Dynamically Ranking the Best Wine Blogs on the Internet with PostRank

Monday, May 18, 2009

I recently discovered PostRank: a unique, semi-automatic service that ranks blogs and specific posts within each blog in terms of influence. I say semi-automatic because the blogs they track are manually entered by someone (I'm not even sure how my site wound up on PostRank to tell you the truth).

[Note from PostRank: all URLs/feeds are entered by users -- anyone can add a URL to the system, even if they don't have an account. The URL just has to have a valid RSS feed. Going the user-supplied URL route helps prevent the system getting overload by automated spammers.]

Once the blog is tracked by PostRank, each entry is "ranked" on a scale of 1-10 (10 being best). Within each topic, the blogs themselves are then rank-ordered in terms of "influence" and updated on a daily basis.

I think this is pretty interesting, because while other services like Alltop similarly rank blogs within a topic, the order never seems to change. Therefore, it's difficult to tell from looking at a listing of top blogs within a topic which are cranking out good content lately vs. perhaps being once-great but now burned out and not updating regularly.

[Note from PostRank: The AdAge Power150 is a great example of that: http://adage.com/power150/. Some usually quite highly ranked blogs tumbled a LOT of positions after they updated their algorithm to include PostRank. It definitely has a lot to do with publishing engaging content often.]

In addition to this ranking, PostRank also provides ways of filtering the content in your RSS feed reader based on their rankings -and- a widget that blog owners can use to guide readers to their most influential entries.

Melanie from PostRank was kind enough to answer some questions I had about their service:

Question: My blog has bounced around quite a bit in terms of PostRank rating. I was down in the 20s-50s for a while and then within a month or so I popped up to #1. Your site talks quite a bit about how individual posts are rated, but what more can you tell us about how blogs are rank ordered within a niche?

Answer: Sure. The topic (niche) rankings are calculated week over week, taking all the posts in each blogger's feed into account. The comparative rankings and position changes (against other bloggers in the topic) occur weekly (i.e. every seven days). Large shifts in rankings can occur because in topics, bloggers are being compared to other publishers, not just to their own past performance (like on the blogger's own PostRank page that just shows his/her posts). So there's a greater range in bloggers' posting frequency and the level and types of engagement the bloggers can receive within a weekly span. Fortunately, bloggers can jump up many positions as easily as their rankings can fall many positions. :)

Q: How far back does PostRank look? In other words, if I suddenly shot up to #1 on PostRank is it because of something I did right in the past week? Or something I did right a month ago?

A: For topic rankings, it's the last seven days. So if you suddenly shot up to #1, it is because of hard work you've done and good engagement you've received recently. That said, what you do over time matters in other ways, since blogs typically "evolve" and grow readership and engagement. When you started your blog, it was awesome to get 2 comments on a post. A year later, perhaps 20 comments per post is more the norm, and you'd wonder why more people didn't engage if you only got 2. And presumably you've gotten into a publishing rhythm, developed your style and the the topics you cover, those sorts of things.

Q: Your engagement sources include "Views" and "Clicks" within RSS readers- does this only measure views and clicks for people who have the PostRank Google Reader Extension?

A: We can track clicks for Google Reader users, and both clicks and views for sites with our Top Posts widget installed. (http://www.postrank.com/publishers)

Q: How does PostRank track comments per post when there are so many different blogging platforms and commenting mechanisms in use in the blogosphere?

A: Well, we can't track every single platform, app, or custom-made commenting solution, but we track the major ones, and have done a lot of customizations to account for some smaller ones and custom solutions when we can. Our research showed that most people use solutions we can track. Additionally, we track nearly two dozen engagement sources, so comments (and any other metric) are only one form of engagement.

Q: Have you found that some people try to "game" the PostRank system? Say for example, they click on their own blog from PostRank.com or click on their own widgets a lot, or create bogus blogs that link to their own content. How does PostRank filter out that noise?

A: It hasn't been a big problem. Each click, link, etc. is only ONE example of ONE metric in the spectrum of what we analyze, so trying to game the PostRank algorithms would be a full-time job. :) We've had spammers occasionally try to add lots of splog URLs to our system, but those attempts become obvious pretty quickly and are pretty easy to block and remove.

Q: If someone would like their blog tracked by PostRank, what do they need do?

A: Just go to http://www.postrank.com and paste the blog URL or RSS feed URL into the search field at the top right corner of the page. If the blog is already in our system, it will appear in a search results drop-down. If it's not in our system yet, the page will refresh to a new page letting you know that, and where you can enter your email address to be notified as soon as the blog has been added and its engagement metrics gathered. (That usually only takes a few minutes.)

Thanks for your time. I appreciate it.

Thanks for your interest in PostRank! And congratulations on the #1 ranking in our Wine topic. :)
Further reading:

Question of the Day: What do you think of PostRank?


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