The equivalent of an advanced degree in any field is online waiting for you to come avail yourself of it.
The problem is finding the best of what’s being written on a particular topic is a little like wandering around the stacks of PhD dissertations housed in the sub basement of a university library. (If that simile is wasted on you, think library at Hogwarts.)
With so much content being pumped out on blogs covering every imaginable industry and subject, the real trick to becoming a super genius, or at least conversational, on a subject or industry is to locate the very best niche blogs and then shake the content from each into a cocktail that can be consumed and republished in a variety of formats. I like to refer to this as creating genius stations.
There are a number of sites, such as Alltop, that bring you blog content from well-known industry pundits – you know, like me, but I’m talking about something even more custom than that.
To accomplish precisely what I’ve described above, all you need to do is get comfortable with a number of free tools and set them in motion creating your blended content. (By the way, once you figure out how to do this you can set-up numerous genius stations and even set them up for your clients.)
1. Google Blog Search – Google Blog Search has been around for years, but Google recently rolled out an enhanced way to find entire blogs specifically related to topic or industry, not just posts on a subject. I think this enhancement makes it much more useful for finding industry related content. I don’t care for the way they order the results, so you’ll have to do a bit of hand crafting to see if you agree with what they offer.
2. OPML – Once you find a handful of blogs you want to follow, you can subscribe to them via Google Reader or some other RSS reader. The easiest way to work with your list though is to create what’s called an OPML (Outline Process Markup List) file. This is a simply a list of the blog RSS feeds that can be easily imported into any RSS reader or other tools such as PostRank discussed below to save the effort of inputting them one at a time. Here’s a tool that will help you create an OPML file from a list of RSS feeds.
3. PostRank – Once you have a list of blogs it’s time to add what I think is the real secret sauce to this: PostRank. I love PostRank because it looks at each individual blog post and ranks them based on a number of factors, such as comments, bookmarks and various other forms of engagement. In effect, what it’s doing is telling you what the world thinks is the best of the best on the blog. So now you can further filter your content by telling PostRank you only want the RSS feed for posts, say, with a rank of five or above.
4. Yahoo Pipes – You could stop here and simply take all your PostRank five and above RSS URLs to Google Reader and read away, but what if you wanted to create one blended feed or a series of categorized feeds to create and distribute to other people or display on a Web page? Yahoo Pipes is a slightly geeky tool that does a lot of crazy stuff, but one thing it does well is combine multiple RSS feeds into one. With one feed URL you can easily publish the content anywhere you like.
5. Feedburner – If you followed the step above, then it’s time to publish your content on Web pages or create custom pages for customers. Feedburner is another Google owned tool that can help you enhance RSS feeds. So, if you’ve created an industry feed of all the best content surrounding knitting and you’ve blended that content into one RSS feed, you can use Feedburner’s Buzz Boost feature to create some simply HTML code that you can embed on any Web page. Once you do that, you’ve got a genius station that showcases the very best that’s been written on any subject you choose on a daily basis.
John Jantsch is a marketing coach, award winning social media publisher, and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.