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May 9, 2006

Conversation Search Engine Marketing, Effective Blogging & The Long Tail

Chris Anderson in his Wired article, "The Long Tail," wrote about how the web is showing a new economic model that gets past the notion of only the most popular products will sell, the old 20/80 rule. The Long Tail business model explains that online companies are not restricted by limited brick and mortar storefront capacity and have the ability to sell a wider variety of products online. for example sells more titles in its back catalog of low sellers and non-influential titles than in its list of best sellers. Chris Anderson believes that the online "market that lies outside the reach of the physical retailer is big and getting bigger."

Chris Anderson suggests that there are three rules for building a successful long tail business:

* Make everything available.
* Cut the price in half. Now lower it.
* Help me find it.

Google Uses The Long Tail

What I find interesting about the rules for the Long Tail is that the Long Tail is helping Google's advertising model to make a lot of money, over $6 billion last year and maybe over $9 billion in 2006. The search giant has many small retailers to generate a significant proportion of its revenue. Google's CEO thinks small business is very important to Google's business according to a quote on Chris Anderson's blog.

Google's top organic search results don't provide all the results to a searcher but rather focus on providing the most relevant results. Google's method of providing organic search results makes sense, as searchers want the most relevant information and the quickest way to find it. Yet, it's difficult with a major search engine to find the very latest information on a particular topic, unless that website is also one of the most relevant sites on the web.

Bloggers Use Conversation Search Engines

Bloggers have different priorities when using a search engine. A blogger wishes to discover the most up to date blog post on a topic. That's why RSS search engines provide searchers with the ability to find the latest web page on a related keyword topic.

The way a date related search works on a blog search engine is different from a relevancy search engine like Google, RSS search engine look for the latest posts, while Google and other relevancy search engine assess the relevancy of a particular page before giving the page a particular ranking.

I think searchers use Google to find the most influential websites, while searchers use to find the latest conversation surrounding a keyword. Which is why I think major search engines such as Google, MSN & Yahoo! are relevancy search engines and RSS search engines are conversation search engines.

Compared to a major search engine, it's much easier to find obscure conversations about a topic when using Yet those obscure conversations can be just as relevant to a blogger as the most influential writer's thoughts on a subject.

In public relations there is a reason to target the most influential media outlets, as those publications will draw the most traffic. However, PR professionals understand the benefit of targeting smaller publications or trades that will be more likely be to publish a unique story early in a PR campaign. Once published the story may then be picked up by larger national papers. The same mechanism works in the blogosphere - If you have content that's of interest, even a blogger with a narrow audience will be more likely to interact with you online.

In the blogging world there is the concept of the A list - or the most influential list of bloggers, and a Z list of bloggers are the least influential bloggers. In the blogosphere even the long tail of Z list bloggers should be included in your conversation with your community if that Z list blogger writes good content. Once you have published content even on the most obscure blog it will be read by other bloggers who will be looking for relevant content to them to publish or comment.

The lesson? Don't discount any conversation, as all conversations can have value despite the current influence of the writer. Conversation search engines give bloggers the ability to find the Long Tail of the current conversation on the web. While relevancy search engines don't take into account what's most up to date in the online conversation.

Optimizing For A Conversation Search Engine

The concept of conversation search engines is that you use RSS feed search engines to find the latest conversation in the blogosphere. Surprisingly just as you can optimize your website and blog posts for Google it is possible to optimize your blog posts for conversation search engines.

I say surprisingly because the way you optimize a web page for Google is to make it the most relevant for a particular keyword, and have other websites link to a site. But as RSS search engines don't display the most relevant content but the most up to date content it's not particularly difficult to get listed on an RSS search engine. Rather achieving a top ranking on is more an issue of how often do you have to post to remain in the top rankings?

One question clients often ask me is how frequently do you have to write a blog post? Formerly I'd say 5 times a week. But now after thinking about conversation search engine marketing I ask for a client's list of keywords to determine how often their blogging community is posting articles that contain their keywords? That question depends upon the number of other postings on the same keyword. The greater the volume of posts for a keyword, the more blog posts you will have to write to maintain your ranking on a keyword in a conversation search engine such as

One way to determine the number of posts you will have to generate is by taking a list of all the keywords you target, and searching on those keywords in conversation search engines. Scroll down to the bottom of the search results and take a quick look to see when the last post was most recently posted. If you make sure you are posting more often than whatever number of days or hours is the last post on the first results page. You should be posting enough to appear on the first page.

Below I have two examples of keyword searches. I've combined two images, both from the first page of a keyword search. The top of the search results that lists the keyword, and the blog entry at the bottom of the search result displaying the date of the last post. I conducted two searches, one for the common phrase "business blogging." And the other search was for the obscure phrase "synthetic transparency."

"Business blogging," had 10,328 posts therefore to maintain a ranking on the first page a blogger would have to write at least every 2 days. For the obscure keyword phrase, "synthetic transparency", there are only 10 posts, and the last entry was written 554 days ago. Meaning you might only have to write an article once a year on this keyword topic.



Now has introduced the concept of relevancy within their results but gives blog searchers the ability lower or raise the level of relevancy of date related posts. One big reason for the introduction of the relevancy barometer was splogs or spam blogs. But for those obscure terms posting every few months can easily get you a ranking in on that term.

Using the posting volume date technique for RSS search engines means a blogger can determine how much time is needed to keep a first place ranking, in order to generate the required volume of posts. A blogger can estimate their available time for blogging, and based on the estimated time to blog required to blog by keyword choose a strategy that allows them to keep up with the required volume of posts to maintain a ranking. As with any entry a blogger can include all of the keyword phrases within a post. Don't expect to retain a first page ranking unless you post frequently for a high volume keyword in a conversation search engine. The good thing about this method is that you can estimate with some accuracy how much time it is going to take you to blog in your industry.

Writing and conversation have to be relevant to the community otherwise you are just spamming and will probably not receive any benefits from the community. Effective blogging is also partly dependant upon the ability of a blogger to conduct outreach to their community. The greater the volume of posts on a subject the more opportunity to comment and interact with other bloggers, and the higher the chances of getting links and comments back from other bloggers. That's the reason why the long tail concept supports conversation search engine marketing and effective blogging. Every conversation is an opportunity for conversation, traffic, and linking that will help a company reach its goals.

Posted by johncass at May 9, 2006 12:07 PM

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