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As we can see, a long tail content creation strategy is best achieved by developing a robust database of items and their unique attributes and then leveraging that data to create fit-for-purpose content streams. Databases can be compiled using existing data from multiple sources or produced from the results of in-house research.
The easiest way to produce long tail content is by creating the content from a neat database. A great many companies started by publishing the contents of an existing database purchased from another company or by accessing data at no cost and without restrictions from government and/or public sources.
Take, for example, Yelp.com, a company that collects and publishes consumer reviews of service providers such as restaurants and cafes, hairdressers and beauty salons, even dentists and medical clinics. To start the site and keep it up-to-date, Yelp bought existing and common databases on those service providers. (Remember the Yellow Pages?)
By using existing data sources, Yelp (and its competitors) initially developed their content, creating a page for every existing business. Now, when users search for any company name, Google includes Yelp in the search results increasing traffic to their site.
What is a Database?
A database is essentially a large spreadsheet or table, with each row listing a particular item and each column containing specific attributes of that item.
For example, suppose we have a database of restaurants where each row in the table contains information about a particular restaurant.
The first column is the name of the restaurant. The second column tells us the city where the restaurant is located, and the third column is the exact address. The fourth column shows the restaurant’s opening year, and subsequent columns include information such as opening hours, restaurant type, price point, if it allows reservations, if it makes deliveries, etc.
Each row can be translated into a beautifully designed and organized content page on a website that highlights the specific content the company wants to focus on.
An extreme example is geographic databases that contain information about addresses and locations. In a previous article, we highlighted Zillow and its competitors, who have turned such databases into products through which people buy, sell, or rent apartments and houses.
Databases of information on companies, institutions, universities, hospitals, doctors, etc., form the infrastructure for many successful businesses in various fields. The main idea is to create a long tail with a content page for each item, be it a hospital, restaurant, doctor, or even a book, then allow users to perform actions such as adding reviews and/or ratings, updating information, or contacting the institution.
Where Can I Find Existing Databases?
The United States Government collects vast amounts of information on just about anything the government is involved in, oversees, or invests tax money.
This information is almost always accessible to the public following The Freedom of Information Act, which requires the U.S. Government to disclose all information in its possession unless the data infringes on the security of the state, the security of citizens, or the right to privacy.
Therefore, there is almost no visible information about private individuals or security organizations, but there is a plethora of information about public and private companies, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, doctors, schools, kindergartens, universities, aircraft, trucks, and more.
The administration has set up a dedicated website – data.gov – to compile this large amount of information, permitting and even encouraging users to use the databases to create commercial applications.
As per the data.gov homepage, the site is “[t]he home of the U.S. Government’s open data. Here you will find data, tools, and resources to conduct research, develop web and mobile applications, design data visualizations, and more.”
Data.gov is useful for generating company-specific data sets as many government databases are inconvenient for users and are not easily searchable with Google. In contrast, data.gov provides an opportunity for companies to download and edit publicly available data sets in a way that is user-friendly and accessible to Google.
A good example of unwieldy databases is those collected on hospitals by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on their site, data.cms.gov. At least three commercial companies have taken this information and organized it more conveniently, notably the American Hospital Directory (https://www.ahd.com), the American Hospital Association (https://www.ahadata.com/b2b-sales-marketing), and Advameg, Inc.’s Hospital Data site (http://www.hospital-data.com/).
How To Use a Database Effectively
As mentioned above, almost all databases are organized in a large spreadsheet (or table) where each row contains a lot of information about a particular line item (e.g., a restaurant). The next step is simple: create a separate content page for each restaurant that includes the specific information found in each row.
With a little creativity, however, the data can be edited to create original configurations, and you can still create a long tail even if competitors have already published the basic line information.
For example, instead of (or in addition to) a content page for each restaurant, you can publish tens of thousands of pages organized by city and restaurant type, e.g., a list of all vegetarian restaurants in city in the United States.
You have now created 15,000 new content pages – one page per city. Additional lists could include other cuisines, such as Italian or Chinese, or a list of all the bars and clubs open all night in each city.
Another way to create an original long tail is to cross-reference different databases to enrich the content. By merging different data sets, you create opportunities to edit the data in a way that maximizes the searchability of your product by your target audience.
Suppose your company plans to produce backpacks for hikers who travel a lot. Your target audience is likely very interested in hiking trails, nature reserves, and interesting natural sites.
Many existing databases are already organized by location and trip type, so it is easy to find the information. Still, getting Google to bring your results to the first page will be difficult.
To create a long and unique tail, you need to add more dimensions that will suit specific audiences, for example, families with small children, people with disabilities, or couples where one spouse likes hiking trails and the other does not. Each crossover produces unique content for a specific and targeted audience.
You could, for example, cross-index maps of nature sites with maps of attractions for children and create lists of dual sites by region that would appeal to children and the well-traveled.
Another list could include areas with trails for biking and hiking to accommodate travelers, where some prefer to walk, and others wish to ride their mountain bikes.
In the case of Yelp, they expanded on their foundation and created a unique online experience by providing features that encourage users to add reviews and testimonials. They also provide additional tools allowing businesses to add content, such as restaurant menus, photos, history and biographies, newspaper reviews, and the ability to respond to customer reviews.
Other companies, such as CrunchBase, have applied this model to their own businesses. CrunchBase took existing company information from LinkedIn and added unique data about fundraising to those few companies that did raise money.
In this way, they have significantly extended their tail. Almost every Google search for any company returns a reference to CrunchBase and whether that company has raised any capital.
The importance of the long tail is that after the effort you start building the databases and content pages.
The site you build should work without the need to invest in advertising and slowly create an audience that is mostly the same as the target market of your product or service.
In the next article, we will discuss Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or in plain language, how to make Google bring your content to the first page of search results.