3 Reasons the Long Tail Keeps Getting Longer

By Amanda Sides | Feb 27, 2009
More Articles by Amanda

Hitwise recently released a report analyzing the growth of search query lengths. By now, you have probably read about how there has been a decline in one and two word phrases in the past year. Year-over-year one word phrases have decreased by 3%, while two word phrases have decreased in numbers by 5%.

Search queries are becoming longer as time passes. The average search query these days is five words long. There’s even a significant number of eight word queries! Eight word search queries increased 22% year-over-year. When, if ever, will it stop?

So you’ve seen the numbers, but let’s take a look at why the tail is getting so so long.

Some of the reasons have been attributed to a greater tendency of copy-pasting phrases into the search box, searchers focusing on locality, and lastly, the fact that users simply have a better understanding of how the search engines work.

Copy-Paste Searches: Many searchers are now just copy-pasting a phrase into the search box. Whether you are searching for a conference lecture, concert, or book, people trust that their chances are higher to quickly finding the exact thing they are looking for if they just enter in the entire title of the lecture, as opposed to a subject that the lecture or book is based on.

Local Searches: Searchers are increasingly appending geo-specific terms or phrases onto their queries. Just as I previously stated, this is likely because the searcher feels they can more quickly find exactly what they are looking for; they will have less sifting to do once the results are up.

Better User Understanding: The underlying reason why search queries are getting longer and longer is probably because searchers are getting a better grasp on the way search engines work. This reasoning also explains why users have a tendency lately to copy-paste in their queries as well as append local terminology onto their queries. Searchers are finding it easier to trust search engines with more complex search tasks, prompting them to use more and more specific phrasing to ultimately shorten their time spent searching.

>>Taking into consideration the increasing competition, advertisers are designing their pages around the longer tail terms. If you aren’t already, maybe that’s something you should put on your to-do list to start thinking about. After all, the searchers are the ones you are aiming to please, so keep their trends in mind.

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