Forget 'The Long Tail' - Go For The Sweet Spike 18 May, 2007 — 9 comments — Stuart Brown
The golden balance between profitability and obscurity
You may have heard of the phenomenon that is 'The Long Tail'. The term refers to the potentially untapped marketing areas in the elongated low-volume segment of a market. Amazon employs this thinking very effectively - their huge stock catalogue ensures that if there's an obscure book or item you're thinking of purchasing, they'll most likely offer it.
The power and breadth of The Long Tail is remarkable - but tapping into that market does bring to bear a number of practical issues, particularly if you're not already in an established position. If you don't have the reach of Amazon, how can you forge your own market?
In the earliest days of the web, one of the simplest ways to get traffic was to go straight for the top prizes - pornography, casinos, and pills (not to mention a boatload of great domains) were all still up for grabs.
This all changed very quickly, of course - as soon as people caught onto the fact that there was money in the internet, there was a veritable gold rush to make some green in these booming sectors. The result? Cutthroat competition and thousands of wannabees all pining for the same slice of pie. In terms of effort, chasing after the top end these days is a foolish endeavour.
Going for the obscure end can be no better, either - building a huge library of content or massive inventory is a massive investment, and to have but a few sales as a result of the obscurity can mean a profit could be a long way off.
There is a balance, then, between the highly competitive markets at the top and the sparser markets below. A sweet spot of demand, away from the aggressive markets, but farther from obscurity as well.
Find this level - the sweet spike - and whether you're looking for search engine rankings or sales, you'll get the most cost-effective return.