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Quite rightly there is increasing amounts of talk about 'social media' online. The jury is still out on the real value of some areas of social media and networks, but one area where the value is currently most apparent is using network analysis to help optimise your natural search engine rankings (SEO), largely by identifying suitable sites to get inbound links from.
But what with the internet being so big, and growing so fast, it has been hard to make any practical sense of all the network data available. Recently I came across a tool which showed me the potential power of visualising these relationships...
The tool in question is provided by TouchGraph - for example here's a visualisation map of sites related to E-consultancy.com based on Google data.
Of course, we can question the credibility and reliability of the actual data source (in this case Google's related sites data) but I think the visualisation alone is very powerful. Particularly for mere marketing/commercial types like me, rather than data analysts.
It reminds me a little of the (site) web analytics tools and how they progressed and advanced in terms of data visualisation. I remember Site Intelligence's VBIS tool being amongst the first to do a good job of visualising traffic flows across an entire website; or Speed-trap's video replays of user sessions and "heat" clickmaps. People like Visual Sciences are now doing some pretty cool visualisation stuff in the world of web/data analytics.
The point is that visualization itself is an extremely poweful and important part of making data intelligible, useful and actionable. (For further examples, do read Avinash Kaushik's excellent blog piece "The Awesome Power of Data Visualization").
It still seems quite early days (outside of web/data analytics as mentioned above) for seeing mature data and visualisation services and products for things like online competitive intelligence and benchmarking, or even link / social network analysis for search engine optimisation. Though we are beginning to see some search agencies develop and even productise such technology e.g. Spannerworks' Network Sense.
With increasing use of standardised data sets (or, at least, better marked up data) and APIs, I'd be very surprised if there weren't a rash a new services coming which took interesting data and made it commercially valuable by visualising it in a way which makes it meaningful and actionable.
Indeed, I'm sure they already exist and TouchGraph is just the one I happened to come across.
So I'm interested in hearing from you about other such tools and services that you've come across where interesting data and visualization is being brought together to provide you with something useful for your online marketing?
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