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    Blog Directories and Search: here are all the key posts


    Technorati have just announced and implemented a facelift for their site which at first glance looks good and very clean, though as ever I find myself starting to look for things where they used to be but aren’t any more!

    With so many new features and additions over the past few months, the interface had certainly become rather cluttered so this is certainly a good decision to have stood back, looked at all the different functionality and then decided on the best way to present all of the information. Clearly lots of work behind the scenes as well.

    There seems to be a lot more focus on personalising the information which follows a good trend in web design and, from my own point of view, having all of the information about a blog in a single view rather than having to sift through a number of different page views to find it all is very positive.

    I look forward to going through in more detail and looking at all the changes. In the meantime, you can find out all the changes that have been made in Dave Sifry’s Announcement on the Technorati Blog. Have fun!

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    Seminar FAQsBusiness Blogging Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Q – Does my blog only show up in Blog Search Engines or also Google, Yahoo and MSN?

    A – A common misconception when businesses start to use a Business Blog and learn about the Blog Search Engines is that their Blog will only appear in these blog specific Search Engines and not in the mainstream ones. This is not true.

    A Blog at the end of the day is a website with special charateristics and so will certainly appear in the main Search Engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN. In fact, they are much more likely to rank highly because they have key elements that the Search Engines find very attractive:

    • their internal stucture, which is highly organised and groups similar posts together in categories which creates highly relevant pages on individual topics which Search Engines love;

    • the very focused nature and quality of their content which is at the core of what Search Engines are looking to offer their users;

    • the fact that they are generally updated on a very frequent basis, as the more recent the information the higher its relevance is likely to be

    • the inbound links from other blogs (and websites) which is part and parcel of the ethos of the blogosphere and which constitutes a major factor in ranking sites.

    The main Search Engines will find your Blog by following links to it from other sites that are already in their index, so there is no need to submit it directly to them, and it will then be treated using the criteria that are applied to any other site. Criteria which you will rank well in if you are using a Blog to good effect.

    You can use other Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) methods in addition which will give an additional boost in your rankings, but you already have a number of advantages which will serve you well. So make sure that you write quality and targeted posts on a regular basis and ensure that you promote your blog well.

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    The launch of Ask.coms own blog search engine last week has prompted me to look at what both Asks new offering brings to the blogosphere and also what Sphere offers, a search engine which I had not looked at previously here.

    There are already a number of players in the Blog Search Engine space, from specialist blog engines such as Technorati and IceRocket and blog search offerings from the main players in the general Search Engine market such as Google Blog Search. As such, the marketplace is already looking quite competitive as everyone looks for which features to offer and how to go about differentiating themselves.

    So let’s have a brief look at what both Ask and Sphere are offering us in terms of search and functionality:

    ASK.com
    They call it their Blogs and Feeds search engine and they have teamed up with Bloglines to provide the information within it, there are three main tabs which return results for a general search, an RSS Feed search and a News Search.

    On the general search, you can search according to relevance, date or popularity, with the displayed results giving you the post title together with the author, name of the blog and a short description. It offers 4 options in terms of what you can do with the displayed results: you can preview the blog without leaving the search page by using their binocular feature; you can subscribe to the RSS feed and a drop down menu gives a choice of readers; you can also save the result to visit later which is a nice touch; and you can share the results by posting to del.icio.us, bloglines, digg etc.

    There is also a fully functioning advanced search option which allows you to search according to a number of different criteria such as title, author, description etc and by specific time frames. As Ask.com has created this is conjunction with Bloglines, so the RSS feeds are ranked according to Bloglines subscription data not entirely fair but it is difficult to rank RSS Feeds so I guess it has to be done somehow.

    Sphere
    Sphere runs their own Search Engine and the initial interface reminds me of a mixture of Google and Technorati, which I guess is where some of the inspiration will have come from.

    Probably the main stand out feature for the search is that there is a deal of flexibility open to you in terms of the time scales being searched, although this is only available once you have your initial search results which defaults to the last day guess that shows just how much information is now posted on blogs! You can choose to look at the last week, 4 months or choose a customised range of your choice with a natty little graphic to do it with. On top of this you can choose to organise the results by relevance or time.

    They give a profile of the author of the Blog which contains average number of posts per week, links per post, last 3 links in and last three links out. The additional information link takes you to a page which recreates much of the same information together with the last three posts made. You can also subscribe to an RSS Feed of your results.

    As for the results between the two difficult to tell. Speed was good on both and I was more familiar with the results on Sphere to be honest but the functionality and hence flexibility on Ask seemed to have the edge.

    So, over to you – try them out and let me know what you think.

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    There are two sites that I always walk people through whenever I start to work with them on their Blogs: Technorati and Feedburner. Why? Because I believe that Technorati is the start point for anyone looking to find out more about what is out in the Blogosphere and because Feedburner provides some excellent easy to use tools that all bloggers can benefit from, right from the start.

    Feedburner offers a number of paid services which you can progress on to as the need arises, but their free services are well worth taking the time to examine and incorporate in your Blog. There are ones which I particularly recommend because I feel that they help in utilising and developing your Blog’s RSS Feed in important ways.

    The elements I would highlight are:

    Subscriber information: by channeling your RSS Feed subscriptions through Feedburner, you can gain additional information about those subscribing. Specifically, it allows you to identify the number of people that are actively subscribed to your feed, as well as providing information on the type of reader they are using and the articles that have been visited directly from the feed itself.

    User friendly RSS feed: there are some small touches you can make to enhance the experience for people receiving your feed such as including your logo, which in itself reinforces the branding aspect, and changing the description of the feed. Although these are changes you can make yourself directly to the feed with a little technical knowledge, this makes it simple for everyone to apply.

    Feed Reader Chicklets: the code and images required to create the small RSS feed logos relating to each of the main RSS Readers are provided. While not strictly necessary, any method such as this which increases the visibility of your feed on your Blog can only be beneficial to your promotional activities.

    RSS Feed via email: for those people who dont use RSS readers but still want to know when you have updated your blog, there is the option of an email subscription service. Feedburner provides you with the code to create a basic sign up form on your blog and then visitors can use to subscribe to receiving your blog updates automatically via email. A similar service is provided by Feedblitz.

    Headline Animator: this is a small image using an animated gif file, which automatically displays the titles of the last 5 posts from your Blog and allows people to click through a sign up for the feed. It appears in the form of a box (2 formats available) which can be used either in emails or perhaps in online forums etc.

    PingShot: this is an ideal companion to the concept of Post and Ping, where PingShot notifies a number of servers at once that you have published new content on your Blog . No real difference from the other services available at Pingomatic and Pingoat (indeed it works through Pingomatic) but a good extra service.

    How do you do this? Well, just head along to the Feedburner site, sign up for an account and then “burn” a Feed using your current feed, follow the instructions and away you go! There are some useful services there and with RSS destined to become more widespread as the year progresses, set up in the best way you can in readiness.

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    Whether or not you are not actively participating in what is happening in the online environment which includes blogs, you should at the very least be aware of the conversations that are taking place and be listening to them. These conversations may be about your industry or the marketplace in which you operate, or more critically, they may directly impact your company or your brand.

    Whichever it is, you need to have a clear and up to date view of what is being said which then gives you the opportunity to participate in that conversation should you wish to. You may wish to monitor conversations from a PR point of view and so be able to actively respond to issues raised, or it might simply be for a type of “online press cuttings” to evaluate the feeling towards your company and brand in real time.

    There are a number of companies which have come to the market with offerings which allow you to monitor what is being said. Some, such as Market Sentinel offer a comprehensive range of services which are ideal for companies and/or brands getting hundreds or thousands of daily mentions. However, for those of us with more modest brands (and budgets) then there are some excellent tools on the internet which can help us in our monitoring and our research.

    • Technorati
      Technorati currently probably retains the general Bloggers vote for where to go for information on the blogosphere and with 38 million blogs monitored as of May, it can claim to have the most comprehensive list. You can sift information using Technoratis tags, your watchlists will deliver ongoing specific searches and you can keep your favourite blogs or bloggers tracked too.

    • PubSub
      PubSub is a predominantly a matching service which notifies you when new content is created that matches your requirements. It allows you to create an enquiry and then watches out for any new information that matches it it will then notify you when a match is made but updating your own personal feed. Really quick way of keeping up to date on an hour by hour basis.

    • BlogPulse
      BlogPulse is an automated system which allows you to identify and analyse trends across blogs. Effectively, it is a blog search engine which doesnt just give a snap shot at a moment in time but allows you to analyse and report on a particular topic over time. Special features include:
      Conversation Tracker: allows you to follow a discussion that starts with an individual blog post and then spreads across multiple blogs
      Blog Pulse Profiles: helps identify and analyse the activity and influence of some of the main profile blogs
      Trend Charts: to compare trends for 3 topics and see what is being written about.

    • Bloglines
      Bloglines is probably best known as the largest online RSS Reader and as such is an ideal place to start tracking what is happening in an industry. What is allows you to do is effectively create your own news page by searching out, subscribing to and sharing news feeds from blogs and other websites.

    All of these, and the others which already exists, are of course just tools to allow you to keep an eye open as to what is being said in real time. How you react to the information you gather is the next stage but by tapping into blogs you can at least be aware of what is going on.

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    Technorati continues to add new elements to its set of services with a “Your Favorites” page as one of the options within your Technorati account.

    You can add up to 50 blogs to your Favorites and then be kept informed as to when they are updated and be able to search through them all as well. It’s also a way to share your favourite blogs with others as all of the Technorati Favorites are public so you get a specific URL that you can pass on to others.

    As a blog owner, you can also make it easy for someone to add your blog to their Favorites list using a choice of buttons which you can add to your site. Any way that you can help people to find and keep updated about your blog is beneficial so take it on board – oh, and in case you’d like to add Better Business Blogging to your Favorites, here’s the button!

    Add this blog to my Technorati Favorites!

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    Towards the end of last year, Google has launched its Blog Search Engine which works in the same basic way as the normal Google Search Engine, except that it only indexes blogs.

    If a blog publishes a site feed in any format and automatically pings Web.logs, then Googles Blog Search Engine should pick it up more or less immediately and certainly so far it seems to be doing a good job in that respect. An added feature, which is particular to the Blog Search Engine and certainly very relevant to blogs, is that it allows you to sort the results not only by relevance, but also by date.

    However, this is not to discuss its relative merits but rather to highlight some of the special search operators that it has over and above those that we already have available from the main Google Search Engine a list of these main operators can be found on Googles site.

    In addition to these, Blog Search supports the following new operators of its own:

    inblogtitle:
    Every blog has its own title as part of its set-up and this is what is searched through to return results. This does not refer to all that is in the Title tag which will vary according to the page or all that is included in the URL.

    inposttitle:
    This searches through the titles of the posts which are made in a blog – again this is a specific field you create when creating a post in your blog, and it is important for this and other reasons to choose an appropriate one.

    inpostauthor:
    This will return anything where the authors name corresponds with the search term. For example, a search such as – emarketing inpostauthor:Mark – will return posts containing the word emarketing which have been posted by people named Mark.

    blogurl:
    This does not return words which are only present in the main domain name of the blog but in the rest of the URL. In many blogging systems, this is likely to return similar results as a search using inposttitle

    There is an alternative way to achieve this by using the Advanced Search option which is accessible from the main Blog Search page and will allow you to sift through the results in the same way.

    All useful stuff and certainly makes it clear of the importance that Google places on the role that blogs are already playing which will no doubt develop further.

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