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In early 2007 I had the desire to rank the world's biggest personal development blogs to see where my own website, PluginID (now offline), stood amongst its peers.

Back then I sorted the sites by Alexa traffic rank, Google Pagerank and their 'authority' on a blog search-engine called Technorati.

Today, that approach wouldn't work.

Google Pagerank isn't really a thing anymore (at least not in public), Alexa stats are questionable to say the least and Technorati no longer exists.

These days, listings of the "best blogs" in a niche tend to be ranked by how many followers they have on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube (or similar).

It's not the worst thing to measure by, but it could be better.

To us, the current approach to ranking sites by their number of social media followers simply isn't fair.

Not only are those numbers easy to 'game', but just because you have a lot of likes on Facebook doesn't necessarily mean you're still producing great content in your space that people enjoy.

There are many sites with hundreds of thousands of likes that get just a few thumbs-up per update, and it's purely because they've been around so long that they have so many followers.

When thinking of how to rank the best sites in each niche, we decided to rank sites based on how many other sites and real people are talking about them.

We do this using two sources:

  • Our own link crawler (8-bit-bot) which crawls thousands of sites each day
  • The Twitter search API to find tweets about websites

Just like Google search results are great but rarely 'perfect', we don't think this is the perfect solution to the problem, but in our mind produces the fairest and most accurate answer to "What are the best sites in [niche] right now?".

With this approach, it means that newer sites consistently producing great content can rise fo the top of their niche, even if they're only a few months old and don't have millions of social media followers.

It also means well established sites - as long as they're still producing content that people talk about - keep their deserved 'status' as one of the leaders in their field.

For most of you reading this is probably all you need and want to know, but for those of you are even more curious, we'll keep going...

8-bitbot: The Detailed Web Crawler

Something we plan to increasingly rely on for our rankings in 2018 is our web crawler, aptly named 8-bitbot.

Right now we're using our crawler very lightly in rankings, with a plan to become more dependent on it throughout the year.

When it comes to ranking sites we don't believe automation is the answer, and think a personal approach helps produce the best results.

For instance, in the marketing world, Ahrefs are one of the biggest software companies that exist. While their blog gets attention, it's not necessarily the most popular or 'best' in the space.

If we counted every mention of Ahrefs, and not just their blog, they would get an unfair advantage in our rankings.

We can find examples in every category where a huge brand (like Deposit Photos in the photography niche) picks up thousands of mentions for things that have nothing to do with their blog. In such scenarios, we try to exclude these unrelated mentions from our data.

While we strive for accuracy, at the end of the day we want the rankings to be fun and insightful, so you can learn about great sites in each niche.

The Technical Details

The number of mentions associated to each site is based on a rolling 7-day average, with the public facing-stats updated every 24 hours (specifically at 10AM GMT).

For example, if we track all mentions of a site from Monday to Sunday, the data from the next Monday will replace the data from the previous Monday.

This means that if a site was popular for a day it won't suddenly rank first in the rankings for its specific niche, but if it has a solid week of mentions and traffic, it stands a great chance of being higher up its respective table.

We'll experiment with the rolling average, and may move from one week to two, but it seems to be working well for now.

If you would like to submit a site, please do let us know.

We hope you like the new-look Detailed and thank you for checking out the site!

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