back when there was a static index, where you and I saw the same SERPs on the same search at the same time, it was possible to mine keywords for terms out in the tail that had low search volume but high conversion and low competition.
Those days are all but gone as Google has consolidated the market, installed the float (where we no longer see the same SERPs when we do the same search) and used other modifications such as not allowing PPC purchase of low volume terms, making it harder to SEE the under published and over subscribed terms and they use local to obfuscate further.
I could find over subscribed and under published keywords with about a quarter of the work it now takes. In fact, the work to benefit ratio is approaching a point of diminishing return and that too is what Google wants. Google wants to be the KING of COMEDY, the ultimate gatekeeper deciding who wins and loses.
The tactics described in this graphic show the tightening of the noose and the elimination of the search for blue oceans inside a gaggle of keywords (lol). Consolidation makes it harder for the little guys who used to be able to mine keywords for the gold nuggets of over subscribed (searched) and under published content.
The little guy doesn't fare well in such a consolidation.
He or she need to disrupt and play the game like a rebels to have a chance. The death of the long tail means smaller Internet marketers will ned to pivot and find new means of "virgin traffic". In a long tail world we needed to find many small wins to make one big win.
In a world without long tail keywords we will need to continue to split the infinity of search in unique ways. The difference between OUR creation of unique ideas and terms is establishing those terms as a "long tail term" is harder than finding them.
Finding long tail terms means searchers are creating them. When marketers create unique combinations of terms the chance for the social support and then subsequent searches needed to sustain the new idea into a robust search pattern is much more difficult.
It has always been easier, though "easy" is a strange word to use for such mind bending keyword work, to FIND the pattern and then build the content to exploit it. Remember this is NOT something any team I've ever managed did for arbitrage. We always looked for terms WITHIN our natural patterns.
The difference is subtle but important.
In a long tail world we could react to the patterns created by searchers creating content to feed our take on over subscribed and under published content. With the elimination of such tactics we must sherpa our packs to the top of the mountain without the well worn paths of long tail patterns supplied by an army of searching sherpas :).
Anderson's famous long tail graph, really just a power distribution, exists inside and outside of a website. Inside a website 20% of the content will control 80% of the good stuff (money, traffic, clicks, engagement, comments, reviews). This power distribution is the MOST COMMON and repeatable fractal in Internet marketing.
The reason the long tail was so powerful is it gave a tiny website some territory where they could command the high ground. Bridge enough long tail terms together and an Internet marketer could attack the castle of a "head" term.
The little guy could siege the big guns and break down Barbasi's "rich get richer" equation to how content networks hub. Long tails allowed little IMers to, "Storm the Bastille".
That attack of the castle is now MUCH harder. If, like me, you've spent what surely must be YEARS inside of keyword decks trying to find these nuggets of gold you would greet these latest Google moves with a sad recognition that something you became good at, a skill few had, is no more.
This is NOT the FIRST time a skill that took years to hone and create has been removed by The KING, so I don't tend to jump off the roof when what has happened before happens again. Google wants me and all Internet marketers to do OUR thing and let the keywords fall where they may.
I don't agree.
Keywords are the vox populi, the voice of the people. Marketing without the voice of the customer is solipsism (talking to ourselves about ourselves).
Mining sentiment, aspiration, ideas and language out of keywords was a strange alchemy of ART and SCIENCE. There are plenty of strange alchemy left in Internet marketing, but it is sad to see the slow elimination of a favorite strategy never the less.