HitTailing is about doing increasingly well in natural search over time, and mostly about influencing the all-important default Google search. The default search of Google, Yahoo and MSN are used more than the specialized tools, such as Local, Picture and News search. But there is a specialized form of search that’s worth looking at to improve HitTailing. And that’s the blog search tools.
Monitoring blog search sites is a way to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s being discussed online faster than searches in the Google default search will reveal. This helps you manage your HitTailing process because it works as sort of an early warning system that your posts are being picked up and on their way to having some influence. The fact that they show you how many blogs link to yours gives you a rough idea of how much influence. And finally, it gives you an opportunity in near real-time to see what other people have to say about you (or your product, website, etc.) and respond to them.
And this is what people mean when they talk about engaging in the online dialogue. Blog search-and-response happens in near real-time, with controversies flaring up and playing themselves out in days rather than weeks. It’s as if Google picked up and included new material in real-time, and you could just sit and watch Google results change as the state of the Internet changed.
This is what people mean when they talk about monitoring the blogosphere. The granddaddy of blogosphere monitors is Technorati. How in the world do they know what’s being posted FASTER than Google’s crawl can pick up? It’s because of blog pings, which are basically just automatic notifications to centralized ping servers whenever posts are made. In other words, when you blog, your blogging software proactively notifies these services. It’s much like the search engine submit tools of ages past, and has seen similar abuse–but that’s the subject for a separate post.
Today, you have to use Technorati, plus a few others to make sure you’re seeing everything that’s being posted about your website or topics of interest. So, why isn’t one blog monitoring tool enough to monitor the blogosphere? Unfortunately, the ping servers are not as centralized and universal as we would like. Not all ping servers are notified of all posts. Technorati tends to be notified most, because its one of the original blog search tools. And there are a few other big, centralized ping servers that are generally notified by default by all the big blogging tools, such as Verisign’s Weblogs.com (not to be confused with AOL’s Weblogs, Inc.), and Yahoo’s blo.gs. And these centralized tools, especially when they have API’s, is what allows new players onto the scene without having to cut deals with every blog software company to ad a new ping server to the list.
And many blog search tools are attempting to knock Technorati off its throne. But Technorati has the first mover advantage, and one of the few things that stand a chance of giving Technorati a run for its money is when be Google eventually incorporates real-time blog search into their default search. But for now, Google’s not even making blog search one of the primary tabs, such as News and Images. Technorati is going to have to slip up, or the alternative tools are going to have to somehow be radically better to displace Techorati.
But this all leads us to the question of why bothering to do all the extra work of immersing yourself in the blogosphere? If HitTailing is a natural search play, and default search is used thousands of times more than specialized search, is it really worth getting into the blogosphere rat race? And won’t the concept of specifically searching blogs go away as main search engines approach ever closer to returning fresh web results in real time?
The answer is that so long as specialized blog search tools are doing a better job of showing active discussion than the default search tools, they’re worth paying some attention to as your blog achieves critical momentum. It’s part of getting the snowball rolling and acheiving the snowball effect in the first place. As you put this difficult work into posting and building critical mass, the default search tools of Google, Yahoo and others are inadequate to offer insight as to how well you’re doing. Technorati and the others help you gauge how well your blog is achieving critical momentum. For example, I often search on the term HitTail in Technorati. This tells me both whether my own posts are being picked up, and who else is talking about HitTail. It’s not exactly part of the natural search core message of HitTailing, but it broadens my perspective, and allows me to venture into some of the other aspects of optimization not addressed by HitTail.
What other areas of optimization, you ask? Basically, link building. The old school of link building had people asking for, trading or buying links from other sites. And that can still be effective if you find the ideal partner. But generally, the new school of link building advocates having a product or message so compelling that people naturally link to you in the most valuable non-reciprocated fashion. It helps if you build in a viral mechanism that encourages linking. Think about how authoritative you look if hundreds of people link to you, and you don’t have to link back. This is the strongest posture available on the Internet. If you’re HitTailing AND have people organically linking to you at a steady rate, you are in a strong position indeed.
This process of getting the [snow]ball rolling is actually so important, that we’re considering incorporating the process into HitTailing itself. And to that end, you will be well served to get familiar with the blog search tools. Some of them have RSS feeds, alert lists and trending. Get familiar with them. Find your favorites. And find ones that offer sufficiently different results so that you’re comfortable that you’re spotting all the online mentions of your product, service, website or blog.