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Search analysis is a crucial method for understanding visitor intent and many of us have learned about the long tail and its implications on the overall analysis of search terms. The reality is, however, that many organizations are pressed for resources to do deep search analysis, so it would be valuable to know what benefit might be gained from digging past the top 25 or 50 keywords. To help answer this, we’ve conducted a data-driven study to understand what depth of keyword analysis is required achieve a solid representation of all the keywords that drive traffic to a site.

Having performed an in-depth study, PublicInsite has determined that analyzing the top 500 keywords can provide an accurate reflection of visitor intent. To demonstrate this concept we’ve focused on brand vs. non-branded search and after reviewing over 2.9 million keywords, it became evident that looking at the top 500 keywords yields a fairly representative sample. The table below summarizes the percentage of brand related searches in the Top 100 through Top 1,000 keywords relative to all visits from keyword driven traffic.

Table 1: Percentage of Brand Related Visits Based on Top Keywords

The data illustrates the difference between the percentages of brand related keywords from tier-to-tier in regards to depth. We see for example when comparing the top 400 vs. the top 500 that the difference is minimal (1.1%). The difference between the top 100 and top 200 is much greater (5.0%). As the analysis goes deeper in to the long tail, we see this difference changes even less with each 100 keyword increment.

In short, the data we’ve analyzed strongly supports the concept of analyzing the top 500 keywords as a generally accepted approach to understanding general visitor intent across all keywords to a site. In principle, it would be preferable to study all keywords to a site, but this can literally be hundreds of thousands of keywords, which makes it virtually impossible.

Given the results from this study, we strongly recommend that organizations develop a library of keywords and categories which can be used on a regular basis to understand visitor intent through the top 500 keywords; not less and not more. However, for content development and in-depth analysis, we strongly recommend considering the long tail.

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