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Google Search Suggest chops of the long tail & widens the head

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

A couple of weeks ago I attended an E-consultancy PPC Roundtable event with representatives from other agencies, analytics companies and the search engines, as well as in-house SEMs.

A lot of the discussion was centred around the Guava/E-consultancy Search Engine Marketing Report which provides an insight into the state of the UK SEM market place in 2008. As highlighted in the roundtable briefing, a major part of the discussion was around the impact of new search engine features, particularly Google Suggest.

There’s been a lot of noise made about the ‘death of the long tail’ due to search suggest, and certainly that was reflected in the views of many SEMs at the roundtable. This may well be an end result of implementing the Search Suggest tool – certainly very low volume, long-tail, terms may cease to receive clicks as we see a consolidation of this sort of search volume towards a smaller number of ‘suggested’ terms. These terms will then, of course, become more competitive and cost more to advertise against, hence the reason for so much discussion and hypothesising about the tool’s impact.

I’d just like to approach this from the other angle, that of the big one-word generic term. What will this mean for ‘mortgage’, ‘flights’, ‘used car’ (not technically one word, but you see what I mean)?
Running these terms on broad match has never produced fantastic ROI, but the big spenders still do it. If you can get top generic terms to convert at an acceptable ROI they will drive fantastic volume for your campaigns, and they’re also great for brand building and promotional work tied in with offline campaigns (although also discussed at the roundtable was the fact we’re seeing less bidding against these high volume, loss-leader type, keywords in the current economic climate).

Google Suggest will actually refine searches for the most generic terms, taking users one step further down the road from these high volume generics. For example instead of typing “hosting” and hitting ‘search’, you will be far more likely to mouse down to “hosting services”, “hosting reviews” or “hosting UK” and search against those. So whilst we probably will see a reduction in long-tail volume, not to mention a reduction in misspelt keyword volume, I think its worth noting that we may also see a reduction in search volume for the most generic terms, and more importantly an increase in impressions for the generic terms with one or two additional qualifying keywords.


Robin F

This seems like mostly good news for search marketing to me. What it is going to do is standardize the search terms that searchers are using, which means that more people are likely to use the terms that you have on your website and in your PPC campaigns- in other words, more people know the words that they need to use to find you, which means more business for everyone. As far as killing the longtail, I don't see that. When people are looking for specific items, the broad query that the keyword suggest tool offers won't do- they're still going to resort to longer keyword phrases.

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