The Origin Story
The idea (and even the first rough prototype) for Trendie was born many years ago, back in 2007 or so. Doing a lot of SEO work for customers at my small digital marketing firm, I was always blogging and researching ways to get my blog content to rank. I remember running across a study discussing a relatively new concept with Google, a precursor to “query deserves freshness” in search results. It made sense; Google wanted to return results that were not only relevant to the query, but also fresh and new.
Google was already
popular but still growing, and they had all kinds of little side projects in their labs. One of them was the Hot Trends list – the early ancestor of today’s Trends Explorer. You could subscribe to an RSS feed of the 10 or 20 most popular queries, updated at seemingly odd intervals – sometimes it was updated in a hour or two, and sometimes only once daily. But what it exposed was the keywords behind hundreds of thousands of queries – the most popular terms in our cultural zeitgeist that were generating the most amount of traffic. In addition, it linked to a news article or two which put the query into perspective to explain why it was trending – usually because it contained breaking news of major importance or interest.
I’m sure I wasn’t the first person to realize that if I could write a blog post that included one of these hot keywords, I might show up in the top of the search results.
But I knew I had to wait for the right keyword, because I suspected that along with freshness any content needs relevance. I knew I couldn’t just take the trending keyword “Kim Kardashian” and publish it on a blog that normally discussed hybrid cars and gas mileage. I waited a while, and then one day I noticed the perfect combination – “Kim Kardashian” was trending, but the associated news headline was about a charitable auto auction; I had found a hook which was relevant to my blog. I thought I might have discovered the perfect recipe: trending popularity, freshness, and relevance.
Within the hour my server crashed from the traffic. I don’t even know if WordPress had a caching plugin back then, but if it did, I obviously wasn’t using it. I did indeed find the perfect recipe to direct those hundreds of thousands of users searching for that popular keyword right to my blog – and Google was the funnel.
So I coded a simple prototype that listened for updates to the Google Hot Trends list and started emailing myself with the keywords. But I still had to manually look through them and read each headline associated with each query to see if it was relevant in some way to any of my clients’ blogs.
The next step was to add natural language processing to automagically find that relevance factor for me, but I couldn’t find any decent options back then.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be – soon after that I launched KnowEm, and it took up most of my time; so much so, in fact, that I had to retire from any client work and I no longer had time for any SEO research blogs. But I never forgot about my hot trends project, and I always wanted to get back to working on it – I always believed it would make a great tool for bloggers.
The Latest Version
Fast forward these many years and just 2 weeks ago I happened to mention the old script I wrote to my friend Chris Azzari of Cornerstone SEO on our way into the New York SEJ Summit meetup. He, like many other SEO consultants, had already figured out long ago that trending topics are a great way to get blog traffic, and he lit a fire under me to look back into that tool.
At that very same meetup I ran into my friend Ann Smarty, and I was reminded about the blog challenge she was promoting at MyBlogU: register a brand new domain and start blogging for the next 6 months – and then share your ups and downs with the entire community at MyBlogU. I wasn’t as interested in the prize as I was the spirit of the challenge; I thought it was a great way for everyone to crowd source ideas and get each other motivated, sharing our experiences and success. Because as much as I love coding tools like KnowEm or Trendie, my biggest problem by far is
reminding myself to blog!
So within a day or two I had outlined a new architecture and got a very rough prototype up and running again. But this time I have been able to locate and procure some very powerful natural language processors for the back end. By applying a standardized taxonomy to both the incoming Trends and each bloggers’ content, I believe we will now be able to create a much more insightful tool. It’s going to take a while to build, and I’ve already brought in a new development team to assist since I can’t take any more resources away from KnowEm (which has become increasingly more successful). Since a large portion of our client base at KnowEm is interested in SEO or inbound marketing in some capacity, Trendie compliments our core service very well – and I am looking forward to adding it as a feature to our agency dashboard.
But I also want to offer it as a free tool to everyone else, because I think bloggers and content marketers are going to love this. It may have a tiered pay plan for large scale marketers at some point in the future, but in the spirit of KnowEm, it will always have a free option (our social profile pages have always been both free and ad-free – as well as all the tools we release).
Watch this blog for updates, as I try and keep up with MyBlogU’s #MBUstorm challenge and get Trendie rolled out for beta testers soon!