Interview with Rob Walling (HitTail)
HitTail reveals promising keywords hidden in the long tail of natural search results.
I interviewed Rob Walling, HitTail CEO to find out more. This is the hundred and eighty eighth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Rob!
How would you describe HitTail in under 50 words?
HitTail tells you, in real-time, the most promising organic keywords you should target based on your existing traffic.
Why did you decide to acquire HitTail in 2011?
I decided to acquire HitTail because I had been a customer since 2006 and had seen the results it could provide. I was a fan of the service and was concerned it was going to die since it was having outtages every few months. I saw a lot of potential in HitTail in a post-Panda world, where creating quality content is more important then perhaps it’s ever been.
So I contacted the owner and acquired it.
How did the name HitTail come about?
The name comes from the concept of the Long Tail, which says that there’s as much value to be captured with the few big “hits” as there are in the multitude of smaller successes.
HitTail points to the snowball of organic search traffic you can build over time from low-competition, “long tail” keywords that virtually no one else is targeting because they don’t know about them. The major SEO keyword tools provide the same information to everyone so it’s not a huge competitive advantage. And mining your own traffic for long tail keywords that no one else has is a good way to build a long tail of “hits” (website visitors).
Thus the name, HitTail.
How different is the current version of HitTail compared to the initial version?
In terms of the look and feel, it’s day and night. It’s been completely re-designed from the ground up to fit the look of a modern SaaS app. We did this both to improve usability and speed, but to create confidence in the minds of our users that HitTail is a stable, solid, fast web application.
In terms of the algorithm that analyzes keywords, it has been tweaked and adjusted over the years, but the core concept has remained unchanged for nearly 7 years.
Can you tell us a little about the secret sauce that goes into finding the best keywords?
The algorithm pivots on 7 factors, including: length of the keyphrase, number of words, your current rank, and a handful of others. The algorithm has been optimized by analyzing more than 1 billion customer keywords.
How long does it take for websites to be analysed so that they can find out which keywords they should be using?
It depends on how much traffic they receive. HitTail doesn’t crawl your website, it watches your incoming traffic stream. If you have 1500 unique visitors per month, with at least a third of them from organic search, you’re in a good place to get at least $10/month in value from HitTail (that’s out lowest pricing plan).
How do you differentiate from your competitors?
HitTail is unique because it’s a keyword tool that:
a) is real-time
b) analyzes your existing traffic for keywords instead of keying from a term you enter
c) automatically finds new content & keyword ideas day and night as your website receives visitors
d) is designed to filter out the noise rather than overwhelm you with information
What is your primary focus in terms of new developments to HitTail at the moment?
We’re focusing on tying into other applications: we recently launched an integration with Basecamp, we have a HubSpot integration that’s nearly complete, and we’ll be beefing up our WordPress plugin in the next couple months.
What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?
Building something people want isn’t enough. You also need a scalable, repeatable way for them to hear about what you build. That might be a viral loop, content marketing, SEO, or advertising, but most likely it will be a combination of all of them.
What excites you for the future of HitTail?
We’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the impact it’s having on peoples’ businesses. That excites me.
Can you convince the reader to start using HitTail in under 50 words?
Don’t leave traffic on the table. Give HitTail a try for a look at your low hanging fruit keywords and content ideas.
Finished reading? Check out HitTail!