Is Promotion with Long Tail Keywords More Effective Than Paid Search Marketing?

Sep 15 19:55 2006 Oleg Ishenko Print This Article

Getting traffic to fresh websites is a difficult task. They have low link popularity, low PageRank and cannot make their way into the top of search results pages quickly. Some webmasters consider Paid Search Marketing as a fast and easy way to get targeted visitors to new websites. But is it an effective approach? With rising bids on popular keywords making profits seems to be impossible. Well, it is time to seriously consider promoting your website with long tail keywords in organic search results. Read on to see why.

Paid Search Marketing

Many web marketers see paid search marketing as the fastest way to bring traffic to their online shops. At the first glance the pay-per-click scheme looks easy: you bid on a keyword,Guest Posting higher bids get higher positions (Overture), and web users see your listing among the top results for your target keyword. You dont have to invest into search engine optimization and link building; you pay for your visitors and hope to quickly get targeted traffic. But did you notice that more and more often you have to raise bids above the threshold of profitability in order to put your listings to the top of paid search results? With money you spend for PPC exceeding your revenues is it worth to do online business at all? Well, it is time to seriously consider promoting your website in natural (organic) search results.

(This article was originally published at Paid Search Marketing Vs. Natural Search Promotion)

No matter what your niche is, targeting one- or two-word search terms is difficult and ineffective. Not just you have to compete with big established websites, generic terms themselves have low conversion rates. Long tail keywords however are less popular, less competitive and are less searched, but when used collectively they are able to drive a lot of quality traffic to your website which can be quite easily converted into sales. People looking for 4 or 5 keyword phrases are more likely to become a buyer. Generic keywords indicate that a person is probably doing a research without an intention to buy something immediately (so-called "early stage researcher").

Facts about Natural and Paid Search1. Natural Search pulls 250% more traffic than the paid search.

Take a look at this picture. This is a hit map, it tracks eye and click activity on a web page. What you see is a regular Google search results page. The brighter colors represent areas where the majority of web users eyes and clicks go when they get to this page. This map is produced by an infrared camera that tracks every eye movement and click that a surfer makes. This study was done with about four hundred people but actually their behavioral patterns are so similar that eight surfers are enough to produce an analogous image.

On the hit map colors represent eye hit distribution, purple crosses (with a number of a tested subject) show where users click. Red color indicates the hottest spot on the page where the most of eye hits are made (click here to see the hit map explained).You can see that the first listing gets the biggest portion on the clicks, second receive less, and there are also some for the third listing. You can also see that many people scroll the page to the bottom and click the 8th, 9th and 10th listings too although the number of clicks in this area can be hundreds time less than in the top left area. The brighter areas form so-called Golden Triangle and you can clearly see than most of the people spend their time looking through the natural search results.

Now take a look at the right side of the page. The number of eye hits is far less even than at the bottom of the page. So being number 9 or 10 in the Google natural search results will bring you nearly the same number of clicks as from the first position in the paid search results, and far more than from the second, third and lower sponsored listings.

2. Paid Search Lives Off Natural Search

AdWords, as well as any other PPC program, is a parasitic system it uses natural search to make money from the paid listings. Google performs millions searches every day and most of them are from people who dont even look at the paid results. You probably remember the time when was experimenting with paid search? used to deliver paid listings only above the page-fold so that users had to scroll down to get to natural results. It had seriously damaged the user experience, and surfers simply stopped using it. Google is not going to repeat this mistake. Its initial popularity has grown from the quality of search results, and therefore paid listings have to be placed in areas where they dont disturb users on the right side.

So the eye-hit map proves quite clearly web users search organic results first (even if they have to scroll down!) and only after that and not always look through the paid search listings.

Lets visit Google and search for best plasma tv. In the SERP (screenshot) you can see some listings like consumer reviews on plasma TV, plasma TV buying guide, compare plasma TV prices and so on. These are information based websites. Google search algorithms return information on plasma TV, and the results are contextually accurate. If you take a look at the paid search listings you will notice that some of them are trying to imitate the listings in the natural results by using the dynamic keyword-insertion, which adds keywords from the query into link text and listing body.

Bottom line is: web users are conditioned to free search without ads. This is a fact that people searching for a product review or a particular model are looking for information before making a buying decision. So when a person looks at a SERP, the first positions in natural search even if there are paid listing above it is where clicks are made. This is proven by eye tracking studies that show that 63% of top organic listings will get a click.

3. Long Tail Search Keywords Convert The Best.

Obviously one multiple-keyword phrase brings much less traffic then a generic one-word search term. But you can be sure that if someone searches for a laptop, he is still researching. On the contrary if a person searches for a Sony Vaio laptop under $1000 he is a hot prospect. What is equally important long tail search terms are easier to rank for. Take a look at few examples. Lets go to (12.8% search share in the U.S.) and search for affordable custom kitchen cabinets (screenshot). The Golden Triangle applies also to MSN SEPRs as well as to ANY other web page the first area people look at is top-left then middle-left. Lets click on the third listing, which possibly gets quite a lot of traffic. What do you see? a pretty looking website. And now take a look at its PageRank (if you have Google toolbar installed in your browser). PageRank equals 2! Well, obviously the author of this page didnt have to do much work to get into number 3 position in MSN. If you spent just a week for link building you will get PR2 quite easily after the next Google PageRank update. Of course PageRank and MSN ranking are not directly connected. But PR allows us to estimate how big the popularity of a page is, and MSN also uses page popularity to assign ranks.

Now lets search for "sofa slip covers cheap" (screenshot). Take a look at the second position: This is an AdSense website a site which makes money from AdSense advertising program. Its PageRank is zero! This page has almost no popularity and yet it is in MSN top ten! You see the AdSense block, some content, links to related articles. This page is probably auto-generated, so it takes almost no effort to maintain it.

Naturally you wouldnt see sites like these in the results for one- or two-word search terms. Generic terms are too competitive, there too many high-quality websites struggling to rank higher for them. But with long-tail search phrases no problem, even mediocre pages get substantial traffic.

4. Natural Search Visitors Convert Nearly 30% Higher Than Paid Search.

There are many merchant websites utilizing special conversion tracking systems that enable them to see what the conversion rates are for different groups of visitors. And according to the statistics supplied by these systems visitors from natural search results convert 30% more frequently than paid search visitors. If your website is marginally profitable from the paid search traffic you are going to do even better with natural search visitors. So for every $1000 of revenue you will get $1300. And that is not the whole picture: dont forget that natural search brings you 2.5 times more visitors than PPC. You will see a 325% increase in revenue once you get the free traffic from the natural search results. Whats more, unlike paid search, this traffic is free.

Another catch to increase chances of a user clicking a paid search ad some people open two accounts to show two listings both leading to the same landing page. Not just promoting them to the top in paid results is difficult, but also users might click both listings and make you pay twice for the same visitor! Natural search results also sometimes show two listings for one site: the front page and one of the second-tier pages, if they both rank equally well for a specific search term (see first and second positions on this screenshot). See how such a double listing is reflected in the eye-hit map.

Look how many people scan the entire long headline of the double listing! Even the one above it doesnt get as much of the eye activity. Obviously chances of a user clicking this link are higher than any other one. Eye tracking study reports 70% of clicking chance for double listings 70% of al the clicks that happen on a SERP! And natural search is the only way to get such a listing.

Lets examine another evidence. Look at a table showing the percentage of clicks made in organic search results, featured ads, paid listings on top of the search results and in the side bar. Users are grouped according to their educational level. Among all the groups only high-school students tend to click more on the paid listings than on the organic results. So if your targeted audience is high-school kids PPC is for you. But note high-school students do not have much of a buying power, what they can spend is their allowance and lunch money. Therefore in most cases you are better off with clicks from the more educated groups and they love organic search results.

To Sum Up
  1. 1. For many websites more than half of traffic comes with long tail keywords than from shorter one-two keyword phrases. For some recently created sites almost all traffic is supplied by long tail keywords.
  2. Targeting long tail keyword phrases will bring more revenue since they represent a bigger part of your traffic.
  3. You will make more sales with long tail keywords because they have a higher conversion ratio.
  4. It doesnt take much effort to rank well for long tail keywords in natural search results.
  5. You will get more income from visitors coming from natural search results because they convert better than those arriving to your website via paid listings.
  6. Having traffic from the long tail keywords in natural search results saves you your PPC campaign money.

I am not telling you to stop using paid search marketing immediately. Pay per click is just one of many options to promote a site. Unfortunately it is not the one suitable for new sites. Unless your purpose is to get a quick exposure and you do not care about making any profits paid search marketing may work well. But if you are trying to make money from a fresh site with paid listings youd better be sure about the conversion ratio of your landing pages and target audience. And the best way to figure out these ratios is first trying to promote your pages to the natural search results with long tail keywords.


1. Video 1. Available at: Downloaded on 12.09.06

2. "Eyetools, Enquiro, and Did-it uncover Search's Golden Triangle". Available at:

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About Article Author

Oleg Ishenko
Oleg Ishenko

Get more useful information on web promotion at our SEO and Web Marketing Study.Oleg Ishenko, MCSE, MCDBA, BSc Telecommunication industry business

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