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Is the Best SEO Strategy Today Still The Long Tail?

October 6th, 2009 1 comment

In the world of SEO, links are still considered the bread and butter of most SEOs and linkbuilding is the most espoused strategy by the SEO industry. There is no doubt that inlinks will always be seen as critical to the importance of a site in search engine algorithms. However, as an SEO strategy, the practice of linkbuilding has come under increasing fire and indeed becomes more questionable all the time, as a primary SEO strategy for websites.

Long gone are the days when you could cajole naive webmasters into giving you a link for free. Everybody knows the value of a link now and webmasters routinely request a return backlink or they ask “how much is it worth to you?”

On the other side, Google threatens to penalize people who buy links or sell links. You can get away with it, until someone rats you out and then you have a long climb out of the rat hole you’re in. So as an SEO, you’ve blown some money on link buying and then actually lost traffic. What kind of a reputation does that give you, and the industry?

Today, many SEOs are singing the praises of flat site architecture; that is something I espouse as well. But how long before a well crafted flat site architecture becomes commonplace? It does not matter the age of pages involved or the age of the site. Once Googlebot can quickly find all or most of the pages on most sites, the SEO playing field, at least in the sphere of architecture, will be once again even. Mind you, that day is some ways off.

However, when looking back at the past, at the present and into the foreseeable future, my favourite strategy is still long tail content development. I have no doubt that Google values sites with many more pages. In fact, I see sites with relatively high PR, seemingly garnered only from the fact that they have a significant amount of content, whether or not that content has copious or strong backlinks from other sites or not. This is one area where you can’t fake it – either you have the original content or you don’t.

Of course, it is not enough to simply have content – that content has to be crafted to meet the long tail. Good SEOs know how to properly wind in some latent semantic indexing, with just the right mix of keyword rich content and actual substance that might get you some organic links. This is the one area of traditional SEO where you can still work and know that you are doing what Google in fact wants you to do and can have more confidence than most marketers and corporations that you know what you are doing and they very likely will not.

I see over and over again, opportunities to work with company’s developers, marketers and editorial staff to leverage their already existing content to create copious pages that target the long tail of content – that long list of keyword variations related to their particular industry – where it is easy and relatively cheap to do so and where they do not know the value of this strategy. I’ve seen lots of websites grow traffic significantly simply be creating copious pages that meet their potential users down the long tail.

I’m getting those pages online ahead of other SEOs, getting backlinks to those pages ahead of them, and having those pages age (gain authority) ahead of other SEOs.

I see the long tail content strategy I implemented on some old built-for-SEO sites – built long before Chris Anderson started even blogging on the subject – still working very well for those sites.

In my humble opinion, long tail content development is a sure fire SEO traffic-building technique that still really does not get enough attention and respect in the SEO industry. It’s something lost on many companies and web businesses and it’s something that still requires some SEO expertise and experience.