Blogcatalog Slam Dunks MyBlogLog?

When Blogcatalog announced their entry into the social network of blogging I almost totally ignored it. Oops…

Blogcatalog History Lesson
(as I understand it)

In June 2005 Brad Jasper sold Blogcatalog to Jacob Gower

Jacob Gower of Bloggy Network decided to concentrate his efforts on Blogflux, Blogtopsites, and their growing blog network. On 20th January 2007 he sold Blogcatalog to Angelica Alaniz & Antony Berkman via Sitepoint for the BIN (buy it now) price of $40000US. (I am not sure of the full ownership status, but Angelica is descibed as the President, and Anthony as head of the new products group)

At the time the site was PR7 with a reported 73,000 blog owners on their mailing list.

On BloggingPro in the comments Antony stated

We purchased the site from Jacob. He had 2 other bids higher than the BIN. Our goal with BlogCatalog is to make it a valuable resource for bloggers and readers alike.
Please let me know if you have ideas on suggestions, opinions of how to improve BlogCatalog.com
Thanks,
Tony

Yep… mailing list – that is a good smart way to relaunch a service, as Erik discussed in his commentary around the time of purchase.

New Features – March 7th 2007

The process of revamping BlogCatalog has already begun. We have given the search results a face lift and implemented a new search algorithm that pushes more relevant blogs to the top of the results. You may have noticed more traffic coming to your blog as BlogCatalog’s traffic over the past 2 weeks has increased by over 100%.

One of the most common questions we receive is how can my blog rank higher. To enable your blog to rank higher, BlogCatalog now offers 2 new features.

The first feature we added is a “Rate My Blog” button. If your blog is useful, this button should raise your position in the search results. We have also added a Category Sponsor option. Login to your BlogCatalog account to take advantage of either of these options.

Damn that was fast work, just over one month they have redesigned, and implemented new features, and they also speculated on new features to come.

New Features – March 22nd – 28th 2007

March 22nd was when it was first mentioned on Blog Herald, the email announcement came March 28th.

What? More new features?

Our new social community features include:
A Personal Profile Page

Close to 700 bloggers have already created a BlogCatalog personal profile. If you haven’t already, setting up a personal profile takes less than 2 minutes. Blogs with personal profile pages are receiving close to 5 times more traffic.
Blog Neighborhoods

Your blog listing now has it’s own neighborhood. More neighbors means more traffic to your blog.
Neighbors

Join your favorite blog Neighborhoods to connect with bloggers who have similar interests.
ShoutBox

Your personal profile also contains a shoutbox that lets other members communicate with you instantly.
…and tons of other new features, all designed to drive more visitors to your blog.

Blogcatalog at First Glance

Well the front page looks clean, I have highlighted some of the best features such as browsing by category, language and tags. You can also browse by country.

Blogcatalog Front Page

The rotation of members on the front page seems to work well, although I am not sure if the featured site is based upon being one of the highest rated blogs, or because you are a paid advertiser.
This seems to suggest it is a paid feature:-

Rotation Paid Feature

The category listing give you a good example of exactly how many members they already have at relaunch.

Blog Catalog Categories

It is only when you start looking at the new features, you realise what the new owners have done with Blogcatalog.

BlogCatalog Social Networking Off-site

The first similarity that people will notice are their widgets appearing on sites. Early adopters have gained some visible traffic from this service, although I am not sure how targetted that traffic was.

Everything about the widgets is similar to MyBlogLog, even the configuration page could almost have been lifted, but then again most options are similar to a host of contextual ad services.

Blog Catalogue Widgets

They also have a number of other widgets such as voting for a blog, and for promoting what I can only assume is an affiliate product. The more of these features you add to your site, the more bonus ranking points they give you.

Ranking points are what governs your position in the listings, for instance you can vote for my blog with this widget (won’t show correctly in feeds)


BlogCatalog Social Networking On-site

Mirror Mirror On The Wall
Who Is The Biggest Copycat Of Them All?

If you thought the widget looked similar, you have to see the similarities in functions internally.

The Blog Description also has links to tags and categories:-
Blog Description

You have your recent viewers:-
Recent Viewers

Neighborhoods instead of communities:-
Neighborhoods instead of communities

RSS Feeds – It should be noted that these contain an excerpt
RSS Feeds

A form to submit a site review, or a comment
Comments and Reviews

Personal Profile

No screenshots of the main features, I am sure you can guess.

One useful feature is that instead of a personal review box, they opted to use a shoutbox. This gives some differentiation between communication and writing something serious which is nice.

shoutbox

Blog Stats

You have seen the off-site voting, there is also voting on the blog profile pages, plus a visible rating of how much traffic that is being sent… that is public.

Here is my rating, having just set up my widgets, although my blog had been listed for over a month previously, before the social networking features were introduced.

Andy Beard stats on Blog Catalog

I think it was actually at 35 before I added the widget, so that small amount of activity made a reasonable gain. I don’t think the bonus from hosting the widget is currently being counted.

I am not sure what counts towards rating. As an example I noticed Wendy Piersall is in the rotation on the front page, I am not sure whether that is a paid listing.
I also grabbed a screenshot of her current stats which seem to be increasing. It should be noted that last time I looked, Wendy wasn’t hosting the widget and I didn’t see a voting box on Wendy’s blog.

Wendy Featured

Wendy Stats

Negative Stuff

  • Pink Links – they are all [tag]nofollow[/tag], and nofollow even when using an extremely slow redirect script. In comparison [tag]MyBlogLog[/tag] has always shared the link love. They should rip out all the nofollow links and let things flow naturally.
  • Tagging – I love tagging, unless it is done badly – they don’t honestly understand [tag]tagging[/tag] – tagging is powerful when it is free flow based on the content.
  • Content – If they are picking up the content they should keep it, and categorise it based on the tags in the content. That is one of the most powerful features of [tag]Bumpzee[/tag] though many people don’t realise it yet.
  • Screenshots – Wendy’s (and my own) are not as good as they should be, and she probably has a paid listing – it has crunched up her CSS, and there is no way to upload a correction.
  • Monetization – they have monetized too soon – those front page slots could be used to drive traffic to their members for free – people seeing their page get traffic will promote the service more – this is viral marketing. Maybe only include 30% paid rotation on the front page, and share the diversity.

Positive Stuff

  • Tagging – They have categories and tagging, but it needs to be improved
  • Traffic? – with a question mark – they really need to encourage people to use the service more
  • Related content – the more related sites, the more people will explore and use the social features of the site – that will encourage growth – they need to emphasis this with more listings
  • Speed – Other than the redirects, I haven’t seen any page loading problems, but then the site isn’t exactly experiencing heavy traffic.

Conclusion

In my opinion they probably copied the look and feel a little too much, and could have done more to differentiate. Familiarity is a good thing, but it feels too much like a clone rather than a unique service.

The content is more niched than is currently possible with [tag]MyBlogLog[/tag], but I can’t believe that is a long-term advantage – they need to gain traction now, otherwise those widgets will be “here today, gone tomorrow”

A huge amount more needs to be done in promotion – viral marketing can fizzle if people don’t notice the benefit of including a widget.

I could actually see more benefit from the service if it didn’t have blogs assigned to people, so that the “tin foil hat” brigade didn’t have to create multiple personas to promote niche blogs.

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Comments

  1. Steven says

    Andy,

    Your BlogCatalog review is interesting. What area of the site would you focus on improving next? Seems like they need to differentiate themselves from MBL. I doubt they have the resources of a Yahoo. What niche play/strategic move could they make to jettison themselves above MLB? What could they do to keep the Buzz going?

    Steven

  2. says

    Steven – well maybe my review might kickstart a little more on the buzz side.
    Some of the things that could benefit them are already integrated with Bumpzee such as content aggregation and automatic tagging, turning Bumpzee into a “tag space”

    Meg – I am not sure whether it will work with WordPress.com – it will be especially interesting for you in the way a directory can morph into a social network, though I am not sure if that is the right direction for your Dlook Australian business directory

    (yes I am good at dropping links for my regulars)

  3. says

    Nice review Andy.

    The biggest problem I have, as a user is that this really presents fragmentation in the market. My blog now has MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog and SpicyPage widgets with faces on them .. and I’m sure this is just the crest of a new wave of similar services

    Would have been nice to just have 1 service that everyone uses, but unfortunately that’s not the way the market works …

  4. says

    Great run-down on the service. I admit, I was one of the first ones to add the widget on my blog. I’m not sure how long I will keep it around though. The nofollow thing really blows. (P.S. Great capture of me sneaking around your neighborhood)

  5. says

    @Owen – I think that the fragmentation will dissipate over time. People will gravitate to one service, others will follow… I’m just interested in seeing which service that’ll be!

    @Andy – Jeez you’re thorough! Thanks for the run-down. :-)

    The MBL interface irritates me, it doesn’t seem very intuitive. But if you’re blogging about marketing, it’s the place to be. I’m hoping another service converts the market – or that the entry of serious competitors is enough to prompt MBL into making some upgrades.

  6. says

    Hi , you have posted nice review on Blog Catalog , I think this is the best sources to get traffic to your blogs .

  7. says

    I’ve never really liked Blog Catalog.. submitted several fine blogs to them previously but they weren’t listed for some reason.

    I’ll didn’t know they started social networking.. probably a good time to check them out again.. thanks, Andy!

  8. says

    Nice review of blogcatalog. I’ve been using it for a few days on my site and have seen some modest traffic. The traffic seems to be genuine, rather than simply other users hunting for new contacts to push their own site at – which is a genuine differentiator from mybloglog.
    Too many widgets is a big issue though, so hopefully some real breakthrough in usefulness to make one or the other the standout leader (even by niche) will help cull down the sheer number or avatar panels everyone has on their blogs.

  9. says

    I’d rather say that Blogcatalog is an IMPROVED VERSION OF Mybloglog. Since this post has been made, a lot of changes took place at Blogcatalog. With the current innovations introduced at Blogcatalog, I won’t be surprised that Blogcatalog will beat Mybloglog in a few months from now. Mybloglog is getting boring nowadays.

  10. says

    The mere fact that you actively participate in the forum, and that, we, the members exchange ideas and opinions and that we help each other, and that we have conflicts sometimes but still return to participate in the community ARE GLARING PROOFS THAT BLOGCATALOG COMMUNITY IS DOING VERY WELL.

  11. says

    Thanks Andy for a nice post. Yes I do agree and I do have a Blogcatalog profile where I interact almost everyday. So I wanna know..how do u manage Long Friend list and Groups? Do you think you gain good amount of profitable traffic to your site from Blogcatalog? How can we build long term relationships with the members there? Too many questions…I know :P..pls do answer

  12. says

    I was just wondering about BlogCatalog vs MyBlogLog debate. Which one would bring more visitors to my blog? I’m currently a member of BlogCatalog only. I do like the features…

    I only recently started using that tool which lets you list your usernames at various social bookmarking sites, such as Digg or StumbleUpon. Then it shows a list of items you’ve bookmarked there. Nifty!

  13. says

    Rose you are right, and it is something I should have picked them up on by now.

    Actually you should be congratulated for being among what I estimate to be the 0.1% of bloggers who have some kind of terms of service on their blogs.

    From what I remember it was not until MyBlogLog were acquired by Yahoo that they had a comprehensive ToS, and it also took WordPress.com months after launch to have something in place, even though they were indiscriminately banning people.

    The nearest Blogcatalog come to having a privacy policy is

    * Your e-mail address will not be sold, traded, or shown publicly
    * No Solely Commercial or Pornagraphic Material

    That appears on the page when you are signing up.

    They are using Google Analytics for tracking, so it is hard to say whether they even have access to all the data that is being tracked, or knowledge about it.

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