Blekko Gives Users Knowledge, Control

Yesterday I talked about Blekko, a new search engine that’s gunning for the number three spot in the search market. I covered its new approach to search involving slashtags, and explained that Blekko’s registered users can create their own slashtags and even use other people’s slashtags. But Blekko offers its users more than that – much more, in fact.

Each search result on Blekko features a discreet line of Blekko-specific links under the link to the item. These links, in order, are labeled tag, seo, links, cache, ip, adsense, and spam. Some of them are described in Blekko’s video for new users.

Take the spam link, for example. According to Blekko CEO Rich Skrenta, if you click that link, you will never see that particular site in the search results again. It would be nice if Google did that, wouldn’t it? Meanwhile, as you’d expect, the ip link gives you the IP address for that particular result. You don’t even have to click that link, as hovering over it will give you the number.

It’s the seo link, however, that will give you a mind-blowing result, especially if you’re used to Google’s secrecy. Clicking it takes you to a page that shows you the site’s rank, number of inbound links, number of pages in the site, and more.

Some of this data is neatly organized under tabs, and going to these tabs can be downright eye-opening. You get a nice pie chart or two that separates the site’s incoming links by US state and country. You get crawl stats for the site that tell you how recently Blekko crawled it, how many pages were crawled, the average length of the pages, and more. You can get a list of URLs for all of the pages on the site that Blekko has crawled.

The duplicate content tab really made my jaw drop. Under this tab, Blekko lists domains that duplicate content from that particular site, how many sections are duplicated, and even links to the sites that duplicated content! Do I really need to tell you how useful this can be?

Given all the information you can get by clicking on the “seo” link, you may think the “links” link is a little pointless. Not true. The seo link only shows you the incoming links to the web page’s site as a whole. The links link, on the other hand, gives you a list of incoming links to that specific page. This can tell you just how popular the content is.

As with many search engines, Blekko also has its own toolbar that you can download. It lets you add to your slashtags from any website, mark spam as you browse, and – get this – view SEO data in real time. Certain specific commands in the Blekko toolbar get you specific information for the site or page that you’re on. For example, /ip performs a search of the IP address of the site you are on. Use the /source slashtag to view the HTML source of any website you are on. And the /adsense slashtag shows you other websites using the same AdSense ID. That’s just a sample of what it can do.

Jonathan Allen writing for Search Engine Watch noted a Blekko feature that cuts down on the spam. It’s in addition to the spam link I mentioned earlier. It’s called “auto-slashing.” Basically, Allen said that “when Blekko detects an overwhelming amount of spam in the index, or an over-engineered set of results (which it calls ‘gray-spam’)…it defaults to a public slashtag it has on the same topic.” For example, if you search for headache cures, Blekko will add “/health.” So you’ll get medical authorities weighing in on this topic.

Compare that to a search on Google on the same topic. You’ll get how-to sites, herbal remedies, and even Botox – all on the first page. Blekko thinks, with some justification, that searchers are getting tired of these kinds of results and want something they can really trust.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of the data that Blekko is providing openly to SEOs. Google talks a lot about transparency, but does it go as far as Blekko does in providing SEO-related stats? I don’t think so. I suspect if you ask around, you’ll find that Blekko’s toolbar has become the new darling of SEOs. Indeed, I first heard about Blekko in the SEO Chat forums when one of the members I deeply respect mentioned their toolbar.

On the other hand, Blekko’s whole approach challenges the SEO wisdom up to this point that what you really need is links. By offering what are effectively curated content areas through their slashtags, Blekko seems to be saying that there IS something more important than links when deciding a site’s relevance to a particular search. If Blekko gets real traction, some SEOs may need to adjust the way they do their job. Others, however, will find that they continue to benefit from doing what they’ve been doing all along – offering the best quality content they can to beat everyone else in their niche on the Internet.

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