Gary Price wrote earlier of Technorati's new Technorati Blog Finder, along with some issues with the new beta service. In this article, I take a longer look at it, especially from the perspective of a blog owner wondering how to be listed well within it.
Technorati is a long-established service that lets you find articles published on blogs from across the web. But what if you wanted to find blogs themselves -- not articles -- on a particular subject? The new blog finder is meant to help solve that need for Technorati users.
Using the service, you can keyword search to find matching blogs, which are then ranked in order of popularity, as determined by Technorati's counting of links.
As a site owner, you have a great deal of control over where and how you show up, and it's something you should seize upon influencing, if you care about traffic from Technorati. Despite recent criticisms of the service having performance issues, it's still popular and something those in the blog world should care about.
I'll look through what I did for the Search Engine Watch Blog on Technorati, to help illustrate some of the things other blog owners may want to consider.
When Blog Finder first launched, I looked to see how the SEW Blog did for some key terms. Google? No luck. OK, maybe we weren't listed in Blog Finder for some reason. So I tried looking for us by name, search engine watch blog. Still no luck.
Claiming Your Blog
Time to dig deeper. Technorati offers anyone who operates a blog the ability to "claim" that blog. It's pretty easy, as explained here. You create a Technorati account. Once logged in, look in the Technorati Your Account screen, then enter the URL of your blog into the "Claim a Weblog" area of the "Your Blogs" section.
Even if you're waiting for a claim to be verified, you can still get started with optimizing your listing in Blog Finder. There's also some issues with that, which I'll get to later.
Editing Your Tags
Going back to Your Account, you'll see an option to "Configure this Blog" below the listing of a blog you've claimed. Select that. Now you'll see the ability to change your blog description plus a checkbox to include your blog in the Blog Finder and to assign 20 words to describe the blog [in the future, more terms might be allowed, Technorati says”.
You may find that these boxes are already filled in. Technorati is looking at tags or category information you may already have used for your blog and assigned using your authoring software. However, you can completely override this with your own choices -- and you should.
Remember the SEW Blog wasn't showing up for Google? That's because we didn't have the single word "google" assigned to our blog. Instead, we had things like "Google: Desktop" which came out of one of the category descriptions we use for our SEW members. Technorati says it looks at the most common tags or categories in posts on a blog to make its best guess.
Obviously, we needed to rewrite these terms. What should you put down? Don't just start slapping in words. Instead, you want to use words that correspond to the popular tags that Technorati puts out before its users.
Tags? Basically, it's a new name for an old concept, categories. Anyone who remembers the days of trying to be listed in a Yahoo Directory category or is still concerned with getting listed with the Open Directory will feel comfortable here.
Look at the Blog Finder home page. Under the keyword search box, you'll see a list of "Featured Blog Tags." My advice is to scan that list and select any tags that you think are relevant to your blog. Reasoning? Since they are on the home page, you can expect a sizeable number of people will click-and-browse to find blogs. You want to be in one of the most popular tags/categories, as long as it is relevant to your blog.
No luck with what's on the home page? Then choose the More link and you'll see the Top 200 tags. The bigger the text, the more popular the category, at least in terms of sites categorized.
I'd recommend going for the categories in bigger text, since they are more likely to draw more clicks. However, if you don't have enough Technorati Rank -- discussed more below -- a smaller category may mean less competition to do well.
After you've decided on major categories you think are important, then go back and consider the terms you think someone will type in to find your blog. When you're done, you've now "tagged" your blog for these exact 20 searches. Searches? I thought these were tags!
Tags = Searches
You see, when someone keyword searches at Blog Finder, they aren't doing a true keyword search as with a search engine, where the entire text of the page is being scanned. Instead, entering a word into Blog Finder is merely a warp drive way of getting to a list of all the blogs specifically tagged with that word.
So back to the SEW Blog example. Once we tagged ourselves specifically as Google, we turned up in the Google category/tag list. Anyone typing in Google into Blog Finder gets that list brought up.
In contrast, remember I couldn't find SEW Blog by name? That's because the title of the blog isn't scanned. In short, you're only going to be visible for the 20 terms you list. Anything not listed? You're invisible for them, even if you are relevant.
Technorati Rank & Links
Back to being visible, each tag category page lists sites by "authority" in descending order. Authority is calculated by looking at how many sites link to a particular blog, to come up with a Technorati Rank. Or more accurately, Technorati's community manager Niall Kennedy said:
Technorati's link and unique source count includes only links currently on a blog's home page. Currently is defined as the last time we spidered the blog.
Let's take John Battelle's Searchblog. Here's his profile page. You can see at the top that it says 1,376 sites link to his blog. Look further down, and you'll see a line that says: "Technorati Rank: 204 (1,987 links from 1,376 sites)"
Drilling down, this means that any link on the home page of any blog that Technorati spiders pointing to any page anywhere within John's blog gets counted. If he's listed on a blogroll on the blog's home page, that's counted. If the blog mentions one of his articles with a link, that's counted.
The higher your rank, the better you'll do in any category. Once I tagged the Search Engine Watch Blog as being relevant for Google, our overall rank of 554 meant we shot up to ninth place on that list. Once I tagged the Search Engine Watch site itself, our rank of 125 put us at the top.
As an aside, Technorati classes the main SEW site as a blog, and I know it has a rank of 125 because I can see that when I look at my account data, even though this isn't shown on the profile page to the public. While the site has a feed, it's not bloggy in the way our SEW Blog is. So while I hate to lose my nice high-ranking space, perhaps it shouldn't be in Technorati which covers blogs.
Then again, looking at the Technorati Top 100 list, the non-blog American Red Cross is at number five, and there's probably other non-blog info in there, as well. I'll be following up with Technorati about this.
Bad Old Days Of Tagging
Now it's issue time. First of all, I hate having to tag things. It takes me back to all the bad-old days when the meta keywords tag was a major concern to people. Many used to hate that they had to tag pages with both singular and plural forms not to mention stemming (run versus running). Blog Finder brings back those days with a vengeance.
Want to show up for blog and blogs? Those are completely different tags. If you want to show up for both of them, you need to use each word among the 20 you can claim. Want to show up for hurricane, hurricanes and hurricane katrina? Tagging just for "hurricane" won't cut it. You have to tag for all three terms. Ugh.
It's also not currently policed in many ways, something I expect will change. Look at the results for hurricane. I get Tracy and Matt's Blog in the top results. They're posting about Hurricane Katrina, but that's hardly the focus of the site. But Technorati is automatically picking up the tags for individual postings and making the entire blog deemed relevant to the hurricane.
Claiming Someone Else's Blog
More alarming, remember I said you could configure a blog even before you proved a claim. Last night I did that. I claimed some random blog, added it to my account, gave it a new tag (it already had some tags, but there was space for more) and within minutes, I had it showing up in a new category.
This wasn't my blog, but I gained control over it! I put everything back in order, so no bloggers or Technorati were harmed during this little experiment. But it surprised me I could do this.
I then wondered if it was possible because the blog hadn't been claimed by its owner. So, I created a new account, then went to claim the Search Engine Watch Blog in that. I've already claimed and VERIFIED the SEW Blog in my regular Technorati account. Nevertheless, I was allowed in the new account to claim the blog again.
I haven't verified that claim in the other account. There's some reassurance there. The only way someone can verify a claim is if they have access to your web server. Nevertheless, I was able to modified the claim. For example, I was able to put the blog in new categories, such as zyzzx.
Here's the key thing. When I claimed the SEW Blog in the new account, there were no terms already showing for it even though I know some have been defined in my other account. Instead, it was a blank screen that came up. So it appears that you aren't able to modify someone else's blog -- or you can't if it's been claimed. What you can do is create a new parallel claim and put a blog in new categories.
From a marketing perspective, if 20 tags aren't enough, just create a second account and you can gain more opportunities. I don't recommend this, however, as I'm sure this loophole will be closed.
Of course, down the line, Technorati may perhaps allow anyone to place any of their favorite blogs (not blog posts) into any tag categories they like. If so, then the possibility of abuse comes in again.
I'd also said earlier that I couldn't find the SEW Blog by name. To me, searching against the titles and descriptions of blogs should be done right alongside the tags. Technorati's Kennedy says this will come:
Yes, this is a future feature we plan to add in the future. We have title, author, and description information on the backend we can easily expose as we move out of beta. We wanted to provide the most value up-front as the first product feature but we are certainly not finished with the product and take our beta badges seriously.
How about my pain of feeling I'd gone back in time by facing plural and stemming issues when tagging a blog?
We do not apply stemming to the tags. We currently have some stemming in place on our post tags [tags assigned to actual blog posts or articles” and could eventually move similar functionality over to our blog tags.
Partial word matching can be handled with clouds of outbound links and blog tags. SEW is tagged "Search Marketing" and has a high link correlation to Site X which is tagged "Search Engine Marketing" and a user could then browse these related subjects. It's some algorithmic work and clever data configuration but definitely a possibility.
So over time, it may come that you don't have to think of every possible tag for your blog. Indeed, I don't think it's worth that much time to start with. Pick some key terms, then cruise along with them and expend more time if you feel Technorati's new blog finder is driving traffic from your preliminary work.
Also, be aware last Friday that when I tried changing and saving tags for my blogs, the changes didn't seem to be saved. In reality, they were. A bug wasn't showing the refreshed page, Technorati said. Today when I've been testing, all's been fine.
How about abuse, either purposeful or accidental, that can degrade relevancy? People might purposely say their blog is relevant for a tag, when it is not. You can also have sites tagged generally on a subject that they aren't relevant for. Blog is probably the classic example. Scan that list, and everything you see is a blog. But most of them aren't specifically about blogging.
Technorati does have things to help curb some abuse and problems. On the right-hand side of every blog category page there's this message:
Blog Finder is in
Beta. If you see a
blog that doesn't
belong here, or want
to suggest one that
does, please contact us.
The Blog Finder help page also say to owners, "All we ask is that the tag you use actually has something to do with your blog."
Obviously, anything blatant like an online poker tagging itself as being relevant for Hurricane Katrina is going to stand out. But for some of the general categories, so many sites are already listed when they are predominantly relevant for them that it's going to be interesting to see how Technorati may try to clean things up.
It bears remembering, of course, that just because you may add a blog to a tag/category doesn't guarantee it will hit the top of the list. That remains something determined by the blog's blog rank.
Top Lists, Criticisms & Other Resources
As someone seeking blogs, the new finder service helps Technorati counter some criticism its taken over its Top 100 list. The plus to the Technorati system is that it allows, as it says, for people to make mini Top 100 lists in any particular topic.
That's what someone like Robert Scoble wants, but the tagging system it's based on leaves all types of issues. The story above and Gary's previous review of Blog Finder shows the problems you get with having to think of plural and stemming terms, not to mention alternative terms (search marketing or search engine marketing -- you've gotta do both). Josh Hallett covers some further criticisms as well here, plus points to a variety of other observations worth checking out.
Also be sure to check out Yahoo's blog & feed finding service. I feel it's poorly known, in particular because Yahoo needs to do a much better job in making it visible.
My past Yahoo Feed Search & Web Search Feeds Update post explains the service more and the Submitting To Yahoo's Feed Search article for members takes a long look at webmaster issues plus touches on how it provides the type of mini-Top 100 lists that some want.
Want to discuss Blog Finder? Please visit our Search Engine Watch Forums and start a thread!