Larry Brauner

The long tail has recently become a major buzzword both in business and online.

The long tail concept is rather abstract, so it can help to look at concrete examples. Let’s look at examples from my blogging experience.

The Long Tail of the Search

I started publishing Online Social Networking in November 2007, and I installed Google Analytics to monitor, analyze and track traffic to my website.

My blog, as you can probably guess, has been search optimized for the keyword online social networking.

Out of 25,515 visits that were due to search engines, only 1,469 were searches for online social networking. The remaining 24,056 visits were based on 10,769 other search terms. 3,658 of those 10,769 were variants of online networking.

Fewer than 500 of the 3,658 search terms were used to find my site more than one time. These search terms each occurred very infrequently, yet in aggregate they accounted for a great proportion of my visits.

The Long Tail of Social MediaThe long tail of the search refers precisely to this phenomenon.

Most searches are based on all sorts of low frequency keywords. See the diagram to the left in which the yellow region under the curve corresponds to the long tail.

The Long Tail of ROI

I spend several hours writing each post on my blog and another hour or so bookmarking and promoting it. My hope is that people will come read the article and subscribe. Just to keep things simple, consider subscribing to be my return-on-investment.

A couple of hundred people, more or less, will visit within a couple of days to read my piece. Some will comment, and some will subscribe.

As I mentioned above, my blog is search engine optimized. I receive more than 100 visitors daily just from search engines. Over time each individual article on the blog will be read by a handful of search visitors per day. That’s not a large number, but it eventually adds up.

That’s the long tail of ROI: The small number of residual daily visits and subscriptions eventually match or surpass the initial surge of visits and subscriptions when the article is first written and posted.

The Allure of Social Media for Marketing

There are many aspects of social media that are appealing. It’s free. It’s social. It’s far reaching. However, the long tail aspect of social media I’ve described makes it especially attractive to savvy marketers.

Well written and keyword researched content remains online indefinitely and attracts an enormous number of search engine visits over time, a benefit not enjoyed using other media.

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17 Responses to “The Long Tail and Social Media”

  1. Jeffrey D. on May 14th, 2009 12:04 am

    Great post!

    I’ve been learning about “keyword phrases” and longtail “keyword phrases” so when I saw your title, I thought I should read. And you are correct, long tail keywords will narrow down and focus more directly on your “niche”. It is not only better for SEO, but Google Adwords responds a lot better as well.

  2. Larry Brauner on May 14th, 2009 12:13 am

    My main focus was on the long tail as a concept and its importance in social marketing.

    However, you make some interesting points Jeff about the search aspects of the long tail effect.

  3. Debbie Morgan on May 14th, 2009 1:46 am

    Hi Larry!

    I think you are correct in that we need to optimize for long tail keywords AND participate in social marketing. Neither should be neglected. Thanks, Larry, for a great post.


  4. John S Veitch on May 14th, 2009 5:43 am

    Hello Larry

    There are interesting examples all over the Internet. I first discovered it when I studied how people used Ryze. I was surprised to discover that 80% of them don’t do anything, unless someone prods them.

    Here are some statistics on the number of connections LinkedIn members in my City of Christchurch, NZ, had in 2007. The timing was perfect, I could visit the files of 300 people, and my estimate of 340 members in total, is very close.

    Here is the link: LinkedIn Participation Analysis

  5. How I Direct More Traffic To My Page – Search Strategies on May 14th, 2009 11:56 pm

    Hi Larry,

    You are so right. Using long tail keywords is how I’ve built my search engine traffic from nothing to around 10,000 search visitors a month.

    I recently wrote about how I use keywords at the page linked above.


    Linda P. Morton

  6. Larry Brauner on May 15th, 2009 5:12 pm

    I attended an excellent webinar yesterday on the long tail. It was for a product that marketers can use to manage the long tail of the search. However, there were lots of great insights, so I’m sharing the link here:

    Long Tail Webinar

  7. Tracy on May 15th, 2009 6:03 pm

    I found your article quite useful and interesting. I have bookmarked the site for later usage.

  8. Steve on May 16th, 2009 2:44 pm

    Another interesting piece to do when researching long tail keywords is to find out the commercialization rate for that keyword; in other words, of searches for that keyword, what percentage of searchers are prone to buy. That’s a little more complicated topic, for which you need to pay for the software to research niches for these keywords. Thanks for all the great input on this post!

  9. Larry Brauner on May 16th, 2009 10:09 pm

    It is impossible Steve to optimize directly for long tail search terms. If long tail of the search terms occurred frequently, they wouldn’t be long tail.

    It is however possible to optimize for a wide variety of medium tail keywords. Linda Morton, in her comment above, didn’t explicitly say so, but that is a technique that she, I and many other search engine optimizers employ with success.

    Once your site is well underway and producing web analytics data about both visits and conversions, many refinements and efficiencies become possible.

  10. My Week on Twitter | Success and Then Some on May 29th, 2009 11:09 pm

    […] Check out ‘The Long Tail and Social Media’ […]

  11. Another Blogger on July 5th, 2009 1:52 am

    I agree with you about keywords, a powerful weapon for blogs. Keep posting great article brother!

  12. markyg on July 11th, 2009 1:46 pm


    I couldn’t agree more than you with the keyword researched content in support of B2B social marketing. I do it myself. It seems to work.


    1. Surely the ranking must drop over time if the blog is not updated.
    2. Blogs in general seem to appear less corporately professionally in Google. They are all over the place. Why can’t I get Google to give me a sub-list of all the high level sub-links even with site maps?
    3. So I guess I’m questioning how we control blogs. Sure we can control the appearance of the blog itself but not the interpretation of the content.
  13. Larry Brauner on July 11th, 2009 10:29 pm

    Blogs ought to be updated and so too regular websites. Search engines like finding new content.

    It is possible to create synergy between new and old content which, according to my observation, you’re not doing much of on your blog.

    I will give you a very big tip regarding control of your blog and the interpretation of its content:

    Consider each blog post to be a separate web page.

    A blog is no more than a collection of web pages arranged conveniently, more or less, for the benefit of the reader. Each page deserves to be search engine optimized and promoted just as you would pages of a regular web site.

    By the way, I also noticed that you don’t have many comments. Comments create a sense of community, and search engines like them too.

  14. jake jacob on July 16th, 2009 2:14 am


    I think it’s a bit disingenuous to not credit Chris Anderson who wrote the book “The Long Tail” three long years ago. Anyway, our entire company is built around the concept — see — all those sub categories are viable long tail niches.

  15. Link Building on March 6th, 2010 9:46 pm

    Well… interesting debate. I took some time to read some other articles too in regards to long tail and stuff. Things sound sensible. But my question is, what if long tail keywords are not working for a specific highly competitive industry and only shorter keywords are the key to success?

    Any thoughts?

  16. Larry Brauner on March 7th, 2010 7:01 pm

    This isn’t an article about search engine optimization or keywords. However, in answer to your question, consider the following points:

    • It’s not either or. Long tail supplements short and medium tail.
    • Most search results are long tail.
    • The more competitive a market, the more useful long tail keywords are, since in such a market, it’s difficult to consistently dominate short tail search terms.
  17. Joyanne on April 17th, 2012 3:16 pm

    Thanks for the article. Helps to make sense of how the Long Tail theory applies in social media.

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