One of the important features of my daily blogging routine is to check my ‘Vanity Folder’ in Google Reader (my news aggregator of choice).
The reason I call it my Vanity folder is that it’s a folder that is absolutely and completely dedicated to…. well me. The purpose of the folder is to track any mention of me or my blogs around the blogosphere (and in mainstream media). I’ll tell you how I do it below – but first a little on the WHY.
Why Having a Vanity Folder is Important
Having a Vanity Folder in your news aggregator sounds like a fairly egotistical thing to do (and I’ll admit that the reasons I started it were probably more ego driven than the reasons I continue to use it) – however there are actually a number of great reasons to have one that go beyond stroking your ego:
- Engage in Conversation- Perhaps the best reason to track what others are writing about you is that it helps you to engage in the conversations that others are having that relate to you and the things you’ve written about. Some of these conversations will be positive and some will be negative – but all are opportunities – IF you’re aware of them and willing to participate.
- Build Relationships – Engaging in conversations (which end in time) can lead to ongoing relationships. Some of the bloggers that I now engage with on a daily basis (and who I work with) I first ‘met’ as a result of finding something that they’d written that referred to me or my blog. It’s amazing to see what happens when someone writes about you and then suddenly you ‘appear’ (as if out of nowhere) to make a comment on what they’ve written. It really makes an impression and shows that you’re willing to engage with people. You never know what might come from things when you do this.
- Track Success of Posts – One exercise that I do from time to time is to look back at the posts that I’ve written over a period of time and to think about which were the most ‘successful’. There are a number of ways of measuring success but one for bloggers is to see if the post actually caused anyone else to write about it on their blog. By having a vanity folder you to see how ‘successful’ a post has been at generating conversation on other blogs very quickly.
- Correcting Errors and Damage Control – This is really important. Sometimes the things that people write about you are negative, attacking, damaging and even false. This is one of the parts of blogging that many of us don’t enjoy – but it’s something that a blogger shouldn’t ignore. If someone’s writing this type of stuff about me then I want to know it – because I want to be a part of that conversation. This might be to correct an error that the other blogger has made, to make an apology where I’ve messed up, to answer a question or to defend myself where I’ve been unfairly written about. While it’s sometimes tempting to leave such posts unanswered (in fact sometimes it’s wise not to respond) it’s good to at least be monitoring them.
- Find Plagiarists – Another part of blogging that is increasingly frustrating for many bloggers is when others use your content for their own purposes without permission and without credit back to you as the source of the content. Not a day goes by when I don’t find someone scraping my RSS feeds in this way and it’s almost always through my vanity folder that I find them doing it. I’m always surprised by how many of these scrapers republish everything in my feed – including links to other posts that I’ve written and even my copyright notice (which contains the word ProBlogger). All of this triggers an item in my Vanity Folder and enables me to start the process of getting the other blog to stop republishing my content in this way.
How to Create a Vanity Folder
Creating a Vanity Folder in your News Aggregator of Choice isn’t difficult to do. Here’s how you do it:
1. Create a Folder in your feed reader and name it ‘Vanity Folder’ (or anything else you want to call it)
2. Fill it with ‘watch feeds’. These feeds might include:
- Technorati Watchlists – a ‘watchlist’ is a tool that Technorati offers for you to watch different keywords or URLs. Simply login to Technorati and go to their Watchlist page (http://technorati.com/watchlist/) and enter the keyword or URL you want to monitor. It will then give you an RSS feed that you can subscribe to for each term or URL. Subscribe to it and add it to your Vanity Folder. Tip: make a watchlist for your name, your blog’s URL and even your blog’s name (if it’s unique).
- Google News – Google News allows you to track different search terms via RSS also. Simply go to Google News and do a search for the term you want to track. You’ll get the latest appearance of that term in the results – but at the bottom of the left hand sidebar are some feed options including an ‘RSS’ link. This link is to a feed for the search term you’ve just entered. Subscribe to it and you’ll see any time that anyone’s mentioned that term in a mainstream news article.
- Google Blog Search - the same service is available to you Google’s Blog Search (http://blogsearch.google.com/). The only difference is that Google Blog Search tracks blogs only whereas Goolge News tracks mainstream media (and some blogs). As a result if you use subscribe to the same terms in Google News and Google Blog Search you’ll get some double up – however you’ll see some results in each that are different from one another.
- Bloglines Search – if you use Bloglines as your news reader it has a nifty little search feature that allows you to be notified of any mention of certain keywords. When I used Bloglines I used this. It would usually give similar results to the above methods – but occasionally picked up something that the other tools didn’t.
Other ways of Keeping Track of What Others Blog about You:
There are of course other non RSS related ways to keep track of what others are writing about you or your blogs. Here are a few:
Google News Alerts - Google News (http://www.google.com/news) allows you to set up ‘News Alerts’ which allow you to track keywords via either email or RSS. You can track words in a number of categories:
- ‘news’ – which tracks mainstream media and some blogs
- ‘blogs’ – which tracks blogs
- ‘web’ – which tracks other web pages
- ‘video’ – which tracks videos
- ‘groups’ – tracking Google Groups
- ‘comprehensive’ – which tracks News, Web and Blogs
Note: the ‘news’ and ‘blog’ options will give you the same results that you’ll get if you’re using the RSS methods outlined above – but the ‘web’, ‘video’ and ‘groups’ options are not available via RSS anywhere that I can see them.
Trackbacks – perhaps the easiest way to see when people have blogged about you is to keep an eye on ‘trackbacks’ to your posts (if you have them enabled). Read our introduction to Trackbacks for more on what they are http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/02/26/introduction-to-trackbacks/.
Metrics Referrals - most stats packages will have an option to view where people have arrived from when they get to your blog. This will reveal the URL of any site that has sent you traffic and is useful to keep an eye on.
A Final Warning
The title of this post encourages you to be more Vain. In actual fact I don’t really encourage any of us to be Vain – but instead to monitor what’s being written about you. In fact the main problem with Vanity Folders is that they can in fact lead to egos inflated and time being wasted on fairly self indulgent activities. As a result, my final piece of advice on vanity folders is to keep things balanced and to not get obsessed.
While I do see this as an important part of my blogging – I really only spend a few minutes each day monitoring these types of feeds. Like with any aspect of blogging – it’s when you get obsessed that your blogging gets out of balance and your blogging will begin to suffer.