We want to thank everyone who completed the Customer Experience Survey. We had a great response, and the information provided was outstanding. We received a lot of great comments on the things that we are doing well, and what we need to improve. I assure you that your feedback has been heard, and we will continue to make every effort to meet your needs.
On another note, help us congratulate Jerry Russell. He is the winner of drawing for the iPod Touch.
As mentioned last week on the blog, we've now added Topics to the Ticketing System. So next time you reach out to Customer Love with a Ticket, you will be asked to choose a Topic and related Details from drop downs offered to you.
We're always looking for ways to expedite & improve our responses to your questions, concerns and suggestions. This is one more step toward that goal. Long term this will also help us measure where our customers are running into the biggest questions or delays, allowing us to provide more tools to help ensure your time on PayPerPost & all other IZEA sites is fun and productive!
Thanks for the tickets you send us - they're a great chance for us to listen, help, offer guidance, and best of all - connect with our customers one-on-one!
I have read a number of posts throughout the blogosphere regarding IZEARanks, RealRank and the potential impact on lower traffic bloggers. I want to address those concerns and provide my perspective on the importance of these and future analytics services we will offer.
I believe that a fundamental component of successful marketplaces is transparency and openness between buyer and seller. In the PPP and SocialSpark models the buyer is the advertiser and the seller is the blogger. The advertiser is interested in purchasing an ad unit that delivers a value (clicks, views, purchases) that coincides with an acceptable return on investment. The blogger is interested in maximizing the income from their blog and making the most money possible for the time and money they put into publishing it.
Buyers and sellers ultimately determine what something is worth based on a comparison of available options and alternatives. Some of those comparisons are apples to apples, others are apples to oranges. In our case advertisers can try different blogs and forms of advertising (display ads, search, affiliate programs) and bloggers can try different forms of monetization and ad networks. At the end of the day it comes down to market forces and value creation.
If PPP and SocialSpark are to be successful long term we need to keep the value equation in mind at all times. If the price/value ratio is too high advertisers will leave us, too low and bloggers leave us. There has to be a balance.I believe the best way to achieve that balance is by providing data to both parties so they can make informed decisions. Bloggers have the most data in the marketplace right now, but we have been making enhancements to improve visibility for advertisers.
Traffic is a big part of the value equation for advertisers (the buyers), for that reason IZEARanks and RealRank are a step in the right direction. The more comfortable advertisers are with what they are buying the more likely they are to engage bloggers.
What about the small bloggers?
I am personally convinced that there is a huge universe of untapped value in smaller bloggers. However, a blog with 100 pageviews a day should not command the same offer per post as a blog with 10,000 pageviews a day (generally speaking anyway). The PPP system allows advertisers to target based on overall traffic and assign a value to the blogs they are targeting. It should come as no surprise that blogs with higher traffic receive higher offers, but at the same time smaller bloggers should receive offers that are inline with the value they deliver.
That said traffic is only part of the equation. While RealRank provides insight into traffic, traffic doesn't always equate to return on investment for the advertiser. Here's an example:
Blog A : 1,000 pageviews a day : $10.00/post : 40 clicks on average = $.25 CPC
Blog B :10,000 pageviews a day : $100.00/post : 100 clicks on average = $1.00 CPC
While Blog B may be 10x bigger and deliver more clicks than Blog A, Blog A actually delivers a lower cost per click than Blog B. That could be because the quality of the post is higher, the blog is more targeted to the subject, the post stays on the homepage longer, the audience is simply more inclined to click, etc.
Advertisers can back into this value equation with some manual processing right now and I know many do. In the future we will make it even easier to determine historical value delivered with ROIRank.I believe all bloggers should focus on value creation for the advertiser, but it is even more important for smaller blogs as they can't depend on volume alone. Value is one metric that allows smaller blogs to compete with the big boys, especially if they focus on their niche.
We have already seen a favorable response from both advertisers and bloggers on RealRank. I look forward to making the system even better and more effective over time.
I am happy to announce that IZEARanks.com is now live to the general public. At the core of IZEARanks.com is RealRank. RealRank is the first site ranking service that focuses exclusively on measuring the traffic and influence of individual blogs throughout the blogosphere. RealRank aims to replace historically unreliable influence indicators such as Google PageRank, Alexa and Comscore by providing more accurate statistical data collected directly from the source.
Google PageRank is determined based on the combination of an unpublished ranking algorithm (which rates the quality of your site based on the number of other sites linking to it) and some apparently manual overrides to that algorithm's result. PageRank is not based on real traffic, but on what Google perceives as the quality of a website as determined by a link rating algorithm and some cloudy rules.
Thus, I can have a PR of 4 and 1,000 visitor a day or a PR of 4 and 10,000 visitors a day.
Alexa Rank uses Alexa toolbar users' browsing activity to extrapolate a guess as to a site's actual traffic, and what percentage of Internet users are likely to visit it. While Alexa attempts to estimate traffic based on a sample, they are inaccurate and do a terrible job when it comes to sites with smaller niche audiences.
ComScore does an even worse job when it comes to smaller sites. Many bloggers don't even register at all on ComScores radar. If you aren't a major media property your blog might as well not exist.
These issues aside the major problem is that all of these ranking sites focus on the web in general, taking into account enormous media properties and groups of sites. Blogs don't stand a fighting chance. No matter how good your blog is your not going to compete against Yahoo, YouTube or Wikipedia.
IZEARanks.com and RealRank is for blogs only. We don't want search engines, e-commerce sites, directories or anything else effecting the RealRank scores. RealRank is supposed to be a rank relative to other blogs. For that reason we ask people to flag those sites that aren't blogs so we can keep the system clean. We report numbers for all blogs along with the top 100 blogs in a variety of categories.
Advertisers and bloggers alike can use IZEARank.com to evaluate the RealRank of a blog over time along with pageviews and visitors. You can compare up to 10 blogs at a time with the graphing tool:
RealRank is Open
Unlike PR the RealRank scoring algorithm is public and open. RealRank is determined by utilizing the following formula:
70% weighted towards visitors per day
20% weighted towards amount of ACTIVE inbound links per day
10% weighted towards pageviews per day
We are also open in providing a public API. The API will allow developers to pull RealRank, pageviews and visitors for any blog that participates in the site. I am really excited about this and I can't wait to see what people do with it. You can query up to 5000 sites a day with the standard free key, if you need more let us know what you are up to and we can arrange something.
The most important component to being open is listening to feedback. Do you think we should change the ranking algorithm? Did you find a loop hole in the system? Great! We want to know. This is the Alpha version of the system and we are sure to have room for improvement. We have already gotten some feedback that stumbleupon visits aren't properly recorded and we are working on that (thank you AndyBeard). I hope there is more feedback over time.
Getting ranked is easy. Simply sign up for an account on IZEARanks.com, install the IZEAToolkit and claim your blog.
Separate from PayPerPost
IZEARanks is open to all bloggers and blog. The IZEA Toolkit (ITK) embed code used for IZEARanks is different than that for PPPTools on PayPerPost.com. You can choose to replace your PPPTools code with ITK if you like and your blog will still function in the same way and report your RealRank. Your PPP Direct badges and AdBubbles will work with either set of code.
Why the name IZEARanks?
As the name implies there will be more blog rankings in the future including ROIRank, a ranking system based on the return on investment a blogger provides for an advertiser. The site will grow over time to provide advertisers and bloggers with more detailed data.
I just wanted to post a heads up. Izearanks.com went into test on Friday with a handful of external users. Those users have been dilligently banging away on the site and have found a couple of bugs that we'll have fixed in short order. At this point it looks very likely we'll be opening the site up to everyone the first week of January.
Izearanks.com is a new site that lets users not only see the stats we have gathered to produce their RealRank, but also compare their site against any other in the system. You can drill down to see the detail traffic and rank information for a week, zoom out to see months of data at a time, and even view the realranks top 100. There's even an API attached for people to start producing their own applications that make use of izearanks data.
As expected, there are a handful of people gaming the system, and so the next phase of the project for us will be to start building out solutions to identify cheating and stop it. We don't expect this to have a specific end date but rather will be an ongoing exercise for quite some time. Given the nature of RealRank in particular (that's its an open formula, and that we want it to be adopted far and wide) we're even asking for people that find ways of gaming the system to let us know what they did. We'll then use the data those people provide to help extend the system and ultimately move towards our goal of having RealRank be the definitive traffic based ranking system on the Internet.
The last month and a half has been a bit crazy around the IZEA offices. I felt like SocialSpark was on track at PostieCon and we would be well through our initial Alpha at this point. Unfortunately we were thrown for a bit of a whirl shortly after returning from the event. The PR issue caused us to fast track a public ranking site for RealRank and make changes in PayPerPost that we didn't intend to make until after SocialSpark launched. We have also been battling an ever increasing amount of spammers who are trying to use Zookoda to sell you Viagra and Canadian Meds. As a result our development staff has been splintered and we couldn't release the Alpha as we intended. For that I apologize. Believe me, nobody wants these sites live more than we do.
If you were at PostieCon we haven't forgot about you. We will hook you up with a SocialSpark test drive as soon as we possibly can, but we aren't there yet. Both IZEARanks (the public site for RealRank and eventually other rankings) are slated to go live in January. IZEARanks will go first and SocialSpark will follow later in the month.
Randy and his team have been traveling around the country showing off the features of SocialSpark and the response from agencies and brands has been extremely positive. I am confident we have a killer app on our hands and I can't wait until we unleash it.
Sometimes this software stuff is just plain hard.
We had planned to release IzeaRanks.com this week but have instead err'd on the side of caution. IzeaRanks.com will let each of you drill down into just what your RealRanks actually mean. Whether you're a PayPerPost user, a SocialSpark user, or just a blogger looking for a great set of analytics, IzeaRanks.com will be the place to go to compare your blog to other blogs, grab the Izea ToolKit and drill down into the data behind RealRank for any blog we track.
We're almost there, but almost there doesn't really cut it. We still need to run QA over the site, we still have some elements that we want to clean up and tidy up, and there are still a couple of features that we really want to have in place, including an API that you mash-up producers can hook into.
With that in mind we're delaying the launch until the first week of January.
However, in what is really a first for this company, we're asking for a few volunteers to come into the site in development next week, kick the tires and generally give the whole thing a good workout. If you're interested, drop me a line directly (pete at(@) izea.com). In this first week we're limiting the test to not much more than 20 users so if you don't get a reply from me I'm afraid you didn't get in to the early test; fret not - you only have a couple of weeks to wait.
We rolled out RealRank last Wednesday and crossed our fingers. I had a pretty good feeling that we created something that our advertisers would find value in, but you never know until you see the numbers. The first few days were admittedly slow (and scary). Opp creation was down in general during the Thanksgiving holiday, but since then utilization of RR has picked up a bit. Well, I'm lying. More than a bit.
In fact 60% of all Opps created since Thanksgiving day have used the RealRank requirement. I am both excited and relieved. I truly believe that this the path towards higher quality bloggers in our system...leading to better ROI for advertisers...leading to more advertisers..leading to better pay for bloggers and so on. I am hoping to see that RR utilization number climb over time as we have more blogger adoption.
No-Follow Option Coming
By weeks end we will roll out a new No-follow option for advertisers in PayPerPost. No-follow has always been something that advertisers could specifically ask for, now we have made it as easy as clicking a button. Bloggers that are more comfortable with no-follow sponsored posts should hopefully see more and more opportunities over time.
We had already committed to required no-follow in SocialSpark (prior to the Google Blogosphere Rampage), now advertisers will have the option to easily do so in PayPerPost.
I have seen a few questions (Tim from Bloggerista.net) floating out there in regards to the importance and scoring of links in RealRank. We have committed to being open about the system and how it works, so I want to take some time to explain. We assign link scores based on ACTIVE links. We define an active link as a link that has been clicked that day. Google (as far as anyone knows) treats all links as active, regardless of whether they have been clicked or not. I call these dead links.
Why don't we count dead links? We all know that link building is a common practice in the blogoshpere and the web in general. Bloggers and companies alike can build up links over time, regardless of whether or not they have quality content and an actual reader base. You can wind up with hundreds or thousands of links to a site buried in directories, infinitely long blog rolls, comment streams and so on. The bottom line is links without clicks don't really mean much - "dead to me".
I know what you all are saying. "Great, I got on all these blog rolls to pump up my PR and now you are telling me that they don't matter". No, that's not what I am saying. If people are actually clicking on those links then they will be counted. However, I will tell you that most people reading blogs don't click on blog rolls as much as they used to. Remember, RealRank is trying to determine reach and influence, not amount of inbound links. That is the beauty of having real stats.
"Ok, so how do I get active links?" Funny you should ask. I have a thought I'll share:
The Remora Effect
While putting a link in a sidebar may generate a few clicks here and there, the most active links in the blogoshpere are found in the body of a blog post itself. The biggest bloggers ("Whales") have known about the value of active links for quite some time and use this principle to generate blog traffic. The Whales create content so compelling that other bloggers write about it and link back to them ("Remoras"). The post from the Remora is then posted in a trackback, comment or within an update of the post itself. This creates what is called The Remora Effect, a symbiotic relationship creating active links for both the Whale and the Remora. This helps bolster each participant's reputation as an influencer and active participant in the conversation around a topic.
As Colleen proved with her post about the IZEA name change, anyone can be the Whale and anyone can be the Remora. In that case Colleen was the Whale and Robert Scoble was the Remora. The key is content. Great content usually equals great influence.
There are plenty of other ways of getting active links, some more effective than others. I invite you all to share your thoughts in the comments.
A few of you have asked how you can get involved with RealRank. More to the point, how do you sign up to get one, what do you have to do to participate, how do you check it, and so on.
When is this all happening?
Tomorrow, fingers and toes crossed, we'll be calculating RealRanks for all PayPerPost users that have ITK (PPP Tools) installed. We'll be displaying your RealRanks to you inside PayPerPost.com.
At the same time, Advertisers will be able to start segmenting opps based on RealRank. They'll be able to choose to limit an opportunity to people in the top 10%, 20%, 30% and so on of the RealRank ranges.
Late next week we'll roll out a new site showing detailed analytics on blogs and also open up RealRank reporting to non PPP users.
January, SocialSpark will tie up the loose ends, with face based analytics and even more data reporting.
How to get a RealRank
If you already have ITK installed (PPPTools) then you don't need to do anything at all.
What does it do?
The new ITK (again, formerly known as PPPTools) simply monitors traffic on your blog. We track inbound referrers, unique visitors, page views, geographic location of your visitors, and also identify which PayPerPost and SocialSpark users visit your blog. We use the count of unique visitors, incoming links and page views in a mathematical equation to come up with a score for your site. The resulting score is also weighted in some areas. 70% of the score relates to unique visitors, 20% relates to inbound links and 10% to page views. The formula also takes into account gaming (repeatedly refreshing a site to boost traffic artificially and other such practices) and downplays those activities so that they don't have a big effect on the score.
Once all the blogs we are tracking have had a score calculated we rank them. The site with a rank of 1 is the top site in the network. If we are tracking 100,000 blogs, then the site with a rank of 100,000 is currently the weakest.
How do I see my RealRank?
As a PPP user just go to the PPP Tools page in PayPerPost.com and you'll see it there, right alongside the other ranks we currently use. We show you the rank for your blog and the size of the network that it's based on. That's after we roll the changes out, of course.
Once Thanksgiving is out of the way we'll be opening up a new site where you'll be able to see much more detailed data on your blog. You'll be able to see actual traffic figures, your RealRank's movement over time, and more. You'll also be able to compare your site's performance to that of others in the network.
When SocialSpark rolls out we'll expose face-based analytics. If we identify a visitor to your blog as someone we know (an IZEA network user), we'll show you a picture of them.
What if I don't want the world to see my vital statistics?
All this openness is not for everyone. From within PayPerPost.com, just go to the PPP Tools page, scroll down to the bottom, and hit the checkbox that says you don't want your data published. We'll still give you your RealRank score, but when the dedicated RealRanks site launches we won't let other people see all the nitty gritty detail about your site.
What if I don't want the world to see which sites I visited?
Same as above. If you don't want your face showing up on other people's blog stats in SocialSpark in January, just hit the checkbox that says to hide you.
Is this all part of an evil ploy by Izea that we don't know about?
Nope. We just think it's time Google PageRank died a quick and quiet death. We'll be exposing API's for all the world to get at RealRank data further down the road, and whenever we change the calculation that works out a site's score, and thus rank, we'll happily publish the changes for everyone to see.