The evolution of keyword length in search marketing

Posted by Matthias Wobrock on 28 May 2009

The evolution of keywords has progressed as users have become more specific in their requirements.

Our societies are rapidly being broken down into small areas of experts. People work in more specialised groups and more specific fields than ever before. The web supports this development, streamlining workflows and establishing world-wide connections to very specific information or niche areas of interest.

This trend can easily be applied to the commercial sector. If you view the web as a global marketplace, niche products also dispose of relevant sales potentials. Best practice example: Amazon. It achieves the majority of its profits through rare, long search term combinations. In the beginning of Search Engine Marketing (SEM), competition was relatively small. Today thousands of vendors offer essentially the same books, shoes or laptops and companies struggle to position themselves in terms of cost and creativity.

Expanded ranges make refined searches necessary in order to find the desired product. Additionally, internet users have become more skilled in using search engines and use more accurate terms to arrive at their destination faster. This development could even be partially owed to the relatively low precision of search engines. If “eBay Smartphone” does not bring the desired result, a search for “iphone 3g eBay app download” could do the trick.

Statistics not only show that the length of search terms is increasing (see bottom graph) but also that the percentage of searches with only one or two words decreases in relation to the total amount of searches. Searches consisting of 7 or 8 words are constantly increasing.

Interestingly, the number of total searches rises faster than the number of displayed paid ads, which means that the ad coverage on user’s searches is becoming a lot scarcer. Easy money if you manage to cover those complex search terms with your campaign.

From the first search for basic information to a more concrete purchase intention, search engine users may switch back and forth between generic expressions and long tail search terms. If you lose them on their course, you cannot influence their buying decision any longer. And if they use long tail keywords, they generally already have a more specific idea of the product they are looking to buy.

Bidding on long tail terms therefore offers two decisive advantages: on one hand, conversions are more likely due to the fact that the potential customer has already thrown a glance at a unique product. On the other hand, they are much easier and cheaper to rank for than general terms because the competition on that particular expression is a lot less: a better conversion rate for a lower cost.

However, these numerous keyword variants do not only need to be generated, but also managed, and their cost-effectiveness has to be proven. At Traffic Brand, for example, we use a custom-made system to identify and efficiently manage promising keywords to create additional value for our clients. We are prepared for this new trend and very curious to see how search engine usage will continue to change.