The Long Tail Effect: Why Word Count Matters In Search Query Optimization

Many variables play an important role when you’re analyzing search engine optimization efforts. This includes factors such as site keywords and content development, as well as the queries being searched for.

It can be tempting for marketers to optimize results for shorter queries and ignore the long tail, but how much traffic is overlooked this way? And how does the quality of that traffic impact its relevance?

Data provided by advertising network Chitika shows the correlation between query length and ad performance, looking at user engagement as well as the volume of traffic on a given site. In the image below, you can see the relationship between query length by character count and raw impression volume:

As might be expected, the data shows that a majority of search engine queries are shorter. Almost 75% of impression share comes from queries shorter than 30 characters. The remaining 25% is comprised of longer queries, with a steep decline in volume the more verbose the queries get.

Even based on these figures alone, ignoring the long tail of longer search queries means you fail to capitalize on 30% of impression volume – not an insignificant number by any stretch.

Longer Queries = Deeper Engagement

Delving a little deeper, though, the data also explores the relationship between search query length and user engagement, looking at the CTR as a function of query length to gauge the performance of these longer queries, as seen below:

Looking at the data, we can see that hits from these longer queries. despite making up a minority of the queries, perform better among users. The CTR on impressions from queries longer than thirty characters is a full 40% more than the CTR from impressions with shorter queries – so, despite being 30% of volume, they have the potential to be a good deal more than 30% of the revenue.

Take Advantage Of Less Competitive Environment

Additionally, these longer queries are likely not as competitive when it comes to keywords, making their potential for revenue higher still. Ads that come in with a potentially higher CTR, but a lower cost, may make sense to target, depending on your vertical. Besides the fact that they cost less, because these queries are less competitive, marketers are less likely to run into a situation where they need to stop and readjust bidding on a campaign because a competitor has outbid for the top slots.

To take advantage of this revenue potential, marketers must look at where these queries are being made. A previous study looked at what search engines were most likely to have the most verbose users, looking at search query verbosity across the largest search engines.

Though there’s a lot of revenue to be found in the long tail, it’s important not to neglect the higher-volume head keywords. However, the combination of higher user engagement, and the lower chance of competitiveness in ad buying, makes the end of the query length spectrum a worthwhile market to consider.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics | Analytics & Marketing Column | Channel: Analytics


About The Author: is a Data Solutions Engineer at Chitika and a lead author for reports by Chitika Insights, the research arm of the online ad service. After graduating with a B.A. in Business Administration from Ithaca College, Gabe has been pursuing his passion for technology by researching and analyzing new and emerging trends in the online world.

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