Do Blogs Work? You Make the Call

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Apologies all around for the radio silence yesterday; I’d meant to post a few things, and had the wireless for it at SFO, but got wrapped up in a little exercise that I’ll get back to in a moment. Before I get into that, let me explain the title. James and I together have discussed more than a few times how critical we believe blogs are to our business, and we’ve shared some general impressions on why and some of the concrete benefits – i.e. customers – we’ve seen from our investments in the medium. I’m not a blogging zealot, who sees blogs or feeds as the answer to every business problem, but I do think as a mechanism for beginning and fostering two way conversations with a volume audience they are difficult to beat. I know, nothing you haven’t heard from me before.

But too often conversations around blogs and blogging revolve around concepts that are alien to folks that don’t read or write blogs; concepts like conversational marketing, transparency, etc. So I wanted instead to give an example in the context of something we can all understand: Google.

Yesterday morning I touched down in SFO, found a place to sit down that had a handy power outlet [1] and while waiting for Evolution to fire up (it’s been giving me issues the past few days, continually hanging) cruised over to Statcounter to see what my traffic had been like the past few days. The traffic itself was not surprising; as is usual for me, the majority of my readers never visit the site itself, but instead pick up the feed through an aggregator. My primary traffic then is comprised of 1.) returning web visitors (anywhere from 50 to 125 a day, on average), 2.) folks arriving from another link, be it blog, media, or otherwise, and 3.) folks arriving from Google. The latter category is where a huge part of my web traffic arrives from, but I’d never really considered what that meant apart from the fact it was probably a good thing but that it makes it more difficult from a writing standpoint, b/c your audience is highly variable and may lack context.

But for whatever the reason, I decided to look into the keywords a bit more deeply and explore my Google rank beyond the typical search on your name. What I found was surprising, at least to me. What I did was simple: look up the typical keywords people use to arrive here, then Google them myself and see where my entries were placed. What follows is an incomplete list of a variety of searches that my space is returned in the top 10 results on a Google search. The are ordered according to their Google rank as of yesterday morning. Note that some of the topics are on subjects of interest to RedMonk clients such as Eclipse, IBM, Microsoft, Sun, Zend, etc – but many have nothing to do with anyone paying us a dime. Some have nothing to do with technology at all, actually šŸ˜‰

  • #1 Result
    • indigo mono
    • do something cool linux laptop
    • Howto get into blogging
    • x40 linux install
    • gnome wifi
    • dtrace mono
    • zend PHP scripters
    • mono and patents
    • can beetles shoot fire
  • #2 Result
    • macromedia vs eclipse
    • greasemonkey screen
    • airport code flickr
    • yubnub firefox
    • economics of napster
    • solaris svcs gui
    • google maps craigslist
  • #3 Result
    • j2ee obsolete
    • continuous partial deficit
    • beer beer beer pogues
    • linux onenote
    • gnome for solaris
  • #4 Result
    • java c# c performances
    • it takes a community
    • Daniel Robbins gentoo
    • groove microsoft
    • interesting ibm
    • restian
    • opensolaris linux binary
    • ruby for enterprise web applications
    • solaris 10 generic_limited_net.xml
  • #5 Result
    • ibm acquisitions
    • v20z gentoo
    • gentoo solaris
    • mono amber avalon
  • #6 Result
    • microsoft office open xml format
    • ajax mail gmail owa
    • greasemonkey scripts
    • flogging molly danny boy
  • #7 Result
    • del.icio.us open-source
    • blastwave gnome 2.10
    • eye candy ui screenshot
  • #8 Result
    • beagle information retrieval dashboard
    • eclipse mono c#
    • maemo qt trolltech
    • microsoft word opendocument
    • rich client project java
  • #9 Result
    • how much does solaris cost?
    • wikipedia mono
    • the next pandemic
    • mono .net
    • soa j2ee stack
  • #10 Result
    • eclipse vs netbeans

The interesting thing here isn’t that blogs are well regarded in Google; there is, after all, a reason that PR types are continually pitching (or spamming, depending on your view) the A-list bloggers. What’s interesting is that a blog with my ranking can actually do well, albeit in some fairly esoteric areas. Technorati’s not returning a result at the moment [2], but the last time I checked my rank according to Technorati was something like 109,000 or so. A-list I’m not (and as you can tell, I’m all broken up about it). And yet when writing targeted pieces on specific subjects, I’m as liable to end up with a high Google rank as anyone else out there. Is this a meritocracy or what?

As an aside, this is another reason that I continue to be confused by people who believe the A-list still matters. I don’t always agree with Scoble, but I’m with him in believing that the A-list is not as important as it once was. The relatively few A-listers will probably become more and more popular targets for PR/marketing types, who will view them as a channel much as they might direct mail or email blasting. I don’t envy them that fate.

Anyhow, debating the A-list really isn’t that interesting, nor is it the point of this post. Instead it’s to highlight the fact that blogs can have a real, tangible and surprisingly measurable impact on your business if they’re done right. Unlike bigger, more monolithic analyst firms RedMonk is essentially about marketing ourselves and our analysis. While everyone knows who Gartner and Forrester are, surprisingly there are some folks who haven’t yet caught the RedMonk fever (emphasis on the “yet” ;). So part of our challenge is merely getting the word out, and if someone knows of a better way to reach a volume audience than Google, I’d love to hear it. Assuming that one gives at least some credence to the idea that search ranking has some relation to authority, relevance and overall visibility – and likely even if one doesn’t – higher rankings seem to be preferable to lower ones.

What’s more interesting, however, is the reality that any influence that Google accords to RedMonk does not accrue solely to us; it is at least marginally transferrable to topics that we cover – be they technologies, products, people or otherwise. The primary purpose of my blog will be always be as an arena for free, independent and open research and analysis (aside from the more personal posts, of course), but if there’s a side benefit to web services that I like and use, individuals I respect, open source projects that I want to support, technical trends that I believe in and, yes, my clients – so much the better. My powers and influence may be on the scale of the guy in the Heineken ad who, when queried on his special talent by folks who disappear, change form, have superstrength and the like, can only turn his shoe into a beer, but I promise to use that power for good [3]. Beers all around (sorry, can’t do wine).

Lastly, to all of my fellow F-listers of the world, I’d say unto you: do not despair. You may have a lot more influence than you suspect (if you think search matters, that is). Just check your old friend Google.

[1] My camera was out of juice, so it won’t be going up in Wired Travel, which now has outlets and wifi info for the following airports: BOS, CVG, DEN, LAS, LGA, MCO, ORD, PHI, PWM, SEA, SFO, SJC, and SLC.

[2] “Sorry, we couldn’t complete your search because we’re experiencing a high volume of requests right now. Please try again in a minute or add this search to your watchlist to track conversation.”

[3] Good being defined as the opposite of what Sergey thinks is evil, of course šŸ™‚


  1. Like you, I too am amazed at where my humble blog places in different searches. I still scratch my head when someone shows up having searched for Napoleon Dynamite.

    btw, I also use Statcounter – how do you tell how many subscribe to the feed?

  2. >I still scratch my head when someone shows up having searched for Napoleon Dynamite
    Would you setle for "Napoleon Dynamite" acemakr ? šŸ™‚

  3. Gary: for the feed numbers, we use Feedburner. at somepoint in the future, i'd love for the two to blend or for Feedburner to develop similar features, but for now i have to track two interfaces for the different kinds of traffic.

    Jaime: šŸ˜‰

  4. There is something anti-establishment about the term 'F-Listers'

  5. Josh: fight the power šŸ˜‰

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