The Anatomy of the Long Tail Search

This is a guest post by Ben Hook, a search engine marketer and owner of UK based online marketing company, Navaro.

Udi Manber, Google’s VP of Engineering’s comment that approximately 20 – 25% of searches performed each day are completely new queries helps to highlight the increasing need to understand how your customers are going to be looking for your products or services on the long tail of searches.

Keyword research is essential to any search engine optimization campaign.  It helps ensure the time and effort put in to attain those high rankings pays off with an increase in the amount of conversions received. The main focus of keyword research though, is to highlight the most rewarding keywords to focus on in terms of traffic driven, a job they do to the best of their ability.

The Long Tail Search

With 2 billion searches a day this results in 250 million new queries. This works out at 182.5 billion new, never before searched queries a year.  This is rough maths and there’s probably other factors to take into account but you get the point. You can bet the majority of these keywords are going to be variations of previous searches and more likely than not will have four or more words in the query.  You can also be pretty sure that the most important keywords e.g. the product name will be included within these four words.

The trick to capturing these new queries and making sure you get ranked is to picture the way that your potential customers will be looking for your product or service.  For example, if you sell scissors you will most likely want to be showing up on long tail searches such as “where can I buy cheap scissors” and lots of variations on this theme.

Capturing the Long Tail Search

To make sure you are optimized for these sorts of queries we need to break it down. Most long tail search queries can be broken into two parts, being variables and the constants, in this case “where can I buy” and “cheap scissors”.

The “where can I buy” is an example of a variable in the search, the part which will change each time to create these new queries. We can ignore this for now, as this will change constantly resulting in too many variations to realistically target.

The constant in this example is the “cheap scissors”. This is your product of service, your core offering that doesn’t change despite what is put either side of it. It is important to note that if your scissors aren’t cheap this process still applies but the constant in this equation would be just “scissors”  : )

By keeping the “on page” focus on the constant you can optimize well for the core phrases. Ideally the variables will be optimized for via anchor text which will help to strengthen and increase the rankings on the long tail terms. The trick is understanding and recognizing the constant for your product and not targeting a constant that is too long or short.


The variables are the unknown queries, the string of words that appear fleetingly and are never searched again. Owning the constant is the trick to capturing these long tail searches.

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