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April 1, 2008

Defending The Credibility of Blogs

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Julie Batten had an article over at ClickZ entitled Search Engine Results, Blogs and Credibility. In her post, she argues that the search engines must become better at filtering out UGC and that users should be careful about the information they trust due to all those pesky blogs showing up in the search results. Damn those bloggers cluttering up everyone’s SERP!

The main question in Julie’s post is whether or not blogs deserve the attention they get in the SERPs. Her argument almost appears to be that blogs are too rankable due to their site architecture and habit of attracting inbound links. She wonders if they’re worthy of their rankings or if they’re unjustly pushing down valuable Web content like Wikipedia.

Hi, Julie, welcome to 2008, join us in the future! I kid, but seriously? Are we even hearing this? I’ll pull a quote from Julie:

"Even if it’s true that most blogs are more inherently rankable than the average site, you could easily debate the merits of one blog over the other. For example, a blog by the online marketing director at Amazon.com would likely be considered more credible than a blog by a random e-marketer of a little-known product. But can the engines accurately distinguish between what would generally be considered as more authoritative blog content and what wouldn’t? If the number of links are the same and the content is similar, maybe not."

Um, okay. Can’t you make the same argument for two Web sites ranking for the same keywords? And if one blog is awesome and written by an authority at Amazon and a different blog is less stellar and written by Joe in the basement apartment he shares with his two ferrets and baby chinchilla, would they really have the same content and a similar number of links? I vote no. One is going to have authoritative content and provide real value, while the other will document the amount of lint growing in the blogger’s belly button. One is going to have links from TechCrunch, CNET and Mashable, while the other will have a reader population of two. Five bucks if you can tell me which one is going to rank.

I agree that users have to be vigilant about actually reading the content showing up at the top of the search results and not just taking it as fact, but I don’t think we need to paint blogs as some sort of red-headed stepchild. No one should be taking what they find at face value to begin with, I don’t care of the result is a Web page, a Wikipedia article, a blog entry, or some type of blended video result.

Personally, I find that blogs are often considerably more relevant than the Web pages that come up for a particularly query. They’re fresher, sexier, and include comments that add to the conversation at hand.

Take today, for example. What if I’m looking for funny April Fools Day pranks that happened this morning? If I do a search in Google, the only relevant results are going to be coming from blogs. All the "traditional" Web pages are going to be jokes that took place in 2007 or even earlier. What if I want information about the next SES show? Same story. The reasons that blogs are so valuable are all the reasons Julie mentioned in her post. They’re keyword rich so it’s easier to find the content you’re looking for, they’re structured for easier spidering, they’re linkable, and they show up virtually everywhere. Let’s not be hating on blogs because they’re outranking your little Web site. No one likes a bitter SEO.

Julie’s right in that UGC s growing and dominating most SERPs. However, suggesting that people fear blogs or think of them as a burden seems somewhat unnecessary. Especially when the definition of what a "blog" really is becoming harder and harder to tie down. Content is content, regardless of what form it comes in and what fancy name people are giving it these days.

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One response to “Defending The Credibility of Blogs”

  1. Tin Pig writes:

    I actually like Julie’s article primarily for the following statement:

    “The search engines can do their best to serve up the most relevant, authoritative content as defined by their computer-based algorithms, but there will always be the need for some human decision making or, if you will, filtering.”

    My own opinion on the matter is that the search engines are attempting to determine a qualitative measure (relevancy) using quantitative means (algorithms), and it simply doesn’t work. The fact is that the system is simply too easy to game and so relevancy has become a (perceived) popularity contest.

    Where Julie’s article falls down is singling out Blogs. The relevancy problems span all types of sites.



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