Monday, February 18, 2008

Tracking Email Campaigns Using Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free Web analytics tool that can be integrated with your email marketing campaigns to gain valuable information about the subscriber activity on your site. This data can be used to increase the effectiveness of future campaigns, and thus boost sales conversions, subscribers, or other campaign goals. In fact, according to a 2005 JupiterResearch report, using Web analytics to target email campaigns can produce nine times the revenues and 18 times the profits compared to regular mass email campaigns.

Today I am going to talk about how you can easily tag your email links in Google Analytics so you can better track your email marketing campaigns. Before we begin, make sure you have a Google Analytics account for your Web site, and verify that it is set up to track conversions. This involves placing a piece of code on every page you want to track on your site, including each conversion or order confirmation page.

What is Link Tagging?

Link tagging involves adding additional information (i.e., variables) to the destination URLs used in your online ads so Google Analytics can detect and associate each link with a specific campaign.
You can tag any number of online activities, including banner ads, paid search ads, or emails. Once a visitor responds to the ad, Google stores a cookie on his or her machine and is able to connect her ongoing actions with the original ad.

How to Tag Your Links

Tagging your links is very easy using Google's URL Builder.You merely need to identify the proper information to place into each of the following variables:

· Source

· Medium

· Term

· Content

· Campaign


The source identifies who is delivering your message to the customer. It also defines the origin of your message. Examples include Google, Yahoo, a Web site you are advertising with, or the name of your newsletter.


The medium is the means that is used to deliver the message to the recipient (i.e., CPC, banner, email). For an email marketing campaign, you will use "email."


This is the term or keyword you purchased and is only used in paid search tracking. Therefore, it will not be included in an email marketing campaign.


The content variable can be used to perform A/B testing on two versions of an ad. For instance, you can send out two email newsletters and determine which one performs better for you by tracking them separately. You can also assign different content attributes to different parts of a single email. For instance, you may want to tag your header, special offer, footer, and product links. When you use a different content variable for each specific link in your creative, you are able to determine the effectiveness of each part of your email.


This is the name of your campaign. You can be running one campaign on several different mediums. Use a descriptive term or slogan like "February Promotions" or "Get in Shape for Spring."

Once you have identified your specific campaign variables, simply enter them into the Google URL Builder, and click on "Generate URL." Then replace the original URL of the link in your email with the new one. You'll need to repeat this for each link in the message you're working on, as well as every future email broadcast you send.

How Is My Email Performing?

Now that you're successfully tracking email campaigns, it's important to know how to access the data. To begin, log into Google Analytics and click the "Traffic Sources" tab. Then click "Campaigns." All of your campaigns will be listed here for the time period you selected. You can click on a specific campaign (i.e., February Promotions) to see the full campaign summary. The "Segment" drop-down box has a long list of options, including "Source," "Medium," and "Content." You can use this feature to track the origin of your traffic, the specific email it's coming from, and the call-to-action that's generating the traffic.

Spend some time exploring Google Analytics and learning how to use the technology. The program's full capabilities surpass the scope of this article.

Integrating Google Analytics with your current email marketing reporting tools helps you understand how customers and prospects respond to your ads and interact with your web site. You will have instant access to all of the clickstream data users generate as they move from page to page across your site. This means you can find out who left your site after previewing your landing page, and who started the process of purchasing a product but strayed to another part of the site. You can see who reviewed product or service information, and who didn't. Essentially, this will allow you to identify what is working in your campaigns and what is not. Then you can tweak future campaigns to see an improvement in performance and ultimately, an increase in sales conversions.

New VideoCensus Service Provides Accurate Stream Counts and Granular Audience

Women Lead Online Network TV Viewing; Men Drawn to Consumer Generated Media

Nielsen Online, a service of The Nielsen Company, today announced the full release of VideoCensus, the first and only syndicated online video measurement service to combine patented panel and server research methodologies. Early findings reveal differences in how men and women consume video content and that online there is a new primetime.

“The growth projections for both online video consumption and video advertising revenue are phenomenal, and the market requires an innovative approach to measurement. The driving force behind the development of VideoCensus was the unanimous call from our clients to deliver the most relevant and accurate dataset possible,” said Dave Osborn, vice president, video measurement and media products, Nielsen Online. “With this release, we’ve taken a huge step in addressing the market’s need to harmonize panel- and server-based metrics and we are delighted by the accolades of major industry players who are supporting our forward thinking approach,” he continued.


“As a leader in online video, Turner requires excellence in research methodology,” said Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer for Turner Broadcasting System and VideoCensus client. “We've been debating the accuracy of panels and servers for years. VideoCensus measurement ends the debate about accurate counts of our video volume in the marketplace, while also providing Turner with relevant, high-quality audience demographics.”

“Comprehensive measurement of the online digital video landscape is equally important to marketers and publishers,” added Judit Nagy, vice president, consumer insights for Fox Interactive Media. “As with online audience measurement, having a reliable and trusted source for video metrics is a must have for the industry, and Nielsen Online is taking a leadership role by making technology advancements for the future.”

"As a leading provider of Internet video, it's imperative that MTV Networks has accurate tracking and reporting of streaming volume across our sites," said Colleen Fahey Rush, executive vice president, research, MTV Networks. "Products like Nielsen Online’s VideoCensus are essential in helping us meet that need, and capture the full value of our vast online library."



Video streams at broadcast network TV Web sites were nearly two times more likely to be viewed by women age 18-34 than men, who accounted for 22 percent and 12 percent of streams, respectively.

For the top four Consumer Generated Media Web sites, streams were two and a half times more likely to be viewed by men 18-34 than women, who accounted for 27 percent and 11 percent of streams, respectively.

“Network Web sites are destinations for fans to deepen their experience – they go to see favorite scenes, episodes and outtakes. These viewers are very loyal and engaged and the Web site is a place to become immersed in the program,” said Michael Pond, media analyst, Nielsen Online. ”With shorter clips and a viral nature, CGM Web sites are much more about discovery, and consumers are likely to view content on more than one.”


Nielsen Online reported that streaming activity at the top network TV Web sites over-indexed during the weekday lunchtime hours of 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. At consumer generated media Web sites, the most popular time for viewing was during late night hours on the weekend, between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

“These results indicate that the largest appetite for streaming broadcast content is during the noontime hours, when viewers take a break from work to catch up on the shows they enjoy,” said Pond. “Primetime visitors to network Web sites primarily enhance their TV viewing experience with features like online voting, Web-only promotions and other program specific content, although there is some interest in streaming network content during the evening as well.”


• 116.7 million unique viewers, or 73 percent of active Web users, watched approximately 6.2 billion video streams in December 2007

• The average viewer spent nearly two hours and 10 minutes watching online video content in the month of December

• Each viewer watched nearly 54 video streams during the month The No. 1 video site in December was YouTube, with 2.6 billion streams during the month, followed by Yahoo! with 371.9 million streams and Fox Interactive Media with 364.1 million streams (see Table 5).

Make the Most of SEO Competitive Research : Evaluating the Competition

Why bother about your competitors? Well, a stupid question, I know. You can’t possibly think that you can enter a new niche and get on top without looking into what has been done before you. When done properly, competitor analysis will answer your most important strategic planning questions:

  • Is it worth trying to enter this niche? Will I be able to overdo my competitors? How fast? Will long and hard victory be worth the effort? What’s my expected ROI?
  • What should I do to succeed in this niche? What shouldn’t I?
  • Who are my perspective readers/customers? What are they used to? What do they like?
  • Well, and many more, but I will stop here for now not to miss the point.

Step 1. Evaluating your overall competition.

You can either do it ‘at home’ using Google search and Excel or try paid tools returning complete competitor’s report. I usually perform all possible ways of analysis because I (1) cannot fully rely on reports compiled by someone else (be it an automatic tool or another person); (2) do not feel I have the full understanding of a niche unless I spend long hours on searching Google and compiling data into tables (yep, preferably multiple ones, and then combining tables into one table; but that’s just me, you can safely get along with a single solid report).

The idea is simple: you throw all your keywords into a spreadsheet and add the following information:

  1. Google daily/monthly estimated reach (I was using data provided by Aaron’s keyword research tool);
  2. Overall number of results in Google (broad match);
  3. The site ranked #1 for each term;
  4. Number of results for [intitle:keyword];
  5. Number of results for [inanchor:keyword];
  6. Number of results for both [intitle:”keyword” and inanchor:”keyword”] (hat tip to Ciaran) - this is your exact competition, i.e. those who use SEO (optimized titles and incoming links anchor text).

To save time you can get this information via SEOMoz keyword difficulty tool (it will also provide you with lots of other useful information: average PageRank of the top 10 sites, how many root URLs can be found in top 10 results, etc). Naturally, the best combination is when #1 is high, #2 is low (not necessarily) and #4, #5 and #6 are the lowest possible - the cases framed in green:

Step 2. Finding your direct competitors

After you compiled your targeted keyword list, you can sort by ‘#1 in G‘ column and see the sites that is most often ranked high in Google for your chosen keywords:

Be sure to explore your most successful competitor’s on-site optimization: titles, H1 and H2 tags, internal site architecture, etc. I have singled out two approaches that help me to perform this kind of analysis:

  1. Don’t be too skeptical. Unfortunately most often experienced SEOs analyzing onpage optimization think they can do much better. This thought can bring you to wrongful conclusions.
  2. Learn from their mistakes. (I know, this somehow interferes with the first one, so the most important is balancing between the two.) We all know how to do it right. So analyzing what a competitor did well doesn’t help a lot. The art of seeing mistakes and at the same time being able to keep from underestimating (see #1) always brings to the right solution in the end.

And now a few tools that can also prove helpful:

1. Google Adwords Keyword Tool (free) is useful for comparing Google advertisers’ competition data and your own findings and also for differentiating commercial terms from non-commercial ones. Keywords enjoying high advertisers‘ competition are most likely targeting potential customers (while more informative [and hence less competitive] phrases usually attract people who are collecting information rather than are really willing to buy). A good way to overcome high competition while sticking to more commercial phrases is to turn (moderately) commercial phrases into long tail (e.g. per our table: ‘Tennessee fsbo‘ into ‘townsend Tennessee fsbo‘).

2. (paid with a few trial searches) also provides some helpful type of analysis that can help you to evaluate your competition:

  • Keyword Share” shows the percentage of total referrals a site receives from a particular keyword compared to its other referrals (= this keyword referrals/other keywords referrals).
  • Keyword Engagement” shows the average time visitors tend to spend on the site after being referred by this keyword.
  • Keyword Effectiveness” all people referred by this term/total time spent on the site.

While these metrics represented by look really promising and useful, I mostly use them for self-education and out of curiosity - just because I am more used to ‘old school’ method of looking into my referrals and learn people’s actual behavior in practice. However this can still be very useful for learning the competitors’ referrals and visitors’ [probable] behavior.

Next time I will look into most effective ways of analyzing competitor’s link building strategies. So stay tuned!


Filings Watch: Google’s 10-K: Headcount; Acquisition Spend

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) filed its annual 10-K report with SEC this Friday, and not much in it that we don’t know already, but good to get a yearly perspective on umbers, rather than the quarter-to-quarter we all chase.

Some points that caught my eye:
-- Our full-time employee headcount has significantly increased over the last 12 months, growing from 10,674 at December 31, 2006 to 16,805 at December 31, 2007...consisting of 5,788 in research and development, 6,647 in sales and marketing, 2,844 in general and administrative and 1,526 in operations. All of Google’s employees are also equityholders, with significant collective employee ownership.

-- Minimum guaranteed payments to the likes of MySpace and others: At December 31, 2007, our aggregate outstanding non-cancelable guaranteed minimum revenue share commitments totaled $1.75 billion through 2012 compared to $1.17 billion at December 31, 2006. (issues here of lower-performance of MySpace inventory, which we have written about before)

-- Cash used in investing activities in 2007 of $3,681.6 million was attributable to capital expenditures of $2,402.8 million, cash consideration used in acquisitions and other investments of $941.2 million, of which $545.7 million related to the acquisition of Postini in the third quarter of 2007, and net purchases of marketable securities of $337.6 million.

-- Besides DoubleClick and Postini, during the year ended December 31, 2007, we also completed seventeen other acquisitions. Three of these transactions were accounted for as asset purchases; the remaining 14 transactions were accounted for as business combinations. The total initial purchase price for these transactions was $281.6 million.

-- In addition, during the year ended December 31, 2007, we capitalized intangible assets of $5.2 million, paid in cash, related to patent purchases.

-- Cost of revenues increased $2,424.1 million from 2006 to 2007. This increase was primarily the result of additional traffic acquisition costs, the depreciation of additional information technology assets purchased in the current and prior periods, other additional data center costs and additional credit card and other transaction fees. There was an increase in traffic acquisition costs of $1,625.1 million which includes an increase of $216.7 million in fees related to distribution arrangements.

-- Advertising revenues made up 99% of our revenues in 2005, 2006 and 2007. We derive the balance of our revenues from the license of our web search technology, the license of our search solutions to enterprises and the sale and license of other products and services.

-- Our international revenues have grown as a percentage of our total revenues to 48% in 2007 from 43% in 2006.

-- Aggregate paid clicks on our web sites and our Google Network members’ web sites increased approximately 9% from the three months ended September 30, 2007 to the three months ended December 31, 2007, approximately 43% from the year ended 2006 to the year ended 2007 and approximately 65% from the year ended 2005 to the year ended 2006.


Yahoo! Search Draws Younger Audience; Google Users Big Spenders Online

In my post earlier in the week, I mentioned that Yahoo! Search attracts a younger audience than Google. I promised a post with figures to back up my claim (sorry I am a day late - forgot it was Valentine's Day!). The following charts show the percentage of visits from each age group to Yahoo! Search and

I cross checked this data against our Lifestyle data. to be sure that we weren't missing the kids of these householders. Our Lifestyle data confirms that the groups that are highly indexed on Google tend to be older (55+) and the groups highly indexed on Yahoo! Search tend to be younger.

I mentioned this to my husband and he asked if the Google users spend more online. Good question (he seems to think young people have no money)! I created the following Lifestyle Quadrant Analysis to compare the online audience of and Yahoo! Search.

The figure summarizes the audience strengths and weaknesses for the two search engines. Visits by MOSAIC Group to are plotted on the y-axis and to on the x-axis. For example, the top left hand box indicates unique strengths for Yahoo! Search, in that they are groups that are over-indexed relative to the online population on Yahoo! Search but under-indexed on The bigger the bubble the higher the propensity to have spent $500 online (based on offline data collected by Experian).

As you can see Google's relative audience strengths - i.e. the groups over-indexed on relative to the online population - are those that are among the most likely to have spent more than $500 online. This indicates that Google users are more likely to be big online spenders.


Yahoo Buzz: Next Digg Competitor

Valleywag has screen captures of a new Yahoo web site, reportedly launching February 26th, named Yahoo Buzz Beta.

Yahoo Buzz will be similar to Digg, but will start only with a 100 sites allowed into the system. After the initial beta period, all sites that are accepted into the Yahoo Publisher Network will allowed to be added to Yahoo Buzz.

By looking at the screen captures, it appears that each article is given a "buzz score." The buzz score seems to be generated by users clicking a "buzz it" icon. In addition, on the right side of Yahoo Buzz stories are recent "Top Searches," which are updated hourly.

Yahoo Buzz is currently a blog with data on top keyword searches from Yahoo Search. Here is the current Buzz FAQ, but reportedly, this new site will replace the current Yahoo Buzz section.

Let's not forget that AOL's Netscape tried to go the Digg route with but ultimately failed.


Blueprints Of Google's Oregon Data Center

Blueprints Of Google's Oregon Data Center

Harper's Magazine has a spread showcasing a blueprint of Google's Oregon data center in The Dalles. The article documents the data center at 68,680 square-feet with three buildings, two that are currently completed. The data center would require enough power to light up about 82,000 homes, equivalent to 103-megawatts of electricity.

Check out the full blueprints over here, take note of the dormitory building and various landscape.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Guide to Video Marketing on YouTube

Youtube is the largest video sharing site to date, with the most traffic and the highest amount of users on it making Youtube the definitive place for getting your videos published and marketed on. I have put together a guide on Youtube marketing for videos and I think you all will get a lot out of this.

Youtube is the second highest trafficked site globally according to alexa. Quantcast estimates 60 million unique viewers per month with a community base of predominately gen y viewers. Emarketer surveys recently did a research document on video viewer ship according to age and what they found is that the gen y generation views about 5-6 hours per day. The household incomes of these viewers are all pretty even from 0-100k +.

Youtube is optimized for 18 different languages and has a large presence in the asian market place. Youtube is the 4th most trafficked site in the united states so the power behind reaching your audience within America will be found on Youtube. To learn about more of the history of Youtube the wikipedia page does have some valuable info even though I hate giving wikipedia pages out it is useful.

Looking at the Youtube Algorithm:

Making it to the home page on Youtube is going to give your video the most amount of exposure. However, you don’t need to hit the home page to get your million views, it would sure help.

To do this you are looking at roughly a 15 day window of marketing efforts put into Youtube. This can be stretched out however depending on how you are trying to make it to the home page ( top favorites, top views, top comments etc.).

Keeping it Fresh

There is a freshness factor to your videos and it is much more difficult to get videos honors and movement within the search algorithm if the video is old. You would be better off removing that video and re-submitting it if you are looking to produce honors in a given field and to have a chance at hitting the home page with greater ease.

Keeping it Real

Factors to take into consideration when submitting a video is going to be your profile authority. How many friends does this profile have, how many subscribers and how many channel views. The reason this is important is to get more initial exposure and more views using a power profile will help you out greatly. Submitting a video on a orphan account with no friends or subscribers may raise some suspicion over at the Youtube headquarters. Make your profiles look natural and build them out.

Power of Views, Ratings, Favorites and Comments

Youtube has honors for each type of action that can be taken on a video. Honors for comments, favorites, ratings and views. As a marketer if you focus on anyone of these and get a substantial number of votes, favorites, ratings or views in a day you will see honors pretty quickly.

Remember the category you submit to and the type of channel you created has a lot to do with your success with getting honors. Gurus tend to get honors pretty easily within their channel area.

Tips for marketing on Youtube:

There are going to be a lot of tools Youtube has created for marketing your video. I will share them with you along with some other techniques we use.

    1. On videos there is a share option. You can share by email address or with friends you have attached to your account. Remember the more friends you have the more people you can send to. Also you can leverage social media sites when you try to share as well.

    2. Bulletin Boards: By posting a message this video will be displayed to all of your friends on your profile.

    3. Invite to subscribe: This feature is available in your account once you request a friend invite. See the post I did here.

    4. Add friends: Adding friends is a powerful way to gain exposure on Youtube. See my latest post here.

    5. Make sure your video appeals to the community

    6. Sharing videos with email: We like to go viral with our marketing campaigns for videos. Send videos out to your friends and family with a link to the video and an encouragement to share it.

    7. Use Submit the video to and then import your email addresses and send to your friends on stumble upon.

    8. Social Media it: You can leverage digg and other social sites like facebook and myspace to drive traffic to videos.

With the tools and tips I have listed out you will absolutely see success with your video marketing campaigns.


How stale and dated is your website?

We have all had that money maker website that ranks really well but are desperately afraid to touch anything on it, incase whatever it is about the site that Google’s secret sauce is so in love with gets destroyed in the process. But unfortunately, Google doesn’t necessarily like it either when a site hasn’t been updated in years, despite those killer rankings.

Not only that, humans don’t really like it when they can tell a site hasn’t been updated in ages either, and they couldn’t really care less whether Google loves it or not. And after all, sure, Google can drive the traffic, but if the mass majority of your visitors leave out of disdain when they see you 1999 web design, is it really worth keeping it looking as it did when you first launched it with your Frontpage 97 design skills? Which brings me to the question…

So when was the last time you really updated your website? And then the next obvious thing…

What makes your website look stale, outdated and old?

Copyright date

Does your copyright date still say 2005? Or worse, 1999? Copyright date is a common way that people check how current a site is. And no, people are usually smarter than to be tricked by those javascript “today’s date” scripts that were so popular a few years ago. So make sure your site’s copyright notice is updated, and if you want to show that your site has been around since 1999, change it to 1999-2008 instead.

Font choice

Some fonts are, well, so 1999. If you have Comic Sans MS anywhere on your site, change it immediately (here is a link for the three people that have no idea what font this is). In fact, if the temptation is to great (and for many do-it-yourself webmasters, it seems to be the font of choice) go and remove it from your computer completely. Your conversion rate will thank you for it.

Background images

True, some sites definitely suit having a background image, especially if it is a tasteful Web 2.0-ish design that isn’t too distracting. Note the part about the tasteful design because not all webmasters get that part, especially when they have some photo they want to show off and have it sized to the entire browser window. But the only reason you should have a photo background image on your site is if it is directly related to what the site is about. For instance, a beach resort might have a background image showing the beach, which could be acceptable, so long as the text is still legible. Best practices would be to have a plain background beneath the text so people can actually read what you are trying to tell them, but too many people try and put the text right over top of the photo and inevitably, some of the text will be very difficult to see. And the biggest piece of advice when it comes to webpage backgrounds… if it is clouds, or anything space related, ditch it immediately.

Cache date

Look and see how many people are viewing your site via Google cache and you’ll probably be shocked. But if Google’s last cache date of your home page is six months ago, you’ve got some work to do.

Centered text

Yep, way back when the [center] tag was new, people went nuts with it and everything on the site, including all written text such as articles, was centered. Well, the [center] tag is not new anymore, and very few things should be centered except titles/headlines and subheaders.

Animated “under construction” signs

I also thought these went out about a year after animated gifs first became all the rage, but I still not only see them on older sites, but also on newer site that should know better. If a page is under construction, you are better to not add the page to be accessible to the public in the first place, or at least put a small amount of text on the page so it is passable as a legitimate page and not telling the world that you just haven’t had time to do it yet.

Sparkly anything

Sparkly animated gifs had almost died a quiet death when the MySpace crowd brought them back with a vengeance. There is no reason why any legitimate website should have sparkly images if it is targeting anyone over the age of 13, unless there is a damn good reason for it… and I am still waiting for anyone to supply me with a damn good reason!

Link exchange pages

If you still have link exchange pages on your site – usually aptly titled Link Exchange Page 1, Link Exchange Page 2, and so on, and of course with the pages being called something obvious like links1.html. If you are going to have link exchange pages, be a little less obvious about it. Smart webmasters stopped calling them link exchange pages years ago. Sorry, no examples to protect the guilty!

Homepage refers to outdated events

The last summer games were quite the event, but if your homepage is still showcasing them, you should really update the homepage or change it to a retrospective slant, so people aren’t wondering why you are featuring something that happened a couple of years ago as “new”.


While design can be subjective to a certain extent, it can date a site especially if it is done without columns or a CSS file in sight.

Color scheme

Do you remember the old school html tags when colors used to be specified by name instead of HEX #, and the most popular colors were cyan, blue and purple, usually on a black background? Well, if your site still has them, you seriously need to consider a new color scheme for your site. Nothing can date a site faster than having a black background with cyan text… unless you happen to have a site catering to gamers, and then it seems to be the norm.

Last updated June 17, 2004

If you haven’t updated in the last six months – or worse, years – remove the last updated date from your homepage. The only time you should really use this is if it I the first time you have updated in years, or if you have a massive repeat visitor base that you want to alert to what has recently been updated.

Of course, there are always those odd ball exceptions. This site hasn’t changed much about its design in ten years, right down to using the same neon confetti background image.

When you have a website that has killer rankings, webmasters can be somewhat apprehensive about updated what is on the page incase Google’s secret sauce isn’t so happy about those changes. But you also need to ensure that your visitors don’t come to your site and immediately do an about face because the site looks, well, old. If you have one of these websites, changing the above things can ensure your site doesn’t look outdated, even if you update the content and homepage very infrequently.

Still not convinced? Change bits and pieces at a time over a period of weeks (or even months!) so you can evaluate exactly what Google is thinking of your much needed changes. This will also give you the opportunity to backtrack if suddenly things start to tank and you think your updating had something to do with it. And I can’t stress enough… make sure you keep backups of everything before you make the changes, and keep them for each change you make. This will make it easy to undo your changes to figure out what went wrong.
So if you have any of those oldie but goodie websites, take some time to make sure you aren’t committing one of the above faux pas which immediately dates your website, even when the content – while not recently written – is still valuable and updated.


Comparing Six Ways to Identify Top Blogs in Any Niche

In the early days of blogging you could go to the Technorati Blog Index, enter some identifying terms for a particular niche topic and discover what the top blogs were in the field.

Identifying top niche blogs is invaluable knowledge for anyone wanting to enter, study or market to people in a particular field. It's one of the fastest and most effective ways to learn the lay of the land and get involved in the community of successful artists, real estate agents or 4-H club leaders using social media. I've been seeing a lot of demand for this information lately so I thought I'd write up some quick pros and cons of the options I'm familiar with. Perhaps you'll add some of your own favorite methods in comments.

Unfortunately, Technorati's not what it used to be anymore. While we here at RWW are very proud to have climbed to the #14 spot in the Top 100 most linked-to blogs overall in the Technorati Index (look our Perez Hilton, you're next in line) the fact of the matter is that for every day use Technorati doesn't feel very reliable any more.

How then can you identify the top blogs in a particular niche field? There are paid services you can use to identify influencers online but they are expensive and not appropriate for quick hits in a new topic. I'm all for paid services but in this case, let's talk about options that are fast and free. Given the need to classify a lot of content with minimal human intervention, this could be a great place for Semantic Web technology to come in.

Here's a comparison of the pros and cons of six different services you can use to do so. None are as solid a solution as the blogosphere deserves. This is a huge opportunity for indexes, but one that will be hard to fill since an index has to be wide and deep to be truly useful for this purpose.



The Technorati Blog Finder. was set up for just this purpose and in earlier days claiming and tagging your blog on Technorati was considered an essential step in getting started with a blog. I'm not so sure that's the case anymore.

Technorati offers a clear standard of authority and you can download the OPML file of the top 10 blogs in any category. Why only 10? I have no idea.


After years of spotty service, seemingly random redesigns that made the site even worse than it was before, a crazy idea to get bloggers every to point all their rel=tag links to Technorati (!) and the entry of bigger players into blog search - Technorati doesn't feel as active today as it once did. There are probably a lot of top blogs in any niche that haven't added themselves to the directory.

The directory is also organized according to the tags applied to a blog by its own author, typically when the blog just gets started.

The user experience is not good at Technorati but it's good enough to still warrant a look in hunting for top niche blogs.


We wrote about how to find top niche blogs using in a post last month. At the simplest level, go to

There's huge amounts of data on and it's a very dynamic community. There's also RSS feeds, user comments, information about the people (users) who have done the classifying and a lot of other helpful features. I've been using to find top niche blogs a lot lately and it's served me fairly well, even if I have to eyeball the last few yards to an answer.

Cons: hasn't been evolving very quickly, at least the publicly available version of the service. There are a lot of obnoxious qualities to it, like the fact that you can't search for most popular items with multiple tags - there's no such page as

Search results pages are funky and tag/topic+blog just means that a URL has been saved at least once with both of those terms, not that any number of people used both terms at once. It's not intuitive to look up the tags given a URl much less an entire domain. Finally, at least in the tech sector a lot of hip cats are using Ma.gnolia now instead of It's a recommendation engine waiting, forever, to happen and I'm still heart broken that it was acquired by Yahoo! instead of the Library of Congress.



StumbleUpon has huge user numbers, very targeted interests and classifications, algorithm combined with human editorial judgment about the blogs in question.


It's more "fun" than it is business, unless you're into SEO. There's no clear way to look at top sites in any category, the search results page is really random looking. Good for stopping by and doing some searches just to see if you've missed anything, but nothing you'd do as part of a structured search.

Google Reader Recommendations


Google Reader's new recommendations are very high quality, in tech at least, because they have a large number of web savvy users. I'm hoping that starting a dedicated Google Reader account filled just with some known feeds in a niche, I can have other top sources in that same niche recommended to me.


Recommendations don't come right away, you have to wait for awhile. There's also a limit to the number of recommendations you can receive at one time. It is a tech focused community, disproportionately to the blogosphere in general. Finally, this is a pretty silly little hack at things and you find yourself getting tied up with trying to run multiple Google accounts, etc.



I love AideRSS because the criteria for hotness is relatively clear and I find the service really useful in lots of contexts. In theory you can plug almost any RSS feed, including search feeds, into AideRSS and it will score items in that feed for popularity based on number of comments, diggs, saves and inbound links. You could put feeds from a blog search for niche specific language into RSS and find some niche hotness. Once you identify top niche blogs you can also run their feeds through AideRSS to quickly discover what their communities of readers find most engaging. It's magic, almost.


The service only works most of the time and long URLs choke it up. It's also limited to feeds, which take some creative thinking in order to bend to our particular purpose of finding top blogs. Blogsearch


Ask has the best blogsearch on the web, it uses Bloglines subscription numbers as a big weight in spam control. There's very little spam. You can search for niche specific language or a key niche link and sort by popularity of source.


Ask does get overloaded some times and the above method is hardly systematic anyway. I wouldn't reley on it alone. Ask blogsearch does index a lot of funky feeds that clutter search results even if they aren't spam. Try it out and you'll see what I mean.


See what I mean? Nobody quite does what we need. Used in concert and with a little work, these tools together can build you a pretty good reading list of top blogs in any niche. There's big room for improvement in this toolset though.