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The Tale of the Long Tail Search

better search results

And Why You Should Have Implemented Responsive Design Years Ago

My latest pocket toy, (a 5th generation iPod Touch), is great at taking dictation. I've already carefully enunciated two emails into its microphone today. Because I usually work from home and I’m one of the strange beasts to still use a landline. The iPod is my tiny window into the mobile world.  

I also have a mobile phone, but while I don't often lean on my Android, I recognize that more people are using their mobile devices to search for goods and services. I help companies harness this mobile traffic with responsive design, long-tail keywords and other engagement strategies. The ROI is huge, but it can be a tough sell-- unless you have the data to back it up.  

The Mobile Traffic Writing is on the Wall & the Font is Getting Bigger!

A few years ago I told a mid-market e-tail client that mobile devices and tablets would soon account for the majority of their traffic and business. I said something like, “Time to think about responsive design lest we alienate the fastest growing segment of consumers.” Instead, this client decided that its core demographic (married women over 35) didn't (and wouldn't) purchase or research expensive household products on handheld devices any time soon.

I disagreed.

Without a Mobile Crystal Ball, Let Data Make Smart Decisions For You.

The next year I was able to turn to the data. I pointed out that the company’s mobile bounce rate was higher than that of the overall site average.  When I again suggested it would be best to use a responsive website design to encourage mobile users to engage, the company decided instead to modify its PPC campaigns.

“Don’t address mobile. Ignore it!” was the company mantra. “Who would use a phone to search for luxury goods?!” They stopped serving ads to mobile devices.

In February 2010, only 5% of this company’s site traffic came from handheld devices. By May 2012 that traffic source had grown to 36%. Shortly thereafter they stopped advertising to mobile devices. By March 2013, phones, tablets and iPods accounted for 45% of their traffic. This is remarkable!  Why?  Because they'd specifically and actively tried to alienate those consumers.

So what happened?  The client finally embraced responsive web design. When I juxtaposed the previously mentioned 45% figure with a random sample of a few other sites' analytics data, it was easy to see that married women over 35 (or whoever their demographic really was) actually used mobile devices more than the average person.

It took a few years and some good data but this company will soon offer a website that will be attractive, usable and engaging regardless of screen size. Lower mobile bounce rates and higher conversion rates are sure to follow.

But engagement is only part of a successful mobile strategy. Customers must find you, before you can engage them.

How Do Mobile Traffic Trends Affect SEO? 

A few years ago we searched with our fingers on a keyboard attached to a PC or laptop.  In a few more years, we’ll probably just think about our searches to get things started via a subdermal implant.  In the meantime, we’ve begun talking to our devices.

With the advent of Apple’s Siri, Dragon Dictation and Android-based virtual assistants like Vlingo and Skyvi, more of us are speaking our search phrases than ever before. These new technologies are leading to increasing numbers of “conversational-style” searches, or long tail searches. This interesting combination of conversational search phrases and guttural caveman-like searches performed in noisy environments means that the long tail of SEO keywords is now more meaningful than ever.

Pair this new human side of search trends with the ongoing semantic efforts of search engines like Google and Bing and it’s a welcome perfect storm for wisely managed SEO campaigns. Use great traffic research tools to identify slightly longer, more specific search phrases and you’ll find your ROI going through the roof.  And you’ll live happily ever after…at least until everybody else catches on.

Photo/Video Credit:Illustration by Victoria Jones, graph data courtesy of beSirious.com