How important is the long tail to your business?

The long tail is something of a legend when it comes to content marketing. Lots of people talk about it, but few people ever really go looking for it. How real is the long tail? How relevant is it to your business?

Luckily, our stalwart friend Google Analytics can help us to understand that. If you’ve taken my advice in years past about keeping a date-based URL structure for your blog and website, this will be a very easy thing to see. Fire up Google Analytics, then navigate down to the Behavior section. Locate and dig into Site Content, Content Drilldown, then set the timeframe to the year to date. (if you’re doing this in the early months of the year, use the last 365 days instead):

Content_Drilldown_-_Google_Analytics

Next, switch the table visualization to bar graph mode, and you should see each calendar year broken out nicely:

Content_Drilldown_-_Google_Analytics

Now take a look at the results. That’s the long tail in action. I’ve been blogging daily since 2007, and I managed to blog daily almost every business day of 2014, yet that daily blogging was only responsible for 28% of the site’s traffic. 2011 and 2012 combined are responsible for the same amount of traffic as 2014. Why? What would cause that?

Bear in mind, that doesn’t necessarily mean that 2014 was a wash as a year – it just means that there’s content in the long tail that is still incredibly popular, years later. If we dig into the sources of traffic per year in Acquisition, what do we find?

Channels_-_Google_Analytics

There’s the answer right there about where the long tail’s power is coming from: organic search. Even though it’s two or three years later, the content I wrote in 2011 and 2012 is still being found, far more than the content I’ve written in the past couple of years.

If this blog were my full-time business, what would I do next? I’d dig into those years and see what content is still cranking out the audience, then write some spin-off pieces to leverage similar content keywords.

What if this showed that my website didn’t have any strength in the long tail? That would be an indicator that maybe I needed to write more search-worthy content, content that’s more evergreen and less real-time. Some marketing strategies can become overly reliant on real-time newsjacking, and the consequence of that is that no one searches for your news-related items once the news is gone.

Try this with your own data if you’ve got a supporting URL structure. If you don’t, you’ll need to use Google Analytics’ Content Grouping feature and apply tags to the pages of your website by year. It’s possible to do for any website; some websites will simply take a little more work than others.


If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!


Want to read more like this from ? Get daily updates now:


Get my book!

Subscribe to my free newsletter!


Marketing inventory

Ever been to a grocery store during inventory? It’s a messy, messy place. Items are all over the floor. U-boats are in the aisle. There are clipboards, papers, scanners, and diagrams scattered everywhere, like leaves after an autumn wind. Inevitably, every inventory cycle finds something unexpected. Some products are in the wrong place. Some products are out of stock, but no one knew about it. Some products appear in greater quantities than expected, or are the wrong SKU entirely.

Nothing on the shelves

Your marketing platforms are no different. Take the time as the year winds down (if you’re able to) and do a marketing inventory. Look through all your assets in your email marketing, social media, digital advertising, analytics software. See what you really have versus what you think you have.

For example, I recently looked at one of the thank you pages for my email newsletter. Guess what it was missing that should have been there? That’s right – a Google Analytics tracking code. I was missing a fair chunk of my goal completions because I didn’t have something I thought I had. Now I have better data.

How do you go about the process of doing inventory? The first thing you need to do is open up the notebook of your choice, digital or paper, and write down the things you think you have. You think you have email marketing, from creative to analytics. You think you have social ads running. You think you have great SEO. Make a long list.

Once you’ve got what you think you have, go and verify that you do indeed have them. You think you have great SEO? Go check Google Webmaster Tools for any problems with your site. You think you have good analytics? Do as I did and confirm that your analytics tracking codes are actually working.

Doing inventory is time-consuming. Doing inventory is boring. That said, it’s an essential part of running any business. Make sure you’re doing it on a regular basis so that you know what you have and what you don’t before it impacts your business negatively.


If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!


Want to read more like this from ? Get daily updates now:


Get my book!

Subscribe to my free newsletter!


The value of professional certifications

Once upon a time, I looked down on industry certifications. I thought they were crutches, tools that people used to hide a lack of a track record, and for a certain small percentage of the population, that’s probably still true. But for the most part, I’ve changed my perspective on certifications and now view them as valuable.

Why? As people get busier and busier, as the world grows more and more complex, people are willing to devote less time to getting certifications or continuing education. Certifications’ value have increased not because they’re harder to get, but because people are unwilling to make sacrifices to obtain them. In many cases, our workdays are so busy, so frenetic that we don’t have a moment of spare time to devote to personal advancement. Employers don’t go out of their way to give employees dedicated chunks of time to go get certified in anything. Thus, certifications have to be pursued outside of work, and in some cases even at our own personal expense.

Because of this, someone who has a certification from a legitimate authority is demonstrating by proxy that they’ve invested in themselves. They’ve spent time and possibly money to grow themselves, and that’s a powerful personality trait that you want in an employee.

What makes this even more powerful is that a legitimate certification can help to overcome bias. When you think of Brian May from the band Queen or NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal, do you think of intellectual rigor?

Shaquille_O_Neal_Free_Throw_jpg__2199×3288_

Perhaps not, but May is Ph.D. in astrophysics, and O’Neal is a Ph.D. in Human Resources. We have biases about these individuals based on their fame that obscures our ability to see their intellectual feats.

Now extrapolate that down to the non-famous. If you have two resumes in front of you that look virtually identical – as many entry level candidates do, thanks to grade inflation – there’s a good chance subtle biases will come into play, consciously or unconsciously. Having a legitimate certification, such as a Google Analytics certification, suddenly puts more objective data on the table that can reduce the influence of bias, particularly subconscious bias.

Where should you go for certifications? As much as possible, go to the originating source. If you’re interested in Google technologies, get certified through Google. Want to be recognized as authoritative by Facebook? Facebook has Preferred Marketing Developer and Preferred Marketing Partner certification. When certification from the originating source isn’t possible, then you’ll have to shop around, but beware that there’s much more snake oil than legitimate, rigorous certification in the third party market.

The bottom line for me is that certification demonstrates investment. If you’re not willing to invest in yourself, why should other people invest in you? Conversely, if you’re willing to improve yourself, chances are you’re willing to improve any organization you’re part of.


If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!


Want to read more like this from ? Get daily updates now:


Get my book!

Subscribe to my free newsletter!