Some Fun With Zemanta

Whilst writing the last post about a marketing book survey I was also testing out a new Firefox plugin that is currently in beta, Zemanta

What Does Zemanta Do Exactly?

It adds editing functions to various popular online blogging interfaces, WordPress (both .org and .com), Blogger and Typepad. These are the type of functions you could probably add a plugin for if you are using WordPress on your own hosting, but wouldn’t be available for Blogger, Typepad and users.

That makes it something worth taking a careful look at for niche marketers, even if you use WordPress for most of your blogs, as it might save you lots of additional installation, possible incompatibility problems in the future with WordPress upgrades, upgrades to plugins etc.

Zemanta Screenshot in WordPress


Links are provided based upon various keywords that you use – unfortunately the links are almost all to Wikipedia articles, or a few popular websites.
I am wondering if it learns as it goes along, so I should probably include links to myself for niche marketing, internet marketing, online marketing, internet business, social media marketing, WordPress SEO etc.


Zemanta provides tag suggestions based on keywords used in an article. It also seems to pick up related keywords, so for Zemanta whilst I am typing this it also picked up “Seedcamp” as a tag, which is where the developers attended to get seed funding.

I should note that whilst writing this article it didn’t pick up blogger as a tag, just as a link so far – actually that has just changed. Zemanta updates all the options available every 300 characters automatically, though you can force a manual refresh.

Yes the same functionality is available from multiple WordPress plugins, but this doesn’t require plugins and works on multiple platforms.

Gallery Pictures

Every 300 characters you write a small gallery of pictures updates in the right hand menu, based again on some kind or keyword or fully contextual algorithm.

Whilst writing the article on the book survey the following pictures were chosen. (note: I have just added them to the page with the code they use, which includes a mass of block spans and floats – nasty stuff)

Example pictures

Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Fotolia
Source: Fotolia
Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

Maybe I should have forced them into a table

The pictures seem to originate from various free stock photo sources plus Wikipedia commons. I must admit the pictures come wrapped in some fairly ugly code that is probably going to look wonderful to thousands of RSS readers.

<span class="zemanta-img" style="margin: 1em; display: block; float: right;"><a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" style="border: medium none ; display: block;"></a><span style="margin: 1em 0pt 0pt; display: block;">Source: <a href="" target="_blank">Wikipedia</a></span></span>

Other than the horrible code, there are other problems

  • The pictures aren’t very useful – some require additional payment for larger versions, and they are all small thumbnails even if larger pictures might be available for free
  • Clicking an image in the right hand side menu inserts the image at the top of the document you are editing, and even replaces an existing one. I had to copy and paste each one before selecting the next to include all 9 images above
  • No dimensions provided in the code for the images
  • The images are linked, along with attribution – that is overkill especially without using nofollow – there isn’t a link to a license

This part needs a little bit of work to make it useful, with both thumbnails and full images of a defined size, previews and much cleaner code.


This is a time saver for new topics, maybe less interesting for longer term because there isn’t enough of a selection to choose an appropriate article for topics that have a long history in the blogosphere.

I am just going to link through to what I can currently see for Zemanta

Each article you click is added using a fieldset.

It will be interesting to see how this appears in an RSS feed as well – you notice how much effort they are placing on branding Zemanta with all the attribution?

This type of linking may be of some use for readers, but doesn’t really encourage a blogger to visit the articles, and add something to the conversation – it is just links to related content, not what it should be, real commentary.

Your average blogger is going to have a real headache looking at this code to decide how to edit it, and the titles added to the links are really not very useful.

<fieldset class="zemanta-related" style="margin: 0.5em 0pt 1em; padding: 0pt;"><legend class="zemanta-title">Related articles</legend><ul class="zemanta-article-ul" style="margin: 1em 0pt 1.5em; padding: 0pt;"><li class="zemanta-article" style="margin: 0.5em 2em;"><a title="Open in new window" href="">Zemanta - Content Suggestion for Bloggers</a> [via&nbsp;Zemanta]</li><li class="zemanta-article" style="margin: 0.5em 2em;"><a title="Open in new window" href="">A content suggestion engine for blogging? That could work...</a> [via&nbsp;Zemanta]</li><li class="zemanta-article" style="margin: 0.5em 2em;"><a title="Open in new window" href="">Zemanta For Bloggers? Good Idea, Bad Idea, Or Great Idea?</a> [via&nbsp;Zemanta]</li><li class="zemanta-article" style="margin: 0.5em 2em;"><a title="Open in new window" href="">Trying out Zemanta</a> [via&nbsp;Zemanta]</li><li class="zemanta-article" style="margin: 0.5em 2em;"><a title="Open in new window" href="">Zementa Brings a Semantic Layer to Your Blog</a> [via&nbsp;Zemanta]</li><li class="zemanta-article" style="margin: 0.5em 2em;"><a title="Open in new window" href="">Zemanta - A content suggestion engine for blogging</a> [via&nbsp;Zemanta]</li></ul></fieldset>

But for this article it was a real time saver other than one problem… duplication – at one time whilst I was writing there was a link included to an article on Read Write Web, but for some reason when I came to click the list of 6 links, that had disappeared. I tried refreshing a few times with no luck.
It has actually now refreshed correctly, but every time I now try to introduce the links somewhere in this existing article, I seem to end up losing half of what I have written. There is some strange rewriting going on – this plugin is complex, and currently a little idiosyncratic.

Update – eventually I managed to get it to show all 6 articles

Whatever you use from Zemanta, it automatically includes this badge at the bottom of the article – lots more viral branding and links – I think there is a little overkill.

It is Alpha

I am trying to not be overly harsh and just give useful feedback – this plugin is just alpha and shows a lot of promise, for people who like to use an online interface for their blogging.
I wonder if an additional plugin is planned for use in some way with Windows Live Writer or other desktop software which have plugin interfaces. I can see there being additional demand.

Overall I am impressed and feel this will be a very useful service for the future. I am not sure how they are going to make money from it, though they do have funding.

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