Blog Revolution Note XXIV


At SoundBiteBlog I stumbled (or rather twitter-comment-followed) an excellent post about how much the poisonous / ranting writing styles of many blogs help them succeed.   The author wonders if nice blogs can finish first …

The short answer is “sure”.  A good example is Matt Cutts at Google who rarely has a bad word to say about anybody at his blog yet has one of the most read technical resources on the internet for Google search issues.   Fred Wilson’s A VC is also a blog with heavy readership and a friendly tone.    Marc Andreessen at blog.pmarca.com  is another and there are many, many more.

However I think the key blogging success issue is ranking, and there are many ranking problems in blogging paradise.  Blogs that rank well will be read more often and in turn will confer more rank via linking, so the  *linking style* of most of the old timer blogs  has really inhibited the broader conversation.   The best posts about any given topic are rarely by A list blogs anymore but these posts are rarely seen because the ranking structure favors older, more linked blogs over those with less Google authority.   

The old authority models work much better for websites – where high ranks for a general category make sense  – than for blogging where authors tend to cover a lot of topics.    TechCrunch will appear with a higher rank than almost any other blog if a technology topic is covered even if their coverage is weak, wrong, or misguided.    A thoughtful and well researched post about a critical topic is unlikely to surface if it is written by an “outsider” and escapes the RSS feed of somebody prominent, or sometimes even if linking to that post is seen by the “A lister” as giving a potential competitor too much free juice.   Note how “up and coming” tech blogs like Mathew Ingram link generously while most A list blog writers – who are now often hired writers, paid to be seen as a key breaking source of news – are far less likely to  cite other blogs.    Ironically I think success has really diminished some formerly great blogs.    John Battelle is one of the most thoughtful writers on the web but now he’s way too busy with Federated Media to keep Searchblog as lively as it once was.  

Google and other aggregators (like TechMeme) in part use metrics similar to Google pagerank to define TechCrunch as more reliable because they have more incoming links, more history on the topic, and more commenting activity.   This is not a *bad* way to rank sites but it tends to miss many high quality, reflective articles from sources who do not actively work the system. 

Solutions?  I still think a blog revolution is needed more than ever to re-align quality writing and new bloggers with the current problematic ranking systems. 

In terms of the ranking algorithms I’m not sure how to fix things, though I think Gabe should use more manual intervention to surface good stuff rather than just have TechCrunch dominate TechMeme even when their coverage is spotty and weird.   I’m increasingly skeptical that TechMeme is surfacing the best articles on a topic - rather it seems to give too much authority to a handful of prominent but superficial stories.    As others link and discuss those stories we have only the echo of a smart conversation.  

I don’t spend enough time searching Technorati to know if they are missing the mark or not, but I like the fact they are very inclusive.   However like Google and I think Techmeme, Technorati has trouble surfacing content that is highly relevant and high quality but not “authoritative”.

For their part, Google needs to do more to bring blog content into the web search results.   Last year at SES Matt Cutts was explaining to me that they are doing more of this than ever and I’m sympathetic to the fact that fresh content into the SERPS will lead to spamming problems, but I’m finding that I often get more relevant results from a blog search at Google than a regular search.   This is more the case for breaking news or recent events but it has even happened for research topics where the blog search has led me to expertise I don’t find in the web listings.

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About JoeDuck

Internet Travel Guy, Father of 2, small town Oregon life. BS Botany from UW Madison Wisconsin, MS Social Sciences from Southern Oregon. Top interests outside of my family's well being are: Internet Technology, Online Travel, Globalization, China, Table Tennis, Real Estate, The Singularity.
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12 Responses to Blog Revolution Note XXIV

  1. nmw says:

    About half a year ago I combed through some “top-ranked” blog lists and used come criteria to start a “new” ranking list (at http://top-100.us ):

    1. Does the blog include “automated” advertising?

    2. Does the blog employ the “nofollow” tag on any links?

    An answer of “yes” to either of these criteria would put the blog on the “blacklist”.

    About a dozen passed the test (at that time). It might be nice if someone could create a little application that lists all blogs that pass these 2 filters — my guess is that hardly any would.

    Part of the problem, I think, is that people commonly use blogging software that automatically tags commentator’s links with “nofollow”. In some cases, it seems like there is even no way the person using such software can change the “default” setting (I guess it’s not really a “setting”, but rather a “bug” ;).

    nmw

  2. JoeDuck says:

    nmw I’m not clear on why you see those as key criteria. A lot of really good quality writers might do both of those things even though I agree that nofollow is a bad approach to blog spam because it negates quality comments and thus diminishes the ability to correctly rank content and automated ads diminish blog quality.

  3. Hi Joe,
    I’m kind of new to the blog scene. Can you give me a brief explanation of “no follow” as it applies to this discussion? I spend a lot of time writing things I want people to read and also do a fair amount of commenting on other blogs where I’d like to follow the discussion if there is one. What should I look for?

  4. JoeDuck says:

    Dave the Nofollow tag tells Google not to follow the link to the next site and thus assign some “authority” to that linking relationship. ie Nofollow links generally transmit no link value though I think there are some exceptions. This is a Google error in my view as many comments are important and the link to the initiating blog is a good sign of authority.

  5. Thanks, Joe. So, if I understand this correctly, if I comment on your blog and insert a link to mine, Google doesn’t count that link to my blog? Pardon my ignorance again, but is there a way either the original blog (yours, in my example) or the blog being linked to (mine) can change that? Maybe I should stick to being a writer….

  6. JoeDuck says:

    Dave the short answer is that Google does not count the link to your blog. Here is the code from your comment above with * instead of > so the WordPress system will show it (WordPress automatically inserts the nofollow).


    Hi Joe,
    I’m kind of new to the blog scene. Can you give me a brief explanation of “no follow” as it applies to this discussion? I spend a lot of time writing things I want people to read and also do a fair amount of commenting on other blogs where I’d like to follow the discussion if there is one. What should I look for?
    *cite* Comment by *a href=’http://heartofdiamonds.blogspot.com’ rel=”nofollow”*Dave Donelson*/a* | May 20, 2008 <!– @ *a href=”#comment-76513″ rel=”nofollow”>2:20 am –> | *a href=”http://joeduck.com/wp-admin/comment.php?action=editcomment&c=76513″ title=”Edit comment” rel=”nofollow”>Edit */cite*

    Note the “nofollow” tag inserted automatically. This setting could probably be changed via customizing my CSS cthough I tend to use the WP defaults. Also, changing this would open my blog up to spam comments as well as Google ranking me differently because I don’t use nofollow (I’m not sure if they downrank for failure to use Nofollow but I would guess it is a factor in Google blog rankings) since spam comments and spamming comments are common blackhat seo tactics.

    But as with all things internet the story is more complex and I don’t understand it all. First, just because Google does not count the link does not mean the comment has no impact on ranking and search. Your text comments are processed by Google, but presumably the link out does not carry any “authority” away from my blog the way a link will if I put it in a blog post. Google invented the nofollow tag about 2 years ago to combat blog comment spam which was becoming an overwhelming problem.

    However some search systems ignore this tag or handle it differently. Not sure but Technorati blog search probably pays attention to comment links, and early on with nofollow Yahoo and MSN were not supporting the tag. The obvious problem is what we have here – you have commented at my blog and a good ranking system would recognize that the link out is legitimate and should itself have internet ranking significance. It’s another example of collateral damage in Google’s war on spam, especially when Nofollow was applied to Wikipedia links which should carry authority but were not and I think still do not.

  7. Joe, you are a gentleman and a scholar. Thanks for the tutorial.

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  9. jeleinfeste says:

    The good resource should be brought in bookmarks

  10. Jon1980 says:

    So comfortable portal design. What CMS do you use ?

  11. Mefun says:

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