Ice Rocket tries to differentiate itself from the other blog search engines by focusing on real-time social media results. It ranks results according to date and allows for you (the user) to search Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Images, and a compilation of the previous four. In addition to acting as a search tool, IceRocket displays the most popular videos and stories for various categories. This chapter will be focusing on the search capabilities of the site. The blog search is oldest and the most popular, drawing the most people to the website.
Specialized search strategies
A key part of a blog is its timeliness. Information is usually written within a week of occurring. They are specific and each entry will delve into specifics of the subject. Each blog entry is only relevant for a short amount of time, generally a few months; therefore, you’ll be trying to find best information, keeping in mind the publication date. The idea is that you’ll be able to use blog search engines to find posts about a topic, as well as create an rss feed of results so that you’ll have be able to have a feed of all the new blog entries on that given topic.
You’ll want to evaluate each result according to its relevancy, depth, and authority. Relevancy is seen in the same way as a regular Google search. Looking at the title of the post and of the blog will help you quickly decide whether or not the result is worth investigating. Depth is more specific to each individual query and authority is a much larger issues due to the informal structure of blogs.
Tips and things to keep in mind while searching:
- Often times you’ll be looking for more in-depth information with a blog search. These posts won’t just be answers to quick questions, but rather in depth explanations.
- Usually the better posts will have associated media such as a picture or a video.
- Each blog has a central focus, so the entries will be specific rather than broad and general. Whether or not you chose to remember each blog entry will be based on it’s level of authority and accuracy.
- Because anyone can write a blog, it especially important to evaluate whether the particular author is a trust-worthy source. Hopefully there will be list of sources at the end of each post or a bio about the author.
- When looking at the website remember that a professional layout does not guarantee professional ideas. Search for different blogs as well as entries. It is hard to look past the graphical format of a blog, but because there are many high quality blog creating sites (Blogger, WordPress, etc.) it is easy to create a professional appearing site and publish subpar information.
After an Initial Search
You’ll quickly realize that the key to finding good entries/posts is related to the quality of your query, but more importantly the quality of the blogs themselves. Different blog search engines tend to give preference to certain blogging tools. Try to find blogs from a variety of sources in order to increase your the level of recall for your results.
Most entries from a particular blog are very similar and blog search engines have a tendency to pull multiple posts from the few blogs that rank high.
Look at the number of subscribers, following the crowd isn’t always a great a idea, but in this case this can give you a quick idea of the popularity of the blog. Often times more popular blogs are better curated and from figures with more authority.
How to use
You’ll first need to select the type of search you wish to perform. IceRocket has 5 different search options.
- Blogs returns blog posts that match your query.
- Twitter shows most recent tweets that relate to your query.
- Facebook only returns posts from people that match the query, there are no group, app, or pages posts.
- Images returns the most recent posts from Flickr which fit the query.
- Big Buzz combines the previous tools, but also adds in video results. It compiles the most recent results from each of the previous 4 type of searches and displays them on one page.
The number of operators is reduced because operators with a colon don’t work. If you want to search for a something with a hashtag, simply add a # to the beginning of the word, but make sure to put the phrase in quotes its more than one word. Twitter search will automatically return both users and tweets. If the query is also a user, it will show a fact box about the user, along with tweets by that user.
As with Twitter, only non-colon operators work. This search function only returns results with the query in the text of a post, and only searches post that are public. The results are ranked based on the amount of time lapsed since posting, the newest posts are at the top. Only the 1,000 most recent posts are accessible through the results.
Using Flickr’s public uploads as a database, IceRocket will search rank the relevant results based on how recently they were taken. Search operators will not work as intended. This search is not limited in how far back in time it will go to find results.
This is a combination of the previous four. Again search operators will not work, some operators will not even more show results from blogs or Twitter (where they would normally function). This compilation tool can be useful for finding results of various informal media at once because it compiled in one screen. Under each search type, you can click “more” this will double the number of results from that category. Again, the results are ranked by time published.
Video Search is unique to Big Buzz. The links are from the video search site, Blinkx.com
Comparison with Google Web search, Twitter search, and Facebook search
Google Web search is much more likely to return a full blog rather than an individual post like you find from IceRocket. If you are looking for a specific post and know that is was recently published, then IceRocket is the search engine to look at. If you are searching from the perspective of the entire blog, you can use Google Web search and limit the timeframe to the one desired. This will allow you to search for an entire blog that was updated or had a entry posted within the timeframe specified. Google’s search results tend to be more popular blog sites while IceRocket’s results are usually blog entries from larger blogging sites.
The search function on Twitter.com is better than the one on IceRocket because you can search everyone’s tweets, or limit to just people you follow. This limited tool is invaluable and not available on IceRocket. Even though Twitter makes you chose between searching for people and for tweets, this is not an issue because I am always searching for one or the other.
IceRocket shows the results from a Facebook search in the category “Public Posts” Facebook offers ten other types of results. If the result is a picture, you need to click on it in IceRocket, but it will be displayed automatically in Facebook Results.
Blog Trends is an interesting tool. It allows you see what percent of blogs of the past month to 3 months has a particular term in it. This is more specific than Google Trends because it only relates to blog posts, specifically those in IceRocket’s database. This tool can handle individual terms and phrases if in quotes. If you use an operator such as OR or AND, it will adjust the accordingly. It can be accessed through the front page.
How to get the most out of Blog Search
There are multiple features to be discovered on IceRocket. Unfortunately there is no help page for Twitter, Facebook, Images, or Big Buzz. On top of that, the help page for the blog search is not very helpful and only introduces the basics on how search operators function. If you are struggling to find results, try the Advanced Search. It will walk you through the search, but is only available for blog searches.
In order to see the options to Focus, Exclude, or see XML; you’ll need to go to preferences and select “display extended options.” Focus and Exclude allows you to search a specific blog or to exclude its posts from the results. These preferences are not permanent and only added to the query. Also under Preferences, you can changed the number of results that are shown per page when blog searching. Preferences can be accessed by performing a search and then selecting preferences under the advanced search menu.
When performing a search in Twitter or Big Buzz, there is the option to the top right of the screen to “save this search.” If you really like the results from a particular search. These saved searches are specific to whichever of the five search types you are performing.
Try using tags during your search. When posting a blog entry, authors will create tags that help search engines recognize a subject or field that the entry addresses. IceRocket supports the operator [tag:] which will tell IceRocket to make sure that the following word or phrase is tagged in the blog entry.
More Complex Queries with Parentheses
If you want to create a query that searches for a blog entries about the food this December you can use paratheses to make searching easier. Instead of typing [food tag:seasonal tag:christmas] you can type [food tag:(seasonal christmas)]. They will both return the same results. This can be helpful when quickly changing complex searches.
Linking to Facebook and Twitter
Being logged into Facebook doesn’t automatically let IceRocket prioritize or even show your friends in the search results, an cool feature that would increase the usefulness of this search. I was unable to find a way to link Twitter and Facebook to Ice Rocket. There weren’t any apps for it on Facebook, and no comments on the subject from IceRocket. When searching IceRocket, I am logged into both my Facebook and Twitter accounts, but this does not seem to make a difference.
Creating an RSS Feed
IceRocket provides RSS feeds some of its features. The feeds will either be on the left hand menu for “Blogs” search or to the top right for a Twitter Search. This is no RSS feed for images, Facebook (probably because there would be too many updates), or Big Buzz.
While searching for blogs, every post should have a link “XML” now that you enabled that function. IceRocket automatically retrieves each site’s RSS feed. I have yet to encounter a problem with this retrieved feed, it works every time I add it my feed reader. This tool is helpful if you don’t want to go to actually open the blog, or if you can’t find it on a blog’s website. Depending on how your feed reader works, you’ll either just click on the XML link, or need to right-click on the link, copy the link address, and add it to your feed reader.
There are a number of features on the site that still have links to them, but they do not function as expected. Often these links don’t take the user to an error page so they can be misleading because you believe that you are searching under one category, but are actually searching under another. Be aware if you come across any of the following features:
- MySpace Search- Although few people use the site, IceRocket still has remnants a MySpace Search. If you click on a “Myspace” heading, you’ll be redirected to the front page, but none of the selections at the top of the search box (ie Blogs, Facebook, etc.) will be selected. There is no option for MySpace. After you perform the search, all of the results will be blogs or blog posts, but there will be no indication from IceRocket that the results are not from MySpace.
- RSS Builder- This links takes you to the homepage for IceRocket.
- News Search- Any search performed after clicking the link to news will return zero results.
- Web- After clicking on this link, you’ll be redirected to the main page, but no search headings will be selected. In a situation similar to the MySpace link, after entering the search, the results will be identical to a “Blogs” search, but “Blogs” will not be highlighted and there is no indication, besides the results, that this is not a web search.
- Preferences- Under the preferences settings are the same for all searches, but only apply to a “Blogs” search.
- Blog Tracker- leads to a page that says the service has been shut down.
- Rocket Mail-Gives a notice that their email service is shutting down January 1st, 2013 and recommends switching to Gmail.
The unique and well executed tool is the Blog Tracker. I haven’t seen another tool that is specific to just blogs like this feature. It is easy to use and helpful for finding out what is popular in blogs.
My biggest issue with IceRocket is the low quality of blogs it pulls from. There are many results from the site Live Journal. I’m not sure why because it doesn’t have the amount of traffic that Blogspot does, yet IceRocket has many more results from livejournal.com (Alexa, “Livejournal.com”). From my searches, it looks like IceRocket gives a higher relevance rank to sites from livejournal.com. There are too many good blog sites passed up by IceRocket to make it your primary blog search tool. I tried multiple times to use IceRocket to search for a blog entry I had saved. IceRocket missed many of them because it wasn’t in the database. I recommend using other blog search engines or even Google Web search and Google Blog search in conjunction with IceRocket blog search.
It is annoying that in order to search a specific blog, you need to know its blog idea. This can only be found by clicking “focus” so you’ll need to first find the blog in IceRocket’s results. There is also no way to exclude a whole site, such as livejournal.com from the results. If you want to search a specific blog and already know the blogs name, use Google.
I will never use any of the other search types. Twitter and Facebook both have better search functions on their websites. Image search is just a copy of Flickr’s limited results.
- http://www.icerocket.com: This is the site that the chapter is based on.
- http://www.alexa.com: The site I used to for traffic ranking information.
- http://www.google.com: I used a simple Google web search for my comparison to Google.
- http://www.facebook.com: For my comparison to Facebook. I’m pretty sure you need to log in order to search.
- http://www.twitter.com: For my comparison to Twitter search. You’ll need to be logged in order to fully understand the differences.
About the Author
John Willard follows blogs daily and is always looking to add more (though IceRocket is not the tool he uses). Around campus you can find him climbing or working out at the IMSB, studying at Starbucks, living at the lodge, or trying to get friends together to go skiing for the weekend. He hopes to run his own business, and is now a much better searcher on the internet.