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Technorati Lacks Authority

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December 19th, 2007
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Those in the blogosphere will at one time or another hear of a service called Technorati. What is Technorati anyways? Technorati is a search engine for blogs that scours the web to try and tell you what’s being said about what and by whom. In order to tell which blogs are the more popular of the bunch, Technorati uses a ranking system that determines how many people have linked to a blog which is called (Authority) and how many people have added that blog to their Technorati favorites.

BlogStorm has published an interesting post which clearly illustrates the need for a major overhaul of the Technorati ranking algorithm. In this article, BlogStorm describes four different blogs that have a high authority level and at times, a ranking of 1 within the Technorati ranks. Two of the blogs mentioned are authored by two of the biggest names in the WordPress arena, Matt Mullenwegs Photomatt blog and Alex Kings Denver Web Developer blog.

These two blogs have been removed from the Technorati Top 100 list because they didn’t get to that position naturally. By natural, I’m talking about someone linking to a specific post on their blog which would be a natural link. In the case of the Photomatt blog, Matt Mullenweg has the advantage of being linked to by default with any new WordPress installation via the BlogRoll. As for Alex King, he makes some of most popular plugins for WordPress, one of which is called Popularity Contest. According to BlogStorm, Yahoo reports 1.7 million links to the plugin home page.

If you still don’t understand what’s going on here, I’ll make it really simple. When you create a theme for WordPress, you usually add a link to your blog or homepage as a means of giving credit to yourself. If this theme becomes popular, each blog that the theme is installed on will have your link on it. Each blog that has a link to your site on it will bump up your authority ranking on Technorati which leads to the fundamental problem of the authority ranking system.

Their authority ranking is completely inaccurate. According to Technorati,

Technorati Authority is the number of blogs linking to a website in the last six months. The higher the number, the more Technorati Authority the blog has.

It is important to note that we measure the number of blogs, rather than the number of links. So, if a blog links to your blog many times, it still only count as +1 toward your authority. Of course, new links mean the +1 will last another 180 days.

Also worthy of mentioning is this bit of text;

The #1 ranked blog is the blog with the most other distinct blogs linking to it in the last 6 months. If your blog’s rank is, say 305,316, this indicates that there are 305,315 blog ranks separating your blog from the #1 position.

So if you take into account what authority means, you can clearly understand why Photomatt and Alex King were leading the pack.

At first, I want to call Alex and Matt cheaters for gaming the system to get to the top, but that would be a hasty mistake. The fact of the matter is, the algorithm is wrong and it should not count these sort of links. For bloggers trying to make their way up in the blogosphere, it’s really upsetting that while you bust your butt writing content while obtaining legit links from other bloggers, you will never show up on the radar because other bloggers have developed a popular theme or plugin with their own little credit link attached.

So instead of banning people, what should Technorati do? What would you suggest to Technorati in terms of changing their algorithm so it’s fair for all bloggers? Or do you think that hand editing is the way to go and Technorati should just remove those sites from the Top 100 list if they are receiving non-organic links?

Lets face it, you may think that Technorati is no longer relevant in the blogosphere but you couldn’t be farther from the truth. Their numbers, rankings, and search engine still plays a significant role in the blogosphere. This is why this is a hot button issue and something has to be done about it.

*UPDATE*

It has been brought to my attention by Mark that the links contained in the blogroll on a default installation of WordPress no longer links to individuals. I have confirmed this and have crossed out that line of text within the post. However, it is true that at one point, he and others were linked to by default in the blogroll and that’s the main reason why Matt had such a high authority ranking. As was brought up by (ThatGirlAgain) in the commenting area, Alex King was also a beneficiary of the default blogroll.

Default BlogRoll

Also, “you will never show up on the radar because other bloggers have developed a popular theme or plugin” has been taken out of context. It’s not that I don’t want creators of these wonderful things not to receive credit, I simply don’t want Technorati to allow these links to be part of the Authority equation.

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Comments

  1. Mark says:

    “you will never show up on the radar because other bloggers have developed a popular theme or plugin”
    So they do the work, they create, they release, they probably support, they deal with the bandwidth and now you don’t want them to have a link?

    And the default WP blogroll DID link to people, not just Matt. It links to no-one now. You should have made that clear.

  2. that girl again (3 comments.) says:

    Alex King was a beneficiary of the WP default blogroll along with Matt. That’s what’s getting him the links, not his plugins.

    Matt finally removed the blogroll links in 2.3 because people had an annoying habit of bringing them up every time he whined about designers placing links in their themes, but there are enough legacy installs floating around that it will be some time before their influence is no longer felt.

  3. Michael Martine (1 comments.) says:

    Credit links in WordPress themes give you a lot more than an inflated T’rati authority. They also increase something starts with “P” and ends in “ageRank.”

  4. Jeffro2pt0 (164 comments.) says:

    Hey Mark, Thanks for taking the time to have your say.

    What I meant by “you will never show up on the radar because other bloggers have developed a popular theme or plugin” is that because of the way the Technorati Authority ranking system works, those who design themes or plugins that include a link back to their own blog will have a significant advantage over those bloggers who don’t necessarily have those design skills.

    Don’t get me wrong Mark, plugin/theme authors have the exclusive right to include a link as a form of credit but these types of links should not be counted towards their authority ranking on Technorati because it’s not fair.

    This is not a problem with the creator getting credit, this is a problem of Technorati even bothering to recognize all of those links as a form of authority.

    As for your inquiry of the WordPress blogroll, I realize that it linked to other people as well and not just Matt. Photomatt just happened to be the guy mentioned in the BlogStorm article and that’s who I chose to highlight in my own rendition of the piece. Of course, what happened to the Photomatt blog has probably happened to everyone that was included as a link on the default blog roll.

    I’ve installed a local copy of WordPress and you are correct in that, no single individual is linked to anymore and I’ll be sure to update this post to reflect these findings.

  5. Monika (40 comments.) says:

    hi
    if someone share his time, his knowledge, answer a lot of questions-spare time again – to write for so many bloggers useful things -plugins-themes- is not good enough for technorati.
    if some plugin coder get a link back for his time his knowledge -this is a natural link, because it is the internet way to say :thanks a lot,

    since 1993 -the old web 1.0 – webmaster say *thanks a lot* with a link,
    so this links are natural.

    maybe for technorati not, but – web 2.0 have other rules,
    to write a post about a nacked girl is – so it seems this days- better and more usefull than to spare time for writing a plugin.

    if someone can tell me the logic behind that – please do it.

    for me is technorati not relevant, my blogs are in german – a few articles in english- but the ethic behind this – is for me *shocking*.

    regards
    Monika

  6. maggie says:

    I’d like to hear more about why you find Technorati to be relevant in the Blogosphere. I know that bloggers like to watch their rating, but in my experience Technorati is not a significant generator of traffic, except maybe to blogs about blogging.

  7. Jeffro2pt0 (164 comments.) says:

    Well Maggie, I’ve ventured around the blogosphere a few times and people still think that the numbers they see next to someones blog on Technorati are important.

    Personally, I don’t hold Technorati to be any more relevant than the next metric system. People, for whatever reason seem to fall into this trap called the numbers game. For instance, if Technorati says you’re a top 100 blog, people will think you’re blog is pretty dog gone important/popular.

    In my own experience, I’ve had a number of people come across my blog via TAG searches they had performed on Technorati. Technorati has a couple of different search methods, including an option to search based on Authority level. Just like Google with pagerank, A higher authority level means you are more likely to be discovered within the Technorati search engine. Therefor, the authority ranking system should provide a fair, and level playing ground for all bloggers, but as this article points out, that is not the case.

  8. Mark says:

    Fact:
    Write an interesting article on your blog all about the way the PS3 could be used to brute force password attacks on blogs. No-one cares.
    Someone uses your work, changes a few words and posts it here and suddenly they are great for what they wrote.
    Where you publish will always count, and people will always link to where interesting stuff is.
    It’s not what you write it’s where you write it. That can never change. Strip all the people out they want and an order will impose itself.

    Google made pagerank, google get annoyed when their own system is gamed.
    Technorati made Authority and now decide they should be “Seen To Be Doing Something” so they take a shot at the easy ones.

    Why is engadget there? They report on stuff, yes? But so do cnn, the bbc, fox. And they all have blogs.

    What happened to Matt / Alex is of no consequence to me. What does matter is that Technorati made their system and now are basing their actions ‘on the common good’. What the hell did they think their system would do?

  9. Jeffro2pt0 (164 comments.) says:

    I have no idea what they were thinking Mark, but I think it’s painfully obvious now how flawed their particular system is and it seriously needs an overhaul.

    What happened with Matt and Alex is not their fault. They did nothing wrong. They, like others have become examples of just how bad Technorati is at determining what is important/popular in the blogosphere.

  10. John Lockwood (1 comments.) says:

    Yes, heaven forbid someone writing incredibly useful free software that we all use should benefit from links left in their free software by people too grateful and/or clueless to remove them. Next thing you know people will be charging for movies and music and where will this whole communistic series of tubes be then?

  11. Monika says:

    it seems that we have to tell the young blogger- if you would like to be one of the authority blos by technorati sometimes – please be not so silly to write a plugin or share a theme.

    if you would like to have a good pr by google – not relevant for search results- than write a plugin or something else.

    or use two domains -one for the plugin one for your technorati rank

    crazy world ;)

    regards
    Monika

  12. Windy Road (2 comments.) says:

    I agree completely. I maintain a little theme called vistered little and through it’s credit links I am in the top 10K and at one stage was near the top 1K. I discovered how bad the Technorati algorithm was when I wrote a little article on Meebo and Technorati listed it as the most authoritative post about meebo. I was tempted to write an article along the lines of “Technorati Thinks I Have Authority” to point out similar flaws you have raised, but unfortunatly I never got the time. Thanks for a great article.

  13. Jeffro2pt0 (164 comments.) says:

    @Windy Road – You are quite welcome. This was my first article on this particular site and I’m glad you enjoyed it. Please feel free to write up a blog post on your own about similar flaws because this crap with Technorati has to change at some point.

  14. BlaKKJaKK (2 comments.) says:

    Technorati means zero to my blog but I do think if you design a popular plugin or theme your credit link should count. Matt’s case is a little different, personally I always thought it was a bad choice to put real blogs on the default blogroll. But let’s be honest, if a blogger designs a really great plugin that is worth a a thousand great posts in my book.

    The irony is if Google applied this same logic to Technorati its page rank would get nerfed by Google because its rank is artificially inflated by all of the social bookmarks without no follow tags. Talk about the pot calling the keddle black.

  15. Jeffro2pt0 (164 comments.) says:

    Hello BlaKKJaKK. If a popular theme or plugin is created that is worth a 1,000 blog posts, then 1,000 difference bloggers should write up their own little post about it and then link to the plugn author’s page. This is a natural form of linking and is a natural way to boost authority.

    Currently, each DIFFERENT person linking to a blog or article generates 1 authority point. Thats fine. It’s not fine to give that same person an authority point simply because a link back to the author is displayed on the blog that it’s installed on. Those types of links should be disregarded.

    The problem for Technorati then becomes, how do we tell the difference between a natural link, and a credit link?

    My idea would involved a WEIGHTED type of system. Somehow, you could give more weight to one link versus the other. But then again, links are links right?

    Perhaps Technorati had no choice but to do things this way?

  16. aw (6 comments.) says:

    What is “Authority”. Actually, my friend Lemon in China was already in the top 100 list!
    But he was blocked in the list!
    Why? Just for his great theme and great support ? Why he is just totally blocked in list? What if he could be in the list without any backlink for the theme?
    So .. At least, it’s complicated, and it’s gonna be Technorati’s job.

  17. Matt (64 comments.) says:

    They should just count links in the blogroll or footer of a blog different than those inside the posts. Problem solved.

  18. Ike (13 comments.) says:

    Damn, Matt. You beat me to it.

    That sounds easy to program, but I’m not so sure they could pull it off. Technorati rates many sites that use different engines, and to parse each one for the particulars of the CSS to determine DIVs and the like would be a pain. Would probably overheat the servers.

    The only thing that might work is a standardized relationship link – a special XFN tag. That could be easily read, much in the same way NoFollow is now. Call it a microformat for credit links.

  19. Enrique (1 comments.) says:

    What can I say… I’m a fan of Technorati, but not for the Authority… to me, that’s more like liking myspace for the number of friends you have, rather than keeping in touch with the real people you know… if that makes any sense.

    however: about a month ago, i blogged about it nonetheless http://www.sociosophy.com/blog/technorati/

    Cheers

  20. Ian Kallen (1 comments.) says:

    Just to clarify a bit: some of the commenters here seem to be under the impression that there is a new policy that was put into place at Technorati. That’s not the situation at all, these edge cases where templates, hosting services and underlying platforms are publishing links that aren’t distinguished from those intentionally put there by the blog authors have been an issue for Technorati years. Not all links are created equally. A more sophisticated handling of the data would indeed make the distinctions but early on a decision was made to follow the Pareto principle. Neither Matt nor anyone was ever singled out, as implied by some of the discussion above, for punitive action (incidentally, we’re big fans of Matt); there are a lot of cases where the platform some is using is creating links on their behalf and if those links happen to be to another blog it muddies the water.

    If those automated/default links weren’t to blogs at all, there wouldn’t be any issue. But they are and here we are. As far as technical solutions go, I personally think the last comment about a microformat for these situations is the correct direction. Any links that were not put on a blog by the author should be distinctive in the same way that nofollow links are.

    Anyway, I commented further on here in an effort to shed some light on these issues.
    thanks,
    -Ian
    Technorati

  21. Scott (2 comments.) says:

    Well, they could just pull the RSS feed and parse links in the actual posts, and ignore the links on the actual blog. Most Blogs have RSS feeds. How about that as a solution?

  22. Scott (2 comments.) says:

    For blogs without full text RSS feeds, they could still configure their algorithm so that it detects the most popular blog engines, and parse just the posts.

  23. Sheels (1 comments.) says:

    Er, the index is claimed to be one of “authority”, not gross backlinks – theme creation is not a completely authoritative statement.

  24. Pi (5 comments.) says:

    When Technorati first changed over to the Authority listing, I commented that it was a pointless ranking mechanism. It is interesting to see, many, many months later, that others are starting to agree with me, if for rather altuistic reasons.

    Technorati is good for finding other weblogs and similar subject matters within weblog postings. That is what I use it for, as do many others. If I thought it wasn’t worthwhile I’d stop putting the Technorati links on my weblog postings, and I am sure others would stop too. Technorati, for those who designed the new Dashboard page on WP, is, however, considerably better than google – and that regardless of whether anyone wishes to bolster their own ego with Authority or PageRank here or there. Such things are useful for those out to make money, not for those who wish to concentrate on writing interesting articles and catching a smller, selecter audience.

    Pi.

  25. Pi (5 comments.) says:

    A quick addition to my last comment, which I posted without checking out exactly what ‘many, many months’ entailed: I posted a post on the problems Technorati has with calculations in October 2006; I was not the first one to do so either.

    Pi.

  26. adam (39 comments.) says:

    matt’s got the right solution (comment #20). If google’s blogsearch can automatically ignore footer links, technorati can too. they’re just not very good at their supposed core competency.

  27. G-Man (1 comments.) says:

    While I do see what you’re saying, I think that ALL ranking systems I have seen so far can be gamed in SOME way.

    G-Man

  28. Truden (23 comments.) says:

    For bloggers trying to make their way up in the blogosphere, it’s really upsetting that while you bust your butt writing content while obtaining legit links from other bloggers, you will never show up on the radar because other bloggers have developed a popular theme or plugin with their own little credit link attached.

    Simple, beautiful and clear!

    Of course it is not fair with one VERY popular plugin or theme to take place before ProBlogger (let say)in the rank list.

    Not only that it is not fair, but it goes against the logic of blogging.
    Blogging is interrelation and intercommunication on the Web.
    Technorati measures and ranks blogs which are BLOGGING.
    The popularity of a blog should be measured by its readers who interrelate and intercommunicate by sending links back.

    Is it so difficult to understand it?

  29. Rex Ruthless says:

    Technorati sucks anyway… what a useless waste of a service. As stated, if they were bright enough to count links from posts differently than footer or blogroll links there wouldn’t be a need for this blatant manipulation. Useless buggers!

  30. moby (2 comments.) says:

    Technorati was great when it first hit the scene. Now it is often so bogged down within it’s own drivel, it doesn’t even function. I keep hoping someone else will come along and offer the same solution done correctly.

  31. Preyanka (1 comments.) says:

    I’ve written about a similar issue with Technorati–dealing with link exchanges–on my blog. I agree, the system needs an overhaul.

  32. propaganda press (1 comments.) says:

    ok thanks for messing up my whole day…who do i pray to now that technorati is no longer GOD?
    riddle me that mr. riddle me that

  33. Africa vacation (1 comments.) says:

    It is true that technorati needs a major over haul but even google does that sometimes. The key here is natural link building. I think it’s about time technorati looks at the sites linking to you and see if they relate to your blog. i.e if you have an African travel website like mine then I should get authority if a travel related site links to me. Rather than just any site/blog linking to me.

  34. Lexx says:

    When Technorati first changed over to the Authority listing, I commented that it was a pointless ranking mechanism. It is interesting to see, many, many months later, that others are starting to agree with me, if for rather altuistic reasons.

  35. Kevin Love (4 comments.) says:

    You will never show up because there are tons of loops in the system.



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