Ranking the Rankings

No ranking system is perfect. One of the most popular ones in the world, the BCS designed for college football, is criticized constantly with people calling for a playoff system instead (which I completely agree with) of the current combination of human polls and computer rankings.

Within the personal finance world, there are several ranking systems. Each has it’s own merits and each has it’s downsides, but there seems to be one metric that outweighs the others.

One of the most popular rankings, the godfather of personal finance rankings, is the Wisebread rankings. It lists hundreds of personal finance blogs, and recently changed from ranking blogs based on Alexa ranking, to be a more comprehensive ranking system including many other factors, including Klout, a metric of social engagement.

However, at the same time, it uses some questionable metrics. Most noticeably, it uses PageRank (PR), Google’s ranking system. When updated, it is the premier ranking that advertisers care about. Search engine traffic comes almost entirely from Google, so metrics can judge, but what Google thinks is what makes the biggest difference.

The problem with PageRank that it hasn’t been updated since March. Those of us that sell advertising based on PageRank and have good PRs are happy (no move is better than risking a move down), but newer blogs have no PR when they should be highly ranked. What good is a metric if it never updates (and we don’t know when the next update will occur, if ever)? Still, it should be included because advertisers are interested in this and if nothing else, it shows which sites have been doing well for an extended period of time. While it’s not ideal, PageRank should be included in any ranking solely because advertisers care.

Another questionable metric is produced by Compete.com, which offers a metric of traffic, but it’s calculations are severely flawed. Even though my traffic has increased dramatically over the past 6 months, Compete shows that until this month, my traffic actually dropped fairly consistently and that’s just not the case. In addition, it significantly misjudges my actual traffic. So it’s both inaccurate and hasn’t even tracked the direction of my traffic.

Finally, the Wisebread rankings don’t update regularly. I’ve been tracking it a lot lately and while some of the metrics have changed recently, the number of subscribers along with Klout score (both metrics change daily) have not been updated in some time. While knowing how many twitter followers someone has, it doesn’t give a good indication of where someone is at this point in time. What’s a ranking system if it isn’t constantly evolving? Almost all of my numbers are wrong, so it does not reflect what’s actually happening.

Another ranking system is the Money Crashers rankings. They came out with their rankings a few months ago, and while they don’t update regularly, they recently updated, so at least it’s moving more than the Wisebread rankings and they’re clearly working on improving it. Their inclusion of mozRank, which we’ll get to below, is a great step in the right direction. However, this ranking too has it’s issues.

Once again, they use Compete statistics. I have yet to find someone who says Compete accurately portray traffic stats. And another awful metric is the SEM Rush score, which calculates the estimated worth of a blog. Sounds cool, right? Except that I would never sell my site for the $2,500 it claims I’m worth. I was offered double that and turned it down several months ago. And while I believe that Bargaineering is one of the best sites out there, I hardly think it’s worth over $1 million as they say it is. (If it is, please sell it now, don’t pull a Groupon!) Clearly that ranking needs some major fixing.

Next, we have the Technorati rankings for Finance, which measures a site’s standing and influence in the blogosphere. It measures linking behavior and other data over a short, finite period of time. Technorati updates every day and there are constant shifts in the rankings. While there is little transparency, having a secret system helps in that there is no easy way to move up because we don’t know exactly which factors are most important. There is no ‘gaming’ the system.

It’s hard to find out exactly what metrics are included, but there are significant flaws with this system. How do I know? Well, if we look at the top sites in the Finance category, look who currently sits at number 8? I do. And guess what? While I take pride in my blog, I am so far away from being in the top 10 of any finance related category. Even if there was a ‘blogs named Sweating The Big Stuff’ category, I’m not sure I’d make it. While I appreciate the honor, I am undeserving. We can’t trust something that puts me above some amazing bloggers who have been doing this for years.

Finally, we have the Yakezie rankings. My favorite thing about them is the amount of weight put on mozRank, a metric similar to PageRank, but one that updates much more regularly. It updates at least once a month. Most bloggers agree that this is an accurate reflection of a blog’s influence and popularity, and it will be interesting to track the metric over a long period of time to see if it sustains it’s popularity. I have yet to find any detractors as it seems like it fairly judges a blog’s popularity.

The problem with the Yakezie rankings is that while it includes all sites that are part of the group, not all bloggers are part of it (though everyone is welcome (and encouraged) to join), so it’s hard to say where they would fall in the rankings. If it were comprehensive, more people would flock to it.

Having activity on the site be worth 50% of the ranking is a lot, especially since the group is about promoting others and this may encourage some to spend more time on one site when it could be better spent elsewhere.

For those within the Yakezie group, it definitely gets the job done. By including PR, it appeals to advertisers and having mozRank beside it shows whether those PR rankings are relevant or if they’re very out of date. Plus, the weight of the interactivity on the Yakezie site shows which people have been giving it their all and deserve to be recognized. Finally, the Alexa rank is a nice inclusion because it’s how the Yakezie got started and while there are ways to manipulate it’s rankings, for the most part it shows accurate traffic patterns.

If I could create a perfect ranking system, I would do away with all metrics that don’t update at least once a month and those that less than 75% of bloggers agreed accurately portray what they’re supposed to. Based on that, mozRank and Klout would be two of the most important factors, with Alexa not too far behind. While there are a few flaws in the system, for most it’s fair.

Readers, which ranking do you think accurately portrays the best personal finance blogs? Which specific metric is your favorite?

48 Responses to Ranking the Rankings

  1. 50% for site activity might be a bit strong, but it’s also what rewards active participants. I do think there should be more of a gap between posts and comments, because 25 forum posts is less effort than the 25 points you get out of writing a new blog post. ;)

    Great writeup! Agree with you about PageRank; it’s about time Google gives us an update of some kind.

    • Daniel says:

      @Invest It Wisely, here’s why I think regular updates are so important: Back in June, PR was “scheduled” to update, and I checked back each day to see. Eventually, it didn’t happen, so I reduced my checking to once a week, and then once, a month, and now not at all.

      If the metrics that power Wisebread and MoneyCrashers updated more regularly, we’d get one step closer to getting true rankings that people will come back to over and over to track their progress.

    • @Invest It Wisely, It’s about empowerment Kevin. I could make the Yakezie List 50% based on Pagerank and strip away all motivation and effort to improve. The mozRank, Alexa, PR are all side effects of activity. The more one actively engages, the better their other rankings will be.

      If I knew that there was little to nothing I could do to improve my rankings.. then I’d probably stop caring and maybe even give up. Not with the Belts of Honor system.

  2. Thanks for explaining some of the mysteries (to me) of the metrics being used by the various rankings.

  3. The even better thing about the Yakezie ranking is that you have the power to improve. 50% of the weighting is the Belts of Honor system, followed by 30% Alexa, 10% Moz, 10% PR.

    Essentially, 80% of the ranking’s weight is based on what you can do to improve. I miss the old WB ranking b/c it updated more frequently, and is so convoluted now with metrics and coupon/deal sites which aren’t personal finance sites.

    The Yakezie Rankings update 3X a week, and more importantly, the RSS feeds get updated every single day so you can read the latest posts. It’s my main bookmark.

    • Daniel says:

      @Financial Samurai, Great point. This is in large contrast to the other rankings, where you can try to improve, but it’s difficult to know exactly how they are changing and whether your actions are having any effect.

      The thing I value most is the constant updates. It makes it fun to keep track and check back for regular updates. With the others (other than Technorati), they update so infrequently that it becomes an afterthought, and even when we do check, we aren’t sure if or when they’ve updated.

      • @Daniel, Technorati is useless to me. I have no idea how they update and what I’m supposed to do.

        Just being on the Yakezie List I believe is a great accomplishment, since it takes 6 months to get on. It’s not a list based on existence. It’s a list based on friendships and effort, as well as maintaining a damn good site that posts regularly.

        The Yakezie List is my bookmark, and the RSS constant updates are great. I also like using the Yakezie Network tab on the homepage too.

    • @Financial Samurai,
      I didn’t know that. It’s a pretty cool way to rank.
      I really like the RSS feed too, it’s so easy to check the latest post.

  4. DoNotWait says:

    Well, you made me learn some here that were still not that clear in my mind. So thank you for that. For the moment, I mostly use Alexa Rank (and PageRank for advertisers). But I am getting more interested in Mozrank so I might try to improve them all soon.

  5. Hey Daniel,

    Great idea – ranking the rankings, eh? Haha, pretty interesting stuff. Just wanted to clear a few things up in regards to some of your points about the Money Crashers Top Personal Finance Blogs list.

    1. Not all of the metrics used on the list are weighted the same. For example, you mentioned the inaccuracies of things like Compete and Google PR. We’ve done a lot of testing on our end and weighted each metric according to how reliable we thought they were. Additionally, by incorporating multiple different metrics, it takes away from some of the flaws each might have individually – while for the most part preventing manipulation to easily move up in the rankings.

    2. As for SEM Rush, the $ figures that you see there don’t represent the worth of the blog. But rather, it shows monthly value of organic search value in Google – in other words, if you were to buy search advertising and bid on the keywords that you’re ranking for naturally in Google, that’s how much it would cost per month.

    Hope that helps! And thanks again for putting this all together!

    • Daniel says:

      @Gyutae Park (Money Crashers), Thanks for the clarification and for letting us hear your thoughts!

      I think something important to note is that while keeping your weightings secret, while it’s hard to say whether it’s perfect, it makes it far more difficult to game the system, and I think that’s important in any ranking.

      Thanks!

      • @Daniel, I agree – I think preventing any sort of manipulation is important in order to ensure that rankings stay accurate. The idea is that by utilizing a combination of different metrics and creating a weighted score, the list will account for variations between metrics as well as any manipulation. So far so good.

        We try to update the Money Crashers list pretty frequently – probably 3-4 times a week if not daily. You can also sort it by individual metric like mozRank to see how it compares with the overall rankings.

        Thanks, hope that helps!

  6. Evan says:

    One thing that almost makes WiseBread a ridiculous ranking system (I have brought this to their attention and they sort of said, good point but did nothing):

    If you don’t provide that information they don’t count it in their average! So I was higher by not providing my RSS feed numbers LOL! Instead of penalizing those that don’t share they actually seem to reward it!

    • Daniel says:

      @Evan, I noticed the same thing, and started hiding my RSS numbers. I wonder what the breakeven point is in terms of subscribers. 500? 1,000? And as proof that it doesn’t update frequently enough, my number is at somewhere around 250 when I hid it over a month ago. What gives?

    • @Evan, I don’t even know how to submit my RSS feed as it’s been 1.5 years FS has been on the list. Do you just e-mail them or something what it is?

    • @Evan,

      We had a good discussion about this earlier, and I appreciate your input. As I mentioned before, we do recognize missing stats as a problem, and like you, we’re not happy with the idea that one could move up the chart by omitting stats. However, the alternative of penalizing people for not using Feedburner, or to omit Feedburner stats altogether, seems to be more extreme.

      Also, if you’d allow me to be a bit lazy, let me quote a paragraph from our last discussion: “… most people using our chart are not focused only on the rankings. They have very specific questions about the bloggers listed, and the more stats you share, the more likely you are to get those opportunities.

      Sure, a person can gain a couple of spots by removing their Feedburner and Twitter stat, but they’ll end up shooting themselves in the foot. Every missing stat will hurt your ability to get opportunities. Editors are hiring bloggers for writing gigs because they think bloggers have loyal readers and great social media reach. They are not going to hire someone without a Feedburner/Twitter stat.”

      • Evan says:

        @Will (Wise Bread),

        I wasn’t trying to be rude or overly judgmental sorry if I came off that way.

        With great power comes great responsibility (cheesy reference, anyone?) – WiseBread is the biggest and well known of Presonal Finance blogs for advertisers. The moment I landed on your first page under the old system I started receiving ad opportunities left and right. Your list was responsibile for a lot of my online income, and for that I thank WiseBread. However, at the same time a massive change like that with some odd defects and delays hurts people’s wallets…it is more than just an ego thing for people to be ranked higher.

        I don’t have any answers, since the programming of that page alone is above my head nevertheless the vastness of your online empire that actually brings in income, just was voicing my opinion.

        Again, I didn’t mean anything disrespectful, I apologize if it sounded that way.

  7. Khaleef @ KNS Financial says:

    Good summary of the various ranking systems. I think all of the systems have flaws, but one good thing about the Yakezie list is that the calculations are out in the open and you have the ability to improve your ranking.

    • Daniel says:

      @Khaleef @ KNS Financial, One good thing about having many rankings is that if you find anyone in the top 10 of more than one of those lists, you know they’ve got a very high quality blog.

      • Khaleef @ KNS Financial says:

        @Daniel, that’s a very good point. I have to admit that I don’t pay attention to the rankings that much. But if I were searching for a reliable list of pf blogs, I would consult more than one list.

  8. I like Yakezie and Money Crasher ranking the best. I like Yakezie because I can check the RSS feed right there. I like Money Crasher because I can easily check my ranking with their little badge. I still don’t have Technocrati or Compete ranking so I need to figure out what to do to add them.

  9. Little House says:

    Excellent description of the ranking systems. I sort of gave up on the WiseBread ranking a long time ago; it never updated my Alexa traffic rank and kept me in the same position for over a year! As for PageRank, my site was recently updated from a 2 to a 0, so I’m not so happy with Google these days. :( I’d have to say that right now, I really only use the Yakezie ranking, though it doesn’t include every personal finance blog out there, it updates frequently enough I can use it to figure out what I need to improve on. Thanks again, Daniel, for sharing this information!

    • Daniel says:

      @Little House, I havent heard much chatter about PR updating recently, and if you got dropped to a 0, I wouldn’t be surprised if others are close behind. I don’t know what factors go into them deciding to drop you,I assume due to selling text links, but if that’s the case, then you can count me in with those who could be losing their PageRank soon.

    • @Little House, I would say check back in a month. That’s weird, and shouldn’t happen. They have funky changes all throughout the year. mozRank! :)

  10. Great work on letting more people know about the rankings – I think that it’s important to highlight the best ranking system and point out flaws in others (where there are flaws). Google hasnt updated PR in a long time and i’m one of the ones that suffers – my traffic has increased greatly since they last updated PR.

  11. Hi Daniel & everyone!

    Thank you for sharing your analysis on the rankings. You and several commenters raised some great points.

    With regards to updates, we’ve been freezing the updates in the last few weeks because we’re implementing a tracking system that will eventually track the movement of your scores. We’re going to return to regular weekly (if not daily) updates by end of December, and you should see the new tracking system by end of January.

    Apologies to everyone who has experienced slow tech support help! Our database has over 600 blogs (compared to 57 and 400 of other lists). We receive not only a ton of inclusion requests every day, we also get a lot of media, advertising, and research inquiries about the top 100 as well. Last week we hired an additional Top 100 helper named Alex to help out. Starting in January another PF blogger is joining the team to help market the top 100 (you’ll love her).

    With regards to Mozrank vs. Pagerank, most advertisers who actively use our list tell us they still rely on Pagerank for their research. But we’re definitely considering Mozrank, as well as any other reliable metrics to help supplement the chart. We’re paid members of SEOMOZ and SEOBook, and have been monitoring their advice closely regarding the utility of each tool.

    In terms of transparency, you can learn more about our scoring system here:
    http://www.wisebread.com/top-100-most-popular-personal-finance-blogs/about#wisescore-calculation

    Cheers!

    Will

    • Daniel says:

      @Will (Wise Bread), Thanks for the great feedback!

      I’m not surprised that advertisers like PageRank. While it may be outdated, there’s no doubt it’s the premier metric among advertisers.

      Can’t wait to see the regular updates start!

  12. Blogthority says:

    All those rankings are garbage. The main metric that I concern myself with is revenue per month.

    $$$!

    • @Blogthority,

      “Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.”

      • Blogthority says:

        @Will (Wise Bread),

        Lol – Good luck – I don’t have a newsletter.

        Anyway, I’m serious – the data that goes into all these rankings is just not good enough to make for a decent ranking.

        Plus the fact that everyone looks for different things in blogs. Even if you had proper access to every blog’s data (ie Google Analytic type data), what do you give preference to? RSS, traffic? $$? Readability? # of comments?

        I’ll give credit to people for trying to create rankings, but it’s just not a worthwhile endeavor.

        Mike

  13. Sandy @ yesiamcheap says:

    Can I say something about Technorati? I changed the feed URL of my blog and tried to update it on Technorati and it’s impossible. They just don’t respond. So my Technorati rank went from 100 to 1 in personal finance. The higher your number, the better you are. I would rank better if I never submitted to Technorati.

    Compete is an absolute joke for now. I refuse to talk about their stats What would be great is if we could pull Google analytics data. It is widely used and recognized as highly accurate.

    I love Wisebread and flock to it daily to check out others in my area, but my feed had been wrong for two months and I have sent messages to update my feed to no avail. So my stats are off a bit.

    Finally, it hurts me to see so many blogs on these ranking lists that have not been updated in months if not a year or so. If there was a way to purge blogs that have been pushed new feed content in say, 3 months, that would be great. No self-respecting blogger that is active would be gone for that long.

    Oh, one more thing. There are ranking lists at Fire Finance as well.

  14. Sandy @ yesiamcheap says:

    One more thing to gripe on. Should corporate blogs be on the personal finance blog lists? Should there be categories?

    • Daniel says:

      @Sandy @ yesiamcheap, I asked Will the same thing. How can we differentiate? Is WiseBread corporate? It’s not a one man job and has become pretty big, but it’s not a spin off of a corporate site. What do you think?

  15. Moneycone says:

    The thing with PageRank was that Google always insisted not to place too much importance on it. And looks like they meant it!

  16. Rachelle says:

    I used to check Technorati all the time. It’s become clear that their rankings make no sense at all. My traffic and subscriber count is going up daily but technorati went down from 480 to 100 in one day. Plus even thought I have a real estate blog I was ranking as a Personal finance blog about 528 and 1 for real estate.

    I’ve decided they have no clue what they are doing and they don’t care. I sent them a email a while back and they didn’t even answer my question.

    Plus unless the blog linking to you has technorati it doesn’t count.

  17. Great post Daniel!

    Personally, I really hate all ranking system. No offense, but I include the Yakezie ranking in it too ;-). I’m part of the challenge (about 2 months ago) and I’m not ranked yet…(I really wonder why ;-) ).

    Even then, when I look at the websites, I can see serious discrepancies in the ranking. In my opinion, the real things that count are:
    #1 traffic (without traffic, what is a website?)
    #2 RSS readers (without readers, what is a blog?)
    #3 money (that’s because I run a business ;-) ).

    Page Rank is interesting for advertisers.

    Alexa rank is easy to play with (I went from 5,000,000 rank with one of my blog to 326,000 in a span of 6 weeks without much effort).

    Most other system (compete, quantcast, etc) are very not accurate. The only one that is accurate (e.g. match my google analytics) are sitemeters stats. Unfortunately, they are not used by many bloggers (and not public for most of them).

    cheers,

    Mike

    • Daniel says:

      @The Financial Blogger, Have you written your member post yet? That is definitely a requirement for getting on the list. Also, you should check out the forums, there’s a lot of great communication going on there!

  18. Barb Friedberg says:

    Hi Daniel, Appreciate your hard work in compiling this post. A key factor to consider in blogging is patience. No matter what your ranking, it takes a certain amount of time to build up a ranking of any sort.

  19. Arohan says:

    Technorati is a joke. It has been 2 years since I started on my crusade of getting them to fix the feed address. For some reason, they insist on using one of the category feeds instead of the site feed. Customer service is almost non-existent.

    As for the ranking systems, it would be difficult to come up with a perfect ranking system. So I agree that as a blogger you should focus on the metrics that are most important to you and work on improving them.

  20. Hementh says:

    I have been trying from last 2 months to improve my google PR for the last 2 months, without any luck

  21. Tata Photon Plus says:

    I got a PR3 for my Business Website and all the other pages got PR2 in the last panda update but suddenly my site ranking came down to PR1 and pages ranking completely vanished, I still don’t understand.