A Short Tale About The Long Tail

By Simon Tolson on 17th Oct 2018
Long Tail main
Owners » Owners Blog » A Short Tale About The Long Tail

How the holiday home industry has changed from hundreds of markets of thousands to thousands of markets of hundreds.

This is a subject I’ve visited many times and to anyone in marketing it’s like saying the sky is blue but it’s still a conversation I end up having in detail with virtually every potential new owner that I meet.  Like dog years, internet years are longer than human years but if anything the the principle is more relevant today than it was ten years ago.

‘The Long Tail’ is a phrase coined by American journalist Chris Anderson in an article later expanded into an influential business book.  Anyone involved in Selling or marketing will have come across the 80/20 rule or Pareto principle which says that 80% of your sales will come from the top 20% of your customers or items that you sell and if you plot this on a graph you end up with a curve falling rapidly and disappearing into the far right- the long tail.

 

Long Tail Graph

 

In the past this was used as evidence that you should concentrate all your effort on the top 20% and pretty much forget the rest.  The internet turned this notion upside down and for everything from books to holidays it’s possible to connect demand and supply for obscure or specific things- so called niche marketing.

For those of us in the self catering holiday market this has had a revolutionary effect, mostly for the better.  In the last year visits to our site were up by about 20% but visits to the home page were down by a similar amount.  This is due to people searching for an ever greater variety of things and so landing on a specific page rather than navigating from the front of the site.  Planning a family get together with sun bathing for the mums & kids and the men love table football? Search for cottage by a beach with table football and Google will do a pretty good job of serving you a list of exactly that with the links going right to the relevant property, not to the front page of the agent.

The next thing to realise is that although by definition there are very few of each long tail search term, they are far more valuable on an individual basis than a common more general search term- someone searching for ‘cottage near a beach’ is nowhere near making a decision, the party that want the table football have decided what they want and are very close to getting out the credit card.

In the last 12 months we have had visits to the site from more than 17,000 search phrases and two thirds of those were used only once.  We can’t possibly create content specifically for most of these but they give us a great insight into what our customers really want and throw up the occasional surprise that would never have occurred to us.

For owners the great news is that you can consider marketing individual things about your cottage or adding something attractive and unusual. You can’t change the location of your cottage, add a sea view or parking but here’s some of the top things you can do to attract long tail searches;

Accept dogs- a different sort of tail and more mainstream than niche but still the easiest way to increase your bookings

Unlimited superfast broadband- probably the most cost effective thing you can do.  If you have no WiFi at all then why not consider trying no hot water either to save more money?!

Netflix to go with your broadband if you have a smart TV.  Small effect but you can share the account with your home so almost free

Hot Tub- at the other end of the scale, expensive to install and maintain but give a massive boost to bookings.

Games room/second sitting room/cinema room- if you have space in a small room or can convert a summerhouse a TV, games console, darts, table football etc can give a great boost.  Often a sleeps 8 will do better as a sleeps 6 with a games room.

Big barbecue- a pain to keep clean but one of those multi burner Outback barbecues with all the toys can swing the vote when your customers are deciding between the last few choices on their list.