July 2007

Using Technorati, Google or Alexa alone provides an incomplete pictures of the rank of a given website or blog. However, taken together, these provide a meaningful way to measure the worth of a site. Each of these can be ‘gamed’ – particularly Technorati and Alexa – so taking any one rating system at face value can be misleading. So why does this matter? Well, knowing the ‘value’ or ‘rank’ of a page helps you assess the quality and accuracy of the content you see.

Google: People love, hate, bash, ignore, and adore Google for the PageRank system – but it is an invaluable way of checking the value of a site. A rank of PR3 or less is fairly easy to acheive, so any site with a rank from PR1 to PR3 is likely either new or not well read or linked to. PR4 is somewhat harder, and marks a typical decent/good blog that has taken reasonable effort to create and maintain. PR5 suggests strong readership and/or high-quality incoming links, while PR6 generally means that a site or blog is quite well established – and possibly run by multiple authors. Anything PR7 or above is either extremely old and well-developed with incoming links and/or it is maintained by multiple authors and frequently releases new and useful information.

Technorati: Technorati authority ranks blogs based on the number and kind of incoming links, as well as the number of people who have manually ‘Faved’ a given blog. This latter part of the equation is part of what makes it so easy to game – a lot of people have joined “Technorati Fave Trains” and Fave one anothers’ blogs in order to gain rank. So, Technorati rank is useful, but probably best used if you’re concerned about a site’s Google PageRank or if the site is too new to have a reliably current PageRank.

Alexa: Alexa rank is a good way to gauge traffic to certain kinds of pages. However, because that rank is based on the number of visitors to a site using the Alexa toolbar, it can be heavily skewed by the kind of page being visited. For example, since people want to boost their own Alexa rank to earn money, sites about making money online often have a disproportionately high Alexa rank. So, again, Alexa is a useful gauge of page value – but only in conjunction with these other sources.

Mixed: So, with all of this in mind, the question becomes: what does it mean if a site has a higher rank in one of these categories than the other? Well, if a site has a high Technorati rank but low Alexa and Google (Page)Rank, then the ranking is likely inflated. A high Technorati and Alexa rank but low Google PageRank probably means the site is popular or blog well-read, but it is too new and has become popular since the last PageRank update. High Google PageRank and low Technorati and/or Alexa rank indicates that the site has strong support from powerful incoming links, but that it likely isn’t trafficked by the same mainstream audience that uses Alexa and Technorati..


OK, I’ve added some pretty new bloggers (but with interesting blogs and blog concepts, so check them out!) to the blogroll here so I feel a little compelled to throw out some tips for getting started with blogging. Yes, you can find tips for blogging all over the web but most sites will try to sell you something – and if you haven’t noticed: there are exactly 0 ads on this site. So here goes:

1) Find blogs you like, subscribe to their feeds, fave them on Technorati, and leave comments on them. Make those comments relevant. Feeds and faves will help you easily keep track of new posts on these blogs you like, plus if you feed/fave a blog it helps their rank – so tell them when you’ve done it! Some blogs with ‘do-follow’ will give you a PageRank boost for your troubles, but in other cases it’s just a way to get a feel for the blogosphere and will help you get to know bloggers who you can ask questions of and get tips from.

2) Don’t overload your blog with ads and buttons too early. Put a few things up, the things you really want people to click, and add and subtract as you go. Too much stuff looks spammy and can make it so people won’t click anything. If you watch your Google or MyBlogLog analytics (both of which you should be signed up for by the way,  with an MBL widget on your site too!) you can watch what people click, where it is on your page, and adjust accordingly. Also, think about your goals: you probably aren’t going to make a ton from AdSense right away, so think longer-term and put up buttons like Technorati faves and FeedBurner buttons like you see on this site to build up the readership and popularity you’ll need to earn more in the future.

3) Carefully choose your blog tagline. This has two incredibly important functions: it both tells your readers right away what the page is about and helps Google and other search engines know as well. It is much easier to rank for things in your blog title – so choose those phrases carefully, and change them as the content of your blog changes. For more keyword/SEO tips see recent posts on this blog.

4) Link out to get links in. Linking to relevant blogs and websites will help get their attention. Most veteran bloggers have various ways to see who is linking to and talking about them, and they will perk up and pay attention if someone new comes into that mix. However, don’t expect linkbacks from big-time sites like TechCrunch, of course – look for successful bloggers who still interact with their readers.

5) Get the right bookmarking and stats tools on your site. I recommend checking out the beta test for the Romlet blog widget, which is a brag badge, bookmarking tool and stats counter all rolled into one. If you’re not getting many visitors you can opt out of the public stats portion, but the widget will help you track in real-time where your traffic is coming from. Ther’es nothing worse than getting a big hit from a social news site and finding out about it too late to vote for it or ask your friends and fellow bloggers to! The MyBlogLog Recent Visitors widget is also a must-have – it lets you see who is visiting, then trackback to them and thank them for showing up. Together these two widgets cover a lot of the basics, and are better than cluttering a blog with all sorts of stuff.

That’s it for now – feel free to ask questions or add to this list!

Two people messaged me privately regarding a previous post about forums, which were (I was surprised to learn) a relatively unfamiliar concept to them. One of them had gotten kicked off a few forums for posting links to themself. With that in mind, here is a very brief explanation of good general forum etiquette to avoid getting in trouble and to make the most of your experience in online forums.

1) Clearly understand any policy about linking to external sites. You may notice that others are doing just that, but they may be premium members (who paid for special status), official forum moderators or may have met a pre-set number of minimum posts.

2) Even if it were allowed, joining a forum and linking to yourself shows poor form to those using the forum. On most forums, people can see how many times you have posted. If you are posting for the first time and linking to yourself it will be a red flag to other users.

3) Get to know people on the forums. If there is a place to go and introduce yourself: do that first. Then comment on some threads, show your knowledge. If you want to to link to your own sites at that point, and it is allowed, more people will click them anyway if they are relevant and particularly if the URL shows it.

A forum really is (or should be) as the name suggests: a forum for gathering and sharing ideas, not just self-promotion. If you are joining a forum just to promote yourself you need to ask yourself: is this right? Is it really worth my time?

A lot of bloggers and others working to develop SEO on websites frequently report writer’s block. Personally, I find enough relevant content in any given day skimming my usual sources and branching out through links – enough to write posts on between 1 and 6 blogs or websites a day! So how do I do it? Well, I use a few different resources, which gives me both a variety of content to choose from and a number of perspectives on any given issue. Blogs, Google news, and prominent websites in a given subject area are all good places to start, but here are some other ways of finding content on relevant subjects that many people don’t (but should) take advantage of:

1) StumbleUpon by Keywords: sure, a lot of people use Digg and Reddit to find content, but it’s pretty hard. Neither of those sites have nearly as good precision search capacity as StumbleUpon. Many Stumble users don’t realize that (right on their toolbar) they can choose to Stumble by keyword. This taps into sites both new and old with information related to the search term, and usually yields results that are significantly different than search engines

2) Technorati Blog and WTF Searches: Technorati is another great resource, particularly if you’re looking for up-to-date information you aren’t finding on Google. For example, when I was looking for information on the upcoming Google PageRank update, most of the Google searches seemed to turn up out-of-date information about the last PageRank update. Technorati, however, shows recent blog posts on the subject which were more helpful

3) Forums and Newsgroups: of course people who are really passionate on issues usually end up posting on various sites online. If you’re writing about niche subjects be sure to seek out relevant forums. These are also places you can ask questions if no one is writing specifically about what you need to know.

4) Other User-Submitted Content Sites: Sites like Associated Content and Yahoo Answers can be good places to look for subjective content. You probably can’t trust these (as with Wikipedia) to be definitive sources, but there is also more interactivity than a static resource – like forums, you can ask questions and get community answers.

Of course there are many other ways to find relevant content, but if you use these kinds of resources to keep informed you’re sure to have more ideas for subject matter you and write about!

Recently a number of bloggers have been asking us about about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), including bloggers who are successfully using Social Media Optimization (SMO) techniques. This came as something of a surprise, but it seems clear that a lot of bloggers forget to target all audiences possible, which can reduce overall readership potential. We, for example, focus more on SEO than SMO – though a balance is ideal. Further, using SMO techniques targets a relatively limited range of people – with a somewhat limited range of interests. Alternatively, SEO can bring in search traffic from all over the world, and specifically helps bring in people who are interested in the content they searched for that is on your page!

With that in mind, I will be writing a few posts with SEO strategies for bloggers who want to target search traffic. Don’t forget: these don’t have to conflict with SMO, they can be an added bonus! This first set of steps is really easy to follow and a good introduction to SEO for blogs:

(1)  Use the free Overture Keyword Tool to find a search phrase. If your blog is, for example, about ‘race cars’ try putting the words ‘race’ and ‘cars’ in the search box. You’ll notice right away that tons of people search for race cars, of course. Now, getting your site to come up on searches for that phrase is going to be tough (just Google that same set of words to see how many sites you are competing against!).  Pick a few sets of keywords from the results that are a little less high traffic but still have significant search volume and are relevant to your site, like ‘modified race car’ or ‘street race car.’

(2) Use Google and do a search for the phrases you have selected. How relevant are the results? How many results are there? How high are the PageRanks of the top sites (if you have a Google Toolbar installed that shows you automatically? If you find that the top results are highly relevant and detailed, that there are a lot of results or that their PageRanks are all very high, you may want to target a different keyword phrase or string (by inputting your keywrod phrase into Overture and going ‘one level deeper’ to add another keyword to the phrase). If not and you have found something worth targetting, then write a post about 

(3) Your post should contain the keyword phrase or string in the headline (e.g. Cool Modified Race Cars) and should repeat key words or phrases in the body text as often as possible. Also, if possible, encourage people link to that post using the anchor/title text that matches your keywords of choice (e.g. modified race cars).

(4) Check your results for keyword density using a Keyword Density Calculator. Most people suggest shooting for a density of between three and five percent. That can be quite difficult (five percent in this case would mean that your phrase should be 1/20th of the text, which means integrating it into almost every sentence!). Try to mix things up – rearrange the order of the keywords and where they fall in the text. And above all: make sure the content isn’t comprimised while you are going for keyword density!

Once you get the hang of this system it is pretty easy to use. It is also a good way for bloggers who are having writer’s blog to figure out new topics related to their core issues of interest. Best of all, SEO brings in search traffic which can give new life to a blog that has a set readership. Finally, SEO also means that if your SMO strategies every fail you have something to fall back on!