Finding the best short-tail and long-tail online advertising opportunities

We wanted to share some feedback our team received from a user. She plansb-to-b for several large clients, is regularly tasked with digital planning and asked if our team could provide some clarity around how long-tail and short-tail sites differ.

Long-tail is a way to describe the millions of smaller, lower-trafficked sites on the Web that offer advertising. They usually have niche audiences, whether that’s because they’re local sites or just have very specialized content. While long-tail sites don’t have extremely high traffic numbers, they can offer significant value to advertisers by giving them the ability to attain lower CPM rates while reaching specific targets that may be more likely to buy their products and services.

For example, a Mexican restaurant in Tallahassee, Florida, doesn’t need to advertise on Yahoo! or another mega-website.  For that marketer, it may make more sense to explore long-tail sites, perhaps the local newspaper’s website or a site dedicated to reviewing Mexican food in Florida. Perhaps they’ll also explore ad tech vendors that offer retargeting to make sure the ads they place on those local sites continue to stay in front of their specialized audience.

On the other hand, short-tail makes up the smaller number of heavily-trafficked sites on the Web. They often have monthly unique visitor numbers in the tens and hundreds of thousands or higher and typically offer a broad-market appeal. Further, short-tail properties often encompass more than just a single website. For example, Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft (the top 3 properties among July’s comScore Top 50 Properties in the U.S.) are also among the biggest players in third-party digital media buying. Other examples of short-tail sites are, and

Some advertisers only stick to these top, short-tail sites when planning a digital campaign, but omitting the long-tail could be a big mistake. A 2011 study by CONTEXTWEB of more than 1,000 ad campaigns across 18,000 publisher sites found that ads placed on long-tail sites (those with an overall reach smaller than 1.5% of the Internet population), had a major boost in CTRs opposed to ads on short-tail sites. Additionally, long-tail sites increased click rates by 24% on the whole.

Granted, the study is a few years old but it underscores what we’ve heard from users. Media planners and buyers can miss out on valuable opportunities for their clients if they solely focus on the top, short-tail sites.

One of unique draws in is the ability for users to search niche websites with UV’s lower than 50,000. These are often long-tail sites, which comScore doesn’t report on for consumer and b-to-b. By exploring both long- and short-tail sites for a campaign, planners can avoid potential client frustrations. For example, by not conducting a well-rounded analysis of sites and third-party opportunities, a client could approach a planner with a site they should be aware of and didn’t see because they only researched the top 250 U.S. websites.

What's more, we also provide audience metrics on both long- and short-tail sites in  from Compete, Nielsen, BPA and publisher self-reported, giving planners multiple ways to compare UVs and share those with clients.

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