Cartoon courtesy of Hugh MacLeod who posted an insightful comment
To bastardise Neil’s totally appropriate expression – this is a blarticlette – so print out and take to the men’s room. then if you don’t like it, you know what to do.
There’s a lot of noise made about how important Technorati is in determining your authority and reputation. When Larry Greenmeier talked with me about my infamous potential libel, he said that many bloggers he spoke with are obsessive about their position in Technorati. Until recently, I would have gone along with that. Building traffic is important if you want your blog to be seen as vaguely influential. Unless of course, you’re counting on the myth of the Long Tail (I’ll get to that) In the last few days, my opinion has changed. Here’s a few thoughts as to why:
In the last couple of days I’ve had to ask Technorati to sort out the indexing for my site. This is the umpteenth time I’ve had to send email in order to get the set of site stats in synch and correctly recorded. The latest missive has yet to be answered. (3 days – you’re getting pinged again) At times the figures don’t agree, when you’re looking at the blog summary and individual blog stats page. I thought it might be something to do with my admittedly weird configuration and have offered that as a potential source of problem. They’ve not responded. But then some cross-posts to another site didn’t register, despite the fact Technorati claimed it had registered pings.
I then started trawling through the Technorati links for people who have been linking to me. Almost without exception, the people I know are influential – like the Bloggerhood – have, to be blunt, piffling Technorati rankings. Go to my stats and just hover over the names you know.
Earlier in the month – Mike Arrington was the unwitting source for the 53,651 meme which was interesting at the time. He then got dinged for his new design. He’s now Mr. 59166. (That will change, he was 60K+ yesterday) Getting hammered by a bunch of nutcases means increased (geek) subscribers then. But are they the true influencers? I don’t think so.
Earlier in the week, I spoke with Gary Turner – who has been a great help and inspiration to me. He said that when he started, he was in the Technorati 100. Now look. My response is that Technorati is merely a numbers game. Why for instance is anyone surprised that a Chinese site is number one when this is a new technology entering a technology green field site? Or that a site like Bionic Buddha is the most favourited. Hugh MacLeod is slipping. In April he was listed as in the 80′s in the Technorati 100. Now look. When Neville Hobson moved his blog, he announced it and bingo – a few weeks later and he’s not far off retrieving his previous position. Technorati doesn’t aggregate audiences so when you move, you start again.
So where does the reputation of an individual blogger lie? In other words, does the claimed value a blogger is said to deliver through their Technorati ranking reach people of influence who matter in the commerclal world? I don’t think so.
Over the last couple of months, blogging has allowed me to connect a number of companies and individuals I would never have discovered by any other means and who would never have known me. I’ve become something of a free connector. The other day, Gary Turner was kind enough to help a friend of mine and it was as a result of building a trust relationship between Gary and I. 90&% of these people are new contacts and acquiantances. I’m now being drawn into projects I could not have imagined 6 months ago. And all of this is despite the fact I’ve been a top tech reviewer of accounting products for the last 12 years – so says Dennis Keeling. The old mainstream media audience – if there ever was one – has gone. But then I always thought the ABC figures were a joke, designed to encourage advertisers that the scatter gun approach pays.
My sense is that far from paying the mythical 50%, advertising pays 2% – max. That’s pretty much proven by Google Adsense.
A lot of my inbound traffic comes from Google. I’d guess that 99.99% of my intended audience wouldn’t know a blog if it smacked them in the face. The reality is that much of my traffic comes via RSS but it is a relatively tiny audience. And I’m pretty sure it’s solid. I’d say that for measurement purposes, Technorati won’t tell me much of value though it does provide me with a way of tracking the folk who are kind enough to link to this site. As one person said recently, we’re operating in an echo chamber. But then having Google Juice doesn’t mean you’ll be found that easily either.
But then I know I’m irritating the heck out of one publishing house. Look at their inbound links – after 9 years, which includes the US site. Mine are after 8 months. And when I compare their raw stats to mine, guess what: I’m creaming them in certain areas. They’ve invested $$$ millions in their presence. Me? Including podcasting gear (which they don’t do) $2,500. They take extensive advertising. Me? Sure – if you call the $35.81 I earned last month off Text Live Ads and the bit I get from Winweb – which is as much for advisory services as shared presence -advertising then yes. I take it and it doesn’t pay me.
Yet the type and variety of work I’m now undertaking is changing. Requests are coming from non-blog people who have heard about the things I do. And I observe that Brian Sommer is reporting very high level conversations with C-level people as a result of his blog postings.
What can I conclude from all of this? I think Hugh MacLeod might be right. He says the effect of blogs is indirect. So while a particular blog might hit a certain level of readership, it is the response of those we don’t see or who don’t know about blogs that matters. The people who authorise spending. Quite how this works is something I don’t yet understand. I suspect it is a behind the scenes thing. The Non-Tail. This needs work.
What would make such a study interesting is the views of those among the Brotherhood who are perfectly happy to take positions. Usually critical of the technology sell-side. Some of my best correspondents, by which I mean those who engage in discussion, are vociferous in their criticism of the UK tax system and enterprise software. Some don’t have a blog but are realising the value a blog could deliver to their prospective audiences.
Take Richard Murphy. My US readers will likely never have heard of him but he regularly appears here as a commenter. He doesn’t have a blog (I’m fixing that for Richard – he will be a star). Over the next few months, Richard is variously meeting senior head honchos at the EU, OECD and World Bank in an effort to promote the issue of tax justice for developing countries. That is seriously important work and something I am 100% behind. Richard’s almost a 1-man foghorn, blaring against the tide of global corporate excess. Where does all this leave ‘us’ and Technorati?
I want to see Technorati segment according to business type. I want to understand the influence each of us have beyond that which we can see.
And to finish – Long Tail. The theory that folk who are ZZZ bloggers can emerge by having a stunningly brilliant post that, out of the blue, gains a certain recognition and they then become famous and fabulously wealthy is a pipe dream worked out to sell an apparently compelling story. Steve Rubel, who is now established as an uber-blogger got out the blocks by pimping his wares among a group of influential bloggers to gain a foothold in what was then a nascent idea – note Gary Turner’s tale about ranking above. He was an early adopter. I prefer the reality of Bystander Apathy – a topic I understand very well as a psych major and which gets confirmed in my discussions with accountants who believe the only game in town is Sage.
Today, with more than 38 million blogs in play and starting from scratch, Rubel wouldn’t stand a chance in hell unless he could get an audience or 6 with Scoble. Unless of course, people could search by business group. And even then the chances of him retaining a certain position would most likely depend on his past reputation. Look at Guy Kawasaki’s rating on Alexa. Then look at his history in the tech game.
Technorati has been a great start in figuring out the authority/reputation stakes. But it is becoming less and less relevant. What will replace it or supercede it? I’ve no idea though I hope it is Technorati on steroids. But I do know that regardless of Technorati’s imperfections, I’m having some of the most interesting, valuable and enriching discussions I’ve ever had in my life. That is good. I’m also making a few £/€/¢ along the way – that helps!
ENDNOTE: This is only one take. There are many other views around this topic which are equally relevant to this discussion.
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