth & Reality

Is The Long Tail A Myth?

I get a lot of email from internet marketers… it’s a job-related hazard. As a result, I get a lot of email "newsletters" that are nothing more than one offer after another. One sales pitch after another. So much hype, so much junk… but every now and then someone sends me something that at least makes me think a bit.

Internet Marketer Mike Long (who I suppose I can’t really call a friend since he doesn’t return my calls any more) sent me a short video clip containing an interview with an acquaintance of ours from Stompernet. In the video, our friend "debunks" the idea of the Long Tail, by embracing some common misconceptions about the whole thing. For example, she refers to Chris Anderson’s book as being about search… which it’s not.

I don’t fault her for not reading the book, it’s not terribly exciting reading (sorry, Chris). However, it’s usually better not to talk about books you haven’t actually read. I don’t think they have Cliff’s Notes for it, but the Wikipedia entry on The Long Tail would have offered a clue, but anyway… I didn’t start out this post with the intent of insulting Nancy Andrews… because Nancy is a smart lady.

What Nancy was really thinking about was articles like this one, and posts on Chris’s own blog, where the "long tail" concept (actually, Zipf’s law) is bent a little to apply it to search. Maybe she was thinking about Joe Kraus’s post which mentions search patterns at Excite… in the context of discussing the Long Tail effect in the software business.

A Lot Of People Are Confused About "Long Tail Keywords"

How do I know this? Because my team at SEO Research Labs gets requests all the time to "research long tail keywords." What they’re really thinking about is the idea pushed by Sumantra Roy and Wordtracker several years ago, that there were "keyword niches" – extremely popular and profitable search terms (lots of searches, lots of wallets) that for some reason, nobody had targeted with SEO.

Forget about that myth. I’d bet even Sumantra has.

The "long tail of search" is very real. Half of the queries in a given month (more or less) are one-offs. One search query for that term. By one person. It should be obvious to those who have read the keyword strategy chapter in SEO Fast Start, that these search terms are:

  1. Not going to show up in any keyword database
  2. Not worth targeting individually
  3. Very easy to "target" by writing keyword rich copy….

Back To Nancy Andrews, Sorry

Nancy showed a chart in her video – thousands of search terms leading people to her site, but only a small number of search terms actually resulting in a sale… Well, duh. You have a conversion rate between 1-2%, right Nancy? Somewhere in there?

Let’s just use 1% for the sake of argument. That means that if you have two search terms that send 50 visitors (100 total) you would only expect one (1) of them to generate a sale. If you have 1000 search terms that sent one visitor each, you would only expect 10 of them to make a sale.

When you factor in the nature of "long tail" referrals, that you can expect a LOT of very strange and irrelevant queries in the mix, I just say, again, DUH. The vast majority of search terms that show up in your logs in a given month will not generate a sale. This is true, precisely because the Long Tail effect is real.  The vast majority of search terms that show up in your logs will only refer 1 or 2 visitors, so of course very few of these terms will generate sales.

You make it up with volume, and the effort involved is minimal – in fact, the effort involved could also be described as "writing good copy."

How Internet Marketers Use "Straw Man" Logic To Sell Products

Again… I have a lot of respect for Nancy, but she’s being "handled" by Internet Marketers now. The way they convince you to buy the product they’re pushing involves a lot of "straw man" arguments. Let me walk you through the basic template they’re using here:

  1. If you have failed at (SEO, marketing, business, life) it’s not your fault.
  2. You’re not failing because you didn’t actually put in the time and effort to do things right
  3. No, it’s not your fault, it’s all those evil "gurus" who aren’t telling you the whole truth!
  4. As an example, watch us construct a straw man and knock it down
  5. See, we’re smart, and we’re trying to help you.
  6. Open your wallet now.

In this case, the "straw man" is The Long Tail. The vast majority of search terms that sent me traffic didn’t generate a sale, therefore the Long Tail is a lie.

Except, it’s not a lie. It’s a fundamental truth.

Real World Results & The Long Tail

I borrowed a little data from one of my former students, who is running an ecommerce business, to illustrate how the long tail works in SEO. These numbers have been rounded off slightly, because nobody in their right mind would let me publish their full stats. The percentages are very accurate, though.

During a recent time period that we analyzed, this student received 250,000 visitors from Google organic search. These visitors placed 1,600 orders and spent about 200,000 dollars. In total, there were just over 60,000 search terms that generated visits.

The top 1% (600 terms) generated:

  1. 135,000 visitors (54%)
  2. $130,000 in revenue (65%)
  3. 1000 orders (63%)

Some other fun facts:

  1. Of the top 100 terms (visits), only 70 generated a sale – and only 60 were actually part of the formal "core term" list
  2. Of the top 600 terms, only 200 generated a sale – as you would expect, since "term #600" only delivered a couple dozen visits!
  3. The "long tail (the other 99% of queries) generated 1/3 of revenues!

 To get that extra 1/3 of revenues (a 50% increase from baseline), would you be willing to do a little work? Would you be willing to research modifiers, and work them into your selling copy? Of course you would! Heck, if you do it right, it will make your copy better… which means you sell even more stuff.

So is the long tail a myth? No… but you can always construct a straw man to "debunk" any idea. All you have to do is completely misunderstand it.

For more on keyword strategy and the right way to target the long tail, read Chapter 3 of SEO Fast Start.

To follow along with Nancy Andrews’ product launch (in spite of the hype, Nancy has some interesting ideas on competitive SEO and link building) visit Area 51 Marketing. Their video series so far has been very instructive – some of the marketing/manipulation "secrets" that Mike Long and Frank Kern disclosed recently made me a little uncomfortable, but I still got some incredible insights and "aha!" moments.

I realize that this post increases the chances that Mike will continue to ignore my calls (seriously Mike, just pick up the phone) and radically decreases the number of Internet Marketers who will be willing to help me out in the future… but I have received so many emails from readers about this that I have to respond.

Internet Marketers: I know that you hate the way things are right now… where everyone expects you to keep silent and play along with everyone else’s launches. It doesn’t have to be this way! If you want to see a different kind of Internet Marketing, where we all try to get along even though some of us tell the truth sometimes… give me some comments here and let’s figure out how to get there. Use a pseudonym if you gotta.

74 thoughts on “Keyword Strategy: "Long Tail" Myth & Reality

  1. You’re not going to make a lot of friends talking like this, Dan, but I for one appreciate it. The more I work at trying to make a living on the internet, the less impressed I am with a number of the “big name” gurus. Your “straw man” guru marketing template is brilliant!

    I hope I never get to be an internet marketing “guru” if it means selling out the way I’ve seen so many of them do this past year or so…

  2. Alonso, if you aren’t an internet marketing guru already, it’s not your fault. The gurus just aren’t telling you the whole story – here’s just one example:

    The “experts” all tell you that you need to build a mailing list. I bet you have dozens, even hundreds of email addresses in your address book. I’d say you’ve got a list already! So are you a billionaire? Of course not – that’s because these so-called “gurus” are taking you for a fool!

    Don’t worry, though, because in my “Super Secret Ultra Deluxe Platinum Edition Insider’s Workshop” I will *expose* the real secrets to becoming a billionaire. Now open your wallet.

  3. Well Dan,

    Let me tell you that your going about it all wrong. A very, very famous got away will calling me an idiot, and imbecile, and other names (OK, not quite those words) by using the phrase “Some guy said”.

    When I called him to task, I was chastised for making personal attacks and my remarks “stricken from the record” in a forum and warned of being banned. So I just wanted to tell you…”Some lady said” is the “legal” way to correct people on the internet.

    Then you can really rip them up…..evidently.

  4. Dan, would you care to elaborate more on your uncomfortable and other “aha” moments?

    I too was surprised and confused by Nancy’s opinions about the Long Tail.

    With so many guru launches going on simultaneously, everyone is trying to differentiate themselves with some sort of “controversy”, and it’s just confusing the heck out of me.

    Fortunately for me, the more I’m confused about something, the more I stay away from it. So my wallet’s not going to open for Mike at this time.

  5. Hi Dan,

    How freaking REFRESHING! Someone that isn’t afraid to take on the over-hyped, pompous, multi-millionaires and tell the truth for a change.

    I am still broke partly because I believe in honest marketing. Why can’t it work? Why can’t we all share? There is more than enough money on the planet to go around and nobody ever has to be hungry or shoeless….

    But greed from time’s inception has caused man to try to screw his fellow man out of every dollar he can… instead of sharing knowledge, power, money, etc. The barter system works so beautifully.

    Yeah, I know, my comment has nothing to do with long tail keywords, but for this one: “try honest marketing tactics for a refreshing change fellas”.

    I swear I will NEVER be like them when I grow up! And you know what? If Mike is “too good” to call you, there are plenty of *genuine* people on this earth who are willing to speak to such a nice guy.

    And like Alonso, I wanna sign up too! ;-)

  6. It’s more likely that Mike is “too busy” because when I did have a chance to hang out with him, he seemed very far from “arrogant.” It’s probably more along the lines of “should I return these phone calls, or go surfing?” And the next thing you know he’s got his wetsuit on and he’s walking down to the beach.

    Dennis, I think Nancy probably got put on the spot and that slide was taken out of context… it’s quite likely that what she was really debunking was the stupid myth that you go out and try to find “long tail search terms.”

    This post, for me, was more of a response to everyone who has been asking me if the long tail is “really dead” after that video came out. Ummm, no. It’s not. Wouldn’t surprise me if Nancy completely agrees with me on the substantive matters here.

    But yeah, you know the kind of marketing these guys like… “Weird guy releases controversial video, click here.”

    I think it’s a shame that so many in the “IM” world seem to believe that this is the only way to sell something of value. Maybe they’re right, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Or maybe I’m just like them, and I’m just playing the “reluctant hero” game right now. We’ll see.

  7. Dan:

    Your perspective on IM gurus is so right.

    Re: Long Tail — it seems that our business only has “long tail” and no “head”. So far, we’ve been attempting to conquer the search mostly with good copy instead of PPC or PPA.

    “Long tail” is an insight with great applications for digital businesses with unlimited inventory. Long tail’s effect at the physical store level (for those of us still evolving to the web) is that customers expect a store bounded by walls, viewing height, operation hours, inventory budget, etc. to offer unlimited inventory for unlimited hours at the lowest possible price. The concept of “close” doesn’t apply; “exactly” is in vogue.

    Paul Brandon
    Maineville, OH

  8. Dan,

    How can I sign up for “Super Secret Ultra Deluxe Platinum Edition Insider’s Workshop”? I know that I haven’t already and I hope that it isn’t my fault. Is there something that you aren’t telling us? ;-)

  9. Dan,

    Don’t lose any sleep over being honest and upfront. I haven’t been in IM that long, but I’ve already completely lost respect for several of the so-called big name “gurus”. Many of them are nothing more than sleazy snake oil salesmen.

    I believe we all have built-in BS detectors. Truth and trustworthiness have a unique ring to them. There are a few people who have earned my trust through being open and upfront, and I will buy whatever they recommend with my eyes closed.

    In the long run, being truthful wins. Every time.

    If one loses some of the snake oil salesmen in the process, who cares?

    If it weren’t for newbies, many of them would have been working 9-5 jobs. However, the blatant exploitation of newbies is probably a topic for another time.

  10. Dan, I appreciate your clarification of the long tail concept. I too watched Nacy’s video and was a bit puzzled after that.

    My comment is less about long tail searches and more about Internet Marketers not responding to their customers. I buy a ton of IM products over the year and I can safely say that only about 30% of those gurus respond to emails–even when they are asking for clarification about the product or even pointing out a flaw.

    A recent one I sent was to an author of an ebook called “Blogging to the Bank 2.0″ by Rob Benwell that recommends using a customized Permalinks structure for WordPress using %postname%. The rationale for this is that “Search Engines give more weight to folders closer to your root directory.” Hmmm. Because I use WordPress a lot for SEO, I researched it a bit as the book is not big on technical details. I discovered that the support section of WordPress actually discourages this practice as it “the rewrite rules may make it impossible to access pages such as your stylesheet (which has a similar format) or the /wp-admin/ folder.”

    Anyway, I emailed Rob to clarify but he never responded. I still get tons of emails every week promoting this product and I get angry because Rob’s lack of response demonstrates lack of responsibility to customers and also an absence of true value in the product.

  11. Dan, that entire video was painful to watch. Hmmm… And I wonder what their video’s are leading up to???

    Chris Anderson’s book constantly had me dosing but was profound to say the least. Corporate America, filters, statistics, economics and oh yeah a little bit of search :)

    I am greatful for your strong work ethic. There has been more times than I can count to make an unethical buck. Having an Appraisal Firm for 9 years, and doing SEO, the opportunities have always been there. But for me, everything I do has to be done with integrity. I guess that’s why I have a high level of comfort in this community.

    Thanks Dan.


  12. Dan,

    Enjoyed reading your post. Just to reinforce the statistics from your friend’s website, I have an e-commerce site that I’ve been working on for the last 2 years and over 30% of sales come from long tail searches.


  13. Everybody here acts like this is a new concept but almost all respected SEOs agree that the long tail searches are important.

  14. Thanks, Dan. As usual, direct and straight from the hip. Love it.

    One thing I’d add is that all of us IM customers have to take some responsibility, too, for always chasing the next get-rich-quick scheme.

    What I’ve learned from you and a few select others is that the answer is mastering the basics and then rolling up your sleeves, keeping your head down, and slogging through the work. It ain’t sexy, but it’s effective. Beth

  15. Hi Dan. I just Stumbled this article. It’s nothing that I didn’t know already, but it is great to hear it coming from someone I know to be so knowledgeable and so careful to be accurate (no “straw men” here!).

    One technique that I am just starting to employ is to analyze long tail traffic, searching for modifyers to one keyword phrase and see how they can be applied to others. In other words, mine current long tail success for new long tail opportunities.

  16. BestOptimized, I don’t think anyone here thinks this is a new idea – some of us have been doing this for more than 10 years now. I could dig up the 1st edition of SEO Fast Start (2001) and the strategy would look pretty much the same, although we do have much better defined processes now.

    David, you are absolutely right to create and use those feedback loops – it’s not hard to do once you bake it into a process.

    Thanks to everyone for keeping this conversation interesting! :D I’ve already had a bit of email feedback from people who are making a great living as internet marketers without all the hype.

    Tim Kerber & Ryan Lee’s recent launch of the “Membership Site Bootcamp” is a pretty good example of selling a quality product (yes, the big box went “thud” on Thursday and I’ve been watching the DVDs) without all the manipulative junk that gives all of us internet marketers a bad name.

  17. I didn’t look closely enough on the long-tail discussion to comment, but I defintely agree that “FREE reports” bring an unbelievable quantity of junk mail. Your description – “one offer after another. One sales pitch after another. So much hype, so much junk.” is dead on. Anyone who is emailing me more than once a day is guaranteed to get an unsubscribe and frankly anyone emailing me even more than once a week is running the same risk depending on % of their content that is sales oriented. Frankly, it’s enough to make me just want to give up, which probably is the reason that I have little traffic and few sales despite producing good products. Anyone that knows SEO and wants to split profits based on optimizing my site (earn half of all sales from search engine traffic), check out my link.

    I applaud your choice of honesty (there’s a whole lot of crap being sold) over offering a blanket endorsement to anyone who will do the same for your products and brings a list and customers to the table. Thanks.

  18. Download the book, Forex, it’s free. Doing SEO on your own site isn’t all that hard. If you need help with link building, I’d start looking for a partner to help market your business – any profitable marketing that you do will also generate links. Some methods will get you more links than others, and that’s also covered in the book.

  19. Hi Dan,
    Before going to a picnic today, i read this post of yours in the morning, and said to my wife: gosh this guy doesnt make any new (or loosese old) friends, LOL.

    well, don’t worry. you’ll make new friends. Some of us still beleive in technicalities and honesty, because we just want to do good SEO and are not concerned with “guru” IM selling howto IM to the rest of the world. Basicaly i wanted to say that there is a chance for us trying to get the rest of the world to get the real content to real people whithout the hype, but still be acknowledged as “experts” in our own field.

    keep on going, don’t back up. you help us all.

    Ales Medvesek, (along with Dan, i become “the best boxer kennel in the world – according to google) -

  20. guh..bad that the posts can not be reedited. so…
    To me you are a Guru- meaning the Teacher.
    the problem actualy is “false gurus” trying to give a quote to the real gurus names, calling them Gurus embed in Quotes.
    HArd to know which ones they think about when posting their “guru slashing” sales letters, hehe

  21. Hey Dan,

    Great post. Simple, concise, practical and to the point. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, the quality of the information you provide for us in this portal is way above 99% of the other SEO information out there.

    Thanks for keeping it real.

  22. Well, you should really do both, Andrew, at least in terms of creating content. The point here is that targeting the long tail doesn’t mean optimizing for individual search terms.

  23. Theres nothing wrong with chasing the tough keywords. You just need to use the right approach. You can’t go after the ipod market selling ipods. You need to explain ipods. WHO is NOT going to link to an ipod information only site?

    Youtube never had commercials at first either. Look at the Alexa top 10. You really have to dig hard to find the ads on most of them. Follow the leaders and go after any market you wish.

  24. Diane, you should be able to catch most of that kind of traffic with phrase matches. Loading up a bunch of low-volume search terms can make it hard to manage, but as long as the modifiers are really relevant it’s not going to hurt to use them with your core terms.

  25. Oh, sorry, I forgot another question regarding Google and longtail…the adwords keyword tool suggests you limit your keywords to 20 phrases for maximum impact. I’ve got alot more than 20 phrases…should I create a separate ad for each group of 20?

  26. Diane, I normally have only one core term in an ad group. Typically I organize them into separate ad groups for broad, phrase, and exact match. The last two (phrase & exact) can often be combined effectively.

    What you’re trying to do is show the searcher an ad that speaks to the search term they just typed, and then bring them to a landing page that delivers what the ad promises. It’s hard to do that with a whole bunch of terms in one ad group.

  27. Diane, just a little addition to what Dan said…

    You can increase your quality score and CTR by using the same tactics on your ads that you use on your webpages. So to clearify, your adwords ad should contain your keyword in the title and description. And the same keyword needs be on the destination URL. Make sure everything flows…

    This has been coined as: LSI – Latent Semantic Indexing

    Example ad:
    Free Shipping iPod Shuffles
    This week is free shipping!
    iPod Shuffle, MP3’s, & more!

    Capture of one of my campaigns:
    Action Status %Served Clicks Impr. CTR Cost

    Edit Active 100.0% 3 31 9.67% $1.64


  28. Not really, Jeff.

    It’s a brand new site, just like this one, so you wouldn’t expect to see any PR in the Google toolbar.

    I know folks who are doing 5 figures a day in sales from Google organic search, where their site shows PR0 in the toolbar. It really means nothing.

  29. Hey Jeff, go do a Google search for “Wedding Favors”. My Wedding has been around for years and is a PR 0. Although there were many technical issues that unfolded, the site is an authority, and remains a PR 0.

    So… I would look at PR like the Alexa toolbar. At times it’s close to being accurate and sometimes way off the mark.


  30. I can confirm that putting long tail keywords in our adwords campaign was a total waste of energy and time. We have now removed all of them as they were just cluttering our campaigns. What we have done is to include them in our copy and have found that is the way to go. It comes down to writing copy that the user finds valuable and buys. I’ve found that Google likes those pages as well immaterial of the PR of the page.

  31. Not surprising, John. The problem is very similar to what would happen if you followed the “doorway page” strategy. In fact, with Adwords quality scoring, you almost have to make doorway pages for those terms. The volume is too low to make it worth managing,

  32. Wow…. Talk about bitting the hand that fed you… I’ve known Nancy for a long time and you’re right Dan, she is a very smart individual. So I am really shocked that Nancy is going this direction in marketing herself as the next SEO guru.

    For the record I really like Nancy, she’s a great person. Though everyone knows where she learned her SEO. She was a student of Andy Jenkins and Brad Fallon for years.

    In an email I just got from Mike Long, it really comes across that they are trying to slam the very people that taught Nancy what she knows. If that’s not her intention, then she needs to call Mike on it and say.. Whoa there, slamming my mentors is not what I wanted. :(

  33. Dan,
    I am starting an ecommerce site, just putting in departments and categories – it’s in quite a competitive fashion niche. Google has visited my site once.

    what should I have in my title tag on my home page?

    1. Should I start out with 2 or 3 main Tier 1 keywords in the title tag on my home page?
    2. Or, do I start with a couple tier 1 (money term) keywords and maybe a 2nd tier keyword?
    3. Or should I start out by putting 2 or three 2nd tier keywords in my title tag? And then change my title tag to more competitive search terms once I start to rank for these 2nd tier keywords.
    Thanks for your input.

  34. I am having some trouble with all the SEO guru’s out there conducting these teasing launches that we all know by now have a big ticket price tag at the end. I am also starting to wonder, because they all “seem” sincere but manage to have some big controversy attached to their launching process.

    I have followed you Dan for sometime and while I respect and feel you are a stand up guy, it makes me wonder about why you were sent a video clip about Nancy’s claims and then you wrote a blog post that she and Mike Long use to make a big splash about how her methods were “attacked”. Now, that post is being used to make sensational news and to get more interest in her videos.

    It reminds me of the Stomper Launch last year when the rich jerk started bashing Brad and Andy’s launch process. I even recognize the voice that is interviewing Nancy as the voice of the Stomper pre-launch interviewer.

    It is feeling like a big manipulation to me and frankly, I am beginning to be suspect of everyone and every offer.

    I would love to hear what you think.

  35. Felicity, there’s nothing “arranged” here. You’ve read what I have to say about it. That’s it. I wouldn’t get involved in that kind of “fake controversy” nonsense.

    It’s interesting that you recognize the same voice. Some of these marketers think that any kind of controversy will sell.

    Even if they have to manufacture it by repeating the same things over and over… They’ve been mailing about this so called “controversy” for what, 2 weeks?

    Personally, I don’t think anyone’s buying the manipulation.

  36. Felicity, I understand your position on this too. However, after being on Dan’s email list for a very long time, I only received one product recommendation. Actually, it was a product that he bought himself. Yes, I bought it too and am very happy I did.

    I have no ties to Stomper and was a $797 per month member. If the Rich Jerk was a viral marketing campaign then so be it. I don’t think Nancy & Dan are on the phone talking about how they tricked us. That is just not Dan’s style.

    To be honest, even if Dan sells a few of his own products, there is no harm in it. He previously mentioned on this forum that he may offer a membership site for more hardcore stradegies (only if members want that). This free community has helped many and you actually have Dan Thies answering your questions! I am just happy to be part of it.


  37. But getting back to “Long Tail”. I’ve noticed in the last 30 days that Google is giving the best “Ranking Credits” to 1% keyword density and down-rated 2% and 3%.

    At the same time another marketer noticed that his Adwords spam sites (my take on them) dropped off the map while others stayed the same or picked up traffic. After analysis he decided that LSI / Related keywords in some of his (spam) were keeping up the pace and the good ones were picking up visits. LSI and long tail are KIND of related so I thought I’d mention it.

  38. If so, then it doesn’t matter if the keyword is on the page or not.

    And there would be no difference in ranking between a typical 1000 word page that mentions the keyword 0 times or 10 times.
    My data says there is a measurable difference.

  39. Chuck, it is in fact possible to get a page ranked with no text at all… but that’s not the point. It depends on the terms that are in the search query, and the contents of the search engine’s index.

    Dr. Garcia explains it all:

    Which, when you bottom-line it, means that natural writing is better. :D Where on page factors will be most significant is at the “long tail” end, where relatively few pages match the query at all, and where anchor text is hard to come by.

    Once you grok what TF/IDF means, then you will see why those long tail, rare terms, need fewer occurences on the page to rank well.

    But it’s not about “keyword density.”

  40. True, If the keyword was required to be on the page then the correlation would be 100. But it’s not, it’s 53. (below)

    Q. Does having the keyword exist within the page affect ranking? A. Yes; It increases ranking.
    Data: [+53] 3530 3460 3490 3420 3420 3430 3440 3400

    Ok, It’s not about “Keyword Density” per se.

    What your saying is that “Moron” Keyword-Density is out, and that “Intelligent” Keyword-Density is in.

    Or Keyword Density “With the words used in proper context” is the way I phrase it.

    LSI in very hard to measure. KWD is measurable and still a statistically valid ranking factor if LSI is included. And out of 1600 factors only 130 or so show decent correlation with ranking results.

  41. Thanks for the link, Chuck. Is the methodology explained anywhere?

    The problem with this kind of statistical analysis is that you can make anything work if you use the right initial data. To buy into it at all, you just have to ignore how a search engine works in the first place.

    The words actually appearing on the page increases your chances of ranking? Well,of course it does. Shouldn’t it? It also indicates that someone’s actually trying to get ranked, which means they’ll do other things as well – like get links, etc.

    But keyword density, no matter how you measure it, is not based in reality… and there is no magic number.

  42. Your website is quality, I just signed up to your newsletter, so I can now go and unsubscribe to all the ‘IM Guru’s’ sales letters, I mean news letters!

    Thanks for the great information.

  43. But there is another, and very significant point.
    Does the search engine measure the “Keyword Density” of anything at all? The answer is “I Don’t Care”.

    Because I CAN measure the density along with 130 other factors and end up with a high ranking website. ANY ONE OR EVEN TWENTY of the factors may be bunk and have no direct effect at all. The POINT is that the other 110 factors ARE significant.

    There is no known “Magic Number”. But I can tell you that the top 10 websites will give you more clues about how to get to the top 10 than the bottom 10 will.

    And the top 10 websites are much more accurate than the top 10 SEO experts are.

    But your advice to the public is correct.
    According to my Hard-AS-Rock Data…
    People don’t need to know a THING about SEO.

    If you write a lot on your topic you will rank well.

    That’s what the hard data shows.
    And it’s getting more that way all the time.

  44. Chuck,

    You can measure hundreds of “factors,” but the only ones that matter are the ones that the search engine actually measures.

    There are plenty of factors that you can analyze and test for… but there’s no great revelation in discovering that a heading (say, h3) will mean slightly more than plain text.

    It may be more interesting when, through testing, you demonstrate that it doesn’t matter whether you use bold or strong tags for emphasis, because neither one of them does anything. Which you can prove with testing, but easily get wrong with statistical analysis of SERPs.

    Since the conventional wisdom of SEO says use bold/strong and because people are likely to use bold/strong when they use words that are actually important to the subject they are writing about… you get a skew in your stats that appears to favor bold/strong tags. But it’s just an illusion. The algorithm doesn’t care about bold/strong at all.

  45. Boy, you are just NOT getting this.

    I don’t CARE if the data shows a false correlation 30% of the time. Because the other 60% is good enough.

    A Keyword Density of 1% is highly rewarded by Google.
    Maybe that’s just because that is the normal level in normal writing.

    There is nothing WRONG with telling people that normal is good. Keyword stuffing of 3-10% will get you no-where and gives NO advantage. There is nothing WRONG with telling people that as SEO advice.

  46. OK, Chuck… you go on writing to hit a keyword density target, but please stop posting these claims here. I’m trying to teach people something that you don’t want to learn.

  47. JENNIFER D****** AND DANIEL D******:

    I can’t make any sense of what you’re posting as comments. I don’t know if it’s a language issue, but it sure looks like a whole lot of random text… lots of ALL CAPS…

    So if you want to post something that makes sense, great. If not, I’m going to go ahead and block your IP so I don’t have to keep deleting ‘em.

  48. ROFL,

    Dan that was one of the funnier posts I have read in a while with regards to the standard IM’ers view on how to sell people on a product.

    Funny but also spot on.

    As someone who takes great interest in SEO myself I could not agree with you more about the long tail. However it amazes me at how many people are confused about the concept.

    I haven’t read your blog much, today 2 pages, but I sure as hell will be reading it more, one of your other kicker posts was about writing naturally.

    Been saying this for years myself also, if you write naturally about your subject with a clear definition of the topic in place you will do 20x better.

    Not only will it be more informative, but it will also catch a heck of a lot of alternatives to the main topic, and as far as semantic ranking goes, well if and when it ever gets to a level of great importance, then no doubt you will also fair well in that area too.

    Keep up the awesome work you have another avid reader.


  49. Hi Dan,

    Great post i was one of thise getting all confused with all the guru launches; especially when Nancy was seemingly dissing AJ & Brad ….
    What is your opinion on Nancy’s latest, stated while being interviewed by Ken McCarthy(isn’t he an AJ/Brad insider?), stating that: reverse engineering successful sites is a waste cause things have evolved beyond the factors that got those sites their high positions?

    Keep up the get work, you are truly appreciated@

  50. Lincoln, I don’t know who’s working with who in internet marketing these days, I used to keep up with the gossip but it gets tiring. :D

    Trying to “reverse engineer” the on page factors statistically isn’t terribly productive, as I showed in my recent post on the silliness of keyword density.

  51. Thank you for posting that incredibly helpful advertisement, Nicole. Nicole is from Trellian, the owners of Keyword Discovery.

    Trellian, your online marketing efforts continue to impress us all. Whether it’s spamming forums with fake newbie questions and fake testimonials, or making helpful posts on blogs, you’re always on the spot to make sure nobody forgets you have something to sell.

    Thanks for adding SO MUCH VALUE with your useful comments, Nicole, and feel free to come back any time to post more ads on my blog. That’s why I run this site after all, so that you will have some place to advertise.

  52. Hi Dan

    I appreciate the free information and enjoyed reading your book. I don’t have the time to read every seo strategy on the net and most of them contradict each other which totally baffles someone like me who only presently uses adword to promote their business. This is why I find your site so refreshing, its as if the mist has finally cleared.

    I do have a question and that is to do with adword ppc advertising. I am only using a one page site at the moment and read before that I should have at least 15 pages of content to prevent being penalized by google which is presently happening. Is this correct?

    I have read before that I should have my ppc adverts go to the most relevant page. Is this true? I would prefer to have all my ppc go straight to my home page which is the main selling page of my website. If I have related content on second tier pages will this be good enough for google to view my home page as relevant?

    I have read SEOFS2007 and wondered if the info is relevant when all I’m after is an adword friendly page.( I am not interested in building the natural search results with this site. I’m working on another site for that.) If you have the time I would greatly appreciate your insight.

    One last question; If I write a page just for the search engines full of key words can there be an issue with key word stuffing and will search engines penalize me? (wont ever do this but just curious as all I want to do is build an adword page)

    Thank you for all the help.


  53. Thanks, Frank.

    Richard, at this point I’d recommend at least 10 pages of content linked from your landing pages to help with Google’s quality scoring situation.

    Unless you limit the keywords you target very narrowly (not always a bad idea, BTW) you may find it difficult to convert every visitor with your home page.

    If I have a page that’s converting well for a keyword, I’ll do whatever it takes to make that page work in Adwords.

    I do run across people who are trying to push Adwords traffic to a “squeeze page” or a single page sales letter, and it’s rough going. On the other hand, if you have 15 different squeeze pages and link them together, you can boost that quality score substantially.

    Doing basic on-page SEO is one part of creating a “relevant” landing page. Keyword strategy isn’t really much different between PPC and SEO, at the top level anyway.

    I’d be more worried about Adwords “slapping” a keyword stuffed page, than SEO implications. I wouldn’t expect a page like that to get ranked, but that’s hardly a penalty.

  54. Hi Dan

    Thanks for the quick response. I’m in the uk and wrote my message just before midnight. I was pleasantly shocked to see a response waiting for me when I woke up. Excellent and very appreciated.

    One thing I wanted to do was write my main sales page (homepage) and just have one link to my other pages at the base of my homepage. In your book you advised against this and instead using link text in the main text body. I don’t really want my customers wandering off my homepage. Would you have any ideas on how to link effectively without driving my customers off my main sales page?

    Thanks again.


  55. Hi Dan

    Sorry to monopolise your comments section with my questions but my thinking caps on this morning plus I cant think who else or where else to ask.

    Do I need to be as thorough with my key words research when writing content for my adword ppc campaign based website or can I just use the terms already in my campaign?

    My thought are it’s a combination of both, but I was curious to know if I need to go to the same depth as you suggest in SEOFS2007 or what extent I need to research?

    I’m really looking to save time as writing content takes time and I want to do as well as I can out of the content I’ve written without overdoing it. Not looking for short cuts just don’t want to waste my time.

    How long after I submit my updated site will google look at it and adjust my campaign. And what would be the next step after they do?

    Do you plan to write some info or a book on this subject as I’m sure this info isn’t just gold dust to me.

    Thanks again


  56. It’s cool, Richard – here is as good as anywhere.

    For landing pages, it’s can be difficult to visualize the transformation to a “landing zone,” so let me kind of map out one approach.

    Start with the home page, a sales letter for (whatever). You probably have a list of bullets that represent benefits, or at least you have a list of benefits. Maybe you have a list of problems and a statement of your solution.

    Now, each of those feature/benefit or problem/solution statements is a potential page of content, even a potential landing page. The easiest way to write these is to close with a call to action and/or a link back to the main sales page.

    Now, how you link to these extra pages from your home page is up to you. I like to use “named anchors” in the HTML code, so that if I have a statement on the home page, I can link to a secondary page with greater detail, and then link back to that named anchor, so the reader is returned to the same place in the sales letter.

    So they read, read, read, see an interesting benefit that’s especially important to them, maybe the product “Cures Acne.” “Cures Acne” links to a page that explains in more detail what a wonderful cure it is (almost a mini sales letter), closing with a link back to the main sales letter right at the point where the “Cures Acne” link appeared.

    They click the link, they read that page and are further persuaded, then they either click back to the home page (at the anchor point) or they click an order button.

    How you link to together depends on how you want to sell. I’ve used a benefit list down the left side as navigation, with every page closing with a call to action and order button. I’ve also used footer links to tie together groups of “squeeze” pages when other types of linking don’t make sense.

    It usually takes a few days after you make your changes to see real effects in the quality scoring. The best thing to watch for is changes in the minimum bid, since some keywords will never show a “Great” quality score.

    In terms of keyword strategy, it helps to use related terms if you are using broad matching and phrase matching, because you have to be relevant for every search query that those might trigger. Less important with exact matches.

    There is another book coming. We are still working on the final couple rounds of editing for “Pay Per Click Fast Start,” but I do expect we’ll have it out within the next few weeks.

  57. Hi Dan

    Brilliant answer, made me rethink my whole philosophy on how to link plus draw in extra custom. Before your advice I was struggling to think up articles. After reading your post I read through my sales page with a pen and paper in hand and looked for anything I could expand upon. Ideas just flew off the page. I guess this is one of those times when if you don’t know what to look for then you’ll never find it. And yet it was a simple idea that probably never would have occurred to me.

    One thing I was wondering is how you structure your articles and ensure you get all your key words in.

    While I’m in a writing mood I’m going to let my brain loose and start tapping away at my keyboard. Then once a few articles are done and dusted I was going to trawl through some key words and then try and work out how to introduce them into my articles and this is where I think I might get stuck. So I was wondering how you approach this and ensure you get all your key words in your articles?

    If its possible would you list a page you have optimized and inform me of the key words used in that page. I think this would kick my brain into gear.

    I’m a bit of a newbie at this and I guess I feel like some of my friends when they see a stripped motor sitting on a bench in my garage. They wouldn’t have a clue what bit does what or when or where it goes or even where to start.

    I’m eagerly awaiting your next book.

    Can a site map get ranked? Forgive me if I’m asking some dumb questions its just that I have little idea how things work in the SE world of indexing and ranking. Is seems to me that a sitemap is likely of having a high percentage of key words. Do search engines know that these are sitemaps and therefore index them. If not what is to stop anyone from writing pages that are key word heavy like a sitemaps?



  58. Hi Dan:

    Great post. I am a little late on this one, but better late than never. I love the long tail, but now it’s time to get to those 1% keywords with the real conversion. I liked the breakout.

    Ironically, (according to hittail) our site gets 92% of it’s traffic from the long tail of search. But finally, as a result of the links aging and the internal / external link factor having a high allinanchor concentration (across multiple core terms) as a result of some diverse IP link building over the last year, our site is devouring extremely competitive terms and making leaps and bound for competitive keywords.

    Dream terms like “SEO” in Google went from the hundreds into the top 70, SEO company from 180 into the 20’s, etc. Now I can’t wait to go back and fine tune the site’s internal links, theme is a bit and lose about 75% of the off-topic anchor text on poorly linked pages, seal down the obsolete content with “no follows” and see what happens. I foresee a top 10 for the keyword SEO and multiple variations in our near future.

  59. I wish you could talk a little more in “plain english.”” I have been involved in internet marketing and seo for 4 yrs. now, and I am totally confused after reading this post.

    Is the long tail approach good or not? Yes or No please?

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