I have found Google's new approach on Blog Search, the initial listing of top stories, interesting but a little frustrating.
There is no doubt that the list, as well as the capacity to click on certain topics to get top stories there, is a useful guide to current hot topics. However, there appears to be a US bias in the algorithm used to generate the list over and beyond the relatively large number of US blogs.
To test this, I decided to click through not just the immediate top pages but to drill down to lower orders. As I did, the number of blogs required to generate a list ranking on a topic dropped down to as low as five. However, the US or perhaps more accurately North American bias continued. It was also interesting to see how often the same story re-appeared with somewhat different wording.
I also find the general blog search facility very useful in looking for topic information. With a general Google search, the large number of results can be very frustrating simply because of the time involved in checking results. One specific danger is that you can pick up stories that are in fact old, but which appear current. Dates have to be checked.
By contrast, blog search brings up current posts that can be more quickly drilled through to get to the guts of an issue.
However, I did strike one problem in all this. My attempt to test top blog rankings by clicking through page after page while sampling individual topics on the way actually triggered some form of security alert in the Google system. Suddenly, I found my access blocked. It was some time before the system would let me back in again.
For most bloggers, Technorati and Alexa have been two main vehicles for assessing blog performance. These sources are also used in generating various ranking lists such as the Top 100 Australian Blog list.
The problem is that for most of us, neither Technorati or Alexa are especially helpful. I still check Technorati from time to time for links, although increasingly I simply rely on using Google Blog Search and Google Search (link:add your URL) plus the referrals component of my own limited stats packages.
You can see the difficulty if you look at the Top 100 Australian blog list. How many of these sites do you know, let alone visit? None of the Australian sites that I visit regularly were on the latest list, although there are three sites on my irregular check list.
In saying this, I am not suggesting that there should be a new ranking system. Rather, I am simply questioning the relevance of ranking systems for most of us. Here I keep coming back to the concept of the village.
The fact that this web site has a global web site traffic ranking of 2,588,131 and apparently attracted 0.000029% of global traffic over the last three months is obscurely interesting. Far more interesting, however, is just what is happening in my immediate blogging neighbourhood.
There were two interesting traffic spikes during immediate period.
The first showed the influence of StumbleUpon. Here a plug by Aldhis (thanks, Aldhis) for this blog led to a noticeable traffic surge.
The second showed the importance of the news cycle in attracting traffic.
I found out about the death of Michaell Fussell fairly early in the cycle. I then wrote the two posts (here, here) because of the linkage with my old school. Because these posts were early in the news cycle, they attracted considerable traffic.
This was especially obvious on the lower traffic New England Australia blog where traffic more than doubled. Once I realised what had happened, I provided updated information to try to be helpful.
I have noted something like this before.
Quite simply, if you want to increase your traffic, follow the breaking news leads. If you then write a post early in the cycle you will actually be in front of the mainstream newspaper, TV responses. The interest they attract will then feed back into visits to your post.
Mind you, it helps to have something interesting or useful to say! However, this is actually not hard if you do some investigation of your own.