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“The Long Tail” and your web site

February 11, 2005

The Long Tail” is a term that has generated a lot of buzz over the last few months.  In short, it says that the total demand for goods that there is a slight demand for far exceeds the total demand for goods that there is a strong demand for.  Confused yet?  How does this apply to your web site?

To make it a bit clearer, let’s look at this example from the October 2004 Wired article by Chris Anderson that started all of the excitement.

“What’s really amazing about the Long Tail is the sheer size of it. Combine enough nonhits on the Long Tail and you’ve got a market bigger than the hits. Take books: The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon’s book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are (see ”Anatomy of the Long Tail“). In other words, the potential book market may be twice as big as it appears to be, if only we can get over the economics of scarcity. Venture capitalist and former music industry consultant Kevin Laws puts it this way: ”The biggest money is in the smallest sales.“

In other words, as the cost of inventory shrinks, the amount of money to be made by maintaining a larger inventory grows considerably.

So what does this mean for your web site?

Quite a bit, actually.

The incremental cost of hosting an additional page of content is vanishingly small.  Some of these pages may get only two or three visitors (mostly from search engines) a week — or even a month.  But add enough of them up, and you have an impressive amount of traffic, all coming to your site to read your content. 

A thousand pages of content that each generate three visitors a week is an extra 3,000 visitors per week — or an extra 156,000 visitors per year. 

Combine this with a little bit of legwork selecting proper keywords and you suddenly find that your site’s own ”long tail“ is an engine capable of delivering tens or hundreds of thousands of targeted visitors per year — each of which is a potential prospect or customer.

In these articles, and in my teleclasses, I talk a lot about the value of fresh content.  This is yet another reason why.

If you do nothing else with your website, if you make an effort to write as much new content as you can, as often as possible, you will dramatically increase traffic to your site. 

It’s as close as the internet comes to a dead sure bet.

Write once a day, or once a week, or once a month, but the more you do, the more traffic you’ll get.

It doesn’t have to be much.  500 to 1500 words — about the size of a decent e-mail message.

Write about stuff that will be of interest to your customers. 

If you sell skateboards, write about skateboards and the culture that surrounds them.

If you offer self improvement services, write about life’s challenges. 

Write about the things that you hear about every day. 

Write about the basics.

Write about the hidden jewels. 

Write about the frustrations. 

Write about the stuff that you’re passionate about. 

Write about the stuff you’re an authority on.

Just write.

Go write something. 

Now.

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