7 myths (and a few truths) about the Tots100 rankings

It happens once a month, every month. The Tots100 rankings are updated. And the hand-wringing begins. But what is truth and what is myth?

Every month Tots100 collects data on over 8,000 parent blogs and runs an algorithm which generates a ranking. It’s one of the key measures by which we bloggers gauge ‘success’.

Every month those who have climbed the rankings celebrate, while those who have fallen bemoan their fortune, saying “but I had my best ever month” or similar.

The reality is many bloggers don’t have a good understanding of how the ranking works. That’s not being critical – it’s a complex thing, it’s not easily understood.

So here are seven myths about the Tots100 rankings – and some insight into how it really works.

1. It’s all about page views

No, it isn’t. The Tots100 About page states page impressions is just one of the eight data points collected:

  • Unique visitors per month
  • Page impressions per month
  • Links to the site from other blogs
  • Total links to the site, as listed by Moz
  • MozRank score
  • Recent links to the site (previous 30 days)
  • Klout score
  • Instagram followers

MozRank is essentially a measure of the quantity and quality of links back to a blog. It mirrors how your site rates in Google organic search rankings.

Klout is a measure which ranks your social media ‘authority’ across multiple platforms. Again, it’s a measure of both quantity and quality. An Instagram post with 100 likes/comments is worth much more than one with none.

You’ll see from the above that ‘links’ are a component of several measures and therefore more important than page views. Don’t believe me? I’ve been flitted in and out of the the top 100 over the past 12 months, despite having a small readership (less than 10,000 views per month). Indeed, the month when I achieved my highest ever ranking (80-something) was my worst of the year for views. I’m not a big blogger stats-wise, but I am frequently linked to from other sites because I write good content – that outweighs my low readership.

2. If I have ‘a good month’, I should go up

No, although it is more likely.

Firstly, Tots is a ranking system. If you have a good month but other people have a better one, you will drop relative to them.

Also, what is ‘a good month’? It’s not just about obvious stats such as page views. It’s more complex. Professionally, I’m an expert on social media analytics and even I can’t accurately predict whether I’ve had a good month or not.

3. It’s all about what you do this month

It depends. Tots100 does take only the most recent month of metrics into account each month, but some measures are longer-lasting than others.

Look again at the list of metrics above. Some are monthly, such as page views, unique visitors and recent site links. But Klout registers activity over a 90-day period. And total site links and Instagram followers do not expire at all.

So while a great blog post that goes viral will boost your ranking for one month, it will disappear the next. But a series of high-scoring Facebook posts will linger for 90 days, and links and Instagram followers are for life, not just for Christmas.

4. It’s all about content

‘Content is king’, as the old mantra goes. This is partially true.

Of course, great content is more likely to attract readers and encourage them to come back. But it’s also important to gain shares, likes and comments (which improve your Klout score) and generate links back to your blog (which affects multiple metrics). That requires work.

It’s also important to recognise that page views is not necessarily a measure of great content. Often a targeted post that appeals to a small audience punches well above its weight. A competition might generate 1,000 views but no engagement, whereas another post might only receive 100 views but lead to multiple likes/comments, other bloggers or sites linking back to you in round-up posts and new followers. The latter ultimately scores more highly.

5. You’re not in control of your ranking

Only partially true.

Yes, your ranking depends on how you fare relative to other bloggers. You cannot control what they do.

However, you are in control of the quantity and quality of what you post, how often you comment on other blogs (to create backlinks), growing your Klout score by engaging regularly across social media and so on.

Don’t worry about what you can’t control. Focus on controlling the controllables instead.

6. My ranking is a measure of how good I am as a blogger

No. It’s a measure of how successful you are in accordance with a set of arbitrary criteria. There’s a difference.

There are many things that go into driving a high Tots ranking. Talent is one, for sure.

But time is also a big factor. Many of the top bloggers work full-time on their blogs, and it shows in terms of the quality and quantity of their output and their reach across social media.

And there are many other key influences too. Older blogs are more likely to have larger followings and a critical mass of backlinks. Some bloggers run competitions, giveaways and reviews which appeal to mass audiences, while others may be writing about a niche topic that appeals to a small number of readers. ‘Popularity’ can sometimes be equated with ‘quality’, but not always.

Ask yourself this: if you rise 100 places in the ranking one month and fall 100 the next, does that mean you were a better blogger one month and a worse one the next? Of course not. The Tots ranking does have meaning but sometimes a number is just a number.

7. Getting into the top 100 will transform my blogging career

Or, alternatively, it’s the end of the world if I drop in the rankings.

As someone who has flitted in and out of the top 100 over the past 12 months, I have seen no difference in the number of PRs who approach me and no discernible trend in my blog stats.

Absolutely, the visibility of appearing in the top 100 list helps with exposure – but the impact is more likely to be marginal than transformational. And conversely some major bloggers have withdrawn from Tots and seen no negative impact on the opportunities they’re offered.

One final thought. Check out the list of winners at the 2015 BritMums Brilliance in Blogging Awards. Note how many of them are outside of the top 100.

Is being in the top 100 a good thing? Yes. Is it the only route to being a successful blogger? Absolutely not. Look beyond the myths and you will understand how the ranking really works.

Please nominate me in the Best Writer category in the BritMums BiB Awards (closes April 13th) by clicking on the link below.

You will need the following details for the nomination form:

Blog name: Slouching towards Thatcham
Blog URL: http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com
Twitter ID: @thatchamdad
Favourite post (suggested): https://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2016/01/14/a-few-thoughts-on-grief-and-legacy/

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