Heads or tails - the thick head vs the long tail of search.
Poster in Proceedings of the 11th World Wide Web conference (ZAW3-09). 2-4 September. Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Weideman, M. 2009. Heads or tails - the thick head vs the long tail of search. Poster in Proceedings of the 11th World Wide Web conference (ZAW3-09). 2-4 September. Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Online: http://web-visibility.co.za/website-visibility-digital-library-seo/
All commercial and many other websites have a strong motivation to ensure high rankings on search engine result pages. Much research has been done on the factors influencing website visibility, to both achieve these high rankings and prevent a website being banned from search engines' indices. One of the positive factors is the judicious choice of keywords to be used in the body of a webpage, as well as in ALT tags, hyperlinks and even filenames and URLs.
The algorithms of search engines match searchers' queries with keywords considered to be indicative of the content of a webpage. It follows that research should focus on the search traffic generated by the use of certain keywords. Popular keyphrases (often short, even single words) generate the "head" of search results - large numbers of clicks producing supposedly large income from sales. Less popular, often much longer keyphrases generate fewer clicks, but are much more focussed and could produce better results - the "tail" of search. The objective of this project is to determine the current status quo of the choice marketers have to make - concentrate on the thick head or the long tail of search.
A literature survey has proven that both search engine optimisation practitioners and academics are strongly divided on this issue. One school of thought is that resources should be allocated to draw the popular, short searches, arguing that "more is better" and that if only a small percentage of these clicks are converted to sales, it would be financially viable. The opposing argument states that longer queries are used by more savvy searchers, implying a higher chance of conversion and thus income. Research has proven that monthly searches done for unbranded terms exceed those for branded terms by up to 38 times.
In conclusion, it is proposed that pay per click should be used for non-branded and generic searches, while SEO resources should be focussed on optimising a webpage for branded searches.
- Weideman, M. 2009. Website Visibility: The
Theory and Practice of Improving Rankings.
Chandos Publishing: Oxford.
- Tanaka-Ishii, K., Nakagawa, H. 2005. A
multilingual usage consultation tool based on
internet searching: more than a search
engine, less than QA. Proceedings of the 14th
international conference on World Wide Web.