Blog Ranking Metrics

Dale Franks and Jeff Goldstein are worried about the wild disparity between such blog ranking sites as the TTLB Ecosystem, Technorati, and BlogPulse. Dale is mostly confused as to why they differ so much, whereas Jeff is concerned that his low linkage rating despite comparatively high traffic will disadvantage him with advertisers.

The disparity between the link ranking sites is mostly a function of their measuring different things. Currently, technorati shows OTB with 1,151 links from 804 sources. TTLB shows OTB with 921 unique inbound links, ranking 39th of all blogs in the database. As best I can determine, BlogPulse only compiles rankings occasionally. Both Technorati and TTLB count only links to sites within its database, with Technorati having a larger database. TTLB excludes multiple links to a given URL from a site and only counts links that are active on a site rather than going back into the archives.

Because Bear is a fellow blogger and did such a creative job marketing his Ecosystem, creating categories and rankings that one can easily follow, it’s the one that bloggers pay the most attention to. Unfortunately, because of its vast size, it’s virtually unmanageable by one man in his spare time and people figured out numerous ways to cheat the system, either through incompetence or malice. Indeed, at the moment, some site I’ve never heard of is ranked #2.

To combat this, Bear keeps re-jiggering the system, so the tracking becomes less meaningful over time. Right now, it’s weighted very heavily to very recent links. The upshot is that blogs with lots of people blogrolling them have the edge, as those links remain fairly static and always count as “fresh” since they’re on the main page of most sites.

Traffic and linkage ranking sometimes correlate but not always. Look at OTB’s linkage and traffic as shown at TTLB:

Inbound Links 2005

So, OTB has been ranked between 29th overall and 42nd overall over the last month, with the peak coming at the beginning of the period.

Average Daily SiteMeter Traffic 2005 2005

OTB’s traffic average has fluctuated wildly, from around 4500 to nearly 20,000 over the same period, with the peak coming at the end of the period.

More generally, OTB’s ranking has remained steady–indeed, has fallen–over the last year despite a geometric explosion in traffic. The site was ranked #30 as early as January of 2004 and stayed in the 30’s for months. At the time, the site was averaging 1000-1500 readers on a normal weekday. Now, it gets more readers in a month than it did the entire history of the blog up through then. Part of the decline in ranking has to do with the emergence of several new sites that have caught fire and part of the increase in traffic has to do with increased search engine visability. Still, the disparity is bizarre.

Advertisers are looking at traffic and clickthroughs. The key players, BlogAds and Google Adsense, do their own tracking of those metrics, so I can’t imagine TTLB ranking much matters for that. Such things matter mostly, perhaps entirely, to other bloggers.

The Ecosystem has lots of problems, with several non-blogs in prominent positions in the rankings, the inability to distinguish between links to a blog and a popular non-blog hosted on the same site (e.g., Bear’s very good but sporadically updated blog vs. Bear’s Ecosystem; RealClearPolitics’ blog vs. op-ed roundup and polls), and the aforementioned ability to game/screw up the system. As one of Jeff’s readers notes, the existence of automatic reciprocal blogrolls inflates the ratings of some sites is one problem. Still, it represents a lot of work on Bear’s part and gives bloggers something to grouse about. It’s the BCS of Blogging.*

*I just made this up. Must cite if used.

Update: Jay refers in the comments to some work done by Oscar, Jr. Here are two posts that link and discuss Oscar’s work:


NAVEL GAZING (July 16, 2003)

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Economics and Business, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Alex Knapp says:

    The disparity between TTLB’s Ecosystem and Technorati is pretty big. I’ve got a fairly low ranking on TTLB because, according to that system, I have 138 inbound links. Technorati’s is down right now, but last time I looked I had well over 400 link sources.

  2. Exactly the points I was pondering as I moved to #19 in the linkage race… but with a comparatively feeble 1300 visitors a day.

    And no disrespect to the ‘little/young’ blogs that link me – I would think advertisers would be far more interested in unique visits and pages as a metric, as that is the true measure of your impact on their ability to get something in front of someone.

    In my case, I refer to it as being “boutique” – I’m somewhat famous in my group/family (bloggers) but I have limited appeal/exposure outside of that… in other words, I’m a big fish in a little pond.

    Blogs like yours, on the other hand, are larger fish in a bigger ocean – and that’s where I’d put my money if I was an advertiser, unless I was marketing a boutique product.

  3. And for all my readers who may wander over here – you aren’t feeble, the number is – I love you each and every one! /shameless pandering

  4. Tig says:

    I worry more about the disparity in the amount of visitorship and the paltry percentage of those who comment. It’s a thing, thought — nothing but a thing.

    I myself, long ago, quickly ascended to large mammal status to thereafter linger there forever and ever. Still, I suppose, anything is better than being the scum floating atop the primordial ooze. 😉

  5. Jay says:

    Oscar Jr, speaking of sporadically updated blogs, did an extensive analysis way back when. Appropriate, as statistics is what he does for work and sometimes fun. He came up with the theory of reader’s blogs versus bloggers blogs, based on the links versus traffic. Tons of links and modest traffic is a blogger’s blog, which I fell under at the time and I’m sure still do. Lots of traffic in proportion to links makes you a reader’s blog, and what an advertiser would presumably want.

  6. That’s not a bad summation. As for commenters, I’ve found that I’ve had to alter my style a bit.

    I was pretty Whittle/Den Beste-ish when I started out – essays where I tried to cover all the angles… which, if I did it well, didn’t leave much for people to talk about. Plus, I tend to talk about what I know (well, that went out the window during the election) and therefore it *is* a niche blog.

    What I found out was if on those items where I wasn’t that clear, or didn’t have all the loose ends sewn up – or the posts were just funny, and encouraged participation – then I got commenters.

    But I haven’t been pushing that because I don’t want my threads to turn into moonbat fests where everyone picks on a lunatic or loser.

    I police my threads, quietly throttle back people who are getting personal instead of passionate, and I have lately been getting some good ones going – but it ain’t regular.

    But then I think the “bloggers blog” vice “readers blog” example would also account for some of that.

  7. AlphaPatriot says:

    Indeed, I made it to Playful Primate status at one point, but only because I am a member of a couple of very large groups that link to each other. I stopped looking at ecosystem ranking about a year ago. Traffic is what counts, and traffic that isn’t from a search engine counts most.

  8. Argghhh! The ‘Patriot just walks up, puts the pistol to my forehead, pulls the trigger, and walks away… never looking back at the twitching body.

  9. Teresa says:

    Well, I guess that explains how the ranking system works. As geeky as I am, I could never quite figure it out, however I do find it amusing. I’m too small for it to even matter really. I don’t believe there’s a single advertiser who would waste a cent on my blog – I don’t get enough traffic. Good thing I just enjoy blogging and don’t intend to make my living from it. *grin*