Having just come back from a week in Florida, striving to improve not only my own powers of concentration and focus, but how to grab and maintain the attention of readers and customers, for the last few days I have been thinking a little about Sphinn… some of those thoughts haven’t been pleasant, and to be perfectly honest, the good thoughts had very selfish motives.
SEM Isn’t a Neglected Niche
There are also a number of other marketing and blogging bookmarking and news sites that I have seen though didn’t seem to have quite as much traction.
Sure, SEO, SEM etc isn’t very popular on sites like Digg unless you have a very cultivated audience, and even then you have to have an insane amount of credibility in the the eyes of the general Digg population to stand a chance of not being buried.
So if it is not availability of suitable social networks for the topic maybe it is…
Sphinn is a Better Technology Platform?
Sphinn is running on Pligg
Well at least Sphinn is sometimes running on Pligg…
PlugIM is also running on Pligg, but from what I can see, other than cosmetic differences such as adding all your other social networks, and possibly “stalking” (I haven’t looked at that closely), the version of Pligg used by PlugIM is much more heavily customised.
- Autosubmission of content
- Tagging (though this isn’t collected from the content)
Categorization of content just doesn’t work – there is a big difference in SMO with the purpose of gaining links, and SMO with the aim to gather email or RSS subscribers for Direct Marketing.
Bumpzee on the other hand is a custom platform – it still has a few bugs, and quite a few features missing. If it received a similar amount of attention as Sphinn seems to be getting, I am sure the guys at Bumpzee would spend a huge amount more time on it rounding off the features.
Ultimately Bumpzee currently blows Pligg out of the water for features unless Pligg is heavily customised.
- Autosubmission of content
- Tagging (picked up automatically)
- Lots of Widgets
- Multiple interlinked communities
Sphinn has no technological advantage, in fact it might be looked on as inferior
Danny Sullivan was one of the heavy detractors.
The only reason Sphinn might be successful is Danny Sullivan & Attention
Deja Vu anyone?
Hardly anyone in the SEM community would give a damn about Sphinn if it wasn’t launched by Danny. I have seen Pligg sites heavily criticised by many SEO/SEM specialists.
When Danny Sullivan announced Sphinn, he stated:-
By no means do we envision Sphinn as replacing general news sites like Digg. We just think the story submission model can work and be powerful in a specialized area such as search, as well.
By the way, we’re not the first to try this for search. In February 2006, The Search Engine Press was launched, then John Battelle kicked off SearchMob in September of that year. Since then, we’ve had others appear, including BUMPzee and ISEdb Scoop. We’re happy to join them!
That was actually only the second time Bumpzee had been mentioned on Search Engine Land.
I can only assume that Bumpzee wasn’t gaining exposure on influential SEO / SEM blogs because of some kind of disclosure problem, or not wanting to promote a future competitor, or a future competitor owned by a strategic business partner.
PlugIM has never been mentioned, though it does pick up Danny’s content from Search Engine Land.
At least Sphinn can’t be accused of copying some of the better features on PlugIM.
Sphinn now exists, and will likely capture the attention of a large proportion of the SEM / SEO community, because ultimately most people involved in SEO / SEM in one way or another are attention and link whores.
Danny certainly has a fair amount of attention, and a lot of other people in the industry with attention are also promoting the site, at least a little.
It will continue to grow as long as Danny keeps driving traffic to it, but he is not even doing a very good job of that.
Guy Kawasaki leverages his own traffic to drive people to Truemors with an RSS feed above the fold on the front page.
Search Engine Land currently only has a link in the top right corner, and no voting buttons as standard.
I also noted that SEL has MyBlogLog removed. Does this mean they are going to try to make Sphinn more “social” with widgets as well?
Unfortunately Sphinn is a very category centric niche voting site – I don’t see it’s population growing beyond the aggregate subscriber base of Search Engine Land and SEOmoz.
With Sphinn, the guys from Search Engine Land are effectively claiming their own little kingdom in social news, unfortunately whilst it might be good for Danny to enhance his own attention, and maybe drive traffic to a number of sites that deserve some limelight (I have noticed Meg, Lyndon & Maki doing well), I am not sure this is such an ideal situation.
There are various groups of people involved in SEO / SEM who don’t even acknowledge that the others exist. The same is true of internet marketing and affiliate marketing.
What was really needed was for existing services to be given some attention, which would have the effect of building bridges between communities.
A service promoted significantly by the SEO / SEM and affiliate / internet marketing community could gain critical mass for a news network that allowed content that was more commercially flavoured, and such a community would also attract casual users, linkerati, press and ultimately drive more traffic to good content.
The best option possible would have been to adopt something that already existed.
Not the Same As Blog Social Networks
In my opinion this is not the same as blog social networks, within which Bumpzee also fall, competing against Mybloglog and Blogcatalog.
In theory there are 75M bloggers, and I doubt there are many more than 200K actively interested in SEO / SEM enough to be involved with a social news site on the topics. It is only when you start merging with internet marketing, affiliate marketing and “make money online” that you start hitting the 1M+ audience that is easily possible.
Spinn Exists – Have to Use It
I am already giving Spinn as much promotion as Danny is himself, with a voting link on every page. I want the attention, but hopefully I can also divert some of that attention towards other services that are equally deserving.
The Alexa data is more for future reference as Sphinn has just plummeted after its launch and will take a while to gain traction.
Including 4 voting buttons on a page is dividing attention, although I have removed StumbleUpon because providing a button was reducing any “thumbs up” I might receive.
Ultimately, if I was to remove one of the 4, it would currently be Sphinn.
It is honestly a shame that Danny and Search Engine Land took this direction. It would have been much better to promote the existing services extensively 4 months ago. By this time they would be booming, and drawing a much wider audience – such strategies have much stronger long term effects.
Of course it is not just Danny – Rand for instance didn’t even mention competing services in his post, and the first mention of the fact that it was running on Pligg rather than “the site itself has some fairly exceptional functionality” was by Carsten in the comments
When you share your audience with others, quite often you get it back in spades. Two posts in a row touching on reciprocity.
I would honestly much rather be bumping or plugging everyone’s posts than using Sphinn, because that would suggest growing cohesion within the industry, and not more splintering.
With that said, everyone interested in SEO and SEM should sign up with Sphinn, and also grab Michelle’s Sphinn plugin
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