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Single Word Keyword Searches Up? Long-Tail Dead? Unlikely
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
So I came across this post from Matt McGee that states that one-word searches were up in 2009.  This is based on data from Hitwise stating that single word searches increased by 17% in 2009.  While longer searches, for the most part, declined.  This goes against data that was shared from some of the major search engines during the past year.  I was at SES NY 2009 in March and a couple of representatives from the major search engines shared data that suggested users are searching by using more keywords in their queries.  This makes total sense as searchers become more savvy in using the Web.

I would question the 2009 data from Hitwise, just based on what I have seen from a number of my client's analytics and personal trends.  In January, Hitwise released some additional data suggesting that eight or more word searches experienced the greatest increase from December 2009 to January 2010 as seen here:

Single word searches actually dropped by 3% during this period.

Before you go off and start thinking that long-tail is dead, think again.  Long-tail keywords still drive more qualified traffic and still tend to perform better in terms of conversions.  I would expect us to see an increasing trend in the length of search queries that people conduct.

As we have discussed in the past, an ideal keyword strategy should focus on head (typically one or two word general queries), torso (typically a three to five word query) and long-tail (typically a three or four plus word query).  Depending on your target audience, you will need to determine the best balance there.  Also depending on the stage of the purchase funnel that the searcher may be at, the more specific their queries might be.  The fact is, is that single word keyword searches will also be popular as users begin their quest for information online.    According to the most recent data from Hitwise, 67% of searches are for three or less words.

This is definitely an interesting trend to watch, the fact is that long-tail optimization is not dead and that while single keyword searches continue to have the greatest share of all searches, users are incorporating more keywords into their search queries.  This trend will continue in 2010 and beyond as the typical user of a search engine become more efficient at browsing the Web and searching for their information.


posted by Jody @ 1:11 PM  
  • At 11:14 AM, Blogger Dwayne said…

    Long tail keywords can definitely rank better than single word keywords, and they have lower competition. Using the right long tail keywords can boost up your business rapidly. Having a good keyword tool by your side can decide between ranking high in search engines or going down to broke.
    I use iSpionage keyword tool for finding the proper keywords for my business, long tail too. It is very easy to use and amazingly effective.

  • At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Matt McGee said…

    We're talking about two different things, though.

    You're comparing searches from one MONTH to the next. I saw that same chart from Hitwise (even wrote about it on Search Engine Land) and asked them to share a comparison from one YEAR to the next, which is what my post is about. For the entire 2009 year, one word searches were up 17% according to their numbers.

    I'd also add this: It's tough to compare any search-related stat from December to January of any year, because search activity is so different before the holidays than after.

  • At 12:19 PM, Anonymous Nikhil said…

    I think people are become more and more specific with their searches. Single and double worded keywords are a bit generic in nature. The more specif you want to be with your search result, the more keywords you end up using.

    This is a fantastic opportunity for online business start-ups as they can compete more effectively while not spending a lot on marketing.

    I have posted an article on my blog regarding this topic. Do drop in and share your thoughts on it.

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