Grading stem cell blogs: what is the best in the world?

We have posted before about how anti-stem cell folks seem to be uniquely talented and/or motivated to get their gospel out there, particularly when it comes to the Internet.

According to Google search results, some of the top hits for “stem cell blog” are sites that are extremely anti-stem cell research and have little in the way of original content. These sites score highly according to Google, but is a basic Google search really the best judge of a website’s value or a blog’s quality?

It turns out that there are some arguably more helpful tools for evaluating sites and blogs including Website grader and Blog grader. These tools use what appear to be more meaningful criteria for evaluating sites and they breakdown the criteria in a very clear way.

They also allow for comparing different websites.

So I took www.ipscell.com and plugged it into Website grader along with some of the top competing stem cell blogs (according to Google and my own opinion). See results above.

For all the criteria the higher the number the better, except for traffic, where the lower the better.

The website, repairstemcell, that Google has for a long time consistently ranked #1 in its search results, did not fare so well.  Its Moz rank on a scale from 1-10 (where higher is better) was 1, the worst, while its grade specifically as a blog was just 23 out of a 100.  So why does repairstemcell rank #1 in Google searches for “stem cell blog”?

One of my favorite sites, stemcellnetwork.ca got the highest overall Website grade of 95 and the best Moz grade of 5 (out of 10), while we were a close second at 91 and with a 4 out of 10.

In terms of specific blog grade, we here at www.ipscell.com did well with a 92.

As a test, we included one site twice separately, the California Stem Cell Report, and it got the exact same scores. This site, which has the most up to date information on CIRM, had the highest traffic rank (lowest number) meaning it has the most visitors. Way to go, David.

So what is the best stem cell blog?  I would argue it is the one that you personally like the best and that you find yourself repeatedly reading day-in and day-out.  It all depends on the reader.

7 Comments


  1. Paul,
    All of these grades calculated (by machine) based on numbers: visitors, pageviews, incoming links and so on. It does not reflect the CONTENT and its value. In case of “stem cell blogosphere” there is no correlation (unfortunately) between blog traffic and value of original content. For example, if I’ll do only copy-paste news headlines with quotes to my blog and do some SEO work in WP platform, I can get 3-10 times more traffic. Or I can produce great value content 1-2 times a week and do nothing for Google indexing and SEO and traffic will be very low initially. Later on, word of moth channel could works.

    It also depends how broad is your audience. If you blog a lot about “stem cell politics/ religion/ regulation/ business” (what is on our mass media daily) you can get much higher traffic. If you blog specifically (90% of content) about biology of iPS cells and new methods for iPS generation, your audience will shrink significantly. Because you will target mostly scientists, who really don’t care much about blogosphere currently.
    So, you can have a great blog with highly valuable original content, generate unbiased analysis and produce ideas, with very low traffic. Or vise versa – copy-paste exciting news from mass media sources (BBC, Reuters, ScienceDaily…) with zero intellectual input and have huge traffic and even monetize this crap. This is a current situation in “stem cell blogosphere”. I’m blogging about stem cells for the last 10 years.

    Today there are only 6 stem cell blogs (correct me if I’m wrong) with high value original content which updated more then once a month:
    Hematopoiesis
    iPScell
    Stem Cell Assays (40% of posts original)
    Stem Cell Network
    CIRM
    Stem Cell Monitor

    Some of them actually biased. For example, CIRM would blog only in “report style” about their grantee and “how money were spent”. I’d not get anything about new exciting methodology came up from Japanese lab or analysis of all clinical trials in multiple sclerosis or “RegenMed” industry in India. So, even these 6 more or less focus on particular topics. More broad and interesting first 4.

    Forget about other blogs. 90% of “stem cell blogosphere” don’t have original content. If blog have no original content, there is no point to keep it as a blog, you can read it as a news feed via twitter or RSS reader. But all of the are useless.

    One more example. With my current blog Hematopoiesis I have about 100 readers per day. Any techno- or other blogger (apple, IT, photo, gadgets, food, politics…) will laugh at me, because he has 100x more. But I’m so happy with this number. Because I know the most of these 100 regular readers, many of them in person. We’re like a family with common interest. I’m getting comments, emails and opinion in personal communication about each of my posts. This small audience is so engaged. I accept critics from them and can change their opinion. It’s very very productive professional networking. I can get 20-200 comments on my blog post from LinkedIn and some of them switch to personal communication and possible collaborations.
    I can ask my “web geek” friends to work on my blog SEO and play with it. I can multiple number of visitors maybe 3-10x after that. But do I really need it? No. Because they are not targeted audience. They will click once and never come back, so I don’t want them.


  2. Hi Alexey,
    Thanks for your comment–I agree 100%. That’s why I said at the end that the best blog is the one that you (or I or anyone else) reads on a regular basis and likes. But Google rank does matter in a general sense because politicians, funding agencies, and even scientists get their information and go to websites via what Google recommends. For example, if you do a search for a given type of information on Google, a site that turns up in the top 10 (first page) will get a lot more visitors than a site say on the 5th page of results. Sometimes these events may lead to a new, meaningful reader of a website who becomes a regular visitor.
    I really like your website Alexey and it is an incredibly good one. I myself especially appreciate original content and particularly when people actually voice their opinions!


  3. Interesting piece of work you did on blog readership. Quite frankly, I was surprised at the ranking of my blog, the California Stem Cell Report. I know its readership is quite limited and thought some of those other sites ginned up much greater traffic. But the points you and Alexey are making are valuable. Original work often draws lower numbers than automated sites. Also, I do not do the same sort of thing that you and others do. I rarely get into the science. I devote the blog largely to public policy and economic issues dealing with CIRM. Worldwide, I figure there are no more than a few thousand people deeply interested stem cell issues, including the public policy and scientific areas. So that’s the total audience. And within that audience, some potential readers do not care much about public policy and vice versa in relation to the science. Then again there is the quality of the readers. Are they scientists, lawmakers, journalists, regulators, biotech firms, university personnel or high school students researching a term paper? Lots of variables. One of the great blessings of the Internet is to allow easy and accessible publication of information of interest to only tiny audiences. Call it narrow-casting. Until about 1990 or so that was impossible. Printed, costly media was the only real way to reach audiences. And because it was costly that ruled out the niche information vehicles that fortunately we find today on the Internet. Let a thousand flowers bloom.


  4. David,
    Thanks for your perspective on this. You make some really good points.
    The total audience for stem cell websites on the Internet is relatively small, say, compared to those interested in Lady Gaga or cooking goat meat.
    But I think the audience is growing. Through Google Analytics one can learn a lot about the visitors to your website, and I’m impressed with mine.


  5. @Paul
    I agree with you about the importance of being on first page of Google search. One of my and I’m sure yours mission is education of public, students and spread valid information. I was talking about it in International Society for Cellular Therapy last year giving comment on “hijacking Google by marketers and stem cell treatment sellers”. We’re loosing this competition, because nobody wants to invest time and money for it. There are a bunch of web geeks doing SEO for blogs professionally. Companies are hiring them. Companies paying to Google for “sponsored links” and “top position” on first Google search page, irrespective your site SEO. This is a business. My view on this and how can we improve it below:

    1. Professional societies (ISSCR, ISCT, TERMIS) must take a lead in spread valid information in Internet by –
    (A) Issue the guidelines for (i) patients, (ii) researchers, (iii) physicians and put them on front page
    (B) Paying to Google directly for sponsored links leading to those guidelines
    (C) Hire a specialist (working on search engines optimization) to ensure presence the links to valid information on first search pages of Google, Bing, Yahoo
    (D) Recognize other sources of valid information (sites of other professional organizations) and link to them
    (C) Recognize and appreciate indie-bloggers, support them by (i) donations, (ii) linking and promotion

    This could be full time job required time and money investment. That’s what all biz people doing to ensure appearance on first Google page. They recognize importance of this unlike “stem cell and cell therapy” professionals. To me, seem like professional societies absolutely don’t care about info in Internet. They don’t know what Web is for, they don’t know how to use it. How can we call scientists are smart people after that?

    We as indie- bloggers can also do something:
    1. Ask friends to spread a word about our blogs;
    2. Make buttons or banners ($ investment, could be unaffordable for us) and exchange them for free;
    3. Ask Cell Press or NPG for place your banner on their web-sites (if they will ask money for it, they are screwed, this option is unaffordable for me);
    4. Study how to get your blog on Google first page, study SEO (time investment with no guarantee of outcome) and play with it, or ask specialist to do it ($ investment);
    5. Ask your readers and friends promote your blog by on facebook (like buttons), twitter (retweets), by flyer on the wall of scientific building and so on.
    6. Ask professional societies for promotion of your blog on their web-sites

    But to me the main obstacle is a rigidity (read: stupidity) of leading researchers in recognition of importance and impact of Web in modern time.


  6. @Alexey

    The anti-stem cell bloggers such as FRC and others have loads of cash. The odds are stacked against you on that count and fuddy duddies leaders in science do not like blogging, making it even harder.


  7. JJ, we have made huge progress in the last year in communicating our side of things and the trend is the right direction. Hopefully, more senior scientists will realize that this kind of communication is permanent fact of life and that they need to adapt or evolution will move on without them. We are still behind our opponents on the anti-stem cell side, but I think they realize we are on the move and will not stand in silence any longer.

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