Klout innovation will power search engine results

bing klout partnership

Earlier this week Klout announced a significant commercial partnership with American Airlines — everybody with a Klout score of 55 or over gets rewarded with free access to American’s network of airport club lounges, even if they are not flying on that airline. But it turns out, that was only the beginning of Klout’s surprises for the week.

In a radical turn for the company, Klout will enable targeted and specific “influencer” content creation though an initiative called “Klout Experts” that will begin showing up as the lead items in Bing search engine results. You read that correctly. Your activity through Klout can propel you to the top of organic search results.

Why this matters

Obviously any new factor that could affect search results — even in a small way — is going to receive a lot of attention.  This agreement with Microsoft seems to have profound and broad implications for the emerging world of “social influence” and the high-stakes world of search engine marketing.

First, a little background on why this development is important.

If I do a web search for “best car under $20,000,” the first results are probably going to appear because somebody behind the scenes has been optimizing an automotive firm’s website  The results may not necessarily provide a useful or accurate recommendation on the best car, the best value, or even a car that is available in my area.

That’s why search firms are desperate to supply “warm results” that consider, who, when, and where a person is searching … and perhaps most important — what are the recommendations from those you trust? Both Google and Bing have been open about including more results from your personal “social graph” in results.

Influencers and search

“We have been experimenting with an idea,” said Klout CEO Joe Fernandez. “What would happen if we asked topical influencers to share their expertise? Would they be interested? Would they repond?”

In 2012 Klout ran a beta test to try the idea, introducing questions to a small group of influencers.

“If you wanted to know the secrets of growing beautiful tulips, or the best make-up for your skin type, wouldn’t you love to have a response from a passionate expert?” Fernandez said. “We found that influencers love to share their knowledge and help, so we are helping them do that through this new program called Klout Experts.”

klout experts

Example of how Klout Expert answers will show in search results

“Our users are already the best content creators,” he said. “We are helping people realize the full impact of their influence through new, original content they provide on Klout. Every passionate content creator now has a chance for massive exposure through search.”

This new content will be “pragmatic” according to Fernandez, and direct — responses are limited to 300 characters. The best answers will show up at the top of the organic search results on Bing. There will be no “exclusivity” on the content so there is a chance the responses will show up somewhere on Google too. 

Gaming Klout and search results

Fernandez is aware that he is creating a giant target for spam and SEO gamesters and is putting counter measures in place to keep the responses targeted, limited and relevant.

“Reputation has to come first,” he said. “If you’re not an established subject matter expert with a high Klout score, you won’t be able to participate.”

However, the top content results will not necessarily be determined by an individual’s Klout score, Fernandez said. “We are developing methods to sort through the content. Answer quality is most important and we have created a novel voting system based on user feedback and input from other topical experts to help us do that.  You can only rank if you have influence on that topic. But feedback from other influencers will help determine what gets to the top.”

Klout has developed a system that randomizes the feedback mechanism and limits the ability to get votes from “friends” that would game the search results. “We will also have visibility on what people are clicking on through our partnership with Bing,” Fernandez said. “We are working closely with the Bing team to keep the product pure and successful.”

Industry momentum

The American deal, and the Klout Experts announcement represent the fourth major commercial roll-out for Klout in two months. The company also introduced “Klout for business” this year, which provides a simple dashboard to discover and connect with topical influencers. Klout reported that it has now attracted more than 200,000 business accounts for its service. In early April, the company announced a partnership with telecom company Orange to bring Klout to France.

Despite fierce and growing competition in the influence marketing space, Klout seems to be at least winning the war on the PR front. The company’s financials are also improving, with revenue expected to double in 2013 to more than $10 million, although the company would not reveal any data regarding profitability.

All posts

  • This is kind of a fraud by American. What I mean by that is American has lounges only in Airports that has an American terminal like LAX or JFK. And am I really going to deal with TSA at their terminal coming from another and then back to my flight’s terminal? I know some airports like Denver or Seattle just means having to haul butt across the mega terminal or take a train. I just don’t see it. And how will their customers flying American know about this program? It just seems like a situation that will not be used very often because of the hassle never mind proving your Klout score. And lets say I have a Klout score of 65 and never fly American. If I know that gets me into their lounge it gives me no incentive to fly them ever. I can’t see it as a ‘come as often as you want’

    The search results is interesting though. I recently blogged about a social agency using bloggers as their source for social stats. Even though the bloggers are AdAge50 bloggers doesn’t mean they are true. I would personally want to investigate someone’s bio before I took the search results seriously. If Yolanda doesn’t have online proof that she is a gardener or works at a garden center or is a botanist I would still search elsewhere.

    That being said because I know you are going to say it. How do we know any source is an expert and has the content vetted? Really depends on reputation. Gardening Magazine doesn’t need the bad press if they are wrong. WikiHow can get away with an ‘oh well sorry’

    I know you missed me LOL

  • I seriously have missed you!

    Klout needs to get this right. They have had so much bad press (some deserved, some not) and they know the content must be vetted or it is going to backfire. It is a huge opportunity for the company and quite a vote of confidence from Microsoft, don’t you think? I don’t think Microsoft would jeopardize search results, so I’m sure this has undergone some development.

    Thanks for adding your thoughts Howie!

  • Wow, this is a very, very interesting development indeed! With only 300 characters, I’m curious how much impact this will have. Do you know how many Klout results they will be showing per results page?

  • Mark,

    I haven’t seen any search related activity yet, but I did see the Klout Questions thing pop-up in my account and I started answering questions. I like that the responses are limited to 300 words.

    Do you think this is a similar idea as the LinkedIn Influencers? Power-users allowed to create platforms within the platform?



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  • Kinda lost here…is it because I’m using Klout for Business Beta? Not seeing any of these new features and our company Klout Score is 60.

  • now there’s a Klout perk with some meat on the bone. Time to switch those “paid link armies” into “Klout voters”

    (I’m joking, but fear there’s someone out there getting this serious thought)

  • pio dal cin

    mah non lo so… questo klout non lo capisco

  • I thought it was clever and imagined how cool it would be walking to the club and flash my K score and waltz into the lounge. It was a tremendous letdown to get to the next screen and see the offer was just a day pass.

    in the fine print lets you know the need to use it in the next two months.. Oh yeah, I’ll run right down to the airport:-)

    I don’t expect the company to go open up up extra facilities were given away much over hard costs but American just went to a lot of trouble to tell me the value might influence as equal to a bottle of water

  • Don’t know yet.

  • I think every platform will have to come up with something like this. “Warm” results matter!

  • It just rolled out today. I haven’t seen anything either! : )

  • Yeah, that is the problem. Where corruption can occur, corruption will occur, I’m afraid!

  • Klout is evolving into a more creditable source and erase the black eye from the missteps of the past. I like the Klout Question and have added a few but have not really have seen them or any other in any search. I think the partnership with Microsoft is a confiednece factor and an opportunity to right any perceived wrongs, let’s hope they to get this right!

  • I’ve long held that Cory Doctorow had the right answer with whuffie I’d like to get rid of follower counts them put up “number of people helped” but alas… If this really happened, someone would figure out a “help block” to screw it up.

    Assuming such, when asked about any such numbers, my stock answer is “the most important number on Twitter is ONE. The one person I’m talking to at the moment”… And it’s a smile or a laugh but don’t let anyone know my secret… I believe that to be true 🙂

  • I was waiting for something like this to be announced – I’ve been getting prompts to answer questions for a while now and have been wondering how the answers were going to be used. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

    I think it’s kind of exciting

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  • I agree, I’ve been answering questions on Klout for a while now, without knowing why (but still answering none the less!).
    I think it’s a great leap forward for Klout and, although they need to be careful and ensure validity, this could be the start of something big for them and their members.

  • I am not a fan of this idea. There is so much room for error with things like this. Doing things like this not only makes me mistrust Klout even more, it makes me realize that gamification is the new status quo. Sad.

  • Marjorie Henise
  • Very interesting perspective Warren

  • Only time will tell!

  • I think it is fascinating that people have been answering questions for months and didn’t know why. Kind of proves out the Klout founder’s theory that passionate people like to help.

  • I don’t know. It seems like this could be helpful if it works. If it is gamed, it is dead in the water I think.

  • I guess they’re trying to test our patience *taps foot*

  • I believe this may only be the beginning. Microsoft doesn’t have the social reach that Google possesses, so they needed a deal like this. I believe you will someday see restaurants, clubs, etc. with VIP sections dedicated to K60+ or “social influencers”. There may someday actually be full facilities, even gyms, which require a certain amount of social influence to join or enter – and Klout is jumping out ahead, putting their flag on the Moon.
    Are these far fetched ideas? Maybe, but I am certain that, as everything becomes more and more social, the Social Influence Card will certainly be played like press passes at the Super Bowl (or even better, the Super Bowl Parties).

  • What is the cutoff for “high klout score”? I’m just topping over 60 now, which I’m hoping will get me on the radar of various services. I know crowdbooster.com always highlighted people with a score of 60 or greater.

  • Very true. I had no idea why Klout was asking me to answer questions, but I did so without hesitation.

  • Yes, I think that will happen. A global VIP card.

  • I find that so interesting.

  • I guess I must not get the questions because I’m a person, not a business? It’s all very interesting. I’m thinking they need to issue Klout badges you can flash though I have to agree that the American lounge is not that tempting. Not with the TSA in the mix. Now if the TSA got an anti-Klout score….

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  • Hi Mark. If you had access to a plug in that allowed us to show and see Klout scores next to our names on this blog would you use it?
    Having studied all this pretty hard it seems very gameable to me.
    What happened to the purity of search that we all seek?

  • Why would I do that? I don;t care what a person’s Klout score is.

    It is not as gameable as you think. Last year Klout dialed back the scores of people who were obviously gaming the system so there was a check and balance in place. Also, it is relatively easy to move from a 30 to a 40 but it get very very difficult to move up the higher the score is, or at least that what I have been told. I have no data on that. Finally, I think those of us in the business are aware of the potential to game it, but is it really happening? The brands who are using Klout in their marketing told me that if it is happening it is too small for them to notice. Again, I don’t have data (nobody does) but the one thing I know is that if it is gamed in a widespread way Klout is cooked. They know that and so I’m pretty sure they are going to keep it under control. Their business depends on it.

  • We all know why we answer the Klout questions. They flatter us by telling us that we are in a select group of Klout Experts. We didn’t know how they’d use the answers, but we thought it would look good if we gave them.

  • 300 characters

  • So Google has authorship too help integrate into their serps. I think Microsoft has a wonderful idea of integrating Klout.

    I think all the hate towards Klout is an example of group think. If you are in Social Media Marketing then you understand how it works…When you look at the big picture from other industries, the average Klout scores is generally correct.

  • Thanks for your insight Thomas

  • Karin Sebelin

    Hi Mark, self-promotion is the thing to talk about.

    When people talk steadily about their great Klout progress,
    people game their scores afterwards. When someone talks about having reached nearly a Klout score of 80, people will do everything that this score gets real.

    Have good friends and you don’t need to game Klout. 🙂

    Best regards to you

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  • Very correct – the actual average klout score geographical distribution – http://www.floatingsheep.org/2012/07/geography-of-klout.html – shows that France has the highest average, at 37.8 – the world average is 26, and the UK weighs in at just under 35 and the USA as a whole averages 33. I have heard, though, that in California, the state where Klout is actually based, that the averages there are around 50, though I am not sure if that is correct, and the above link doesn’t give any state by state breakdown for the USA.

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  • Anyone and everyone can get a Klout score to 78 in 2 weeks with a brand new account. With brand new social presences, This has been tried and accomplished again and again. I have done it. Took 10 days. Requires some strategic tagging on Facebook. With established accounts it is far more diffiicult and almost impossible to budge an account up.

  • J. C. Hogue

    Hello Gentlemen,
    I feel like the
    “Village Idiot at the Nobel Prize Fish Fry!”

    My “condition” is likely due from the trauma I felt when many years ago, an esteemed Professor once professed to me,
    “Sir, there are no dumb questions.. JUST DUMMIES LIKE YOU WHO ASK THEM!”

    That said, would any of you good natured fellows kindly tell a “Wayward Brother”, what you all mean by “Gaming” or “Game their score”?

    Secondly would anyone please direct me to the best books or source on “The Basics Of Internet and Social Media Marketing?”

    Sadly I don’t have an “in house” I.T. expert or a 9 year old child to explain these lofty concepts to me!

    I am trying to make the transition from 8-Track to IPod, and frankly it looks like Chinese Algebra through the rear view mirror to me!

    I am much obliged for any help you all might tender a man who was around, when Moby Dick was still a minnow!

    Thank you and best wishes to all!
    J. C. Hogue

  • Welcome to the blog.

    “Gaming” means using techniques to “trick” Klout into giving you a higher score. I would recommend starting with my book the Tao of Twitter. It sets out a mindset necessary for being successful in the social media space. Good luck!

  • J. C. Hogue

    Thanks Mark!
    I appreciate the info. I will look into your book!
    Best always,

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