Can you drink beer and stare at your navel at the same time?

I did try to promise myself I wouldn’t return to the subject of the Wikio beer blog rankings again. Frankly, there aren’t more than 50 people in the country interested in them. If that. (Of which navel gazing, more later.) But I indicated, I believe, when I raised the subject before that Wikio’s presentation of its rankings as being properly meaningful, rather than simply an artefact of the way it fixes the measurements, is actually harmful to those rated lowly by its methodology, who deserve much better.

Wikio’s methodology statement says

The position of a blog in the Wikio ranking depends on the number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs. These links are dynamic, which means that they are backlinks or links found within articles. Only links found in the RSS feed are included. Blogrolls are not taken into account, and the weight of any given link increases according to how recently it was published. We thus hope to provide a classification that is more representative of the current influence levels of the blogs therein.

But does Wikio’s methodology really reflect blogs’ influence, and blogs’ importance? I have serious doubts. They’ve decided that recent links from other bloggers are far more meaningful than numbers of links or numbers of visitors, without giving, as far as I’m aware, any rigorous justification for this: it’s just their opinion. Which is not necessarily any better than your opinion, or mine. And the result is that the three British beer blogs that Alexa says come one two and three for highest number of visitors come 37, one and 65 in Wikio’s rankings. Now, any system that ranks the blog with the third highest number of hits as only the 65th most important is, you might think, curious. But only if your dictionary defines “curious” as “a crock of shit”.

As you can see from the table below, there are currently at least four beer blogs in the Alexa top 20 that Wikio reckons aren’t in the top 40 and two in Alexa’s top 10 that aren’t even in Wikio’s top 60. Wikio’s top 10 and the Alexa top 10 have just four blogs in common. Blogs such as Beermerchants, BarBlog, Beer Reviews, Lager Frenzy, Real Ale Blog and TTBOOB (and I am going to be SO in trouble for turning Melissa’s “Taking the Beard out of Beer” site into an acronym there) are damaged by Wikio’s rating system, because it makes them look much less popular than they really are.

British beer bloggers ranked by Alexa numbers

Rank

Beer
blogger

Wikio
rank

Alexa
number

1

Beermerchants

37

966,596

2

Pete Brown

1

1,119,647

3

BarBlog

65

1,124,657

4

Beer Reviews

17

1,259,553

5

Lager Frenzy

67

1,266,355

6

Zythophile

15

1,507,757

7

Mark Dredge

2

1,517,507

8

Beer Nut

5

2,057,445

9

Real Ale Blog

44

2,060,741

10

Boak & Bailey

8

2,103,065

11

Cooking lager

2,574,168

12

Melissa Cole/TTBOOB

29

2,670,813

13

Blog o’ Beer

41

2,683,320

14

Adrian Tierney-Jones

11

2,731,265

15

Tandleman

3

3,460,191

16

Real Ale Reviews

16

3,645,297

17

Barm

3,987,499

18

Hopzine

26

4,095,714

19

Ex-Woolpack Dave

7

4,152,508

20

Pub Curmudgeon

6

4,520,903

And what’s with this “number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs” line anyway? What’s happening under the Wikio system is that blogs that aren’t read by other beer bloggers, but ARE read by the public in (comparatively) large numbers, such as Beer Merchants, Bar Blog, Beer Reviews and Lager Frenzy, aren’t getting credit. I’d reckon that Greg at Bar Blog (looks like a nice boy) has considerably more influence on where people go for a night out than, with respect, the Pub Curmudgeon, despite their being almost 60 places apart in the Wikio rankings.

Who gives a flying fark what bloggers think of each other anyway? If you’re a blogger and you’re writing for recognition from fellow bloggers, stop it, right away – just walk away from the computer.

The first reason to blog is to amuse yourself. Indeed, that can be your only reason: I’d be cool with that. It’s vanishingly unlikely you’re getting paid for this, but if you enjoy it, then despite Samuel Johnson’s famous claim, that’s enough.

The second reason to blog is to amuse the public, if you’re big-headed enough to think you can amuse them. I include within “amusing the public” giving them information they might not otherwise have, pointing them in the direction of new experiences and ideas, and offering a new slant on events old and current: all my own favourite bloggers do this. And what you then get is links from the public, if they like what you’re doing, via bulletin boards, via digg and reddit and the like.

So on that basis, I reckon Alexa’s take on links, measuring REAL links, not just blogger-to-blogger links, is better than Wikio’s. And again, there are some considerable differences between the two versions: just six of Wikio’s top 10 in the Alexa top 10, with Melissa and the Beer Merchants (up 24 places and 28 places respectively) getting more good reason to do something wicked to Wikio. What the table doesn’t show, because I CBA to extend it that far, is that one of Wikio’s Top Ten Beer Bloggers fails to even make Alexa’s top 25 for links, suggesting that he’s popular among fellow bloggers but the public don’t read him, and link to him, that much. (And indeed, the same man falls from the top 10 on Wikio right out of the top 30 of Alexa’s most-visited UK beer blog sites, suggesting Alexa is pretty rigorous in judging public popularity.)

British beer bloggers ranked by Alexa links

Rank

Beer
blogger

Wikio
rank

Alexa
links

1

Pete Brown

1

139

2

Beer Nut

5

125

3

Zythophile

15

121

4

Boak & Bailey

8

114

5

Melissa Cole/TTBOOB

29

76

6

Mark Dredge

2

63

7=

Tandleman

3

50

7=

The Bitten Bullet

9

50

9=

Beermerchants

37

42

9=

Real Ale Reviews

16

42

But ultimately, you know – it doesn’t really matter at all. There’s been some navel gazing in the beer blogging world recently: does anybody read us? Does beer matter? The answers, for me, are (a) not many people but I really don’t care, I enjoy writing my blog, and that’s enough; and (b) no, not as much as my family, my home, my friends, doing my job well, listening to good music, staying healthy, and a ticklist of other good things that push beer down to maybe ninth or tenth in my list of important things in life. If that.

This coming general election will be the 11th I have been able to vote in (I scraped in to be eligible to vote in my first one by just two days) and the first in which I won’t be voting Labour: not because their policy on pubs and beer is crap, though it is, but because my home is close enough to Heathrow Airport to be already blighted enough by aircraft roaring over sometimes to past 11pm and I am completely opposed to Heathrow’s expansion, which Labour is not; and because the libertarian in me is completely opposed to identity cards, which Labour is not; and because I’m lucky enough to have Vince Cable as my MP. What’s his favourite beer? Don’t know, don’t care. He opposes another runway at Heathrow and the introduction of ID cards: he’s my man.

26 thoughts on “Can you drink beer and stare at your navel at the same time?

  1. I do agree with you but the Wikio list is a particular type of ranking based on web-presence and searchability in search engines, I think, not on a reflection of the best writing.

    To measure a blog’s success purely by its number of visitors is also flawed without analysing return hits, unique hits, how long they stay for, etc. To say that the best is the one with the most visitors is like saying the guy with the biggest dick is best in bed or the team with the most fans will win the most games.

    Does it matter either way? Have these lists been good for beer blogging? Probably not, but we’ve got it now. The ‘best’ naturally come to the top and they will be the ones with the most consistent and return visitors. Probably. (I don’t really understand any of this internet stuff…)

    (FYI, and unrelated, I got your book last week, looking forward to reading it!)

    Like

  2. Whatever you may think of it, the objective of “The Pub Curmudgeon” isn’t to influence where people go for a night out, so you’re not comparing like with like there. Indeed one might argue it isn’t really a “beer blog” at all.

    Like

    • On a more serious point Mudgie has hit the nail on the head. Most beer blogs have as their theme the writers concerns and usually comparing one with another is an apples and oranges exercise.

      As you rightly point out Z, it isn’t for most people a popularity contest, but a way of enjoying themselves.

      Like

  3. I’m delighted to hear that I may in fact be an influential beer bluffer (sorry, blogger). Although, lets face it, anything with ‘lager’ in the title is in with a fighting chance of getting lots of hits.

    I’m with you on the measuring front. I don’t really care how many hits I get as that’s not what I’m in it for. Doesn’t stop me having a look every other day though🙂

    However, I’m sure that many of the beer bloggers who also actually work in beer professionally do benefit from having a high profile on Wikio. But Wikio is really just another directory site that can be used to get links back to your site. There’s lots of other ones that are just as effective, but don’t have the same competitive element.

    Alexa has its shortcomings as well, as do all ways of measuring. I’m on a job at the moment that uses three systems to measure the same site and they all come up with different results. And no way of seeing which is ‘right’.

    Like

  4. As a newcomer to both blogging and your blog itself, I agree wholeheartedly with the points you make as to why we blog. I blog for both the reasons you identify – a) mainly to have an outlet where I can ramble on about things I’m interested in and b) to occasionally stir up a dialogue with my one or two followers (all friends past and present). These lead to a smug feeling that someone cares about what I say – given most of the kids that come to watch me teach everyday don’t.

    I don’t write about beer beyond mentioning it occasionally because I don’t know enough about it – I’m an end user having come quite late to it at 15 (c. 1971) but I enjoy reading well-researched and well-written articles.

    I also think that this type of community is important. The one or two blogs I follow are about diverse subjects such as watercolour painting, cartoons, beer (now) and, well, Mike Chisholm’s literate wanderings – mostly about his photography. We may all be geeks in our own way but one thing the internet allows is us to keep out of harm’s way and get on with our lives. Most of the people I know that blog weren’t really made for this modern world. Nothing wrong with looking back – cars have rear-view mirrors to “watch for anything missed” as Craig Raine would have it.

    Like

  5. I was somewhat gobsmacked when my blog first appeared on the Wikio rankings, to be honest. But I think the reason why it is perhaps ranked disproportionately highly is that it attracts at lot of links from non-beer blogs in the more general “lifestyle freedom” area. As you say, the day you start writing to gain the approval of others is the day you should give up blogging.

    Like

  6. You’ve forgotten the most important reason to beer blog, scounging free beer.

    When I was offered some free lout, it made my day. Who cares about rankings? Unless you are saying that results in more nice people offering you free grog?

    Like

    • ‘You’ve forgotten the most important reason to beer blog, scrounging free beer.

      Ah yes, that’s entirely true. Lead me to a beer blogger who says he or she isn’t interested in getting nicely pissed enjoying fine refreshment at someone else’s expense and I’ll invite you to shake hands with a liar.

      Like

  7. I was surprised that Wikio is a self-submission ranking system. I’m not sure I want to be part of any club that will accept my membership that easily, although you could argue that given my Alexa rankings, I would say that. Although I enjoy most of the blogs that Wikio ranks highly, there’s also an element of ‘why bother?’ As you imply, blogging for other bloggers is a bit of a circle jerk – I like to communicate with the curious amateurs, and try to turn people on to good beer – you could argue that beer blogging isn’t the way to do that at all.

    Like

  8. Well Zak, speaking as a curious amateur, you could try an Ancient Mariner approach and stand around outside a pub and “stoppeth one in three” – then you could buy them a pint of decent beer and extol it’s virtues.

    Just a thought.

    Like

  9. I always knew Melissa’s BOOBs were more popular than Wikio made out.

    I write because the little green hop pixie tells me to. As long as it makes me laugh and entertains/informs at least one other person enough for them to buy me an occasional pint, I’m happy.

    It’s only beer.

    Like

  10. Dave – I guess in terms of take up, it would be quite good, but financially ruinous. Perhaps as a compromise I could buy you a third next time you’re in Leeds?

    Curmudgeon – I’m fairly sure a blog has to be submitted to be part of the rankings. If I search for my blog (not that I would ever indulge in such virtual Onanism, you understand), I get a message saying “It seems “thebeerboy.blogspot.com” has not yet been submitted to Wikio. If you would like to suggest this site to our editorial team, click here”. Maybe a fan submitted your blog for consideration?

    Scoopie – good reasons all, except the pixies obviously – recently banned as outlined on Pete Brown’s blog.

    Having just checked my Alexa ranking, I seem to have dropped about three million places in the last quarter – this must be a record, surely?

    Like

  11. Pingback: Appellation Beer: Beer From a Good Home » Blog Archive » How Wikio ranks the US beer blogs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s