3 Tips for Managing the ‘Short Head’ of Search

by Britt Brouse
Oct 1, 2008

By now we’ve all heard of the long tail of Internet search, involving highly specific keyword phrases as a low cost source for gaining new site traffic. However, in its whitepaper, Don’t Get Whipped: Managing the “Short Head” of Search, Engine Ready Software advises marketers to keep paying attention to critical long-tail search, but not to the detriment of what it calls the “short head,” or top five phrases in a pay-per-click program.

In both new and long-established programs, if you make the short head the focus of continual testing and analysis, your top five phrases can keep your SEO program competitive. Tune in to the short head of search with these three tips:

1. Calculate How Much Work the Short Head Does
Analyze your data to find out how concentrated your keywords are. In looking at its client’s Google AdWords accounts, Engine Ready found that an account’s top five phrases accounted for 52 percent of the total spend, while phrases six through 10 accounted only for an additional 8 percent of the total spend. That means the first five phrases were the strongest revenue generators, making a short-head focus extremely worthwhile.

2. Track the Top 10 Phrases
A few phrases determine the bulk of a campaign’s success or failure. Search marketers need to identify the top 10 highest-spending keywords and flag them throughout campaigns. When testing variations in ad creative or landing page creative, be sure to trace the results back through to your top 10 phrases.

3. Apply Analytics
Look not only at all available reports detailing your top keywords, but specifically at your site’s bounce rate, which indicates when users leave your landing page immediately after arriving without any further clicks. If your keywords are accurate, the bounce rate will remain low. Monitor the bounce rate for your short-head keywords to be sure they remain at the lowest levels. For e-commerce sites, revenue-per-click costs or return on ad spend also can show you the profitability of each keyword phrase.

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