• http://www.periscopix.co.uk Ben Gott

    I couldn’t agree more George, Who are these pundits and where do they live!?

    I’ve never been able to get my head around why Google advocate (and they do) the few broad match term approach. I refuse to be a sceptic on this……

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    Thanks Ben,

    You hear some pretty wild stuff at conferences these days. How some of these folks get speaking gigs is beyond me!

  • PayMePerClick

    I’ve noticed that many, if not most, of my long tail keywords are inactive due to relatively low search volume. I think this is absurd especially since Google won’t release the number of searches that would get you out of this “Red Zone”. These were the keywords that were THE most profitable because they were very descriptive and thus cheap since no one else was really competing. Now Google is basically paying you to bid on phrase or broad matched keywords with very high competition so they can get more money out of advertisers.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    Excellent observation! We’ve seen the same trend. Google seems to be interested in pruning the tail for you. To a degree, and I’ve heard this off the record from Googlers, there are probably some computational constraints on what they can handle. When you think about the complexity of an auction just within a single account: “how many ads would phrase match or broad match to a given user search?” and then multiply that by all the advertisers in that space it is a beast — more so than the organic listings because of the dynamic nature of the bids and QS. Simplifying the problem by ignoring low volume KW is somewhat understandable.

    As described in posts referenced above, I don’t think that makes Google more money, I think it makes them less money. The blended performance leads to a smaller program if the efficiency targets remain the same.

  • http://www.efrontier.com sidshah

    Nice article George. I am in full agreement with you. There appear to be two trends in the marketplace. On the one hand user queries are getting longer but on the other Google’s matches are broadening faster an many waistlines. Even then, I have analyzed search campaigns and have found that the tail contributes between 10% to 50% of the total marketing volume.

    From an analytics standpoint, I can see where the “dont bother with the tail” and “tail terms are inefficient” come from. People simply look at short term data and find many inefficient tail terms. The truth is head and tail terms have to be looked at different windows when measuring performance. My research has shown that about 55% of tail terms in a well run campaign that get clicks in one month but not in the consequtive one. In other words, tail terms need a longer window when you evaluate their performance.

    Also in full agreement with you tail terms need automation and algorithms comment. The volume and sparsity of data on tail terms is an interesting mathematical problems and needs sophistcated modeling techniques to accurately bid them. If one cant do the modeling and bid optimization it is not the tail’s problem, its yours !

  • http://www.alanmitchell.com.au alanmitchell

    Hi George,

    Great article. Like your point about “mixing apples and oranges”, and the inefficiency of appearing for long-tail searches through the head. If long-tails and the head perform very differently, grouping them together and using the same bids for both will no doubt result in over-spending on the head and under-spending on the tail.

    I recently carried out similar research on searches of varying word lengths (1-18 words) and came to similar conclusions to yourself regarding long-tail profitability.

    Searches of 5 words or more (what I described as long-tails) accounted for 21% of clicks, but delivered a disproportionally high 40.5% of conversions ( http://www.alanmitchell.com.au/techniques/benefits-of-long-tail-keywords/ ). This makes complete sense – people making long-tail searches have arguably carried out the large majority of their pre-purchase research and are often further along in the buying cycle and more likely to buy.

    I also found that CTR and conversion rate were considerably higher for searches of 5 words or more, and cost per click prices were considerably less / average positions considerably higher for long-tail searches.

    Guess my conclusion is the same as yours: there is massive value in the tail. Any effort by Google to play down their value and encourage advertisers towards more expensive head keywords through “low search volume” scaremongering is in my opinion a short-sighted measure to increase Google revenue (“low search volume” keywords are hardly “low search volume” from what I’ve found http://www.alanmitchell.com.au/techniques/how-low-is-low-search-volume/ ).

    What’s more, as search engines evolve, users will come to expect more personalised and relevant results, making long-tail relevancy all the more important. Long-tail keywords are, and will continue to be, an essen-tail (apologies – couldn’t resist) component of PPC marketing for a long time to come.

    Thanks for an insightful post as always.