At Long (Tail) Last: Categorical Thinking And The Long Tail

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Search marketers would love to triple the number of relevant long-tail keywords in their paid search campaigns. Long-tail keywords cost less since they attract fewer competitors, and unless you’re trying to blindly attract traffic, they perform much better than short-tail terms.

Unfortunately, many search marketers tell me the cost/benefit analysis of building out the long-tail still doesn’t warrant taking on such a time consuming task. That is, until we talk about how categorical thinking can help make it a more fruitful, less time consuming task. An innovative approach to building out keywords, categorical thinking cannot only slash the time required to build out the long-tail; it can also provide a categorized roadmap for the build out prioritized by opportunity level.

Still need convincing?

Anyone who still questions the value of long-tail keywords should remember these less competitive, less expensive, better performing keywords boost a keyword portfolio’s click through rate and ROI. Plus, according to a recent Experian Hitwise Report (October 2011), searches of four or more words account for more than 30 percent of search traffic. Not only do long-tail keywords catch searchers with specific products in mind, further down the purchase funnel; having them in a keyword portfolio also prevents more generic broad match terms from being triggered with less relevant ad copy and inevitably higher CPCs.

Many long tails not all that long

Many of the best known brands and agencies still rely on broad match to capture long-tail search traffic. Every time they do it, money gets flushed that could otherwise be spent effectively. Just thinking about the process can trigger feelings of wastefulness: run an SEM campaign on broad match, take time to sift through search query data, determine what keywords could be effective and add those to the portfolio, determine which ones won’t be and add those to a negative list.  Then try to find time to eat lunch or leave work at the end of the day. This approach bleeds money and time; it’s hardly a logical way to maximize profitability.

Plus, marketers just cannot anticipate the many different ways people will search for a totally unassociated product or service that could trigger a broad match ad. If I bid on the term “sheets” on broad match, for example, and want to sell bedding, I need a long list of negative terms: music, metal, data and many more. In fact, categorical analysis has helped uncover more than 1,500 negative terms associated with the keyword sheets, and the list keeps on growing.

Broad match also puts less relevant ad copy and landing pages in front of searchers, who would respond better to an ad that’s more relevant to their individual search. Broad match wastes time and money and damages quality scores.

Think categorically

First, categorize all keywords within a portfolio by category and subcategory. Marketers with relatively small keyword portfolios can begin to tackle this on their own, but search marketers with larger keyword portfolios should use an automated tool like Zenya (which is pioneering the analysis of keyword potential by category) or commission a categorical keyword gap analysis.

With keywords grouped into categories and subcategories, resist the urge to dive right in randomly. Instead, determine which categories could provide the most growth. Zenya analyzes several unique metrics that identify the best opportunities to accelerate campaign growth. Categorical keyword-to-impression (KTI) ratios, for example, help marketers identify product categories with the potential to drive high growth in impressions.

A global retailer recently analyzed categorical keyword-to-impression data and found its “shirts,” subcategory represented only one percent of its “clothing” keywords but simultaneously generated three percent of all “clothing” impressions. The shirts subcategory was tagged as having high growth potential, and that subcategory’s KTI ratio helped prioritize it against other high growth potential subcategories. The categories and subcategories driving the most traffic with the fewest keywords have the most potential to deliver lift in impressions and traffic when marketers expand their long tail keywords. In this example, the retailer can significantly grow impressions and traffic by adding quality long-tail keywords to that “shirts” subcategory. This same strategic planning also works for marketers optimizing to clicks or conversions, not just impressions.

Expand those categories

The prioritized road map changes everything.

Now even the old methods for building out the long-tail make more business sense. Dive into those product SKUs, descriptions, catalog numbers and more. When marketers know they’re working in the categories that have the most potential to deliver, the returns improve and it’s easier to make a case for building out the long tail.

Marketers can build out the long tail in literally seconds. Forget past bad experiences with standard keyword generators, and try out a categorical keyword repository. Match categories with high growth potential to hundreds or thousands of long tail keywords.

Take the keywords that make sense and work magic. Swear off broad match, write compelling copy, set optimal bids, get more relevant and watch profits grow.

About the Author

Robin Simkins is General Manager of Zenya, which offers the world’s first categorical repository of search engine marketing keywords. Email her at rsimkins@zenya.com.

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4 Comments

  1. good robin because repository of search engine marketing keyword.

  2. I'm going to wager that less than 1% of the internet's population has any clue as to what you just wrote.

  3. Appreciate your comment. The problem is something that many advanced paid search marketers have battled for years, and although categorical thinking is a new concept and not easy for everyone to grasp, it is revolutionary in its ability to streamline the process of expanding search campaigns quickly and productively.

  4. Pretta Manger

    I understood it.