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February 12, 2008

Long Tail Keywords Convert Better

You’ve built a state-of-the-art website expecting it to be your little nest egg.  But the thought that runs through your mind now is how you are going to get people to see it. The first thought that comes to mind is to gain top rakings with major search engines and anyone else for that matter.  This leads you to the next question, which is “What keywords are you going to target?”

This can be a tricky obstacle at the best of times.  You expend countless hours into researching the keywords and phrases with the highest level of popularity.  Now, with the hard work done, sleepless nights and agonising wait over, you finally see your website rank for these keywords and phrases.  While this does start to generate quite a bit of traffic you notice that it hasn’t made that much impact on the bottom line.  Why aren’t they buying, signing up or downloading your product or service?

Even after doing all your homework, identifying what were “money maker” keywords you simply aren’t making any.  Could it be that you aren’t bringing in the best-qualified visitors?

As a web design, hosting and marketing company, we at PropData based in South Africa, undertake the promotion and maintenance of all of our clients’ websites.  The better the website performs, the happier our clients are and in tern, the happier our clients the more likely they are to refer us to other interested or needing parties.

Recently we made changes to one of our largest clients’ websites and it was decided that rather than try and hit generic search terms that we would prefer to target longer tail keywords.  The reasoning here was that while searching for real estate online, the average search would include both location and dwelling type (apartment, house, etc).  The results were astounding!  When comparing the statistics against a previous record month (a month in the past 6 months that had recorded the highest number of visits) we noticed a few very interesting points:

  1. Traffic had increased considerably, while number of pages per visitor decreased.
  2. Enquiries on listed property had increased.
  3. Mailing list subscriptions had doubled!

It would seem that while going broad and targeting generic search terms we had missed the most important factor; that the average searcher is looking for something specific.

While in this particular case there was a noticeable increase in visitors, the number of page views didn’t grow in accordance.  While many might be concerned that we had lost traffic, and targeted traffic at that, the increase in mailing subscriptions as well as enquiries would suggest something better.  We no longer simply had the random visitor having a look about but that the average visitor was now someone who was actually looking for a specific listing.  They were going straight to the listings that met their needs.  But most important – this visitor was now converting.

The client was very happy to see such positive results.  With a constantly growing mailing list of prospective clients, their latest listings are being viewed by an ever growing audience.  This in turn can only result in further business.  While in real estate it is difficult to make a sale through a website, we consider a direct enquiry on a listing a success. 

The same principle and model applies to all websites.  If you sell mobile phones from a single manufacturer then don’t try and target “mobile phones” as a key phrase.  Rather if you are selling Nokia phones target “Nokia mobile phones” or better yet even target each listing by model too.  At the end of the day, someone searching for “mobile phones” is simply going to look through your website, possibly enquire on a few listings but will have very little commitment.  However someone who is searching for a “Nokia communicator 9300i mobile phone” is in a much better position to make an impulse purchase when they find your website.  At this point they are specifically seeking that which you have to offer.

I would like to add that while your meta description tag won’t aid you in rankings this can be crucial when it comes to making that conversion.  A well thought up and informative description tag can often in itself convert a good search engine ranking into a click through.  Once again it comes down to being precise rather than just having a standard generic site description.

While many webmasters and website owners congratulate themselves on gaining a high ranking or high volumes of traffic, it is always important to remember the purpose of the website.  For most of us a website is a means to make sales or gain further interest in our services.  Either way this translates into us wanting more business.  If your traffic isn’t converting then it is really the same as owning a shop in the busiest mall with nobody ever stepping through your door.

Author:  Robert Cerff is a search engine analyst and marketing consultant for Prop Data Internet Solutions. He has ten years experience in e-commerce, online marketing and web development.