Blogging for Business (and Pleasure) | October 26, 2006

I had the pleasure of speaking at the Blogging for Business seminar yesterday, organised by e-consultancy. My talk was on the History and Culture of Blogging and the slides are now online if you’re interested. I’m going for more minimal slides these days, so they probably won’t mean much unless you were there. However I essentially talked about how blogging has taken off over the last 5 years, what the current ecosystem looks like and how businesses could benefit from joining the conversation.

I’ve given a modified version of this talk a few times, and each time I go and check out the number of blogs indexed by Technorati to give an indication of the size of the blogosphere. The first time I gave the talk in September 2005, Technorati was tracking 16.5 million blogs. Now they are up to 57.4 million! That’s a huge increase in the space of a year. I’m not sure if this is an indication of how fast the blogosphere is growing or just how far Techorati’s reach is extending (a bit of both I imagine), but it’s a pretty amazing figure.

Talking of figures, the highlight of the day for me was a presentation by Heather Hopkins on blogging statistics. Heather made the interesting point that while most people reach blogs through search engines and social media sites, where they go afterwards is much more evenly distributed. So the search engines act as a funnel to blogs, but from there people go to news sites, shopping sites, photo sites and other blogs. Heather pointed out that blogs account for only about 1% of Amazons traffic. However she also pointed out that Yahoo! only accounts for about 2%, making blogs a pretty significant source of traffic.

Heather also posted a list of the top 10 UK bloggers as measured by direct traffic to their site (i.e. not including RSS). This was interesting as there was another UK bloggers list released yesterday, this time the top 100 UK bloggers. This second list was created using data from Technorati who use links to measure popularity rather than traffic. The interesting thing is that while there is some correlation between both lists, there is also significant deviation. This brings into question the best metrics to use when judging the authority of a site.

Traffic seems like an obvious choice to me, although with more and more people reading sites through RSS feeds, this will start to get skewed. Sites with a technical focus are likely to have more people subscribed using RSS and hence fare less well on the traffic test. On the other hand, sites that appeal to an audience of bloggers are likely to generate more links just because their audience have the ability to link to them.

When using traffic as a metric you need to be wary of sudden spikes that could seriously skew the overall results. To get round this you probably need to track traffic over several months and then calculate the interquartile mean to get a fair representation. When using links as a metric, you are likely to get even more skewed results as links are a product of time. Simple put, the longer you’ve been around, the more links you’ll have. As such, if you’re using links as a measurement of popularity, you really need to average them out over the last 6-12 months. That way you know that the sites in question are authoritative now and not five years ago.

The best option would be to create an algorithm that measured both links and traffic over time. Mix this with some clever textural analysis, site theaming and result clustering and you’d have yourself a pretty cool search engine to rival Technorati or even Google. Any takers?

Posted at October 26, 2006 10:51 PM

Comments

Heather Hopkins said on October 27, 2006 8:52 AM

Andy - it was really nice to meet you this week and as mentioned I really enjoyed your presentation. You offered some thought provoking statistics and background. It is so good to get a grounding in where this all came from. Gives me a lot of hope for where it may go. In particular your comments around the importance of blogs during periods of national crisis or natural disaster such as 9/11, Katrina and 7/7 were poignant. This is often glossed over without being addressed fully. Was great to think that through a bit more and to point to a real strength of the medium.

I also really appreciate your thoughts in this post about how to track and measure blogs. Something I keep coming up against in metrics for blogs is that the idea of an a-list of bloggers may be a bit silly. A blog can be successful if it only attracts 20 people. Websites don’t measure their success in terms of overall ranking - comparisons within niche categories are much more appropriate. Also, if the blog achieves the desired objective - whatever that is - it doesn’t matter how many people saw it.

Anyway - look forward to keeping in touch and continuing the conversation.

AlastairC said on October 27, 2006 9:26 AM

It’s worth noting that Technorati’s rankings are based on links from the last 180 days, so having a blog for a long time doesn’t necessarily help for that measure.

Chris Lake said on October 27, 2006 12:42 PM

Hey Andy,

We’ve received some great feedback so it seems that attendees also enjoy the event : )

I also waded into the top UK blogs discussion by unearthing some stats - unique users and page impressions for the top 15 blogs. I’m sure I missed a bunch of blogs, but it is a start.

That said, Heather is right - it isn’t just about popularity, although most advertisers online still seem to buy based on reach / CPM rather than influence, which is a far harder metric to make sense of.

My main issue with the Technorati study is about the number of human links vs automated spammy links. If they remove the latter from their study / index then it will be a lot sturdier, as a piece of research.

Great to see so much talk about UK blogs…

George said on October 28, 2006 6:02 AM

I recently received a business enquiry after someone found me via the comments on this blog.

Perhaps you should write an accompanying article - Comments for Business (and Pleasure)?

Paul Rouke said on October 28, 2006 10:05 AM

Hi Andy - I was with Craig from E-consultancy following the seminar you presented at and along with speaking extremely highly of you I was recommended to visit yor site and blog. Having not yet ventured into the use of my own blog (even though I’m currently establising my own professional website design business PRWD and blogging would certainly raise my profile) I have just looked through your pdf presentation and not only was it visually stimulating but your presentation method was extemely clear and effective. So I just wanted to pass on my thanks to you and for what its worth I’m your latest RSS feed subscriber!

Tim Aldiss said on October 28, 2006 4:54 PM

A very informative read Andy, in what is a very challenging medium for a lot of businesses. I imagine the next issue (at least for SME’s) is resourcing blogability! Many thanks and sorry I missed the session.

Timbo said on October 31, 2006 4:13 PM

Wow - I’m blown away by those slides - beautiful. Pity more people can’t put together presentations like that.