Wednesday, February 21, 2007

HitTail - trying it out on Blogger beta

Early HitTail results. I've always been interested in my visitor stats - well, it's an ego thing, isn't it? I spend hoursandhours researching and writing stuff for my blog, and I'm naturally interested in whether or not anyone's actually, you know, reading what I write. Turns out that quite a few of you are (hooray!) and over the past couple of months I've noticed that Google referrals have become the number one vehicle bringing many of you to my site.

Once my Most Popular Posts widget is up and running again I'll have a minute-by-minute view of the 10 most popular posts on my blog (their server's currently having problems talking to the SQL Server database that holds all the widget data - but they assure me it'll be back online soon).

UPDATE 28/02/07: It's up again! Yaay!

It's very interesting watching various posts floating to the top of the pile. There are some I hadn't realised were so popular - most of my Blogger beta hints and tips are regularly in the Top 10, for example.

There are also those that I know are up there - currently it's the Wii Fatality post (massive number of hits from a link on The Enquirer), my Roger Waters Dark Side of the Moon Live concert review (fascinating to watch the hits coming from all around the world as the tour traverses the planet), and an old one about my Teevy boyfriend Clay Aiken, entitled Is Clay gay or straight? It's none of your business!

But what about the posts that aren't so widely-read? And, more important, what about the search words that are used to reach them?

HitTail is an online search word analysis tool that "reveals in real-time the least utilized, most promising keywords hidden in the long tail of your natural search results."

Long tail? Natural search results? Wassat then?

The complete collection of search words used by visitors who arrive at your site has a bunch of most-popular words and phrases, and then a much longer list of less common words and phrases. This is the long tail - and together they account for more visits than do the most-popular bunch. In fact Google reckons that over 50% of all searches are unique.

Natural search results are the ones you find on Google that aren't the paid-for ones. They're the real ones, if you like - the ones that are there through their own merit and not because someone's paid for them to be there. And that's where you want your blog posts to appear...

Hidden within the long tail of your natural search words and phrases are some that you can use as inspiration for further blog posts, and which will, over time, increase traffic - increase hits - to your blog. HitTail figures out which words and phrases are the "magic" ones, and makes suggestions about what subjects you could blog about, based on these.

Hmmm. Interesting. Now, I know that I certainly don't want to write stuff only because it might increase my visits - that's not the point of my blog at all - I write about what I'm interested in, my subjects are things I feel passionate about. But I think there might be occasions where what people are searching for matches up with what I want to write about - in which case, it'll be interesting data to have, and data which I might use. We shall see.

It's easy to put into Blogger - you just register your blog at HitTail, they give you a bit of JavaScript which you put into the body of your Blogger template (I placed it immediately following my opening <body> tag), and as soon as you get a new visitor to your site (referred by a search engine) the stats start coming through.

Once there are sufficient stats, HitTail starts making suggestions of subjects you could write about. It takes a while - I've had mine up for a few hours now and although I have stats, there are no suggestions yet. I guess it might take a few days for the tail to get long enough for suggestions to be made. I'll let you know.

Currently HitTail is in beta, so it's free. I'm not sure if they eventually intend to charge for it, but right now I'm happy to give it a free trial and see if I like it. Again, I'll let you know - and I'll be keeping an eye open to see if it makes a difference to my visitor numbers. Meanwhile here's a cute little demo about how HitTail works.

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Mike Levin said...

Hi WebWeaver,

We don't intend to charge for the basic service that you're currently testing. We're going to keep that free. We'll be adding some very compelling premium services, which is where we'll make our money. Thanks for the mention!

webweaver said...

Hi mike,

That's great news! Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know. It's always good to find useful stuff online that doesn't cost an arm and a leg to use.

Plus, as I did with SiteMeter, some people who like your basic service may well be prepared to pay for the premium service after a while.

Thanks again for stopping by!