What Is "The Long Tail" and Why Does It Matter To Your Law Firm

Gyi Tsakalakis
June 14, 2010

What Is The Long Tail

The Long Tail is a theory that was popularized by Chris Anderson, a writer for Wired magazine. What started out as an article for the publication, turned into a book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More.

Here is a summary of the theory on The Long Tail:

Anderson argues that products in low demand or that have a low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters, if the store or distribution channel is large enough. Anderson cites earlier research by Erik Brynjolfsson, Yu (Jeffrey) Hu, and Michael D. Smith, that showed that a significant portion of Amazon.com's sales come from obscure books that are not available in brick-and-mortar stores. The Long Tail is a potential market and, as the examples illustrate, the distribution and sales channel opportunities created by the Internet often enable businesses to tap that market successfully.

For those that enjoy video, here is a short but excellent breakdown of how the long tail works:

Why The Long Tail Matters To Your Law Firm Marketing Strategy

You may say to yourself, that's all well and good but why does this matter to me? I run a law firm, not Amazon or Netflix. The Long Tail doesn't apply to me.

This isn't necessarily true. If you are approaching your law firm marketing strategy correctly, the long tail can be an important part of your website's ability to generate new clients. Let me explain.

The Long Tail and Your Content Strategy

Developing a sound content strategy for your law firm's site is something we talk about all the time. Having a site that is easy to update and includes a blog or article section is critical. Even more important is updating your website and blog on a frequent and consistent basis. We usually recommend 2-3 posts or articles a week at minimum. The reason for this is that by adding content, you are growing out the long tail of your law firm's website. Rather than putting all your eggs into the basket of ranking highly for a particular keyword that will drive traffic to your firm's homepage (the equivalent of producing a blockbuster or best seller) you are building a library of content that will each drive small amounts of traffic and visibility to your site (the long tail). Over time, you will find that the aggregate of the long tail traffic will surpass the "blockbuster" keywords your site ranks for.

Obviously, the best mixture is to have both blockbusters (high rankings for competitive, large volume keywords) and long tail traffic. However, the likelihood of everyone having blockbuster keywords is small. However, most firm's can produce content and grow out the long tail traffic to their site.

Two Considerations About Your Long Tail Traffic

1. One thing you need to keep in mind is that the long tail traffic your site produces will only be as targeted as the articles you are writing. If your firm practices family law and you write about Facebook, your long tail traffic will most likely never become a client of yours. Your content should be on-point, relevant, and engaging to a potential client researching the information. Keep this in mind as you put your content strategy together.

2. Make sure your content is engaging and offers the chance for a reader to interact once they've read your article. A blog is a great way to facilitate this because it allows commenting and conversation on the posts. You could also offer a free guide for download in exchange for a reader's name and email. The point here is that you need to make sure your long tail content traffic is interacting with your firm's site and generating contacts that could eventually become clients.

Photo by TimWilson

Gyi Tsakalakis
Co-Founder of AttorneySync
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