Thanks to my eternally trustworthy pal Paul Gailey, I was made aware that one of my favorite analytics tools, Post Rank, has just announced it has been acquired by Google. And I don't think it's wise to underestimate how important this will be for the world of search and social media.
I suspect a lot of people in the UK have never heard of Post Rank---or at the very least have rarely used the service beyond tinkering. But for more than three years, this has been the bread and butter of blog analytics for both me and the clients I have built and serviced blogs for.
In short, Post Rank attributes a value to each social gesture that a reader may perform on your blog. So, if you look on the left of this blog, there is a list of posts which have attracted a score depending on their popularity. Retweets score differently to bookmarks, comments receive a different score to Facebook shares, and so on. The hugely important distinction to make, is that whilst the values do not necessarily mean anything in any financial or volume-based context we may already be familiar with, the system allows us to set targets and assess something that we are all looking at: attention and authority.
Any post can be widely read---but if nobody re-tweets it, is it in any way influential on that topic? In the same way that Facebook Likes, Retweets, Diggs and so on each represent a modern day "vote" of favor to a piece of content, Post Rank allows you to collate all these votes and provides you with the intelligence to shape your content plan to ensure that it is relevant more often than not, and in being relevant, stands much more chance of being re-posted (and seen) elsewhere.
I have developed over time, a methodology of posting content by very specific content categories (based on conversation monitoring), which is then measured against a Post Rank score for each category of post. Depending on the score of each post, we accurately know what type of content is most responded-to by the audience and can therefore post more content of this type---whatever it is.
Social Search Engine Results Pages
But what does this have to do with the future of search? Look at where search has gone over the last few years and the overwhelming focus has been on addressing the volumes of social content on the web.
- Universal search introduces video (typically from YouTube) and images alongside standard search engine results pages (SERPs).
- Google's Caffeine update places more influence on delicious (among other things).
- Real-time tweets for popular topics appear alongside "static" SERPs.
- The Google avatar of friends in your network who have shared content that appear in SERPs are visible.
And so on ...
The point is, that without any doubt, google's issue has been one of attributing human "votes" to content. Post Rank fills this gap.
Take a look at its Google Reader filter below, and you can begin to see just how Post Rank's system can provide such huge feedback on human votes of confidence in content.
I can now filter my Google Reader content according to what Post Rank has been able to determine are Good, Great or Best (or all) score. This means, it is giving me a score based on the human voted-for scores of content that is out there on the web.
Google Reader is giving me the most relevant content as judged by the interactions/votes of my peers and indeed the myriad people who have also "voted" for this content by sharing, rating and bookmarking it.
Granted, it may not be the most recent (and I have to admit, I don't know how frequent post rank indexes the content, but it seems pretty instant).
A Ready-Made Human Recommendation System
So, in Post Rank, it would appear that Google is acquiring a ready-made system that provides the much-lauded human attribution of search relevance. What it will look like, maybe the above graphic gives us some clues, but I just hope they maintain the service as-is and not let it disappear like they did with Jaiku. Post Rank, please tell us one way or the other!