The Tail Wagging the Blawg

Amazon recently named Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail as the best business book of 2006. Perhaps, there’s no easier way to illustrate the long tail than to prepare a long tail graph yourself. And, it isn’t that difficult either! First, sign in to your Google Analytics account. Google Analytics is a great (and free!) program […]

The Tail Wagging the Blawg

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Amazon recently named Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail as the best business book of 2006. Perhaps, there’s no easier way to illustrate the long tail than to prepare a long tail graph yourself. And, it isn’t that difficult either!

First, sign in to your Google Analytics account. Google Analytics is a great (and free!) program for analyzing visitor traffic to your law firm’s website or blawg. Google Analytics can tell you which pages your visitors are viewing the most, which websites referred them, as well as what search terms they used to reach your website.

After you have signed in, click on the View Report link for the website you are interested in. This should bring up a hierarchical menu similar to the one you see on the right. At first, some of the menu items will be hidden. Only after you have selected certain options will the collapsed sub-menus be expanded. Click on Content Optimization under All Reports. Then, click on the Content Performance, followed by the Top Content link. This will take you to a table that displays the most viewed pages during the past seven days.

However, to discern trends, you may want to work with a larger data set. So, if you click on a month within the Date Range, all the days of the month will be selected. Likewise, if you click on 2006, then the entire year will be selected. Within the Top Content table, Google Analytics displays the top 10 pages by default. There’s a drop-down menu where you can ask it to display the top 10, 25, 50, 100 and 500 pages.

If you select 500, Google Analytics will retrieve the top 500 most viewed pages from your website. You can also export the data into a CSV format that Microsoft Excel can then open. To do this, click on the Excel icon by Export.

When you open the CSV spreadsheet, the columns are Content, Uniq. Views, Pageviews, Avg Time, % Exit and $ Index. Just make a graph of the second column (Uniq. Views) and you will should see something similar to the graph below.

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So, this graph shows that a few pages receive a lot of page views. It also shows the long tail, which are those numerous pages that only receive a few page views each. Now, that you understand the long tail, let’s focus on the premise of the book. Basically, The Long Tail posits that for online businesses that can stock unlimited books (Amazon) or rent unlimited movies (Netflix), the sum of all sales from those numerous products with low turnover can exceed the sum of all sales from those few products with high turnover. Google Analytics also illustrates this in their Top Content pie chart. The one below shows that the top 10 pages for a website added up to 27% of all page views, but the remaining pages added up to 73% of all page views.

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So, what does the long tail have to do with law firm blawgs? Well, law firm blawgs are similar to Amazon and Netflix in the sense that they can carry a seemingly infinite amount of inventory. In the case of blawgs, that would be an inventory of legal information. Better yet, blogging software is uniquely designed to allow authors to post little bites of information easily and take advantage of the long tail. For example, you might write a few paragraphs covering your insight on a particular recent event, law, case or court opinion. By blogging a few times a week, you will soon amass a compendium of information that spans across hundreds of web pages. Also, don’t be reticient about blogging on some esoteric legal topic. Some posts might receive a lot of page views, and some only a few. But, with enough breadth, you will be able to hit both ends of the curve.

And, if you do have a blawg, be sure to submit it to the Justia Blawg Search for inclusion. It’s a great way to get discovered.

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