As I suggested in the Green Cross Code of Blogging, an important initial step before you start a blog yourself is to stop and check the blogs that are already in existence – preferable ones which are talking about your own market or subject area – to see what is being said, how they are being used and how they are approaching blogging as a business tool.

It is equally important, whether you have a Business Blog or not, to track what is being said either about you and your company, or about developments in your market. At least you can then join the conversations where they are taking place even if you are are still deciding how best to put together your own blog. But first of all, you need to find out who is taking about this, and where.

So the question is where the best place to find out what blogs exist in a certain industry or cover certain topics. For me, I always turn to Technorati, which is one of the two main blog sites that I recommend anyone intending to use blogs bookmarks immediately. If you want to find out what blogs exist and what is being said in them, then this is the place to start your search.

As you hit Technorati’s homepage, there seems to be a lot going on but, for now, let’s just focus on the main search function. So the main area that you want to concentrate on is the Search Bar:

You can see that you can search through 3 different sets of information: Blog posts, Tags and the Blog Directory.

  • Blog posts: this is the widest search and it looks through all of the information contained in the posts of the blogs on Technorati.

  • Tags: these are like categories that an author can assign to an individual post (or indeed to pictures or links) and gives the best idea of how the author would describe the content.

  • Blog Directory: the directory looks at the individual Blogs as a whole and assigns them to subsections of the directory. When a blogger “claims” a blog on Technorati (we’ll come to that in a later post), then they can add the categories they wish to appear in as well.

I always advise starting with the “Blog Posts” search as it gives you a wide search but the “Tags” are an excellent second bet and are becoming ever more widely used and hence useful.

Once you have your first set of results, Technorati then allows you to refine them. I have used the example of a search on “RSS Marketing” below.

You have 3 options to help you refine the results, each with its own pull down menu – you can use just one or all three of them.

  • The first allows you to choose the “additional search terms” that Technorati has suggested which also appear in blue just below and gives you posts which contain both “RSS marketing” and, for example, “Business Blogging”. This helps to narrow your search.

  • The second allows you to set a level of authority which Technorati determines by the number of blogs which link to the blog you are looking at – “any authority” will give you all blogs which fit your search terms.

  • And the third, allows you to select blogs only in a certain language.

So now we have a set of results which hopefully reflects the posts that contain the information that we are looking for. An example from the excellent Problogger is given below as an example.

However, this gives us more than just this post to use in our research. For example:

  • By clicking on the Post Title, we go through to the blog where we can see if there are additional posts which interest us. There is also likely to be a “blogroll” or “recommended sites” section on the blog which will often link to other sites which will be of interest. Blogs often become the hub of a network in their own right so start with one that interests you and follow their recommendations

  • By clicking on the Blog Name, you will get additional information about the blog and other posts that as well as an overview of the main areas that it covers

  • By clicking on the Blogger’s name, you can see if they write other Blogs which might be of interest to you

  • By clicking on the Linked Sites, you can see which blogs have linked to the one you are interested in and also which sites it has linked to in turn. By following these links, you can quickly get a list of blogs to read and return to.

So using Technorati, we can quickly gain an list of blogs which will be of interest to us and also of use in developing our own Business Blog. To save time, make sure you add them to your RSS Reader (you can always delete them later) so that you can follow them easily and keep up to date.

[Adapted from a post on my other blog, The Blog Coach]

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