Are You Stranding Your Long-Tail Customers?

Not everyone coming to your website is in the early phases of the buying process and starting from scratch. Some of your visitors come to you with their research completed. They know what they want. They're looking for you to deliver quickly and easily.

How do you recognize these customers? The easiest way to identify them is through the keywords and phrases they use to find you in the search engines. Look for the "long-tail" terms ... the under-represented but highly targeted traces of their intentions.

With a little planning on your part, you'll discover these individuals are often your most pain-free conversions. If you treat them properly, that is!

Long-tail search terms

We talk about how search terms reflect the intention of the customer and tell us roughly where that customer is in the buying decision process. This information is gold!!

Someone who types in "golf clubs" is most likely gathering information about what to look for in clubs, what manufactures are available - this person is early in the buying decision process. Which means this person, just yet, is less likely to take the final conversion action we want her to take. So we tailor persuasion scenarios that support her information-gathering needs and help build her confidence that we're the source for her when she's ready to buy. We can provide her with intermediate conversion opportunities that can bring her back when she's ready to make her decision or do more research (pdf downloads, store locations, etc.).

Someone who types in "Ping Rapture Driver with Graphite Shaft" has already gathered information and is much later in the buying process. This is a long-tail search term, and this person is probably very close to taking the final conversion action.

If you sell golf clubs, you are going to find yourself in the difficult position of having to compete on the "golf clubs" key phrase with everyone else who sells golf clubs (13,100,000 results for this term on Google today). It's pretty hard to secure high visibility in the rankings with such a broad term or convert those who click through on this term.

That Ping key phrase? 16,400 terms on Google today. These are wildly better odds on a term that has a higher probability of leading to a conversion.

However, conducting a long tail search can leave us frustrated. When we are so specific in the terms we use, we expect to get targeted results specific to our search query. But all too often, it seems the more specific we get when we search, the harder it is to find what we're looking for!

My long-tail experience

I frequently travel to a small Caribbean Island to visit family. I have a seven-hour layover in Puerto Rico - a common torture for travelers heading to the smaller islands. For my last visit, I figured instead of sitting in the airport trying to entertain myself for seven hours, I could find a fun day tour to go on.

I started my search with a specific key phrase the identified my need: "puerto rico tours from the airport"

The paid ads didn't begin to speak to my specific search terms (words that reflect both my intention and my stage in the buying process - in other words, I'm not looking for general information here). The very first organic listing looked as if it might provide some interesting information about tours that could meet my need, so I clicked on it.

The page was barely relevant to my search query. There are tours listed in the bottom portion of this page, but I couldn't quickly learn about them because not a one is linked. I need to find out if any of these tours will provide full transportation to and from the airport and if the times allocated for the tours will fit into my layover period. Information in the active window is a dead end, and the left navigation links are far too general.

I tried rephrasing my search: "stopping over in puerto rico"

There are no paid listings under this search term and the only one that could potentially answer my question is the very first listing. I clicked through.

I click on "Read More" (not a great call to action) under the promising "Stop Over in San Juan" header.

There are some great tips here, but absolutely no way for me to engage further. I can't click on a tour as there are no links to specific tours.

Acknowledging the long tail

Many businesses assume the long tail in search terms will bring a minimal amount of traffic, so they don't create landing pages for these keywords or key phrases. Instead, they focus on the high demand, more general and "expensive" keywords when they're working on their SEO and SEM strategies. But keep in mind, the customers who type in long tail search terms are usually highly motivated and ready to buy.

It's easy to create landing pages specific to these long tail keywords that will result in organic placement if we use our SEO basics. There's really no reason those of us searching on the long-tail end of the spectrum should have such a hard time finding what we're looking for.

I still need to find a tour that can occupy me for under seven hours in Puerto Rico. I'm still hoping clever businesses know the need is there and provide appropriate tours with transportation to and from the airport. I am ready to purchase this tour!

I just need to find the clever business that can make itself known to me, then deliver the goods!

Volume 143: 11/15/06

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