The long-tail of keyword search, classified as such due to the Power Law distributive properties it follows along a Normal Curve - is characterized as search queries with scalar invariance - low-frequency, high-reach, and high-specificity.
The reach derived from long-tail searching far exceeds the quantity derived from high-frequency, low-reach keywords. A query such as 'shirts' would be denoted as a fat-head keyword, while 'find cheap XXL shirts with polka dot patterns in nyc' would be classified as a long-tail operative.
Google, which has been widely characterized (and self-proclaimed) as a change embracer and an early adopter of advancements in technological trends and tools, has been highly prolific in their delivery of both back-end algorithmic changes as well as manipulation to their front-end user experience for some time now.
In early September of 2010, Google went live with one of the most wide-reaching usability changes ever integrated into its front face - Google Instant Search. Instant uses a combination of linguistic algorithms, semantic recognition, predictive modeling, and on-the-fly stupidity to make searching more faster, intuitive, and efficient.
What kind of implications does Google Instant have on SEO and PPC? I recently attended a presentation by comScore's Eli Goodman in Utah, where Eli shed some insight on this very question.
Historically, search queries used on the major engines have been getting longer and more specific as internet users become more sophisticated. The web graph itself is increasing at an exponential rate, and because of this - web users now have to cut through more noise than ever before to reach relevancy in their search.
'Chasing the long tail' is a discipline within SEO that promotes the targeted acquisition of long-tail queries through heavy and naturally written content. Matching a long-tail query is also generally ideal for conversion due to its unmatched specificity.
However, with the integration of Instant Search, and for the first time in 9 years, we are witnessing a retraction of keywords per query in the US. Because of this, broad-match SEO could be on the rise again, and with it there will be a flurry of competitive activity in the natural and paid search environment.
Because Google Ads are served up primarily for fat-head keywords, bid amounts and spends will increase proportionally with impressions of the former. Ads per query will also increase.
At the end of the day, it's easy to forget that Google is, first and foremost - in the business of making money. And make no mistake about it - Google Instant is a propagation of this objective - anyone who believes otherwise is living within an alternative reality with different space time concepts.
Once again, natural search could be saturated with targeted anchor text links and high keyword density in an attempt to capture fat-head strings. Forget advocating the long tail at your workplace - let's put all of our marketing dollars into "shoes" and "shirts" campaigns.
As a search marketer - it frustrates me to see a search engine, historically praised for simplicity and eloquence, become saturated with noise at the expense of usability. I personally doubt most people intend to use Instant when beginning a search, but much like a subway marketing messages captive audience, they fumble into conversion when presented with Instant results.
Personally, I'm getting annoyed at having to turn Instant and Preview off everytime I clear my search history. I'm sick of constantly changing my Google Maps location. And to be honest, I much preferred being able to scroll Google SERPs rather than Individual Results.
pissed off and profitably yours,