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Sell a Few High Demand Items or Lots of Low Demand Items?  Understand the Power of the Long Tail Principle Applied to Keywords.

The Long Tail Principle

The graph is a popularity curve.  Notice that the area is equal for both of the shaded areas.  For websites, this allows niche websites that target long keywords to be successful.  Here is what you need to know:

The Long Tail Principle: Introduction     The Long Tail Principle Intro

The Long Tail Principle has implications for your website, particularly your keyword selection when doing your Niche Research. It basically says that the greatest number of people are in the “long tail” of a popularity distribution curve (see above).


In other words, the Long Tail Principle says that you can do better by selling a higher quantity of less-popular items instead of focusing your effortson selling a relatively few very popular items. A book that deals with this topic is The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. The amount of success that can be had by applying this principle can be seen in the business models of both Amazon and Netflix.


You can buy everything at They have central warehouses scattered across the country. I have personally seen some of them. They are enormous. Instead of having multiple retail outlets that focus on selling only the most popular items to people, they sell everything. They sell fewer of each item, but they sell more total items. This is the long tail in action.


Netflix is similar. The hometown movie rental store has limited space. The carry only new releases and popular older films. Netflix carries everything. A video store may rent a new release 100 times, but they only have 100 new releases. Netflix can carry and rent thousands of videos that may only be rented 10-15 times each. But, by having videos that are appealing to the margins of the market, they end up renting more and profiting more than the local store. 


Warehousing makes this model viable. Most physical businesses can’t adopt such a strategy apart from the internet. The logistics are too prohibitive. But, if the decentralizing power of the internet is used, the Long Tail Principle works.

The Long Tail Principle: Keywords     The Long Tail Principle Keywords

So, why does this matter for your website? Keywords.


If you are building a content-based website, which I recommend, keywords are critical.  Some keywords are searched millions of times a day.  To capture traffic from those millions of people, big companies spend millions of dollars.  You can’t compete with them just like mom & pop can’t compete with Wal-mart.


In order to take advantage of the Long Tail Principle, you must tailor your keyword selection toward the tail and be a prolific writer.  If you write an article on a topic that has heavy competition on the search engines already, you will likely get little or no traffic from it.  So, write often, publish lots of valuable content, and focus the content of each page so that it centers on a marginal keyword.


Fewer people will find that webpage, but some will.  If you write a lot of pages, those people add up to a steady traffic stream.  Once you have a steady traffic stream, you will get more backlinks, more PageRank, hopefully become an authority, and then be able to rank for more competitive keywords.  But, the Long Tail Principle is key.

The Long Tail Principle: Conclusion     The Long Tail Conclusion

If you ignore the principle, the traffic will likely ignore you.  Get the marginal traffic, especially if you are a new website.  Put the statistics to work for you.  Make sure you understand both this and Pareto's Principle Websites as you are starting your online venture, and you will likely have realistic expectations and achieve your goals.


To tap into the long tail, however, you need keyword tools.  You can use any of the ones on this Free Online Keyword Tools List.  I personally use and highly recommend the versatile Keyword Elite 2.0 for your keyword needs.


Next up: Website Monetization.



Copyright © 2010, Issachar Knowledge, LLC: The Long Tail Principle

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