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The Google Chain – Understanding long tail keyword searches

John Murray

We all like to think that we are unique and sometimes we come up with thoughts, questions and ideas that we believe nobody has ever thought of….until we type them into Google.

The internet is a huge repository of minds siphoned off into a mammoth think tank where you can find the answers to all of life’s great questions. It’s underpinned by a predictive text search bar which seems to read your mind. I’m not subversive by nature but every time Google manages to answer my questions, it makes me determined to find one that it can’t. And it’s harder than you think- apparently someone has already wanted to know what wasps taste like.

The Google Chain game is a competition you can play with friends where each of you adds a word to a chain search term until no results are found. The person before the chain fails to find any matches wins the game. For example, I might start with ‘Koala’ (58,700,000 matches), the next player adds a word to make ‘Koala chocolate’ (1,130,000 matches) and so on until you end up with zero results on ‘Koala chocolate tango star rabies event’ so the person who added rabies (not event) would be the winner.

It’s not until you play the game that you realise just how difficult getting your content seen on the internet can be. When you start with a generic search term of just one word, then a staggering number of results are returned. Start to get more specific, and you can see how much more relevant the findings can be.

Most searches performed on the internet are of the ‘long tail’ variety and consist of a specific phrase rather than just one keyword. If you have a website selling hard to find vinyl records from Eastern Europe, it might seem sensible to focus on the keywords ‘vinyl’ and ‘rare’ but your field of competition for these is enormous. With 70% of searches online being ‘Long Tail’ then it’s far better to isolate unique but relevant search terms. Also, it’s far more likely to pay off in conversion. The person who types in ‘alexander nevsky rare vinyl’ is more likely to be looking for your content than the person who enters the term ‘vinyl’.

John is every inch the wordsmith and loves a game of Scrabble above all else. With experience writing for newspapers, John’s time at university was spent studying Creative Writing – something which comes across in his love of the pun.

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