What do rank and ratings mean for your blog or Web site?
ONLINE COLUMN: Web Savvy
Published: March 4, 2008
|What do rank and ratings mean for your blog or Web site?|
Spend any amount of time in a blog community, and you'll notice one of the hottest topics is how to increase rank. I've come to a couple conclusions about ratings mania. For starters, there is no standard. Google has its own method for ranking your site; the same can be said of blog communities. In some cases, your rank will impact on your readership numbers. In other cases, your rank will impact the fees you may charge if you want to sell direct advertising. In all cases, whether you're the world's best writer has little or no effect on your rank.
Google is easily the most recognizable brand when it comes to ratings. Google assigns your page a public numeric rank. In order to see that rank for any page, install the Google toolbar. A Google spokesperson agreed to fill us in on how your rank is determined:
Google crawls the Internet using an automated robot, or Googlebot. Googlebot processes each of the pages it crawls in order to compile a massive index. When a user enters a query, our machines search the index for matching pages and return the results we believe are the most relevant to the user. Relevancy is determined by over 200 factors, including details regarding the content of your page, but also other factors such as Page Rank, which measures the importance of a page based on the incoming links from other pages.
Read closely and make note of these two words: incoming links. Those sites that link directly to your site are a key factor in determining value, not only for Google but also for other rating services. I asked Google if writing ability really has anything to do with rank. Here's the response:
Even though Googlebot is an automated robot with very little cognitive appreciation for good writing, this does not mean that writing quality has no bearing on a website's ranking in our search index. Our ranking is based on hundreds of factors that take into account not only the content on the site but also metrics associated with visitors. Well-written content helps improve ranking on both these fronts: it makes it easy for the Googlebot to crawl the site, while simultaneously attracting visitors who will link to the stories, comment on the posts, and encourage others to view the page.
Even though I'd like to believe my writing ability counts, all roads still lead to links. Technorati is another highly recognizable rating organization. Technorati relies on the number of blogs linking to you, so if a blog has multiple links, this technically impacts only once on your score. Technorati not only assigns a numeric rank, this company also assigns authority. The higher your authority, the more valuable your content, and the lower your rank, the closer you are to the top. You may register for free at this site and claim your blog.
Other ranking services have similar methods for rating content, and some like Alexa require you to download a special toolbar.
Based on a couple years of very active blogging, it's my opinion the two that count the most in across-the-board ratings are Google and Technorati.
But many blog communities also assign your site a rank. Two I'm familiar with are Blog Catalog and one I just discovered called Blogged. Both these sites permit users to review other blogs and both offer free registration. I can personally vouch for Blog Catalog; I've participated there for a long time. There's a very stable forum for users, and spending some time there can often teach you as much as a seminar because of the free exchange of information.
It's important to realize ratings aren't the goal, they're the result. Other than getting sites to link to you, keeping your content fresh by frequently updating, responding to visitors' comments and participating in a community where you feel comfortable are great ways to inch your blog or site further along on the ratings highway.
|Q&A with Blog Catalog communications consultant Richard Becker|
What sets BlogCatalog apart from other communities?
BlogCatalog is a vibrant member-driven social community for bloggers. Its purpose is to help bloggers connect, share ideas, and grow through groups and discussions. BlogCatalog also provides a variety of tools, features, and widgets to help. While BlogCatalog does have a ranking system, rank is secondary to building a community for bloggers. Most bloggers get to know each other by participating in general discussions and various groups, rather than looking at rank. Participation does help bloggers gain exposure, which could increase rank.
Does the writing quality on a site figure at all in your rankings? By writing quality, I don't mean content, but rather skill with language.
BlogCatalog has approximately 100,000 blogs indexed on its directory. More than 15,000 are submitted for review every month. When blogs are submitted and approved, they are assigned an initial rank based on a quick analysis of the quality of the blog, but "skill with language" is not one of the measures. Once assigned a rank, the system tracks the blog using an automated algorithm that considers popularity, links, traffic, and other measures.
What tips could you offer to a writer hoping to improve rankings for their Web site or blog?
There is no way to "master" the BlogCatalog ranking system. It's better for bloggers to focus on content and networking, connecting with other bloggers with an interest in the same or similar subjects (but not necessarily those who blog about the same thing). If they do, their rank will likely increase on BlogCatalog over time. Sometimes members talk about increasing rank on other systems, but many rank tips carry mixed results. If bloggers want a real sense of whether an audience values their blogs, it's almost always better to avoid artificially inflating rankings.
Speaking purely on a subjective basis, how important are professional journalism standards when it comes to blogs/sites?
While it really depends on the blogger, it doesn't matter at all. Successful bloggers tend to be authentic, content-driven, have a sense for their audience, and network. It doesn't really matter whether they approach their blog like a personal diary or a professional column.
There is no silver bullet for a blog, much like there isn't a silver bullet for a book. The writing styles and content vary greatly. What each blogger considers a measure of success also varies greatly. If you're a professional writer or using the blog for marketing, it probably makes sense to apply some journalistic style. But for most individual bloggers, it doesn't matter so much. If they blog for fun, for instance, what other measure is there other than having fun?
Are there any top subject areas you could recommend to someone interested in blogging-subjects that offer more opportunity for their site to be noticed?
I'm a proponent of people who write about something they are passionate about. Passionate bloggers tend to attract an audience even if the niche is crowded. For example, social media is likely over-covered. Yet, a new blogger with a passion for social networking can still take off. It happens all the time.
There are some bloggers who look for underserved niches, whether they have a passion for it or not, and that seems to work for them. Once they've decided what to write about, then they can build an audience by finding people who are interested in the subject. But I think it shows when they have a passion for the subject.
Is it better for a site owner to aim at the general masses and hope for large traffic numbers, or should we focus on narrower groups in hopes of building steady, repeat traffic?
Again, this depends on the blogger and your goals. If you are only interested in traffic, you might as well write about scantily clad celebrities. Even with Paris Hilton hitting peaks of 4,000 posts per day and Britney Spears at 4,500 posts per day, according to Technorati, there is no shortage of search engine interest. The way I see it, if you write about something you are passionate about in a unique and interesting way, eventually you'll develop an audience.
Although it's not a blog, I always enjoy using BlendTec as an example. If you asked people whether they would be interested in watching a video about blenders, they'd likely say no. Yet, each new BlendTec video is viewed by 500,000 to 2.5 million people. Why? BlendTec has a passion for their subject. They present it in a very interesting and clever way.
Richard Becker, ABC, is a communication consultant with BlogCatalog. He is also president of Copywrite, Ink., a strategic communication and writing services company, and an instructor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. You can find his blog at www.copywriteink.blogspot.com
Home page for Technorati where you can claim your own blog or find rankings for blogs.
Home page for access to Google services; access to blogger, Webmaster tools, affiliate advertising and other resources.
This blog rating group permits reviews by readers.
-- March 4, 2008
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