Written by Alex Iskold and edited by Richard MacManus
recent poll indicated that most of you come back to this blog for Analysis and Reviews. We are thrilled to hear this, because we focus a lot on those two things.Understanding your audience is the key to success in any business - including blogging. Lately the Read/WriteWeb authors have been discussing what it is that keeps readers coming back here. Our
But the poll results got us wondering about which posts in particular are the most popular? And we're not talking about simple page views - we want to know what content you actually liked. In the web 1.0 world, understanding what people liked was a voodoo science. Luckily, in these days of blogs and social software, there are fairly definitive ways of measuring what people like. Comments on posts, del.icio.us bookmarks, Technorati links and of course Diggs, are all entries into the fascinating world of social popularity. So we decided to put our investigative hat on and do a deep dive on Read/WriteWeb popular posts.
The obvious place to look for popular posts is in the Read/WriteWeb archives. We looked for the most commented-on posts. Below are the posts that had at least 50 comments:
- Netscape Community Backlash (201 comments)
- Top 100 alternative Search Engines (104 comments)
- GoogleOS - what to expect (102 comments)
- Social Bookmarking Faceoff (74 comments)
- Online video industry index (61 comments)
- Search 2.0 - What is next (59 comments)
- Top Web Apps in India (58 comments)
- RSS Ripoff Merchants (55 comments)
- 2007 Web Predictions (50 comments)
Note: We close off comments on posts after about a month, in order to prevent spam.
Not surprisingly, readers of Read/WriteWeb are most passionate about Search. This is a topic close to the blog's core focus - because of Google vs. Yahoo!, Google vs. Microsoft, Google vs. the World and most importantly because this is where Web business is centered nowadays. The other posts on the list also reflect this blog's character. Comprehensive product surveys, profiles of top applications in different countries, and predictive analysis are definitely topics we spend a lot of time on. The Netscape post btw just outright hit a nerve!
Yet just like the poll, how many comments a post gets is just part of the picture. To find out more about what people like about Read/WriteWeb, we need to analyze external links to posts.
Read/WriteWeb on del.icio.us
del.icio.us has become a social phenomenon, but it is now turning into a gem of hidden information. We have written before about the possibility of using del.icio.us as a recommendation engine. Today, we will look how to use it to distill the popular posts from your blog - and to understand how people perceive those posts.
You would think this would be an easy thing to do, but unfortunately it is not - because del.icio.us does not yet allow search by URL prefix. So you cannot just search for posts that start with http://www.readwriteweb.com. Instead, we had to use a trick. We searched for readwriteweb and then sifted through the posts to determine the ones that belong to this blog. As it turns out, 34 posts from R/WW were saved by at least 100 people (note: given that it was a manual process to get that data, it's possible we missed a couple). We saved these popular posts for you under a new rwwpopular account.
Here are the top R/WW posts in del.icio.us, bookmarked by at least 500 people:
- List of Web 2.0 lists (872 people)
- 2007 Web Predictions (744 people)
- E-learning (530 people)
- Search 2.0 vs. Traditional Search (509 people)
- Social Bookmarking Faceoff (506 people)
The pattern on del.icio.us is less obvious, but things become more clear once we realize that del.icio.us and comments on a blog reflect different kinds of actions. Comments reflect passions, bookmarks serve as references - so there is little overlap between them. More importantly, comments (like posts) are short lived. Unfortunately in our day and age, news and even analysis has a life span of a few hours. Once a post is off the front page of a blog, it is less discoverable and typically is not commented on anymore.
The bookmarks of del.icio.us, however, have a longer lifespan. After the first person bookmarks a post, it starts traveling through the del.icio.us network, acquiring more and more links, and growing stronger. What popular bookmarks indicate is a combination of time and usefulness. All of these posts are roughly 6 months old. It is likely that in another 6 months a new batch of R/WW posts will cross the 500 threshold on del.icio.us. This is just how references and networks evolve.
Read/WriteWeb on Digg
Of course no popularity contest would be complete these days without checking out Digg. This social news site has become a huge source of endorsement and traffic for bloggers. Many R/WW posts have made it to the digg front page, since Digg users have an appreciation and passion for technology. So naturally, we went looking for what stories were especially popular.
Unlike with del.icio.us, it is really easy to find this information on Digg. Here is the query, using advanced search. Here then are the R/WW posts with at least 1000 diggs (which is a lot on digg):
- GoogleOS - what to expect (1405 diggs)
- Calacanis offers to "buy out" digg users (1307 diggs)
- Last.fm launches new features (1210 diggs)
- Firefox 3 plans and IE8 speculation (1161 diggs)
- Digg CEO responds to Netscape challenge (1089 diggs)
We noted that the posts that did well on Digg are somewhat different from the ones that got a lot of comments and picked up more links on del.icio.us. The full query results told us that while Digg users love posts about search, they also love the posts about browsers. In particular the Firefox vs. IE battle is dear to their hearts. And of course, digg users love posts about Digg - especially when it's about Digg kicking competitor Netscape's butt!
Using social information to measure user information is an effective way for bloggers to understand what their readers like. It is also possible to use the methods we've outlined here to measure the popularity and effectiveness of pages on a corporate web site.
Another useful thing to do is to dive deeper into del.icio.us and digg tags and comments. These pages contain a wealth of insightful information about how your audience perceives your content.
While doing the research for this post, we compiled a list of over 50 of the most popular posts on Read/WriteWeb. We are thinking about making this available to you as a permanent tab. Please let us know what you think about this idea, as well as the techniques that we've discussed.
Image credit: www.eyeassociates.com