You might think that being #1 in Google for the phrase "Self Publishing" would be the making of a business. While I've never had the number one site in Google for that phrase, I've been in the top ten for the last couple years, and I don't see more than a half dozen visitors a day from it. A quick look on Google Trends tells us that it's a less popular phrase than "Computer Repair", and if you're wondering what the one has to do with the other, my website was #1 on Google for computer repair a couple years ago. That phrase rarely brought in more than 100 visitors a day, and now that a lot of SEO activity by competing sites has almost pushed me out of the top 10 for it, my overall traffic for the same group of pages is higher than ever. The reason? More and more visitors arrive on long tail queries.
I'm going to go over the principal numbers I used in the video above just to make the point in print. Of the 672 visitors who arrived on this website last week after making a search that contained the word "publishing", 521 of them used a unique phrase - unique for the week in any case. The title phrase of this blog only drew 27 visitors in the course of the week, just under four a day. That's a little down from when the blog showed up "above the fold" in a Google search, but it doesn't have any impact on the overall number of visitors. I read somewhere that 25% of all Google queries are first timers, queries nobody has ever made before, and based on the examples from my server statistics, I believe it.
The great thing about long tail search, from the standpoint of book publishers, is we have lots of good content that tends to do well as long as the site builds some authority in the field. Somebody with more money, more time or more SEO knowledge than you can often knock you off your place for a two word phrase, but your only competition on the six and seven word queries will be from automated scraper type sites, which the search engines work hard to weed out. I'm not a strong advocate of SEO, though I believe it's important to do the basic things right. Your focus as publisher should be on producing great books, and by their very nature, the same content can be great for a website. Provided, that is, it includes material that people search for.
In the video I give a few examples of long tail search phrases that brought visitors to this website on the publishing subject last week. Here, I want to give an example of the opposite, a search on a single word that resulted in visitors to the publishing section of the website. While not the only single word my site draws traffic on, I'm going with "Amazon", because it's illustrative of how poorly some people utilize search engines. You have to go down to the fifth or sixth page of Google results to find my page about Amazon sales ranks, yet every day, somebody does just that. The fact that they click through to my site after finding it down around 50th or 60th in the results implies that it's just the result they were looking for, but didn't know how to ask. Add a couple words and tell the search engine what you want, for Pete's sake.