Google‘s rise came because the internet exploded. The number of websites got so large that it was impossible to find anything by simply using human built online directories (like the old Yahoo).

But has the internet gotten too large for any single search engine? Microsoft doesnt think so, they just launched Bing. Google has moved into other areas of content creation (email, mobile, documents, etc.).

There are new search engines launching almost daily. Real time search engines. Social search engines. Semantic search engines.

Each tries to to the same thing. Take a keyword query and return what their technology determines is the single best answer.

At the same time of the internet’s explosion, blogs have also exploded. Every day tens of thousands of blogs are started. Every day thousands of pages of content is created.

Throw on top of all that the explosion of social media. Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and others are platforms where content is created almost minute by minute.

The speed of the expansion of the internet and the content created has accelerated to the point where no search engine can provide the one right answer to a single keyword query. The ability to find relevant content has become almost a losing battle.

Whats the answer? Its influence.

I have spoken on influence in the past (most recently at WordCamp Chicago):

Here is the basic concept: influence is on a one-to-one basis. Thats it. You can influence one person about one thing. Thats it.

So how does that matter in terms of search?

Imagine starting with an influencer. Think about a subject that matters to you. Who do you consider the expert on that topic. Then search through a corpus of content that person creates and curates. Your results will always be the most useful and relevant. They cant be any other way.

Marketers, Brand Managers and Advertisers believe the same thing. Walmart has put a ton of effort into finding online influencers and associating themselves with them. Same with many major brands.

Brands are learning that keyword search marketing is not as effective as it once was. Its too general, people are using more and more keywords in their queries to drive relevance. It has become all about the influencers.

IZEA knew that when they pioneered Pay-Per-Post. Regardless of your feelings around its morality, the practice has been booming, and while IZEA first iteration wasnt the best, they seem to have really figured something out, having attracted many top bloggers, and now provide a score and pricing based on the what the inherent influence of the blogger appears to be (I think they lay on traffic a bit more than true influence, but I really dont know).

The addition of influence into search is our model at Lijit. With a distributed model of search, we have to rely on the blogger to provide clue’s as to what the results should be. Add that the searcher trusts the expertise of the blogger, and you end up with a much better answer for the query. In essence, the influence of the blogger is added to the search to return the best results for the searcher, not a single answer for all searchers, but the right answer for that searcher from that blogger.

In the past, Google relied on the fact that people trusted their results as being better than all others (not being the best), and that with their scale, they could train searchers how to search (think about query + zip code).

Yet with the ability for anyone to create content, the concept of content filtration becomes even more important that simple algorithmic search or searcher education. Which creates the rise of influence online. People have become filtration points.

Which has fundamentally changed how people interact with the web. Less and less people are using iGoogle or MyYahoo or Google or a portal to start their online experience. More and more people are starting their experience online with the blog or site that influences them most.

The web has become about people, and influence is the new hotness.

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Micah May 5th


A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to participate in WordCamp Denver. The night before, there was a speakers/VIP dinner, which was awesome because so many of my friends where there.

Among the crew was Ben Huh of Pet Holdings (they run the ICanHasCheezburger network) and Matt Mullenweg of Automattic (they run WordPress). The three of us got to talking about post titles (of all things).

Ben talked about how he had a team of moderators whose job it was to read and curate all the submissions to the various Pet Holdings sites. He expressed the difficulty that exists with matching posts to each other because of the unique language used to title and tag everything.

Matt talked about how they measured the importance of the title of posts in increasing readership, and how they noticed that some people were really masters at writing titles. Matt mentioned that the title was something he left to the end (as do most bloggers), and it was something that he felt that he could improve on.

For me, I explained that I love writing titles and that often I dont write the post until the title forms in my brain. That for me, the post is driven by the title, rather than the opposite.

As the weeks past, this conversation continued to replay itself in my brain.

“Why are titles so important?”

When I did SEO full-time, I spent a lot of time building title tags for clients. The title on the page became the clickable link within the search results that (hopefully) was interesting enough for the searcher to click on and drive meaningful traffic to the client’s site.

I had a newspaper client. We used to talk a lot about how newspapers, by definition, were always a day late with news. Therefore the headlines would assume that you already knew what was going on.

Instead of: “Challenger Space Shuttle Explodes to the Horror of Many”

You would get: “Tragedy in the Sky”

Which works better for blog posts?

I am no journalist. I rarely write about events (apparently you can get sick if you kiss a pig?) current or otherwise. My titles should be interesting enough, that people are open to reading the rest of the post. My titles are the marquee. The post is the drinks served inside. (Comments are when someone decides to buy me a drink…I could on forever with this analogy…)

For me, titles are the most fun part of writing, and the most important. Since I dont have a “big” name and people dont read my posts simply because I wrote them, my titles need to be compelling enough to draw readers in.

Here are my three rules of title writing:

1) Is the first word I utter after reading a title: “interesting”? Then its a good title.

2) Would I conclude my post with the title? Then its a good title.

3) Am I disappointed in the post after reading the title? Then the title sucks.

I tend to keep titles to 5-7 words max. I tend to use mixed case. I tend to not care about the SEO of the title. I tend to change my title as the post grows.

There has to be more than that, right? Why do people fret so much over the titles that they write?

For most people, they spend a lot of time writing and researching their posts. A bad title could reduce readership significantly, while a great title could drive readership through the roof.

After all, the game of blog writing is engaging your readers. If you cant engage them by the titles of the posts you write, then most likely, your posts will also be less engaging.

Here is another tip: If you saw your title in the middle of 10 other similar titles (say on a Lijit or Google SERP), would you click on it?

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Not really.

I spent the weekend trying to get several projects back on track. Including this blog (3 posts), 365andChange (1 video), and (ok, I cheated, same video as 365andChange).

Here is the content I produced:

On LearnToDuck:

1) The Blog Poets – A post about the Beat Generation and how its alive and well in our blogging communities.

2) Community is Big in Omaha – Why its important to support conferences like BigOmaha and entrepreneurial communities outside the coasts.

3) Influence Locally; Evangelize Globally – My web2.0expo wrap up post, where I explore HOW to become more influential.

On 365andChange: (If you are not aware of this project, I am trying to make daily changes to affect a major change over a year.)

Resetting the Project – A status update on a dormant project, and what I am going to do with it.

On I cheat.

Resetting the Project – A status update on a dormant project, and what I am going to do with it.

Whew. That was a lot. But, it definitely made me feel good to start producing content and getting my thoughts on paper and video…