Blogging / Et Al / SEO

Redefining the Long Tail: Giving Hope to Bloggers Everywhere

If you’ve been on the blogosphere for a while, chances are you’ve heard the term “The Long Tail.” I won’t give you a dissertation-length explanation because other people already have, (including Problogger) so here’s the gist of The Long Tail as it pertains to SEO and the Web: the longer your search term, the narrower the niche, the longer the tail; the shorter you search term, the broader your niche, the shorter the tail.

What does that mean for you? It means that if you write about a broad topic with a short tail, your audience is less likely to find you because there’s so much competition, but if your topic is narrow with a long tail, your audience will have a better chance finding you because there’s less competition.

What does that mean for me? It means it’s pretty much a miracle you’ve found this blog. If you haven’t noticed, blogging is a pretty popular topic on the blogosphere.

Truth be told, I had The Long Tail all wrong. Somewhere along the way, I picked up the term and didn’t confirm its definition, so I’ve been preaching The Long Tail to myself for months thinking I was quite the smartypants. When I started research for this post, my idiocy surprised me, and I once more confirmed that I’m a professional at making a fool of myself.

While I’m being foolish, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that my definition of the long tail (and its counterpart, the short tail) is better for bloggers than the one from the experts. Why? The official Long Tail definition sent me spiraling into depression because I blog about a broad topic and my competitors established themselves in this market years ago. I’m not saying that I don’t have a fighting chance, but the odds are stacked against me. And formulas, charts, and graphs exist to prove it.

But I’m going to prove the formulas, charts, and graphs wrong by redefining The Long Tail. My New Long Tail (and its counterpart, my New Short Tail) is less about keywords, niches, and competition and more about the timeliness and longevity of your content.

New Long Tail (NLT) content has a long life; it can be read at any time and still be relevant to the reader. This is the kind of content people save to their bookmarks because they know they’ll want to reference it later. On the other hand, New Short Tail (NST) content has a short life span; it’s relevant for only a short time—days or hours—and typically has a one-time use for its readers.

Both are important to your blog’s health. On my personal blog, for example, my NLT posts of concert and restaurant reviews are the most read and most attractive to search engines, but my regular readers—my friends and family—enjoy reading the NST posts because they’re about my personal life and what I did today. On that blog, NST posts generally have no search engine value, but NLT posts do.
On your blog, the search engine value of NST and NLT content will be different based on your audience, purpose, and reputation, so you’ll need to adjust the combination of NLT and NST content accordingly.

Am I completely crazy for challenging the experts? Maybe, but as I read the theories surrounding The Long Tail, I had no idea what value those theories added to my blogging. The NLT and NST can be applied to your blog today, and chances are you’ve been applying them for a while without even realizing it. How will you apply the NLT and NST to your blog?

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5 thoughts on “Redefining the Long Tail: Giving Hope to Bloggers Everywhere

  1. My head is spinning a bit from the “long tail” and the “short tail” but I will try to sort it out. I came across your blog from the comments in Im Blogging That. I enjoy both if your blogs; great information, thanks.

  2. I must laugh at myself as well when I read this post. I have known instinctively, that you need a niche area, with lots of interested people and little competition to blog about, but quite frankly after trying that over and over again, I loose interest in the topic before people find my blog! So I have done the wrong thing and decided to blog for myself, of topics that interest me, and if people find my blog I’ll be happy. If they come back, I’ll be stoked.

    I have managed this with one topic though. My Barbie Collectors website has no competitors in my country, and it’s booming with lively discussion. Granted, it’s not a blog, but the same rule applies in selecting topic, the difference is, that I don’t need to keep blogging to keep the site running. Sweet. :p

  3. @sebastyne
    I think there’s merit in blogging for yourself, too. If you’re interested in what you’re writing about, your writing will be more passionate and thoughtful. THAT draws in readers, too.

    @Mr. Sustainable
    I’d love to hear more about your experience with the Long Tail. Why don’t you write a post of your own and send me the link?

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