09 July 2008

Blog Rankings Are Stupid

I noticed that wikio came out with its monthly list of blog rankings, and I along with about 70 other people dutifully saved it in my del.icio.us links, despite the knowledge that such rankings are only marginally useful. I know that KD Paine may have the market cornered on measurement, but I'll just add my voice to the chorus that insists it's RELEVANCE, and not these arbitrary RANKINGS, that should matter the most.

Case in point: #37 with a bullet on the wikio list is something called the Liberal Blog Network. I read a ton of liberal blogs and I had never heard of this one. And as you can see, it's not a blog at all - it's a collection of RSS feeds hosted at Feedburner. There's no relevant content, just an email address if you want to add your liberal blog to the list of feeds. Now, there may be value in a mashed-up liberal RSS feed - after all, I built a smaller one at Virtual Vantage Points - but a less-than-scrupulous PR flack can now make the case that getting "placement" on a very small liberal blog somehow scores you a "Top 40 placement" as well, without any additional effort. I mean no disrespect to the person putting together this mashup, but I really don't think getting placed in this RSS feed puts your content in front of the hundreds of thousands of eyeballs one assumes you get with a "Top 40 blog."

Even the ranking engine di tutti ranking engines, Technorati, can be very misleading. Yes, you can be pretty sure that Technorati's top 100 list is probably filled with blogs that a lot of people link to and read. But there's a reason I don't spend time worrying about my "authority" or "rank" or whatever they call it this week.

When I started writing this blog, Technorati said my authority was in the teens or something. Then I wrote an open letter to mommybloggers everywhere, and I started writing about Facebook's problems with banning breastfeeding pics while allowing pro-anorexia groups, and my authority shot up a gazillion points in a week. To this day, the most common search terms people use when they come to my site via Google are "breastfeeding pics" or "anorexia pics."


So I stopped writing about breasts, and eventually Technorati said I was a nobody again, even though Sitemeter and Feedburner said my visitors and subscribers were increasing.

Then I write up a few interviews with very cool people and I build a mashed-up RSS feed of "enviro-tweeters," and suddenly Technorati decides I'm the it-girl again for a day.

Here's the thing - not much of this blog is written with large audiences in mind. It's usually geared toward particular online communities - which is what social media is really all about. So when I write something that sustainability advocates might like, I let them know via the channels that work for them, such as the environment room at FriendFeed. I don't worry about people who don't care about that content. Or when I want to reach moms, I could use Twitter or Kirtsy.

If people link to me and Technorati goes ga-ga for my blog, fine. But it's a byproduct of what I'm doing, and not a goal. But people who pitch me (yes, I get pitches too) because my Technorati authority is whatever are missing the point.

Personally, if you're looking for a good list of "top" blogs, check out Alltop. They don't hide the fact that they're subjective, and they don't try to be anything other than a cool "magazine rack for the Internet." They also group blogs by relevant content.

So when corporate clients ask for a number of visitors or some kind of stats to see where they've been "placed," I tell them it's better to build relationships with the right people and the links or "placements" they covet may follow. Because that killer Technorati rank may very well disappear in a week.


Brad said...

I'm at the point where I either a) ignore blog rankings, or b) use a large amount of metrics to paint a bit of a "rankings landscape" that acts as a guidepost rather than a mandate.

I haven't logged onto Technorati more than 5 times in the last year. And this is ME we're talking about...

It's no longer possible to quantify "authority," because as you point out, authority is now really just "extent of relationships."

PunditMom said...

Thanks for this post. It prompted to check my current Technorati ranking, which was respectable. Now, Technorati says I don't exist and I have no ranking. Guess I lost my "authority!"

David said...

Yeah, when I need metrics (such as they are) I try to get them from as many sources as possible. xinureturns is a decent one-stop source for that. And I agree with Joanne that these tools are just not that reliable - but hey, you get what you pay for.

One other thing, Joanne - Heather Armstrong has ridiculous Technorati Authority, but if I want information and credible opinion about moms and politics, I know you're the person to go to, not her. If I tried to get Heather to engage on, say, Medicaid or S-CHIP, she'd probably make a joke of it if she acknowledged it at all. But you'd probably write about it and moms would pay attention to it. That's what I mean by relevance and relationships, not rankings.

Preston said...

I think you nailed it with this one.

It's funny. Today, I saw my *blog* on a list of top green furniture makers. We don't make green furniture, but we talk a lot about the people that do. But I read that list and I think: "You know, tons of people are going to think this is credible when some dweeb put it together." As a result, I've come to the realization that lists/rankings are very misleading.

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