My main SEO approach with niche sites is going after long tail keywords so that I can get organic search traffic without building links or building out a private blog network.
I like targeting long tail keywords because it’s less risky; in other words it’s less boom and bust. I have much less Google Penguin exposure and less competition trying to nudge me from the top. It’s a win/win.
I’m not willing to risk my already excellent organic search traffic (125,000/mo.) for my main authority site by taking SEO shortcuts. This would be penny wise, pound foolish. I’m patient; I’ll take the slow and steady approach with long tail and let my site’s growing authority and social signals work it’s magic to steadily increase organic search traffic.
While ranking is often fairly easy once you have a site with some authority and target long tail keywords, the heavy lifting is finding those long tail keywords. That’s why I’m always game to trying long tail keyword research (that doesn’t simply pull and filter keywords from the Google Keyword Planner).
One long tail keyword research product that I’ve had my eye on for some time is Hittail. I finally took the plunge and purchased access.
How Hittail works in a nutshell
The reason I think Hittail will benefit my long tail keyword research is because it analyzes existing search terms current visitors use to find my site. From the massive list of keywords people use to get to my site observed by Hittail, the software deploys an algorithm to suggest new long tail keywords (often related) that should be easy to rank for.
Talk about easy. Hittail does all the work for me. I simply look at the Hittail-generated list of “Suggested Keywords” and start producing content around those suggestions. That’s exactly what I’m doing (see my ongoing case study below).
I like the fact Hittail continues churning out keyword suggestions as people visit my site each day. It’s an ongoing keyword generation process.
Getting going with Hittail
It takes a couple of minutes. You follow 3 simple steps to allow Hittail to pull keyword data from your Google Webmaster account. This is done by giving Hittail restricted access. Hittail steps you through this… it’s very easy.
FYI: Hittail is only useful for websites that have a decent volume of search traffic. I don’t know how much. I added a second niche site with very little organic search traffic and it generated no results.
This Hittail review will also be an ongoing case study showcasing my results.
Case Study Background & Set Up Information:
Sites tested: 1 niche site (not this site)
Date case study started: December 11, 2014 (FYI, the subject website was launched in February 2014 and has over 100,000 monthly organic search visits at the time this case study launched).
Suggested keywords as of December 12 (24 hours after signing up): 34
Tracking: I’ll track display ad revenue (using Adsense URL channels and estimate with other advertisers based on RPM) generated from organic search traffic for posts published from Hittail keyword suggestions.
Case Study Results (Ongoing)
Hittail collected 3,856 keywords used by visitors within 24 hours of setting up Hittail.
From that list of 3,856 keywords, Hittail’s algorithm suggested 27 long tail keywords (it runs a few pages, I’ll just show one so you get the idea). Sorry, I’m not revealing these keywords.
Hittail’s suggested keywords (these are the keywords I should target):
Day 2: Metrics and Action Taken
I’ve instructed my team to generate 10 extensive articles targeting 10 of the suggested keywords. I will get these posts published over the next couple of weeks (my style of content takes a few hours each to produce and I’ll be fitting it in an already full publishing schedule).
Already Hittail has generated more decent long tail keywords than I get published any time soon. I’m not sure if Hittail’s keyword generation slows down or maintains this pace. Time will tell. If it maintains, I doubt I’ll run out of topics anytime soon.
Day 4: Metrics and Action Taken
Wow, Hittail keeps spitting out keyword suggestions… faster than I can get the content published (which is a very good thing).
- Total keywords collected: 12,641
- Total suggested keywords: 118
- Total keywords I’ll use and target: 32
Why am I not going to use all 118 suggested keywords?
It’s a judgement call. At the rate new keywords are being suggested, I’m going to target only the very best.
I choose suggested keywords largely based on whether I can produce decent content for those keywords that won’t result in too similar of content already published on my site. Some suggested keywords are very close to keywords I’m already targeting so that content would essentially end up being the same.
While it may seem that going after 32 out of 118 suggestions may seem like a lot of lost opportunity or that Hittail doesn’t suggest very good keyword, I tend to view it differently. Instead, I see it as 32 great long tail keywords I wouldn’t have discovered on my own (maybe I would have found them, but it would have required a lot of work. Remember, Hittail does this on autopilot).
Day 7: Published first post using Hittail keywords (December 17/14 – 7 days after getting Hittail)
Published the first piece of content targeting a keyword generated from Hittail. I have 9 more articles in the works.
Here are the details about this particular post:
- Word count: 1,233 words.
- Number of images used: 35
- Seed keyword: 12,100 monthly searches. SEMRush difficulty: 85.91.
- Long tail #1: 1,600 monthly searches. SEMRush difficulty: 81.63
- Long tail #2: 30 monthly searches. SEMRush difficulty: “This keyword is not in our Google.com database.”
From the Hittail keyword suggestion, I added an additional long tail by adding another word to the phrase (i.e. included keyword).
FYI, there are many close variations of this phrase that gets decent amount of searches each month. Therefore, I won’t be surprised if this piece of content pulls in traffic as a result of many search terms/phrases.
Hittail Case Study Update – April 22, 2015 (4 Months Using Hittail)
This update is 4 months after getting Hittail and publishing numerous articles based on Hittail’s keyword suggestions.
Results (in order of traffic generated from December 17/14 to April 22/15):
- Keyword 1: 20,203 sessions
- Keyword 2: 8,461 sessions
- Keyword 3: 2,903 sessions
- Keyword 4: 2,713 sessions
- Keyword 5: 1,696 sessions
- Keyword 6: 1,685 sessions
- Keyword 7: 1,498 sessions
- Keyword 8: 1,336 sessions
- Keyword 9: 861 sessions
- Keyword 10: 721 sessions
- Keyword 11: 610 sessions
- Keyword 12: 529 sessions
- Keyword 13: 505 sessions
- Keyword 14: 187 sessions
TOTAL Sessions in 4 months from 14 Hittail generated keywords: 43,908 (approx. 10,000 visits per month).
1. I can assure you that 10,000 visits per month more than pays for Hittail… in fact it’s a very decent revenue stream. The best part is these long tail keyword-targeted articles will continue generating revenue for months and months.
2. This case study profiles the first batch of 13 keywords I decided to target from Hittail. I’ve since found many others that I will be using as topics. Hittail generates new long tail keyword suggestions every week.
– End of April 22, 2015 Hittail Case Study Update –
1. Internal links: I linked to this post from 5 related posts on my site.
2. Social media: I linked to this post from all social channels (Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Scoop.It! and LinkedIn.
3. Email newsletter traffic: I incorporated a link to this post in the site’s email newsletter (I’m convinced that Google considers traffic to a web page in its ranking factors so if you can generate consistent traffic to a URL, that will help rankings).
4. Facebook ad promotion: I am running low-budget ads to this URL to boost social engagement and get a steady flow of traffic.
Day 16 (December 23/14) – 9 Days After Publishing the Piece of Content
Total organic search visits from first piece of content: 22
Is Hittail worth it?
So far it is. Of course I’ve not generated a positive ROI yet. I don’t expect a positive ROI for some time (I must generate the content, optimize it, publish it and then wait for organic search traffic). To date I’m pleased with the keyword suggestions… pleased enough that I’ll invest the money necessary to generate content and get it published (plus continue paying for the software).
If you have existing organic search traffic and like going after long tail keywords, give Hittail a try.
Please note: This is a work in progress review and case study. Going forward I’ll include traffic and revenue results from the content I publish based on Hittail’s keyword suggestions. Stay tuned.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.