About six months ago I installed on my Thinking Home Business and then on this blog the lijit search and statistics tool.

I acknowledge I’m a fan of lijit and have been from the outset. The fandom is due in no small measure to the attention the people at lijit obviously pay to those who use their product. For example, within – as I recall – about 24 hours of installing lijit, I noticed on my MyBlogLog widget some new visitors, who turned out to be lijit executives. Impressive!

Then I found the lijit people amazingly responsive to questions and feedback. I suppose I’m so used to those pro-forma emails you get from companies who have asked for feedback (don’t they all?) saying someone will be in touch soon and then you never hear, or you get a waffly, weasel-word copout response, at best.

Not so lijit. They address what you say or ask and respond as human beings, telling you what they are able to do and what might have to go on a wishlist.

Meeting the lijit people at BlogWorld Expo confirmed the impression of a company actually wanting to engage with bloggers and have real conversations.

And yes, I do have a very cool lijit t-shirt from BlogWorld Expo, but I would be a fan anyway.

But it’s probably fair to say that, before I installed lijit, I hadn’t really thought a lot about the value or otherwise of installing a search tool, either in addition to or instead of the default search tool that seems to come with all or most blogging platforms.

I knew I could, for example, install a Google search engine on a blog, with the options of searching either the site or the Web generally. I resisted that, I suppose because I thought it was just a free kick for Google and anyway there was already a search tool installed.

I realise now that that thinking was rather narrow. Lorelle Van Fossen has a neat post on why and how, on a WordPress site, you would think about replacing the default tool with a third party search tool (such as, but not necessarily, Google) and how you would do that.

And John Jantsch wrote the other day about why bloggers should think about installing a search engine and specifically about installing the new Google Custom Search on his blog. He is obviously pleased with what it does and also with the fact that it provides statistics of what people are looking for on your site.

That sounded good. But I knew that lijit also provides a quality search functionality (I have tested it) and provides extensive, detailed statistics. And, like the non-professional version of Google Custom Search, lijit is free.

So I thought it was time to have a good look at what lijit was actually providing and see if I could perhaps make even better use of it than I’ve done so far and then to blog about it.

First I emailed lijit and asked for a comment on Google Custom Search as praised in John Jantsch’s post. I was told that lijit’s CEO Todd Vernon had left a comment on that post (I’ve been checking since and haven’t seen it but it was pointed out to me that comments on that blog are moderated). I’ll be interested to read those comments in due course, assuming they appear, but in the meantime I have had a good email conversation with lijit and have also listened – twice – to a very interesting session on BlogTalk Radio Mediasphere, where my good friends and colleagues Jim Turner and Tris Hussey had a very lively interview/discussion the other day with Todd Vernon himself.

So I feel I’ve now got a reasonable grasp of what lijit offers and why – as the title of this post says – lijit loves bloggers.

The short explanation of what lijit does, from the company website, is:

Lijit allows you to easily create your own search engine. One that searches your blog, bookmarks, photos, blogroll, and more. By offering the Lijit Search Wijit on your blog, readers can search all of YOU. In turn, Lijit gives you detailed statistics about those searches, so you can better understand and serve your reader community.

From my notes of the BlogTalk Radio interview with Todd Vernon (TV), here is my summary of what makes lijit special in terms of being a blog search and statistics tool.

lijit differs from other players in the search space, such as Technorati, in that lijit is not a “destination website”.

From the beginning, lijit’s goal was to leverage trust online, drawing on how we handle relationships offline.

What people do in real life is totally different from what they do online – in the real world “you tend to go ask people you know”: you use your relationships with people as metadata.

There is really no equivalent to that in the online space. You reach for Google and then you start sifting through mountains of data.

But in the online world there is a “sort of a parallel” to the real world approach, and that is essentially the blogosphere.

“The reason you read blogs is you identify with the position. You may not agree with the position, but as you read them you understand that metadata the same way you understand people when you talk to them in real life.” (TV)

The service is based simply on a widget you plug into your website. lijit uses the term “publishers”, which includes bloggers but extends beyond them.

Subscribers/readers find out not only what the publisher has written, but also what the publisher might have found on del.icio.us, photos the publisher has posted on flickr, and then the other influencers in the publisher’s life, for example via a blogger’s blogroll and MyBlogLog information.

Subscribers can mine data through you and through your network, using the metadata they’ve learned about you.

This helps the subscriber. It is also helpful for the publisher, because lijit provides the publisher with statistics on all this activity.

So what’s the big difference from competitors?

Todd Vernon says it’s that lijit wants to provide “really cool stuff for publishers”. He sees this as a major diffentiator.

They are trying to find people with interesting content who don’t necessarily hit the radar screen on other services.

Their focus is not on page rank – “we’re essentially like ‘people rank'” – tracking a page rank type behavior in the linking but “more of a respect metric”, “an information metric”.

Looking at “the entire social structure” of the participating publishers.

And what lijit found interesting about publishers, especially in the blogging space, is that a blog tends to be a “Rosetta stone” of the things the publisher is involved in. “It shows their tweets, it shows their connections to the blog world, to other people. It shows where their photos are.”

What lijit has developed is how to rapidly consume that information, almost instantaneously, and build the social network of its publishers.

The signup is easy and rapid. And how is this for a claim, for any business? “We have zero churn” (TV).

There are a few areas where I would like to see changes. Especially the fact that the system does not seem to have been structured so far to accommodate easily those of us (and we are many) who have more than one blog. At present, to get lijit working adequately on separate blogs I’ve had to create separate lijit accounts/identities. That to me looks like a glitch that needs to be overcome. I’ve raised it with them. They have taken notice. To me that’s a good sign.

But crucially for bloggers, as Todd Vernon has said, the business is targeted at bloggers and other publishers. “The primary customers are publishers” (TV).

Which is why lijit loves bloggers.

And why it is my expectation that more bloggers will come to love lijit.

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).