Why Technorati is irrelevant to reputation

by admin on May 26, 2006

in Innovation


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.

PScompare my stats against AccountancyAge

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Comments on this entry are closed.

Zoli Erdos May 27, 2006 at 3:47 am

Dennis, I agree with you, it was funny to read this  10 minutes after your post though:-)

hugh macleod May 27, 2006 at 11:55 am

I doubt Thomas of englishcut.com has checked his T-rank, or even his web stats in the last 6 months.

Instead, he measures the amount of new customers that send him e-mails, wanting appointments. Not to mention, the number of suits he needs to get cut by next Tuesday ;-)

michael arrington May 30, 2006 at 4:02 am

Phew! I'm tired after reading this post. Long.

But good. I agree. And I also think, though, that the big problem with reputation is that it takes one to get one, so to speak. Once you are popular, you tend to get more popular because people flock to what other's recommend. We need a better way to establish reputation. Maybe someone will make a lot of money doing so.

Peter Cooper May 30, 2006 at 5:17 am

My blog is only around the 20,000 level, very rarely gets links from other blogs, and 99.9% of traffic is from Google or regular readers. Yet.. it does extremely well (in terms of business, especially) and a lot of people in my niche read it.

Other bloggers certainly aren't the ones giving me business :)

Niel Robertson May 30, 2006 at 11:33 pm

Good stuff. I have been an avid student of the Long Tail for a while. It is interesting because the profusion of blogging is similar to the profusion of digital music (I am involved in a digital music business that aims to drive the number of available tracks from 1.6MM to something over 5MM over time if we can). How the long tail content gets found, promoted, etc.. is a very interesting point that we know very little about yet (as in the global "we", not the business I am involved in). If you look at the music side of things, there are emerging technologies to try and aid this. First and foremost is categorization (not tagging, but built in music genres that catalogs like Rhapsody adhere to). You like Adult Alternative, great, navigate sideways through that content. Second, there are built in recommendation engines. It would be interesting to see a blog that had something at the bottom that said "People who liked this blog/post also liked XYZ". I suppose tagging is sort of like that, but we're really talking reverse tagging here (it's not about the tag but the tagger). Third, content analysis engines like Pandora are taking music recommendation to a new level – understanding content itself (musical dynamics) and not just categories. Imagine something applied to blogs as well. It's all very interesting and we're only at the tip of the iceberg right now. The Long Tail might be caled The Long Climb until we figure this out. Perhaps I will create a myspace page for my blog and try to use the same techniques that innovative long tail bands used to get attention on MySpace before it became standard marketing. Writers are now doing it with their books (a book is a MySpace page, not the author). I am also syndicating my blog through a local newspaper here soon so we'll see how that affects my climb. More to come.

Dennis Howlett May 31, 2006 at 12:09 am

This is an interesting take Niel and one I should have thought through. I use podsafe music for podcasts. Apart from discovering and introducing me to some really cool (and bloody aweful!) music, podcast tagged search is giving me alternative music led intros that I can use to create different moods or for different styles of podcast (news, analysis, interview, conf call discussion.) In effect it allows me to develop multiple 'brands' for myself and clients.
I am then using these in new and different ways to get client customers to tell anyone who cares to listen, how the client is fulfilling their requirements. From that, we've reflected that back into the client company to see if the things customers say is reflected in the company's DNA.
That way (starting with discovery in the Long Tail), we get the chance to combine social technologies to achieve a completely fresh way to market. And chop out a number of steps in the sales cycle.
How good is that? But yes – we're at the beginning of all this.

Rich Westerfield June 2, 2006 at 5:38 pm

We look at new referrers to see what's being said about us, but the Technorati ranking is pretty meaningless to our goals, which, as Hugh pointed out, are more along lines of "how to keep up with increased business."

In fact, for this post we just looked at our rank for first time this year… 85,089. Good enough for a little coffeehouse in Pittsburgh.

We can probably count total Technorati referrers in past year on both hands and feet. In addition to regular customers and readers, our audience is more likely to come from local blog aggregators and specialty coffee industry and home barista forums.

Just by being a "small business blog" we've picked up considerable traditional print and online press coverage which has driven boatloads more traffic to the site than has the random blogosphere.

Marketing is still about targeting.

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