The Long Tail…..

Niches Go Hand-In-Hand with the Long Tail!

What do Niches have to do with The Long Tail?

Have you ever wondered why we keep harping on Niches?

In fact, if you are observant, you’ll find niches discussed throughout most of this and our partners’ websites. We discuss them almost to the point of nausea.

Why are Niches so all-fired important?

 Well, it’s because of The Long Tail. And, when you get right down to it, it is the “Tail” that makes you the money.

And, I expect, we are all interested in that!

What is the “Tail”?

The “Tail” that I am talking about is actually a part of a specially shaped line on a graph. It’s not a special type of graph. Rather, it is a regular graph that presents specific data arranged in a particular way.

This type of graph looks something like this: 

A Graph of the Long Tail

A Graph of the Long Tail

This graph presents a summation of demand (in our case, sales) in the vertical axis, and each point in the horizontal axis is a product, service or whatever you want it to be so long as it has a measurable demand and is placed in position ranked by demand. The highest demand is to the left on the graph and the lowest is to the right.

I’m not going to go into the gory details of general Levy distributions, Power Laws or Pareto distributions. But I am going to spend a lot of time talking about how the “Tail” portion of this graph applies to your new, online business.

But, if you really can’t stand not knowing more, I highly recommend the Wikipedia Article on the subject.

The items in the horizontal axis are usually all items with demand and they are related to each other somehow, like automobile models or record albums. The vertical axis would be the sales volume in your favorite currency for a desirable period. And, the horizontal axis would have one point for each model, album, genre or whatever.

The period’s sales volume for each item would then be plotted above the point which represents the particular item for which the sales volume is being recorded.

Once you have ranked (that means put in order) the sales volume (or whatever your vertical axis actually represents) in the horizontal axis from highest on the left to the lowest on the right, you will usually see a graph like the one above.

The yellow portion of the illustration is what we are referring to as the “Long Tail.” In theory, the tail extends either to infinity or until the demand falls to zero.

The red part of the graphic is referred to as the head.

 The Head of the Curve

First, let’s talk about the head. The head in, say, music albums, would represent the “hits.” We are a hit-driven society. Until the Internet was

Hit Record Spinning

Hit Record Spinning

up and functional (approximately 1994), the only things that generally sold in retail stores and the only things that were played in the media like radio or television were the hits and maybe a few trailers. In certain instances a less well-known title might get some play time or shelf space because it might be a genre that was popular in a particular area or with a media show host.

But, as a general rule, the “little guy” never had a chance.

But, enter the Internet and the Search Engines. It’s very different now! The Long Tail was created, if you will allow for it, by the search engines like Google, Windows Live and Ask. The SE’s made it possible to find the information in the long tail. And, people began to do that. They were no longer “trapped” in a “hits” economy. They could now find what they liked, not just what was popular.

In just a few years the long tail began to be felt by the mega-stars and the mega-media producers. And, it hurt. Their wallets began to notice it at once. They weren’t as full as they once were.

Why?

Because of the Internet and the Long Tail!

 

The Internet & the Long Tail, or Follow the Money

Almost without warning interest began to shift from the hits to the individual preferences. Things about subjects that only a small group or segment of society were interested in began to appear. The sun of the “mega-hits” began to set. And, the day of the Niches began to dawn.

The shift was empowered because the economics changed. Suddenly, a large chunk of the money which had been arriving by the box car load in the bank accounts of the mega-producers and stars was being diverted. It was being diverted down the long tail.

Again, why?

Because no longer is it a matter of shelf space, air time or storage costs. Shelf space and storage cost went to near zero and air time became virtually meaningless with the advent of computers and the Internet.

Almost anyone can now afford to present their story, music, information or other product without the attendant massive startup costs, gigantic capital investment and good will of those in positions of power and influence. They just need to know how.

The “little guy” has finally become a force to be reckoned with.

All that is required is a computer, a website, a good idea and a willingness to invest the necessary time to develop your idea and present it to the world. No longer do you need to struggle and scheme for a “lucky break.”

 How we profit from the Tail

The sample of the “Long Tail” curve presented above is raised somewhat above the horizontal axis. The curve that we used demonstrates quite nicely that there is space below the tail portion of the demand curve.

The space below the curve means that there is sales activity in the long tail portion of the curve. In reality, the numbers in the head are usually so large that they “overwhelm” the graph and rapidly drive the tail portion of the curve to what seems to be zero.

However, this is not what is happening. It just looks like the line goes to zero if you don’t zoom in. It is estimated that approximately 40% of the total sales volume in an area occurs in the long tail portion of the curve. Of course that number will go up or down depending upon the exact shape of the curve. But, 40% is probably a very reasonable estimate.

Each of the points under the curve basically, in our subject area, represent various niches. And, more importantly, the space above the horizontal axis and below the line of the long tail curve represents how much of “whatever” is available.

What is “whatever”?

In some cases “whatever” might be sales in your favorite currency. In other cases it might be how many visitors arrive at a site. In another, it might be the total availability of a product. The message is that it can be anything that is meaningful to you.

For commercial websites it is usually sales- or visitor-oriented.

It is a measure of demand in each of the niches represented by points in the horizontal axis of the graph. And, your job, should you decide to accept the challenge, is to get as much of that “demand” into your bank account as possible.

To put it another way, your job is to get as many visitors as possible to your webpages and to keep them there because of the high quality of your content. And, to “Convert” as many of those visitors into $ale$ as possible.

So what does that mean to you and me?

 Let’s Put it into Perspective

According to the Journal of Strategic Information Systems, it is estimated that in 2006 internet commerce (worldwide, including expenditures of both Business to Business and Business to Consumers) will reach $12.8 trillion (USD).

According to comScore Networks in a press release issued at Reston, VA, May 4, 2006 , there are an estimated 694 million internet users, worldwide.

Niches Are Everywhere

Niches Are Everywhere

All that cash and all those users will somehow divide up between the  estimated 56 million to 100 million websites on the internet.

Your job, should you decide to develop a true commercial website, will be to create pages that will attract as much FREE traffic as possible. You will do this by creating content rich pages that give the human visitors as well as the spiders something to “feast” on. When you have done that, you will have truly taken full advantage of your internet marketing business opportunity!

Unless you discover an unusual niche, there will be significant competition in most niches. You must ultimately find a niche which is positioned properly in the long tail. Free traffic is what will ultimately make you money so the quality of your website content is of the upmost importance.

We can generate substantial traffic by paying for pay-per-click ads and other paid-for-traffic methods but as soon as you stop paying for the traffic, the visitors generally stop coming.

So, just how do you get FREE traffic?

 Free Traffic

You get free traffic by providing great content in a narrowly defined niche. The ultimate purpose of niches is to obtain free traffic!

Free Traffic Is The Goal!

Free Traffic Is The Goal!

There is a lot said in those two sentences.

If you take a top level, subject area concept like “Internet Business” you will have so much competition that it might make your brain swim. The last time I did an unqualified Google search on “Internet Business” it brought back 1,710,000,000 URLs (Yes, that’s One Billion, Seven Hundred Ten Million). The same search, qualified, brought back a measly 3,070,000. The number of hits is so high because “Internet Business” is a Subject Area Concept Keyword. So how do you deal with all the competition?

Basically, you choose a niche that will be “narrow” enough that most, if not all, of the competition will go away but there will still be a significant amount of demand. Basically, it comes down to getting free traffic. If you don’t get free traffic, you most likely won’t survive as a business. Click here to find more about Niches and Free Traffic! Then, after you’ve studied that page, close the window and return here.

Choosing a niche is somewhat like building a lunch counter restaurant across the street from a manufacturing plant’s main gate. You won’t necessarily get a lot of traffic from the next street behind your establishment or even from down the block, but, you will get a whole lot of

Search Engines Are Like The Lunch Counter Shown Here.

Search Engines Are Like The Lunch Counter Shown Here.

traffic coming out of the main gate at lunch time.

The lunch counter would be like a niche under the long tail which specializes in a particular genre or group within a genre.

For instance, a website specializing in a heavy metal group like Led Zeppelin won’t get much traffic from the opera/classical music crowd but, if the site is good, they will probably get a whole lot of traffic from Led Zeppelin fans.

And, those fans will find the site by the keywords and keyword phrases that appear in the text of the site.

 Keywords and Keyword Phrases

Keywords and Keyword Phrases are actually an important part of the niche definition process. This is an important concept: You can not separate the keywords from the niche. In fact, from a search engine as well as visitor standpoint they actually define the niche. Visitors will find and stay on any given page in this website by the keywords and the content that supply information about the keywords/keyword phrases that they used to find us.

 Defining a Niche

 The process of Defining a Niche begins by actually choosing a site concept and then evaluating the keywords that connect to topics associated with the site concept.  It is the combination of the site concept and its associated subjects that team up with the keywords for the various webpages for those subjects that actually determine where a website’s pages will appear in the long tail.

If the keywords indicate that there is too much competition or too little interest, you will be forced to reject the site concept and move on to another niche. It is very important that you understand competition on the internet.

There are several places in this website where I discuss competition and how to deal with it. Competition is an area which you absolutely must understand. Click here to begin learning about competition on the Internet.

The identification and evaluation of your competition is essential to the niche selection process. Remember to take it into account when you select your niche.

Perhaps the best way to begin choosing a niche is to make a list of the things that you might want your new business to sell. Remember that the niche selection process is a repetitive process. Before we chose the “Starting an Internet Business” niche, we evaluated several different niches that were of interest to both my wife and myself, and, not all were in the Internet Information Area. Some were actually physical and not e-products. We had to find the proper position for our webpages in the long tail.

The selection process involved taking a business idea and positioning it under the Long Tail by brainstorming it to develop relevant major keywords and phrases that were used as “seed words” at WordTracker or Site Build It! and develop hundreds of keywords and

Internet Marketing Business Opportunity

Internet Marketing Business Opportunity

 keyword phrases. These keywords and phrases are then used to actually determine the potential profitability of the niche.

The niche needs to be far enough to the left on the long tail graph that there is significant demand (usually measured in the number of searches for your keywords) and far enough right that there isn’t too much competition for your keywords.

Definition of a Niche, identifying valuable but under- appreciated keywords and phrases, designing, developing and monetizing a website is a difficult process. I have done it without tools and with tools and it’s much easier with tools. I used Ken Evoy’s website, Site Build It!, to develop this website and I’m glad I did.

Even before I finished developing a third of this website, I was beginning to score and obtained significant ranking with the free search engines. Check Site Build It! out, I think that you will be glad you did too!!!

But, even if you decide that you want to “roll your own,” everything that I think you will need to do it yourself will be presented to you.

The next thing that you need to read about once you understand the long tail and its significance and have created your list of site concepts is how to choose your keywords properly.

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