I’m at our Search Engine Strategies conference in Chicago this week. During one of my sessions, I got another reminder of how the trend or meme that “everyone knows” might not actually be that widespread. In this instance, it was about “the long tail,” the phrase popularized by Wired editor Chris Anderson to describe among other things consumer demand for products that extend well beyond the popular products that might easily come to mind. Chris describes the long tail more on his blog here, and his essay that sparked everything off can be found at Wired in The Long Tail.
I regularly present the “Introduction To Search Engine Marketing” seminar at our conferences. I’ve been doing that session under that name or slightly different ones since 1999. A key part of it is discussing keyword research and how while focusing on most important terms are great, you also want the terms at the far end of the search tail as well. My Search’s Long Tail post over at the SEW Blog explains this in more depth, and how I’ve described search’s long tail in the past as going after the “onesies and twosies.”
I did a major overhaul to my presentation for our show in San Jose last August and added in the phrase “long tail” to one of my slides, explaining how it relates to the search tail concept. I figured it would hlep ensure I was making points that hit with concepts my audience would probably understand. Here’s the slide:
When I came to this slide during my presentation in San Jose, I asked the audience how many were familiar with the long tail concept. Practically no one was. Yesterday, the same thing happened with my Chicago audience. Of about 300 people, maybe 10 percent of the hands went up when I asked how many knew about the long tail.
This group of people were all relatively new to search marketing, but most of them had some familiarity with it when I did another survey. In other words, they weren’t web/tech newbies. The vast majority of them had some degree of experience with the internet and web commerce. Nevertheless, it still surprises me that so few have heard of the “long tail.” That’s especially so when so much of what I personally read makes references to it. It’s easy to assume everyone else must know about it, but that turns out not to be the case. Perhaps that will change with Chris’s book on the topic comes out next year.