Lijit provides a novel way for your site visitors to find your content regardless of where you publish it, and to seek out related information from your network of online contacts and friends.
As such it makes for not only an excellent, highly personalized search tool, but also an excellent opportunity for the promotion of your online business, and that of your friends and colleagues.
Add to this, excellent tracking and stats, an easy-to-implement web widget, and a means by which your site visitors can easily pin down your most popular content, and you have a very attractive content marketing tool for independent web publishers.
One of the cool things about Lijit is that all I have to do is give it my blog URL, and it manages to automatically detect my various social network accounts.
In my test, I only had to fill in two missing services, which is impressive indeed, when you consider the amount that were automatically detected and added to my network by Lijit.
Once you have filled out any missing account details from the extensive list, and / or added your OPML reading lists or RSS feeds, you are taken through to the next page, where you can customize your own widget to embed into your blog.
It's really as simple as that, and the only other thing you might want to do from there is fill in your profile, add a picture, and the usual "getting started" routine you'd expect from any social networking service.
This is worthwhile, of course, if you are planning to use Lijit as a means of expanding your existing readership.
Additionally, you can add websites feeds to your personal network on a separate page of the Lijit dashboard. Lijit will automatically add your del.icio.us contacts, and MyBlogLog network, but this is optional and either or both can be turned off if you would rather keep them private.
Again, you can add in blogs by URL, OPML and RSS feeds to refine your information network, and these info sources will all be included in any searches your site visitors make from your Lijit widget.
A nice way of adding extra value, by hand picking additional news sources you think will benefit your readers.
In addition to your blog, you can select from a huge range of social media publishing destinations for inclusion in your Lijit searches. The options available at the time of writing are:
- Bookmarking services:
- Photos and Videos:
- Social Networks:
While there are a few missing services (where's Jaiku?), this is an impressive selection that includes even lesser popular social media destinations. Furthermore, you can bring in any additional URL, RSS feed or OPML reading list to be included in your expanded info source selection.
The Lijit Widget
The Ligit widget is the heart of the service, as this is the means by which you bring search functionality, and instant access to your extended social networking presence to the sidebar of your blog or web site.
The widget setup page presents you with a nice amount of options, not dissimilar to those you might encounter when customizing a Grazr newsradar, for instance, and certainly more flexible than the rudimentary options of MyBlogLog in terms of your ability to style, resize and tweak parameters to suit your needs.
Once you have decided on how your widget should look, and the content you'd like to include in it, you simply have to copy-paste the Lijit code into your blog wherever you'd like it to appear.
If you use Blogger or Typepad you have it even easier, as there are "quick install" options for both services.
Depending on how you have set your Lijit widget up, it can display a cloud of popular search terms, in addition to icons for each of the network services you have opted to include, a "surprise me" button that will take your visitor to a random piece of your content, along with the capability for users to add the widget to their own iGoogle start page.
The "surprise me" button functions rather like a tightly focused version of StumbleUpon, providing a small frame at the top of your browser window and allowing you to be transported as many times as you like to random content from the current author's full range of information sources. You might get a blog post, followed by a Flickr picture, and then a StumbleUpon favorite in one sitting, for instance.
When embedded in your blog you can have the widget display search results in a Lightbox-style dialog that will appear superimposed directly over your content, or you can alternatively have results routed to a certain page of your blog, obviously giving you the opportunity to monetize them through your own advertising should you wish to.
You can check out a working version of the widget here, configured to Robin Good's various network presences:
Lijit Blog Explore
The most recent addition to the widget, and one you can see in the example above, is the "explore" button. When clicked this will open up a similar superimposed dialog to that of the basic Lijit search. In this dialog you are given a visual representation of the people within your personal network.
Within this visual matrix you can see the users that link in to you, those that you link to, and those that have both linked to you, and been linked by you, differentiated by color. This provides a pleasant way for your readers to quickly find other content that might be of interest to them, even if they don't have a specific search query in mind.
It certainly makes for an attractive, at-a-glance view of the people connected to you through your various social media publishing outlets.
Fear not, however, if your network is less than gargantuan, as you can disable this feature from your widget should feelings of network inadequacy overwhelm you.
It's also worth mentioning that Lijit features some excellent stats tracking capabilities, providing you with a really nice range of data on what people are searching for via your widget, how many people have searched in a given period, the locations of your readers, and all of the usual information you might expect in a stats package like AWStats.
You can also find information on who is linking to you in their blogroll, how many of your search results were actually clicked on, and the last 25 search results made on your widget.
Needless to say, this is a great way of discovering what makes your readers tick, what your most popular content is, and how you might develop your future publishing strategy to play to your strengths.
Lijit As Destination
Beyond its primary function as a blog-embedded search widget, the Lijit website is an impressive search destination in its own right. By clicking on the "find an expert" tab on the main menu of the website, you can perform a search for either a person or by keyword.
From there you will be given a list of results for your term, along with the appropriate RSS feeds for any of the results that Lijit manages to track down.
This is a nice added feature that gives you a shot at finding content outside of the blogs that you usually read, and those affiliated to them, essentially opening up the Lijit concept further to take in its entire userbase.
Furthermore, all results are tied to their originator, and subsequently their profile. This provides you with a great opportunity to promote your various publishing outlets both on your blog, and in a more centralized way via the Lijit webite. Creating as full a profile as possible gives users of the on-site Lijit search the possibility to discover multiple points of entry to your work.
While I wasn't successful in all of my search terms, Lijit nevertheless provided me with relevant content from faces and names that I recognized much of the time, differentiating it from the more comprehensive, but far less focused Google Blog Search that I use most commonly.
Where Lijit Fits into the Ecosystem
I would contend that Lijit has managed to come up with a unique value proposition that will be of interest to a lot of bloggers, marketers and other independent web publishers. But how does it intersect with existing services and tools?
In its emphasis on aggregating, personalizing, and humanizing search, Lijit shows something in common with Mahalo, Jason Calacanis' effort to create a human-powered search engine, with results written by its contributors, rather than gathered by means of search engine "spiders". Lijit, however, relies on the content already being created by its userbase rather than having them specifically set out to gather it.
Using a networked, tracking widget places Lijit in some respects in the good company of MyBlogLog, another great way of discovering content by checking out who your fellow readers are as you browse a blog post. Lijit actually includes MyBlogLog results within its search, which is great news.
Like Blogrovr, which I have previously reviewed here, Lijit places a great deal of significance on the thoughts and publications of your personal online network. But while Blogrovr is a great way of finding out what your personal favorites have written about a particular website, Lijit lets you know what they have written about a certain keyword.
In its aggregation of social network content, Lijit intersects with Tumblr, which is a great way of bringing your blog, Twitter, and other RSS streams into one place. While Tumlbr focuses on republishing aggregated content, however, Lijit concentrates on searching through them from your existing blog or website.
There are also shades of Stumbleupon, BlogBridge Topic Guides, and BlueOrganizer in Lijit, with its people-powered proto-semantic web tendencies, but each of these services serves a different function.
In short Lijit is very much of its time, without being a me-too service, given that there is no existing service providing a simple, personalized cross-network search widget to date, at least not that I have encountered.
Lijjit is surprisingly lacking in shortcomings. The biggest criticisms it is likely to face will be from users of services that have not (yet) been included within the Lijit framework.
I was personally quite surprised to see Jaiku missing from the list of options (if not so surprised to see the absence of Pownce). Given the amount of buzz that Jaiku has managed to generate in the wake of its Google acquisition, this would make for a smart addition. It could be that it has been deliberately overlooked due to the fact that Jaiku itself is used by many people to aggregate feeds from other content sources, which could make for annoying duplicate search results. Nevertheless, I'm sure there is a way around that.
With that said Lijit has an impressively long list of networks and platforms for you to tap into, and most of the important and popular networking and publishing destinations have been covered.
Furthermore, you can add the URL or RSS feed of anything that hasn't been included, or even import an OPML file, thus making the Lijit service potentially limitless.
Lijit provides an impressive way of offering your site visitors the chance to search your social media output across a huge range of publishing platforms right from your blog or website.
Furthermore, it makes it easy for people to find content from your extended network - the people you link to, and your social networking friends. In this sense, you become a trusted hub of information and the search process becomes personalized for your reader.
For independent web publishers the value is twofold - for one, you can easily aggregate your Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn and other services content for your site visitors to access. Secondly, you can offer your readers a trusted network of like-minded content providers well-suited to helping them out in their search query. That's something that regular search engines can't compete with.
While there are a couple of missing pieces in the jigsaw - Jaiku being the most notable in light of its recent surge in popularity - the overall coverage is very good, and Lijit manages to make the grade as a web widget well worth having, even as part of the most sparingly designed blogs.
I for one will be making extensive use of Lijit on my own blog, and highly recommend that you check it out for yourself.
If you'd like to read more about Lijit, you might want to check out the following links:
Originally written by Michael Pick for Master New Media and titled "Personalized Search Taps The Power Of Social Networking: Lijit Is Here"