Tag Cloud Blog Experiment: Netflix Case Study


Courtesy bigberries.com

How do bloggers measure their writing, article effectiveness, viral marketing power, and popularity with readers? Comments from readers and blog traffic can only provide a margin of insight into your effectiveness. Clive Thompson’s great New York Times article “If You Liked This, Your Sure to Love That” describes an interesting contest hosted by online movie rental company Netflix.

Netflix Offer

Netflix is offering anyone the opportunity to win a $1,000,000 prize. The challenge is to increase Netflix’s Cinematch it’s recommendation search engine. The engine suggests movie titles to consumers based on what they have chosen in the past. Netflix will pay out the cash prize to anyone who can increase their search accuracy by 10%. The leaders in this contest and their progress.

Netflix Problem

Statistical analysis and algorithms do not account for a genre of movies that have been described as quirky or unpredictable. The effect is called the “Napoleon Dynamite Problem” because it is said that this type of movie is either loved or hated by it’s viewers. Very little middle ground exists or gray area of preference.

Blogger’s Measurement Experiment: Posit for Answers

According to the article, Netflix is considering the following experiment:

“. . . hiring cinephiles to watch all 100,000 movies in the Netflix library and write up, by hand, pages of adjectives describing each movie, a cloud of tags that would offer a subjective view of what makes films similar or dissimilar. It might imbue Cinematch with more unpredictable, humanlike intelligence.”

Posit: How We May Learn

1. Bloggers set up a tag cloud for each individual blog article rather than for an entire blog’s library

2. If that can be done, the next step would be to ask readers to provide 3-5 adjectives that describe the blog article they just read.

3. Tag Cloud information would give bloggers an idea how readers perceived the value of their article and provide the following benefits:

3 Measurements Benefiting Bloggers

1. If a blog reader likes one article what other articles in your blog library would they enjoy?

2. Internal blog linking and construct could be improved if the blogger understood synergy between their articles

3. Don’t just rely on Categories as predictors for synergy between articles

Final Analysis and Acknowledgements

Netflix realizes that their best method to answers is to measure a social network: “It might imbue Cinematch with more unpredictable, humanlike intelligence.”


Thanks go to Vijay Krishna who alerted me to this information on Twitter.com: a fantastic social media site that provides 80% of my research data. You can find solid information by following Vijay on Twitter . Thanks also go to New York Times writer Clive Thompson for his insightful and wonderful piece on this challenge. Thank you Clive!

HTML Basics: A Tool Beginning Bloggers Should Not Ignore


HTML code aka Hyper Text Markup Language is a valuable tool for new bloggers even if the task of learning sounds intimidating or daunting. With some practice, it is a very helpful skill to pick up. Thanks go to Lid of the fantastically valuable blog Blogwell.com for her very valuable article “HTML for Bloggers.” This post is a quick summary to get your feet wet in HTML language. Due to the length of Lid’s article, I will provide links for the meat and content you should review

Please do three things:

1. Lid’s Cheat Sheet for HTML: Print out this document as it will save me, and you if you are a beginning HTML’r like me, tons of time.

2. Read: Go to Blogwell.com and read the entire article

3. Subscribe: If you believe in free, super valuable information and keeping your own RSS library full of pertinent content, then subscribe to this blog er Blogwell.com immediately

What is HTML?

HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) is a code language to create web pages. Within this language are commands that your web browser (ex:Firefox) interprets; these commands, called tags, provide the ability for your text to appear as italicized, bold, links, lists, headings and other types of formatting that make blog posts stand out

HTML “Lingo” aka Terminology

1. Command: this is a request or action you want your browser to perform such as making something appear in italics, bold, placing a hyper link, and other formatting

2. Tags: this is the “bookend” method of placing your commands inside the less than or greater than symbols < >. To understand how to utilize these tags, consult Lid’s article for full details.

a.) Opening tags: this is the beginning tag and it’s symbol is the “less than symbol” then your
command of choice followed by the “greater than symbol”. Example=
b.) End tags: most commands require an end tag. This is performed by a “less than symbol”, forward slash, your command, greater than symbol. Example=

3. Attributes: a method to “modify” commands is to add attributes. Lid’s example is when you choose a particular Font command you can further modify this command by adding a “color” attribute

4. SEO-Why Tags for Headings are Important: When you italicize or bold a heading you do it to draw attention to that keyword, to draw the reader’s attention, but most important you want Google to recognize it is important.

Tip: Remember H1 Tags (the largest with H6 being the smallest) should only be utilized once per page. For a complete understanding of tags, Lid suggests reading Stoney deGeyter’s post: How to use Hx Tags

5. Bold vs. Strong Tags–Italic vs. Emphasized Tags: due to recognition problems in some browsers, Lid suggests that you continue to utilize the command for Bold <b> instead of the new command for strong <strong>. Likewise the same applies for the Italic tag. Continue to utilize the Italic tag <i> and wait to utilize the new version “Emphasized Tag” <em> until the web browsers recognize it

Additional Resources To Learn HTML

1. W3schools.com provides tutorials and reference guides on web development for beginners all the way to advanced. HTML Primer and HTML Tutorial

2. University of South Dakota’s HTML Basics 101

3. Webmonkey Tutorials page

SEO Mistakes Bloggers Make Presentation Highlights WordCamp 2008

FoxBusiness.com published this deansguide article August 19, 2008

WordPress WordCamp 2008 in San Francisco was broken down into two separate programs one for users (User Track) and one for developers (Developer Track). Since the only code I have written was on a old “Get Smart” decoder ring, I was upstairs with the users. The programs were broken up into 20-30-60 minute sessions; the first significant session was Stephan Spencer’s “SEO Mistakes Most Bloggers Make.”

The following is a very abbreviated version of the ppt presentation provided for you. Take your time and absorb as much as possible using this post as an “appetizer” to the main course

SEO Mistakes Most Bloggers Make by Stephan Spencer

With the fondest of memories, Stephan Spencer’s session was a full blast steam roller of terminology, technical strategies, and examples. It was like trying to follow that once famous T.V. pitchman the “Fast Talker” through the backroom of the SEO underworld. Spencer is obviously a brilliant man with expertise at the highest level in the SEO world–no arguing the source, this guy is a Babe Ruth in his field

The full ppt of Stephan’s presentation is here for those who are looking for incredible detail and great strategies.

A Few Mistakes Not To Make

1. Allowing Title Tags to be “auto-generated” by your blogging software is a mistake

Solution: Handcraft your title tags and never allow your blog’s name to be attached to the beginning of your post title or category tag

2. Multiple Homes for your blog is a huge mistake

Solution: You do not want to your pages attached to multiple urls-only one url. Make sure each page has one url that the search engines recognize as the place to go for that particular page or you will be fragmenting your SEO power for that page

3. Date Based Archive reliance hurts your SEO and most blog platform software organizes your pages by date

Solution: Internal organization of your blog content into categories as well as “implementing tagging and tag clouds across your blog is a much more search engine optimal approach.”

4. Only One RSS Feed for your blog and it is not optimized

Solution: Each category on your blog should have it’s own RSS feed so that people only interested in a certain topic can subscribe to that topic and get only the information they want rather than the entire blog. If you utilize tag pages then you should have an RSS tag specific feeds

5. Placing Your Blog url or RSS Feed url on a blog domain you do not own. This one is especially painful because I am on a wordpress.com subdomain rather than my own domain I own. Eventually I will have to abandon my deansguide.wordpress.com so that I can control my adsense or advertising revenue

Solution: Bite the bullet and start a stand alone blog with a domain you own. Anything less means you don’t control your possible income or rules of engagement

For a complete list of the mistakes and fixes, please reference Stephan’s ppt presentation

Is Your SEO “Expert” Really An SEO Expert: 3 Keys To Verify Their Substance Factor

I am no SEO expert, no marketing expert, and no blogging expert but I do have expertise in all of these categories. In my travels around the SF Bay Area I attend upwards of 10 networking meetings or keynote events per month.

The hot topic is Web 2.0 SEO aka How to drive traffic to your site.

Unfortunately time and time again when I do my due diligence on the speaker’s background, their substance factor, and how their blog or websites rank I have recently been surprised by the results. Many speakers are knowingly misrepresenting themselves in regard to their credentials. Often times these speakers are leveraging their business accomplishments in other categories, unrelated to SEO or Web 2.0, as a means to securing these speaking “gigs.”


Simply put the average networking event keynote speech here in the Bay Area runs anywhere from $30-$65 per event. That adds up quickly and is of great concern when I am choosing events to attend

3 Key Factors To Check

When an “expert” claims they are going to speak about methods to increase your site’s traffic, Google rankings, and add links to your site you MUST perform some background checking if you want to understand if the speaker can deliver on his/her claims

#1 Alexa.com: Alexa.com (free service) remains one of the easiest, most telling sites in measuring traffic (page views and unique visitors) to a site either website or blog. Go to Alexa and input the url of your “expert’s site” for instant rankings. Alexa will return Global traffic, US rankings, and a mix of page view and unique visitor numbers.

Note: If an expert claims to be able to make your traffic “explode” then they better have an Alexa ranking of UNDER 1,000,000 at the very least.

Note 2: Alexa.com like any other measurement tool can not capture all web traffic. It is best to combine other traffic measurement tools with Alexa for a solid idea of a site’s traffic. Try Quantcast too

In my last two due diligence investigations on SEO “expert” speakers the first one came back with an Alexa ranking of over 19million which equates to about 10-20 visitors per day to their site. The second guy had a ranking in the 6million range which might provide 30 visitors per day

#2 Technorati: Links are considered the measurement of a site’s Google authority and a big part of the SEO formula. If you go to technorati.com (free tool) you can input the url and check on the number of hyper links which are coming into your “experts” site. If your expert has fewer than 10 links and they are old–he probably isn’t writing a worthwhile blog or he is not writing with consistency

#3 Evaluate their site: Do they write a blog? How often do they write per week? What is the date of the last blog post? Do they have a blogroll? Do they have widgets like mybloglog directory on their sidebar? Does the platform look dated? Do you like the way their sites looks?

Hits Myth

If your “expert” begins to speak about “hits” you might just want to bail. The term hits, although that is the only traffic measurement widget offered on wordpress blogs, is out dated and misleading. Hits can refer to any visitor who arrives at your site, clicks on any pictures, articles, or other documents. Each item is tallied as a hit.

You want to understand how many page views your expert’s blog-website receives; how many UNIQUE visitors, and their over all traffic ranking


If the “expert’s” site does not measure up in these 3 critical ways then how can the expert teach others how to increase their traffic and SEO power?

Realtor’s Search Engine Strategy #1: Traffic Is Meaningless Unless It Comes From Your Target–Finding Leads In Your Market

This video explains some of the content needs a blogger must address. I have provided a list of content subjects (below) that will give you a beginning template. Be creative!

Many people on Active Rain and other sites tout the idea of traffic and how to increase your website or blog traffic aka readership, unique visits, or page views. The reality is that hits, or any other terminology you wish to use to describe “eyeballs” is virtually useless in generating leads to eventual sales if those “eyeballs” aka traffic are not coming from your intended keyword-keyphrase campaigns.

What is the use of having hundreds of pages views per day if those views were generated by keywords or phrases that have nothing to do with the region, the county, city, neighborhood, your business name, your surname, your specialty, or specific searches related to real estate?

“Hyper Local” Strategy

The best example of a hyper local blog strategy can be found at http://theharperteam.com authored by Bay Area Realtor John Harper. John’s strategy is to provide unending value pinpointing everything, not just real estate, happening within their region.

Power of Hyper Local

Your subject matter is a wide variety yet it is focused upon your locality. Consequently you have a well rounded, rich library of articles which become traffic drivers that bring in people interested in finding you and your specialty.

Remember Why

If people do NOT KNOW YOUR SURNAME then writing a blog with a hyper local strategy will lead them to you and introduce them to who you are and what you provide the community

Subject Matter

The following are some of the subjects utilized in a hyper local blog:

1. Traditional market reports

2. State information

3. County information ie politics, legal issues, growth

4. City issues, politics, public works, projects, politicians, new construction

5. Neighborhood information analysis vs rest of city neighborhoods

6. School systems

7. New Shopping malls, facilities, supervisory news

8. Restaurants

9. Entertainment

10. Services

12. Seasonal issues fire safety etc

13. City History, Civic Leader interviews

14. WiFi cafes

15. Entrepreneurs

16. SEO strategies

17. Local networking or support groups

18. Carnivals, fairs,

19. Fund Raisers

20. Local Sports

The list goes on and on.

The Results and Analysis

1. By writing articles and providing valuable information, news, and analysis John has become a go to source of free information for his East Bay area.

2. Google Searches- due to John’s articles he has many pages of diverse subject matter yet related to hyper local activities that rank very high on page 1 searches for keywords related to real estate, his community, or how to guides

3. His specific hyper local strategy has helped him become an expert about his community without him utilizing any sales tactics. The tone is simply giving over and over again valuable information to community readers who eventually find John because of his high Google placement on so many hyper local topics