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August 2005, Week 4 Marketing Archives

Friday, August 26, 2005

Blogs Are Not WebSites - Breaking Down Backlinks & Structure

Okay, so the content in this post is literally 14 months old. I began working on an analysis of blogs vs websites and how they're different. The original intent was to determine how Google and other search engines valued backlinks to / from blogs compared to typical e-commerce sites and such. I scrapped it cause I didn't have enough time to finish my thoughts or collect enough data - imagine that. But, since I eluded to the problems in calling something that's not a blog a blog in my Feedster 500 post, I'm putting my original thoughts up for debate.

Yes, I agree there are philosophical differences between what I call a blog and what you call a blog but it's important to realize it's an issue that does actually matter. Especially in light of the recent popularity boom of blogs for marketing and PR purposes. Search engines like Goog have been working on this issue for some time but there have been no real significant improvements in the blog search & classification arena as of yet.

Without further adue, here are my year old thoughts on blogs, blog backlinks and initial conclusions. Although I have more to add and will add, I'd like your feedback on my thoughts.
In order to determine if the weight (amount of pagerank) a page receives from a backlink on a blog is different than from a standard website we must first determine if the link is coming from a blog. Honestly, I'm not sure any of the search engines are doing this very well other than Google. Because Google purchased Blogger, they know the ins and outs of a blog's architecture and can tweak their algorithm accordingly. So in order to determine if a site is a blog we need to look for the common elements of a blog that allow the engines to flag it as a blog and not a typical website.

1. Dates, dates and more dates
Blogs typically have dates all over the place, no matter what blog publishing app you're using, you'll have dates.

* Dates are found in the urls... ""

Notice the "2004_05_02_index.cfm" (05/02/2004 is the date of this post)

* The homepage typically has paragraphs sorted in reverese chronological order and after each paragraph there is usually a link pointing to a url that has a date in the url.

For example: The close of each paragraph on my blog has "Posted by: Jason Dowdell 9:13 AM | Permanent Link" The permanent link points to a url containing a date in the file name like the example I mentioned above.

Different apps use different terminology to refer to a url where the post can be found.

Blogger - Permanent Link
MovableType - Permalink

2. Links In vs. Links Out
On a typical website's homepage there are no more than 5 links pointing out to another site. On a blog there are an average of 92 links pointing to external sites. This is based on the link analysis of the top 100 blogs listed by Technorati. So Google might look for a higher than avg. number of outbound links from a site.

Blogs have chunks of text in which there can often be found links pointing to external sites. Most e-commerce sites [the exception being spam web sites] don't link to external sites.

BlogRolls - common to have several outbound links in list format on a blog.

3. Blogs are text heavy
Most sites, especially commercial sites, are image heavy and text light. Blogs on the contrary are mostly text because they're all about information. Hey wait a minute, oh yeah, that's what the internet was invented for. totally forgot! doh!

4. Archives
Blogs always have archives, and ways to retrieve every piece of text that was previously listed on the homepage. Now if you think about your typical ecommerce website, they too have content that periodically is listed on the homepage. We call those "Sales" or "Featured Specials" and can usually be found a month later on a subpage. What makes a blog unique in this respect is the fact that when a blogging application archives it's data, it's usually text heavy and image light. Plus it's on a page by itself whereas a featured item is usually on a page with many other formerly featured items (we call this the sale page) and then disappears. A blog's archive lives on forever (or as long as the server lives).

5. Index Page
Last Update Date is more often than not no more than 2 weeks from the current date.

I think that's enough defining the architecture of a blog for the time being. Now let's move on to how we can determine whether or not the links from a blog count as much as the links from a normal website in Google's eyes.

First off, I'd like to point out that there are more than one kind of link on a blog. You're like, "what the...?" and I'm like "I did too just say that!" Yes, I understand that an a href is an a href is an a href but no two a href's are the same. Take for instance a link sitting in the middle of a paragraph on a blog. It's here today and gone tomorrow when the post is archived. It's a flash in the pan or 15 minutes of fame but it's definitely not going to stay around forever.

Then consider the links usually found up and down the right and left hand columns of a blog. Those links my friend are different because they stay around much longer than the Andy Warhol links in the blog entry paragraphs. So it would make sense that a link appearing on a blogs homepage month after month would be considered the same as a link appearing on any other site month after month for purposes of PageRank. Now if that is the case then everything is relative because those permanent links will be counted in the same way as permanent links on any other site. Since Google typically only updates the PageRank associated with a given url once a month at best, it's safe to assume the Andy Warhol backlinks won't show up in your backlink check for more than a month at best. But if you have a permanent link from a blog then it will show up for good, as long as you haven't pissed off the owner of the blog and they decide to take you off of their "Friends" or "Tech Patriarchs" link section.

To cement this theory of Andy Warhol links and their 15 seconds of fame vs. permanent links I'd like to go to the digital trenches and dig me up some dirty old data.

Well, well, well, what do ya know? Looks like my theory is partially correct. In searching through the backlinks of sites I give long term links to from the homepage and all subpages, I found that the links from the homepage weren't picked up as backlinks for those sites in my report. Instead I saw something much more bizarre. Even though every page on my site links to these external sites, only a handful of those backlinks were recognized as links. A possible explanation for this is since every page on my site links to these other sites, they could be seen as link spam and most have been disregarded. To test the theory a little further I decided to run the same type of analysis on a few other well known blogs and see what happened.

I'm going to use some of the same top 100 blogs as rated by Technorati for this data sample as well. Instead of running the analysis on the top 100 blogs I decided to run it on the top 10 blogs and ensure accuracy of the data. Because these top 10 blogs average 30,888 backlinks (on Google), the task is quite daunting. I decided to pull out since it's an outlier with 157,000 backlinks and that brought the average number of backlinks down to 17,720 backlinks.

Avg Backlinks: 17,720
Avg Links to Internal URLs: 107
Avg Links to External URLs: 120
Avg Links on HomePage: 227

From this data we can already see that the number of links to internal urls is approximately 89% of the number of links to internal urls. This would suggest that blogs have more external links on their homepages than internal links but I say this sample size is too small and should be reevaluated with a sample of at least 1,000 blogs or more.

Back to our search through the backlinks of the sites each of the top 10 blogs keeps in it's list of permanent links or friends or whatever you want to call the links that stay on the homepage for more than two months at a time.

Yes I know I cut the post off in mid-sentence but that's where I stopped working on it last July. If you would like me to revisit the blog backlinks research then post your comments here and I'll pick up the ball where I left off.

Blogs Are Not WebSites - Breaking Down Backlinks & Structure By Jason Dowdell at 02:01 PM
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Feedster 500 List Is Dead Wrong

Okay so I took some time to review the first 100 blogs on the Feedster 500 [top 500 blogs in popularity as Feedster sees it]. Let me tell you, we've got a long way to go in blog search, ranking and categorization... this list is a great example of just that. The Feedster 500 is apparently only tracking US blogs, which is ok I guess, as long as you're an American Blogger, but let's not quibble over the details. Instead let's just jump right in and pluck this chicken.

Here's how Feedster says they come up with their list of the 500 most popular blogs [taken directly from their own press release].
"The ranking is achieved by taking into account factors such as the number of inbound links over time; if the blog has been recently updated; and the elimination of obvious non-blogs that have appeared on other top-blog lists...

...Our first iteration of this list solves the staleness problems and not-a-blog problems that others have faced."

Uh, excuse me, no it doesn't? If non-blogs weren't even on the list then how in the heck can be no.2? I see no rss feeds, no blog like architecture, no posts. They do have a blog from their staffbut that's not the url Feedster is using. DeviantArt has news and forums but I would hardly consider this site a blog. So scratch the number 2 site off the Feedster 500 list please.

Jason Calcanis, I highly recommend you hang on to that $50,000 because I'm just getting warmed up.

Coming in at no.. 6 is the NowPublic news site, not the NowPublic main url but rather the news portion of the site. While it looks and smells like a blog, it's backlink counts in the other blog engines and main search engines don't jive with it's top 10 placement on Feedster's list.

IceRocket: 0 links [117 to homepage]
Technorati: Server Overload - No results
Feedster: 2 links [28k plus to homepage]
BlogPulse: 4 [255 to homepage]

So it seems that even Feedster doesn't show a number of links that would justify yet another top 10 result, go figure.

Coming in at 11 we have Common Dreams, a news website that has RSS feeds. Should we consider that a blog? It's an alternative news site that doesn't accept advertising and is run by volunteers so that goes in favor of the free or personal-ish feel synonymous with blogs. The homepage is composed of titles and single sentence summaries of the articles, I use the word articles instead of posts because that's exactly what they are. So the jury is still out on whether or not this site is a blog but I vote no.

Coming in at 13 is Creative Commons. Again, they have a blog section of their site but Feedster is calling the CC site [whole site] a blog and that dog won't hunt. Is blogging what the CC is known for? Is that why you go to CC is to read their blog or is there a bit more to the Creative Commons site than a blog, you tell me.

Then at 14 we have MediaMatters, another alternative news site with RSS feeds. It is nothing like a blog in any other way.

Are you seeing a pattern here? Sites with RSS feeds and even some without are being considered blogs when they clearly aren't. Blog search has a long way to go but that's another story for another day.

Alright, this one is just ridiculous, Google Globe Trotting, a community site where users can uploads Google Maps pics of places they've been [or that are just interesting] and it's searchable. It's nothing like a blog except for the fact that it has an RSS feed, recurring theme? It comes in at no. 17 on the Feedster Flop.

Lest this post loses it's point I'll just spew a few more quick hits out here and let you make the call on whether or not these sites are actually blogs or deserve Top500 treatment.

21. Drudge Report
23. Hype Non Standard
26. IT Conversations
30. Smoking Gun
32. Something Awful
36. MSN Channel 9
40. Liquid Generator - main domain confused with blog url.
42. Drunken Hero
44. Knitty Blog - main domain confused with blog url.
47. Milk And Cookies Latest - main domain confused with blog url.
50. McSweeneys

I'll stop at 50 but I could do more. The point of all of this is that we're nowhere close to where we need to be with blog search. Why do you think Google hasn't released a beta of their blog search engine offering? Cause this stuff is frickin hard, that's why!!!!! I wrote a piece last July about the link value differences between websites and blogs and never posted my findings but maybe now's the time. I'll be following this up with more of the issues associated with blog search as it stands today. Jason Calcanis, please hold onto your $50k in free advertising for the time being, I haven't seen anything worth it yet.

Feedster 500 List Is Dead Wrong By Jason Dowdell at 10:59 AM
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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Google Talk Hack - Broadcasting MP3's & Podcasts

So we're one day out of the box and already Google Talk has been hacked. Twit.TV has put up a tutorial about how to hack Google Talk complete with screenshots and detailed step-by-step instructions.

Note: this hack only work on Windows because there is no official Google Talk client for Mac.
"Yes, it is possible to broadcast music, MP3's, Podcasts, etc. from your itunes, computer cd
or whatever. Don't limit yourself to a boring microphone... share your music!"

Google Talk Hack - Broadcasting MP3's & Podcasts By Jason Dowdell at 10:32 AM
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AIM Mail Upgrades - 2 Gig Of Storage Now

Appears that AOL upgraded AIM Mail recently but there wasn't much buzz about it. I guess because they've basically done just the reverse of Google. Huh? Here, I'll show you what I mean.

AIM started as an instant messenger client, hence the name AOL Instant Messenger [AIM]. Then offered email [already freely available to America Online paying users] to the folks using only AIM and not AOL. Then they upgraded the offering of AIM Mail.

Google started GMail as a free email service and continues to upgrade it, among the upgrades a few months ago was increasing the storage to 2 gig. Then Google released Google Talk, their hat in the Instant Messaging circle.

Is this business plan bizarro world?

AIM Mail Upgrades - 2 Gig Of Storage Now By Jason Dowdell at 10:14 AM
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Google Tops Yahoo & MSN In Blogosphere Buzz

Google vs Yahoo vs MSN in the blogosphereAccording to the BlogPulse Trend Tracker, Google is killing Yahoo and Microsoft in the blogosphere. Branding is a huge part of it but releasing new apps every week is another factor. When you combine that with the hottest company in Silicon Valley and some of the best A-List bloggers, Google's hard to beat.

Last night's release of Google Talk at 11:13 pm EST didn't hurt either.

Google Tops Yahoo & MSN In Blogosphere Buzz By Jason Dowdell at 01:07 PM
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Slashdot More Like Big Business Not Blogs

It's kind of sad but I think Slashdot may be losing it's edge in the "first to know" area. It use to be that geeks went soley to Slashdot to get their news but that was before the phenom we call blogs. Slashdot is more like big business now than it ever has been and a post today about the FlyPen from LeapFrog is a prime example of it. Slashdot linked to the BusinessWeek story and both were so far behind with releasing info about LeapFrog's new computer pen it's not even funny.

Don't get me wrong, I love cmdrTaco but I wish Slashdot had that cutting edge inside scoop of yesteryear. The fact that I reviewed the marketing campaign LeapFrog is using nearly 3 weeks ago [and interviewed the guys that created it to boot] gives rise to the argument that big media can't compete with the online word of mouth found in blogs.

I'm out.

Slashdot More Like Big Business Not Blogs By Jason Dowdell at 11:58 AM
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Holy Crap Says It All - Gmail From Domain Feature

I've said it before and I'll say it again, holy crap. I can't believe Google is allowing you to change the email address "from domain" to whatever domain name you want [you must own it of course]. This is just b-a-n-a-n-a-s!

Holy Crap Says It All - Gmail From Domain Feature By Jason Dowdell at 12:36 AM
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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

PR Firms Must Think Like A Blogger

Tonight is one of those nights where the buzz is building all over the internet about the release of Google's IM client. Rumor has it that it will be called Google Talk, there are screenshots showing this out there already, but I prefer to call it Google IC [Instant Communicator]. I say that because it's suppose to have not only IM capabilities but also voip capabilities as well.

Where do PR firms fit into the Google Talk Release?
Well, PR firms are all talking about how to connect with bloggers and how to get bloggers to talk about their clients and that's about it. Sure a lot of them send out emails, some even a bit personalized per blogger, pitching bloggers with why their client is worthy of a post or two on the blogger's blog. Because these emails are just about the only way PR firms contact bloggers, their success rate is dismal at best.

It's not the execution that dooms these PR firms, it's their context. There is rarely a relationship between the rep at the PR firm and the blogger and that goes against everything bloggers stand for. Bloggers [like me] are all about the relationship. Without solid relationships there are no trusted sources and without trusted sources there are no scoops and without scoops there is no buzz surrounding new product launches in the blogosphere.

Sue MacDonald runs the PR department at Intelliseek and a week or so ago we were chatting about this very subject. She said something that every media buyer, PR manager, and even bloggers need to know.
as a 22-year-reporter who was ont eh "pitch" end of many pitches, I'll tell you this. The people I listened to the most, when they tried to "pitch" me, were people who already knew me from previous contact, or offered me information without jamming it down my throat. The "public relations" and "media relations" parts of the job are more about the "relations" and less about the public/media part.

How true she is. In fact, when Intelliseek released the latest version of BlogPulse a few weeks back, I was nearly the first person to break the story with an exhaustive review of the blog search engine. I don't say that to toot my own horn but rather to explain why I was able to be the first with the in-depth information on their new search engine. It's quite simple really...

I had stayed up til 3 and 4am several nights in a row with Intelliseek's CTO Sundar Kadayam working on testing and bug trapping as well as offering my feedback on features and tools for weeks prior. I was and still am very interested in what the BlogPulse team is up to because I love search technology and data analysis. The guys at Intelliseek know their stuff and have a no fluff mentality. Because of all these reasons I was "given" the right to talk about BlogPulse before anyone else.

What's my point?
Tonight as the blogosphere and newsworld are reeling about the much anticipated press release from Mecca [I mean Google] about Google Talk, we should think about the roots of a rumor. Rumors start with seeds and Google is good at planting those seeds with those they trust and whom they have strong relationships with. One of the reasons the Google branding is the most valuable of any online is because of the relationships Google employees have, it's a company culture thing. They don't just have some of the highest profile A-List bloggers as a result of their purchase of blogger but they also have the social networks that follow those individuals and thousands of other smart and talented folks at Google.

Just as I'm typing this I've been pinged by GMAIL because Jason Shellen is asking me to authorize him on my Google Talk buddy list and two other folks are IM-ing me telling me is finally alive... see it's all about relationships and it's super duper exciting.

PR Firms Must Think Like A Blogger By Jason Dowdell at 11:31 PM
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Google Suggested Results Snippets

So Matt Cutts points to a new UI feature of Google where [for a small number of sites] Google is algorithmically returning important snippets [or sections of a site] that a user may be interested in. I personally like the feature and find it to be quite helpful.

From a marketing perspective it gives weight to the [use a subdomain for a corporate blog instead of a completely different url] because if the blog is a subdomain, there is a chance it will be returned in the Snippets beneath your url and increase your click through ratio in the natural results. The blog doesn't have to be on a subdomain in order to be returned in the snippets results but it makes it easier for Google to verify the subdomain is actually part of the main site.

Update: I noticed this behaviour last week and it appears that Google has removed links to a company's blog from it's suggested snippets and is returning that as a separate result below the actual initial results. Do a search for flickr in Google and you'll see the flickr blog show up as the second result, after all of the snippets.

Google Suggested Results Snippets By Jason Dowdell at 11:31 AM
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Billboard Spam - Coming To A City Near You

So billboards are suppose to be able to beam a message to your cell phone as you walk by. Supposedly you'll be asked whether or not you want to accept the message but where I come from we call that SPAM! Here's the post from SmartMobs.

""Ignoring adverts is about to get a lot tougher with the development of billboards and advertising posters that use Bluetooth to beam video ads direct to passing cellphones",New Scientist reports."As people walk past the posters they receive a message on their phone asking them if they wish to accept the advert.If they do,they can receive movies, animations,music or still images further promoting the advertised product".Six London railway stations have recently had trials of the system called BlueCasting."Poster locations for rock band Coldplay’s new album offered to beam further promotional material,including song clips from the album,to the phones of passers-by.The posters detected 87,000 Bluetooth phones over a two week period,of which about 17% were willing to download the clip"."

Billboard Spam - Coming To A City Near You By Jason Dowdell at 10:00 AM
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Monday, August 22, 2005

Word Lists and Spam Filtering - Google vs Yahoo

This is quite possibly one of the best reads I've had on the topic of search engine optimization and Google vs Yahoo. The story breaks down some highly used spam tactics and shows who's better and why [Yahoo or Google]. Additionally it provides some insight into who's already doing a good job of identifying some important issues with word lists and why / how they rank well.

"NCSA released a study that attempted to compare the respective merits of Google and Yahoo!'s search engines. (See My spam-filled search index is bigger than yours!). Unfortunately, the only thing it proved was which search engine was publishing the most gibberish it had collected - a fact apparently lost on the researchers. The three academics insisted that because Google was returning more gibberish, it must be doing a better job.


...The trouble is that Google is returning pages which are nothing but great long lists of words as valid search results, when rarely, if ever, is this what the searcher is looking for....

...But strangely enough, some people do have a thing for strange combinations of words - and this week, it's these very hobbyists who have been able to shed more light on the search giants' internal operations than the academics. It's Google Whacking - the art of finding two words that produce just a single result from the search engine - which comedy writer Dave Gorman turned into a book and a stage show. You can see a list of the most recently discovered Google Whacks here. Current Whacks at the time of writing include " rhubarb underkill", "oxymoronically flakier", "overpaid brainworkers" - somewhat surprisingly - and, to our relief, there's only one web page in the world with the words "subhuman stepsiblings" close enough together to merit a hit."

Continue reading the full story over at TheRegister, they've got some great links and info in the full article.

Word Lists and Spam Filtering - Google vs Yahoo By Jason Dowdell at 10:15 AM
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API Links & Search Notes

I'm not the type to post a set of links but instead of IM-ing them to the people most interested in each link below I figured I'd hit everybody at once in a post. Here are some links that have got me thinking this morning.

Feedburner's REST based API
Last Week In Search
Hasta La Technorati - it's turned into a bandwagon event.
Akamai back in the game of exposing web metrics.
Know your roots.
Apple is such a crybaby.
I guess I could've used for this.

API Links & Search Notes By Jason Dowdell at 09:55 AM
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« August 2005 Week 3 August 2005 Week 5 »

  • Week 1 (9 entries) August 1-6
  • Week 2 (9 entries) August 7-13
  • Week 3 (9 entries) August 14-20
  • Week 4 (12 entries) August 21-27
  • Week 5 (2 entries) August 28-31

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