Interview with Matthew Edgar (SpringTrax)
SpringTrax is a broken link checking service.
I interviewed Matthew Edgar, SpringTrax founder to find out more. This is the two hundred and thirteenth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Matthew!
How would you describe SpringTrax in under 50 words?
SpringTrax finds every 404 not found your visitors encounter. SpringTrax then provides detailed steps to fix all of those 404s and offers suggestions to improve your website’s error experience.
How difficult has it been to start-up a business by yourself, with no business partner?
I think the biggest challenge is that I don’t have a co-founder to talk through new ideas with. So, I have to trust that I’m making the best decisions to move SpringTrax forward. Thankfully, I do have a lot of friends, colleagues, and customers who have provided incredibly helpful advice.
What gap in the market did you discover that persuaded you to launch SpringTrax in early 2013?
The biggest gap I saw was the popular broken link tools on the market didn’t find every 404 error that visitors encountered on a site (they were missing around 83% of 404s visitors encountered). If you aren’t finding every error, then you can’t fix every error. The few alternative ways to find those missing 404s were clunky and technically cumbersome to setup.
The other gap I saw was that no link checker was providing any data around what 404 errors were really costing your business. How many visitors saw that 404? How many people left your site due to that 404 error? Without that information, there is no way to know what 404s cost your business.
How long did it take to put together the initial version of SpringTrax?
I initially built the tool that would become SpringTrax for my own personal use on a website in a little under a week. Building it out for the beta round took about 2 months of work, including time to test and time to tweak based on feedback. Finalizing the post-beta version that was ready for public sign ups took about another month. Of course, since then there have been countless hours spent enhancing different aspects of the tool.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing SpringTrax?
Providing accurate, specific recommendations on how to fix not found errors was/is the hardest technical challenge in developing SpringTrax. However, it is also one of the coolest features SpringTrax offers (I might be biased). What makes it hard is that SpringTrax’s robots have to not only detect the error (ruling out false positives) and then have to analyze the nature of that error to determine how best to fix it. One of the common ways to fix a not found error is by redirecting that broken URL to a working URL on the same website. Finding out where to redirect the broken URL to requires analyzing the visitor’s habits to see what content the visitor actually wanted instead of the error and then analyze the website to see what page(s) contains that content. We then package all that data up into easy to act on recommendations.
Do you have any features in the pipeline?
Yes, we’ve got quite a few new features and the people using SpringTrax are continually suggesting lots of great new ideas. One new feature we’ll be releasing next month that I’m really excited about is a more direct way to track what 404s are costing your business. Ultimately, the reason you want to get rid of not found errors is because these errors cost you customers. The more directly we can show you that loss, the more useful and helpful SpringTrax will be.
Has SpringTrax got the feedback and growth you expected since launching in January 2013?
On the whole, yes. There has been a ton of positive feedback from the people who have used SpringTrax on their website. For instance, SpringTrax helped one small business recover $2000/year that they were losing due to 404 errors. Another site recover 1,000 lost visitors per week and earned more ad revenue as a result. It is incredibly exciting to know that my tool is helping people recover this kind of loss.
Of course, like every other founder, I wanted a million or more people to use SpringTrax on launch day. Haven’t got there yet…there is always 2014!
The Snapshot tool is very interesting. How did you come up with it?
The Snapshot tool came about because I was seeing that, on average, 74% of people who reached a 404 page left that website for good. That’s why 404s are so costly to your site. However, I started to wonder if there were ways to reduce that exit rate so that even if you did get visitors reaching a 404 error on your site, maybe fewer of them would leave. In running tests, I found five key areas that help you have a better chance of keeping people on your website. Those are the five aspects checked by SpringTrax’s free snapshot tool.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
The biggest hurdle I’ve faced and continue to face is that I’m not a marketer. My background is in programming. As a result, a big challenge for me is finding the best way to explain why people need SpringTrax and how SpringTrax can help you improve the experience people have on your website.
What are some of your features that make people’s lives easier?
The biggest feature that makes life easier is that SpringTrax offers detailed recommendations on how you fix 404 not found errors. By using those detailed suggestions, web managers have had an easier time fixing the errors that affect their visitors.
What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?
You don’t have to go big. I was worried when I first started that I was just one person on a limited bootstrapped budget. Didn’t I need an investor or a co-founder? Certainly, co-founders and investors can help, but they aren’t a requirement. However, despite being small, I’ve been able to start up and build a tool that has helped my customers. The trick has been to stay focused on quality instead of quantity.
Can you convince the reader to start using SpringTrax in under 50 words?
How many customers are you losing due to 404 errors? Chances are it is more than you realize and certainly more than you can afford, especially if you have a bigger website. SpringTrax helps you find and fix all of the 404 errors on your website.
Finished reading? Check out SpringTrax!