The distributed Web is here: blogs and guest posts scattered throughout the Web; comments on all of those posts; Twitter posts; content-specific networks like Flickr and YouTube; and so on. As you participate and engage with your audience on sites that you don’t own, your content and thoughts become literally scattered.

Lijit (www.lijit.com) is a tool that indexes your content and surfaces it to site visitors by way of a widget (yes, they stick with their naming convention and call it a "wijit"). So if you want to provide your audience with a way to search through all the stuff you’ve posted or commented this tool might be just the thing.

The distributed Web is here: blogs and guest posts scattered throughout the Web; comments on all of those posts; Twitter posts; content-specific networks like Flickr and YouTube; and so on. As you participate and engage with your audience on sites that you don’t own, your content and thoughts become literally scattered.

Lijit (www.lijit.com) is a tool that indexes your content and surfaces it to site visitors by way of a widget (yes, they stick with their naming convention and call it a "wijit"). So if you want to provide your audience with a way to search through all the stuff you’ve posted or commented this tool might be just the thing.

For those engaged in an active "spoke-and-hub" social media strategy, where your primary business site is the hub and you maintain embassies or outposts on other sites (such as Twitter, LinkedIn, other blogs, YouTube, etc.), the Lijit widget provides you with a centralized method to search both your primary site and all of your outposts and embassies. The Lijit service is managed from the Ligit.com Web site but can be installed on any site where you can add their javascript code (a WordPress widget is available as well for those with widget-enabled WordPress sites).

Using this tool you make a customized Lijit search index containing the content you disperse through the Web via comments, blogs, social networks and content sites. This can be a powerful way to provide site visitors with access to your increasing streams of communication on various Web sites.

Here’s how it works:

1. Sign up as a user (yep, one more profile to fill out).

2. Let Lijit know the user name you tend to use on various other sites.

3. Select the other services you want to be included in your customized Lijit index (including social bookmarking tools, shared content sites like Flickr, etc., other blogs and so on).

4. Customize display and features of the search tool. …CONTINUED

5. The obligatory "infect your friends so you can connect with them on this service" request.

6. Lijit generates the widget code.

7. You install the code and you’re ready to go.

Lijit can also detect if a new visitor to your site came from a search engine and what keyword that visitor was searching on. Using this information, Lijit can present a search results page to these new visitors that contains a listing of all of the content in your Lijit index. There are plugins that do this sort of thing already, but Lijit’s indexing of all of your social content is a definite plus.

Also, once your search is installed there’s another benefit: search analytics. When your visitors use your Lijit widget, the popular searches are gathered and e-mailed to you on a regular basis. This data provides insight into what visitors were looking for, specifically, on your site. Use this information to create more content people want, adjust your navigation systems, etc. It’s true that Google Analytics contains custom onsite search reports like the one generated by Lijit. (If there’s interest I’ll go into a detailed comparison of onsite search analytics tools in a later column.) I like the Lijit report and find it useful for assisting decisions about which items I might put in a sidebar or in a main navigation scheme.

There are, however, some potential drawbacks to Lijit. Most of them have to do with advertising. The search-results page generated by your Lijit widget includes advertising. However, given that the page looks very much like a Google search result page, the advertising doesn’t look entirely out of place. Though you can opt-in to share in the revenue generated by this search advertising, there is no way to opt out of the ads. I really wish that there were a way to do this because, like you, I prefer not to display a competitor’s ad on my own Web site.

Also, the design customization scheme seems limited to me. It would be nice to have a white-label version without the Lijit logo or at least a greater variety of color options to help it fit in more site visual designs.

As Lijit is a small and growing firm, I hope that those of you who find the design and advertising options to be deal-breakers will contact Lijit and let them know what you’d pay for a truly white-label version of their service. In the meantime, it does provide a great way to introduce your site audience to the content you are already sharing and creating across the Web.

Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt. He’s a frequent speaker on applying analytics and data to creative marketing endeavors.

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