The Long Tail Review

The Long Tail ReviewThe Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More” has been out since 2006 and there is even a new revised version that was released some time this year. I should have read it earlier but I didn’t think I needed it 2 years ago.

The long tail approach to search engine optimization refers to the targeting of lower traffic and lower demand keyword phrases in larger numbers instead of trying to target higher traffic and high demand keyword phrases. High traffic and high demand keyword phrases are scarce while the lower traffic and lower demand keyword phrases are abundant.

Outside of the SEO context, the long tail refers to this:

Our culture and economy are increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of hits (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve, and moving toward a huge number of niches in the tail. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.

Chris Anderson, the author of The Long Tail, goes on to describe how online businesses like Apple’s iTunes MP3 music store and go about stocking up hundreds of thousands of titles, which helps to sell a lot of the less popular products in addition to the hit titles.The Long Tail Review

Forget about the 80/20 rule when it comes to product variety and profitability. Chris advocates that you carry a wide variety of products for the sake of allowing different types of customers to buy them instead of dumping 80% of your product line for 20% of your products that sells really well. It does not matter if they sell slowly as long as it sells.

I personally find this book rather long-winded because there are way too many examples and they seem to be repetitious. It seems like applying this information for businesses with physical products would be a huge challenge because of the limited shelf space they have. Not everyone will be able to have big warehouses and lots of space to stock up on a wide variety of products.

Chris recommends using “virtual inventory” by making a deal with your supplier to supply you with a product only when it sells. I am sceptical about this idea but I know it works for Amazon. But what about the small companies?

Overall, I like this idea of not forsaking the long tail end of products that you could potentially sell to your target market. This long tail idea seems to work perfectly for digital products. However, I do have some concerns about the feasibility of some of the author’s ideas on how to implement them in businesses that sell real physical products.

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