Thursday, August 14, 2008

Head, Torso & Long Tail keywords

In 2008 has been good when it comes to keyword research. The major search engines have started to opening up in providing insight into keyword search volumes and as a result there have been a couple of great tools that can be used for conducting keyword research.

  • Microsoft has been beta testing their Ad Intelligence tool that communicates search volume based on MSN/Live Search data.

  • Google added a new layer to Google Trends where they introduced normalized search volume numbers and made updates to their keyword tool

  • Yahoo finally killed off the Overture keyword suggestion tool.

Improved tools and more accurate search volume counts should lead to better keyword research and it has, but there is still a strategy that is required for keyword selection. Over the past 12-18 months you've probably heard of the phrase long-tail, long-tail of search or long-tail keywords, well this is but one component of your keyword research that should make up your keyword strategy for your online campaigns.

Let's talk about the "keyword body" that make up an effective keyword strategy. This "body of keywords" consists of three parts; the head, the torso and the long-tail. Here's a little explanation of each component.

Head Phrases - these are more common key phrases that are more general in nature that may be used by searchers earlier on in their search experience. Due to the fact that these phrases are more general in nature you can expect to see a lot of single words that make up the head component of keyword strategy. As it relates to search, "head" words tend to have higher search volumes, are extremely competitive and have a lower conversion rate. An example of a head type word that a searcher might query in a search engine is "electrical".

Torso Phrases - torso phrases tend to be a little more specific and as a result are less competitive while still having a decent amount of search volume happening. Torso phrases tend to be better converting than head words as the searcher has refined their search looking for a more specific set of information. An example of a torso phrase that a user might type into a search engine is "electrical conduit", while it is not as general as "electrical" it is more refined and identifies a sub-topic of the head word "electrical".

Long-Tail Phrases - long-tail refers to phrases that are not nearly as common, are more specific and as a result have less search volume. The phrase "long-tail was coined by Chris Anderson in late 2004 to describe businesses that sell a large variety of unique items in small quantities. Long-tail has also been referred to as the 80/20 rule where "for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes...". When it comes to keyword research, long-tail keywords are those that tend to be very specific, consisting of 3-5+ words, are less competitive in the search results and tend to be higher converting. Using our example from above, an example of a long-tail phrase that a user might search for is "2 inch EMT electrical conduit". Youcan see how the long-tail phrases are more specific as the user gets close to making a more informed decision about their original topic of search.

Performing keyword research is more than just trying to optimize or bid on keywords that have high search volumes.

  • It's more about optimizing for the right keyword at the right time.

  • It's understanding that there is a need to optimize or bid on head, torso and long-tail phrases combined.

  • It's determining when it's best to use a sponsored campaign to augment an organic one.

  • It's understanding which phrases you target marketing are searching for as they prepare to make a purchase

  • It's understanding that there is more to keyword strategy than simply bidding on keywords or optimizing keywords.

Keyword strategy should mean looking at head, torso and long-tail keywords and seeing what is right for you and what is right for the searchers who are looking for your website and your products or services that you offer.

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