SEO and the Business of Content

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Long Tail Search and Universal Search

Just because you can reach the masses online doesn’t mean that you need to, or should even want to. More is not always better.

Frank Dale, VP of Compendium Blogware, focuses on the “long tail search” in his work with clients. Long tail searches are simply those that are based on longer search phrases: “size 11 red men’s Nike running shoes +California” versus “running shoes,” for instance.

Saries agrees that long tail search holds promise for organizations trying to drive traffic with content as well as traditional content providers. Importantly, he notes, search engines are finding that users are using longer, more specific search phrases to find detailed answers. “By targeting the specific terms most related to a business’ products or services, they can compete for the most valuable customers,” he says.
Organizations “win” with long tail search phrases—winning meaning that their websites show up higher in the list of results returned by the search engine. Long tail search, says Dale, is not something that the very large content providers are really interested in. They’re looking more at two- to three-word phrases, so “long tail is a little bit too specific for them,” he says.

Alhan Keser, CMO for Blue Fountain Media in New York City, a web design, development, and marketing company, says that another key point about businesses that use long tail search is that they have a higher conversion rate—the percentage of visitors who actually make a purchase. “The reason for this is that someone looking up a product or service using very specific words is most probably at a more advanced stage of the buying cycle than someone searching for a generic term,” he says.

SEO will remain important for some time, and it is important for organizations to keep an eye on how the world of online search continues to change and what the future will bring in terms of both opportunities and challenges. The next big thing on the horizon right now is universal search, according to More Visibility’s Leitch. Search engines are going to be “relying heavily on universal search, which will provide users with a combination of results. When you type a word in a search box, you’ll see blogs, news, tweets, images, and videos.” This, she says, means that, more than ever, site owners will need to make sure that they’re managing all of their digital assets, not just text, to maximize their presence online. In other words, businesses will want to think about all of the various ways they can get information out on the web, beyond their website. This might include YouTube, paid advertising, social media, article placement, and news release placement.

Inbound links present another opportunity, says IMARKETING’s Jacobs, who notes that traditional content providers have an edge here. “Many other quality content sites won’t want to link to a monolith like AOL,” he says. “You want links from quality sites relevant to the topic area and, hopefully, referencing the topic in their anchor text.” In addition, he suggests, “encourage them to go deep, linking to deep site pages to really help push those pages to the top.”

All of this can seem a bit overwhelming, but “it’s not rocket science,” asserts D&B’s Saries, who recommends that businesses interested in expanding their online presence begin by taking advantage of the many sources of information that are readily available, often at no cost. “Google publishes information on SEO tactics, and they have a blog for webmasters that can help you understand some key metrics. They have a whole video series on YouTube that you can watch and tutorials on how to use a free tool like Google Analytics to better understand your market.”

Leitch advises website owners to decide which particular tactics are best for them and to not worry about gaining a presence across all channels. “You’re not going to be successful if you spread yourself too thin,” she says. “Having a plan of attack is important. Instead of trying to juggle one or more blogs, use press releases, post on YouTube, and use LinkedIn and Facebook; pick what’s likely to be most effective for your business and the community your company is trying to talk to,” she says.

A good starting place to develop that focus is to get a handle on how traffic is currently coming to their site, says Saries. “Start to see who’s visiting your site, how they’re getting there, when they come. Then, you can go further and further to say ‘they’re coming from Facebook or Twitter or Yahoo Search, or maybe from a local directory.’” This information can provide good direction in terms of where to focus additional efforts to draw traffic to the site, he says.

And, Jacobs adds, take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the behemoths. “Learn from the big boys, and don’t repeat their mistakes,” he says. “Let them spend the big dollars testing. See what they’re doing, see what works and what doesn’t, and modify your strategy accordingly.” In the end, though, he stresses focus on quality. “Better content will get you more readers, more links, and more activity, and the search engines will notice.”

Yes, the massive content providers such as AOL and Demand Media are online presences to be reckoned with. However, there remains an insatiable demand for a wide range of content—to inform complex decision making, to form relationships with organizations, to entertain, to answer immediate questions, and more. So there is room for content producers of all types. Yet this newfound focus on search-driven content production shines a spotlight on the importance of search in the content industry, reinforcing the increasing power of search in the content business.


Blue Fountain Media
Compendium Blogware
Draw the Dog
Dun & Bradstreet
More Visibility

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