Encoding Information, The Google Gods and Web Journal Sept 5th-7th 2010

Looking at a post in Search Engine Land about 8 Ways Backlink Analysis Can Offer Competitive Intelligence; decided it would interesting to encode or score the information.  While encoding information (at least, that is what I’m terming it) isn’t a technique for every situation, I find myself using it a lot – for several different things (competitive analysis, semantic analysis, content analysis and classification, conversion analysis, sentiment analysis, topic analysis and data source analysis).

To show you what I mean I first used a tool I’ve owned for a long time, LinkSurvey (I bet there’s some freeware tools on sites like SeoBook that do much the same thing, though LinkSurvey has been a main part of my SEO arsenal for almost as long as I’ve done SEOabout 7 years).

I took 3 competitors – The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Morgan Library and looked at them for backlinks, sorting them by links they have in common (hits) as you can see above.  Here’s the spreadsheet so you can play with it yourself if you want to example-updated.

Often, when I’m working on a project and there’s a list of requirements that involve comparisons, it can be overwhelming at times, but once I can break down a task to something like this, I’m home and I know how to process the information and get something meaningful out of it.    It’s not so much the technique, it’s the focusing mechanism this approach generates (in me) that makes it useful.

Now, using this technique of looking at backlinks it seems to me you’d have to also look at the backlinks and links off the site of every URL in column A that you cared about.  My point isn’t to do it all, all I want to do is show you an example of encoding / manual scoring.

Among the stories I’ve noticed in the last few days is one that Stowe Boyd shared on a decreasing level of angel investment in Twitter applications.   It’s not hard to see why – Twitter is competing or buying off some of the companies like Tweetie (now Twitter for iPhone) – when that happened it sent a cold shudder down Seesmic’s spine – and that wasn’t the only startup that wondered if their days were numbered.  If startups are wondering that, so are investors.

But  I don’t want to say anything that will hurt my chances of being a speaker at LeWeb 10 (though I think that’s a long shot anyway) so I’ll not digress any further here.

And Google – well I wrote about Google Truth back in 2007 while Thomas Friedman of the New York Times actually wrote a post title “Is Google God” in 2003 and now Google is not just one God, but became whole lot of Gods – or Plural according to the Washington Post.  I’m not sure if it makes any difference if  Google is a made up of a gaggle of Google Gods, or there is just one Google God … it all amounts to the same thing, a lot of Google.

Search has become a journalistic obsession on the Web, and with good reason. Most people don’t read publications online, patiently turning from national news to Metro to Style to the sports section. They hunt for subjects, and people, in which they’re interested.

Our mission — and we have no choice but to accept it — is to grab some of that traffic that could otherwise end up at hundreds of other places, even blogs riffing off the reporting that your own publication has done. If you appease the Google gods with the right keywords, you are blessed with more readers. So carried to a hypothetical extreme, an ideal headline would be, “Sarah Palin rips non-Muslim Obama over mosque while Lady Gaga remains silent.”

Every newsroom in the country grapples with these questions, and The Washington Post is no exception.

But the biggest story of the day, and one that had me smiling and feeling good about being in Web Analytics  was the New York Times article on Some Newspapers, Tracking Readers Online, Shift Coverage.

If your wondering what is the value of Web Analytics, wonder no longer –

The New York Times does not use Web metrics to determine how articles are presented, but it does use them to make strategic decisions about its online report, said Bill Keller, the executive editor. “We don’t let metrics dictate our assignments and play,” he said, “because we believe readers come to us for our judgment, not the judgment of the crowd. We’re not ‘American Idol.’ ”

Well, the New York Times might not, but some of the other large Newspapers do …

At The Washington Post, a television screen with an array of data — the number of unique visitors to washingtonpost.com, how many articles those visitors view and where on the Web those visitors came from — is on display for the entire newsroom. A red or green marker designates each data point, indicating whether the Web site’s goal for the month on that particular metric has been met. About 120 people in The Post’s newsroom get an e-mail each day laying out how the Web site performed in the closely watched metrics — 46 in all.

Rather than corrupt news judgment by causing editors to pander to the most base reader interests, the availability of this technology so far seems to be leading to more surgical decisions about how to cover a topic so it becomes more appealing to an online audience

If there was any use case more compelling for Web Analytics than saving dying newspapers, it would be hard to find it.

As newspaper Web sites use technology to learn more about readers’ habits, they are also developing new ways to persuade readers to tell them more about what they want. The Los Angeles Times features what it calls a “personality quiz” for readers on its Web site. The feature adds a spin to the personalization options that Web sites have offered for the last few years with a 17-question test that asks readers things like “What does success mean to you?” and has them pick from 12 photos. A few options include images of a wedding, a gleaming sports car and a man embracing a peasant child.

Honestly, with the questionnaire thing, it reminds me of Match.com or Eharmony.com and the 22 (or whatever it is now) dimensions of relatedness (I lost track).

And to now end this post – I have to check out 4food, A New High-Tech Custom Burger Restaurant In New York City where everything is done on an iPad and you can have your burger named after you.

4food is a new high-tech restaurant in Midtown Manhattan (40th Street and Madison Avenue) whose goal is to de-junk fast food. It features donut shaped burgers where scoops of various toppings added in the middle that can be created in advance through the website to have ready to pickup when you arrive. You can even save and name your burger, so that when other people order it you get a $0.25 credit on future purchases and your burger will rise on the leaderboard.

Well, it’s time for bed, besides, I’m taking a new position later this month at WCGworld (more about that in a day or two).

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