Teaching Examples

Are you making the most of your long tail?
April 24, 2007, 1:15 pm
Filed under: blogs, journalism, online, search, SEO

On Saturday (the day of the week when traffic to this blog is usually at its lowest), I saw a surprising surge in visits. Turned out a particular post had been linked on Techmeme, and it being a slow day, the link sat on the Techmeme front all day.

When I went into my FeedBurner stats, I thought what I saw would make a pretty good lesson for people who don’t understand the importance of SEO and bringing people to your site via search.

On the day in question, 427 visitors came. There were 473 visits and 763 pageviews.

But what did they look at? This blog has (well, had, on Saturday) 697 posts. So a visitor might have landed on any one of those, instead of on the home page.

The home page had 120 views, according to FeedBurner.

The post linked on Techmeme: 145 views (more than the home page).

The third most-viewed page on Saturday: 25 views (a lot less than either one of the top two pages that day).

Two additional pages were viewed more than 20 times. All others were viewed fewer than 20 times.

So here’s the math: 120 + 145 + 25 + 23 + 21 = 334. And 334 divided by 763 pageviews comes out to 44 percent.

That means 56 percent of the pageviews fell in the long tail, which is considered the secret to Amazon.com’s success — among other things.

In part, this explains why blogs that have been active longer tend to rank higher in the various databases, such as Technorati, that are designed to rank them.

A new blog has no tail yet — or its tail is very short.

News Web sites that lock up the archives behind a paid firewall have cut off their own tail.

Those 56 percent of pageviews that fall outside the most-viewed pages of the day are not individually valuable — you couldn’t hope to get an advertiser excited about buying space on one of those pages. No, their value lies in the aggregate. The more often someone’s Google search brings him or her to my blog site, the more likely that person is to bookmark the site, or add it to an RSS reading list. And the more interesting posts found by someone who comes to the site for the first time — by the Techmeme link, for example — the more likely that person is to return in the future.

How do you build up a habitual audience in today’s information universe of random searches?

You prove again and again that you are the destination where many of their searches end.

And that, my friend, is why the content in the long tail is the most important content on your site.

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4 Comments so far
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Well put Mindy. I constantly have to tell folks that their home page is only one of many pages — “doors” — into their sites. Consistent posting over a long period of time creates thousands of entry points, and the more you have, the better your baseline traffic will be.

The “Diggification” (and, prior, “Slashdotification”) of the Web puts a lot of emphasis on server-crushing spikes, but just as you noted, the true power lies in the thousands of older stories that are still enticing people to your site.

Comment by Mac Slocum

When I was new to blogging eons ago (December 10, 2006) I just thought I’d pound out some thoughts for a close circle of aquaintances. Then I saw an interesting issue on someone else’s blog and left a comment – and was shocked when folks linked from there to me. When you popped over and left the comments and link to the cattle drive story, people began to notice…as they did with a link from Howard Owens. The dyamics of what links did was fascinating…but you are right on about the “long tail. In the last month a good batch of the new incoming are from google or other searches that find my blog due to content. Thanks for dragging me out and onto the waves. Would have stayed in the kiddie pool forever otherwise.

Comment by Cyndy Green

Cyndy, I think that is the sweetest comment ever posted here. I’m really glad you’re in the deep end, because lots and lots of people are learning a lot from your blog now!

Comment by Mindy McAdams

This is a very interesting post! I’m still learning a lot about blogging myself.

Comment by Angela Grant

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