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
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.
Your blog listing now has it’s own neighborhood. More neighbors means more traffic to your blog.
Join your favorite blog Neighborhoods to connect with bloggers who have similar interests.
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.
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:-
The category listing give you a good example of exactly how many members they already have at relaunch.
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.
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:-
You have your recent viewers:-
Neighborhoods instead of communities:-
RSS Feeds – It should be noted that these contain an excerpt
A form to submit a site review, or a comment
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.