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For the last few weeks I've been testing out an interesting service that I learned about while catching up on my new favorite podcast, Startups for the Rest of Us. The service is called HitTail (http://www.hittail.com).

So what is HitTail? The concept is actually quite simple although admittedly it took me most of the trial to finally realize exactly how it could benefit me specifically. I’ll explain it more for how I see it rather than how their marketing explains it on the site because it wasn’t until Derrick (from HitTail support) explained it in a way that finally resonated with me.

After signing up, you add a little snippet of JavaScript to your site, just like we do with a Google Analytics urchin and other tools. This examines the URL of inbound requests to your site and if the user came from a search results page (like from Google or Bing for instance), it collects the keywords the user entered in their search and the URL they hit on your site. Then, in the background it analyzes these keywords, among many others it collects.

Using all this data, HitTail then recommends to you specific content to write about in order to target specific keywords and have that page rank highly on the search results page, specifically the first page of search results (a coveted spot). This list of topics are actual keyword combinations that people have used to come to your site.

Take me for instance. I’ve written a good bit recently on SharePoint 2013 workflows. If that was a term that showed up on my list of suggestions from HitTail, or some combination of those keywords, such as if it said “SharePoint 2013 workflow office 365”, then according to HitTail there would be a strong likelihood that if I wrote a blog post on that topic with those specific keywords and used them a few times in the article, that Google & Bing would display that blog post in the first page of search results when someone used that phrase. In fact, I can even take the list of recommendations that HitTail provides and export it to Excel and see a ranking score from 1-10 with 10 being the highest recommendations.

At first I had a hard time understanding the value for someone like me. Specifically I asked “if people are already coming to my site using these keywords, then what value would I get from seeing this data… they are already coming to my site.” I’m sure fellow bloggers may share similar challenges at times. You sit there thinking “I want to write about something, but I’m not sure what I should write about.” I like to blog because I genuinely like to help and teach people and like to talk about things that I know people are currently challenged with or where I know I’m filling a gap. You get ideas from working with customers, from posts you see in the forums or on Twitter, you get ideas from questions people propose to you… there are all sorts of things. However at times you just come up blank.

What I like about HitTail is that this gives me not only an idea on what to write about, but it gives me specific evidence showing this is what people are looking for and they are looking for it on my site. For product specific sites, I can see immense value from this service. In fact they even have a cool service where you can easily order an article on the specific keyword straight from their site. For me that doesn’t make much sense because people don’t come to my blog to read what others are saying, they want my thoughts, but I can see value in it for a product specific site.

At any rate, this is a cool service… it’s certainly worth the free trial! What I really like is how they use email marketing to push some fantastic content & recommendations to you explaining their service every few days. Consider this a two thumbs up recommendation!

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