HitTail: Your Website Suggestion Box

HitTail Best Practices Aug 2, 2006

Did you know that you already have a Suggestion Box on your website? Not everyone does, and even fewer know how to open it and read the suggestions. A recent post in Google Groups says it best…

“The typical perspective of the information architecture on many Web sites is all about an individual looking at the world from inside the corporation out on the world, not the world looking into the organization. […] This is where services like HitTail can come in, to really help you understand how people are thinking about your company or your client and better aligning the language used to accurately reflect what real people think about the company’s brand and products.”

That’s right. The suggestions tab is the Web equivalent of a suggestion box, where website visitors don’t have to go through the trouble of filling in forms and submitting… they already did… before they even reached your site! The search that led to your site is a suggestion of how your company may be viewed from the outside world.

So why HitTail, and not the plethora of new search-centric analytics software that’s popping onto the scene? Easy, because nobody wants to be paralyzed by charts and data that need to be poured over and have further meaning induced. HitTail wades through your suggestion box for you and brings to your attention only those suggestions that may in fact improve quality. That’s the patent-pending special bit of HitTail that sets it apart. Any user giving our service and the others a try should be impressed by how only about 5% of all the keywords collected ever make it into the Suggestions tab. Think how much time we’re saving you!

And we at HitTail are big fans of the business gurus of our day… and era’s past. Several times, we have invoked Peter Drucker’s name. But this time, it’s time to talk about another business guru whose heyday was post WWII, and the rebuilding of Japan. Japan didn’t always have a reputation for quality products. Early on, Japanese products were often considered cheap. That all changed in part from the US sending one of our brightest over to Japan to help rebuild–Edward Demmings. Where Drucker’s core principle is how the mission of business is to get and keep customers, Demmings’ core principle is that competitiveness comes from listening to your customers and employees, and rapidly incorporating innovations into production. The fancy word is total quality management, or TQM. It’s a process, much like HitTailing. But it all starts with listening to the right details from the right people.

…in other words, using a suggestion box, and actually taking the best suggestions.

The idea is: who better knows what you need than the people you’re trying to sell to, and the people who are actually putting the product together? Remember the Honda Civic circa 1970’s? It was a low-cost economy starter vehicle. Today, it’s a premium quality vehicle with quality and customer satisfaction ratings that rival Mercedes. The Japanese word for this process is Kaizin. One of the most recent and impressive examples of TQM in industry, was the rebirth of Harley Davidson. This can backfire, with companies pursuing higher-end markets and profit margins, making openings in the low-end for competitors, such as Hyundai. But that’s subject-matter for another post.

The point here is that the suggestion box is critically vital to for constant improvement. And the suggestions should be collected from a large sampling of population… much larger than what you yourself, and even your team can brainstorm. The best suggestions for website improvement can be gleaned from the tealeaves of your Web log data.

And most analytics packages isolate you from this data by focusing on top trends and in-site navigation analysis. HitTail instead considers search hits important events. What was significant about this hit? Is it the first time this hit EVER occurred? Does it already have a secure position? In other words, it asks all the questions that someone pouring over analytics data would have to ask. This is why analytics has evolved into its own dedicated profession. Most people approaching analytics software, even the free stuff, fall victim to paralysis through analysis. How do you go from looking at a page full of pretty, but intimidating, charts and graphs to doing taking some action that’s going to help your site?

That’s where HitTail comes in. HitTailers are often struck by the stark simplicity of the user interface. Seem familiar? When was the last time that something deceptively simple-looking displaced a much larger category of software that everyone assumed was better? Google! That’s right. When Google came along, all the other major Web properties were engaged in portal-wars, looking for every conceivable way to keep you on their site. But Google, by focusing on what was really important–relevancy–and combined that with a stark user interface that stripped out all the nonsense, thereby improving the value of what remained.

Analytics are engaged in their own version of portal-wars. And a couple of competitors that jumped onto the scene following HitTail’s introduction are promising more natural search hits (the most valuable commodity on the Internet) are basically letting you drill down on much more search detail than other packages provide. By leaving out things like click-path analysis, you’ve freed up a lot more capacity for recording search details.

But a paralyzing glut of details is a paralyzing glut of details.

Thankfully, HitTail is not analytics, and we’re not going to present you with yet another set of charts and data to decipher. We just do writing suggestions–simply stating, if you write about these topics, more website visitors will come. And we show you how well you’re doing with one simple long tail diagram.

So when comparing HitTail to the other entries into this space (which have curiously rushed out their offerings within 2 months of HitTail’s release), keep in mind the time investment they’re asking you to make. If you add just one more tool to your website and your busy life, shouldn’t it be one that takes an approach that is most respectful of your time, and doesn’t ask you to become an analytics pro before you realize any benefit?

Think of HitTailing like checking that Edward Demmings suggestion box. But instead of wading through all the many suggestions that plain analytics software would provide, HitTail zeros right in on what’s important. Act on those suggestions, and your product (your website) will improve. Keep it up over time, and you can take a lost cause and turn it into a premiere quality offering.

One response
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    Mike Levin

    A correction to this blog post and spelling. The correct spelling of the TQM business guru is Edwards Deming. Edwards is plural and Deming only uses 1 m. Who would have guessed. Anyway, at least I get the search hits for the misspellings!

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