The Red Badge of Validation

ML Jun 15, 2006

So today we had our first red badge of validation when our servers when momentarily down. Thanks in part to Jason Calcanis’ new Digg-like Netscape site from AOL, HitTail got some pretty massive exposure. It’s also worth crediting SEO-Scoop once again, as the first and most eloquent site to identify and state what we’re doing here with HitTail (previously MyLongTail).

I made the stupid mistake of headlining the article “Finally, a Free Alternative to AdSense & Yahoo Marketing”, and a few commenters called me out on it, and they were completely right. It was of course supposed to position HitTail as an alternative to AdWords–not AdSense. Natural search optimization is intended to wean you off your AdWord dependency. It’s not supposed to provide an alternative an income source for publishers. There are plenty of those, including AdBrite, BlogAds, and now John Battelle’s Federated Media, designed to reach high-end blogs with vast readership.

Anyway, take this as an official correction of the headline. None-the-less, it has been successful enough in driving traffic, and people signing up for the beta program that we feel like we’ve been SlashDotted… and all that from the first day of an announced beta of another Digg clone. Goes to show you, the sites that can drive traffic can rise and fall overnight.

I think there’s about 20,000 technorati who flock from one Web 2.0 beta to the next, following the meme. For those not in the know, a meme is an idea with a viral-like ability to self propagate. The first I became aware of the concept was in Neil Stephenson’s groundbreaking cyberpunk Snow Crash novel, where he explored how the human brain was hardwired to receive and carry out meme’s (although I’m not sure he called it that) with commands like “bake bread”. It worked due to the programming being delivered in an ancient primordial rhythm, more deep seeded than language itself.

It’s an interesting concept, and it is humorous to watch a version of it manifesting on the net. Technorati is cool. Go flock to it. Flickr is cool. Go flock to it. is cool. Go flock to it. And for each, there is usually a predecessor who didn’t quite get it right, and missed out on riding the meme wave. And there are hordes of copycats who try to ride the meme wake.

So, like so many obsessive entrepreneurial compulsives, my mind starts ticking. What has no one else done? What do I already do? What has Connors already been using as a back end tool that could be universally well received as the next big thing? Clearly, we have something, because our SEO secret sauce is so much tastier than the competition’s. So, how to bottle it? And how to label it?

Freedom from your advertising word campaigns! Finally, an alternative! Tired of the keyword bidding frenzy? Don’t you see how the long tail concept when applied to PPC only drives up campaign management complexity, keeping it in the hands of outsourced SEM companies? Don’t you intuitively get how long tail keyword targeting is a natural fit for natural optimization?

And I’ll say it one more time. Along comes Chris Anderson, who thankfully frames the discussion for the masses. He explains how the long tail of the demand curve contains business that actually is worth winning. If your business has a distribution model that allows it to be economical to sell to niche markets, then they’re worth targeting. And targeting niche markets means increasingly obscure, and therefore less competitive keywords.

This concept can apply just as well to Fortune 500’s or eBay sellers. It is universal, and the application of the concept is limited only by your ability to reach your potential customers, and your ability to fulfill an order. So, HitTail says you should reach your clients through general search. After all, what search box is used more than the Google default? And what search even comes close to the combined default searches of Google, Yahoo and MSN combined? There is no “vertical” search, no local search, or in-sight search (even eBay’s) that begins to compare to the combined power of the three giant’s DEFAULT search.

And based on the traffic this site is receiving in just over two weeks of a soft beta launch, I can only guess that we hit one of those ancient primordial chords like Neil Stephenson’s concept. Our Web 2.0 brains are hardwired to load the meme and carry out its instructions. And in a way, as difficult as the HitTailing concept is, it is certainly easier than baking bread (plant, harvest, grind, knead, bake… really quite complex!). But that’s all condensed into “bake bread”. Our instructions are plant (the code), harvest (suggestions), knead (ideas), bake (publish). OK, so HitTailing is just as complex as baking bread. But at least you’ll make more money.

One response
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    David Stockwell

    Nice concept, well promoted. I particularly like the simple value added pipeline and look forward to the kinks being ironed out of the beta.

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