I’m writing this blog post with the assistance of Zemanta, a web service that claims to enrich your blog posts and emails by inserting links, related pictures, articles and tags. I thought I’d take it for a spin to see how it works here on SocialSignal.com.

My primary interest in Zemanta is in its promise of automatic links. I’ve gotten a little bit lazy about adding hyperlinks to my blog posts: I’ll still hyperlink to anything that might be new to a reader, but I’m not convinced it adds much value for me to hyperlink every time I mention Facebook, Gmail or LinkedIn. Still, if Zemanta is willing to do the linking for me, why not? (And let’s see if all those services show up as hyperlinks on our site — I’m not adding any hyperlinks to this post myself.)

For the purposes of this test, I’m using Zemanta as a Firefox plug-in. But I see that Zemanta is also available as a server-side plugin for WordPress, Moveable Type or Drupal (5 or 6). That could make it a handy tool for both the Social Signal site (Drupal 6) and my blog at alexandrasamuel.com (WordPress).The one downside so far — at least using the Firefox plugin — is it seriously intrudes on the text entry fields in Drupal (because it’s trying to preview the images links it will put into my post).

One thing that intrigues me already: Zemanta asks you to customize its image and link sources by adding links to your Flickr account, your Twitter account, and your Amazon affiliate account. That last option alone suggests a brilliant effort saver: my assumption is that if I mention reading the book Made to Stick, it will create a hyperlink that encourages click-through sales; ditto if I mention buying Beyoncé’s “I am Sasha Fierce” (why do I feel compelled to continually out myself on that front?)

You can also ask Zemanta to keep its eye out for content from other specific blogs, OPML files or feeds. I added our blog, my delicious feed, Rob’s delicious feed, and my Google Reader OPML file.

Zemanta’s core effort — to locate your blog posts in the broader context of related content on the web — maps onto what we’re moving towards on SocialSignal.com. You may already have noticed that we’re pulling related delicious links onto our blog posts, as well as related stories from our own site; we’ll be expanding this approach to tie in other sources of online content.

But my hunch is that Zemanta will work better for sites that aren’t already geared towards incorporating images and external content; and in particular, for sites that have a more flexible aesthetic and design. Zemanta’s related images and links impose a significant footprint on a post, and it won’t be to everyone’s taste.

UPDATE: When I first saved this post, it came through without any links or images at all. From Zemanta’s relatively limited documentation I inferred that I had to choose the content to include; that’s when I noticed the block of links under my text entry field, offering to insert hyperlinks. I clicked “apply alll” and got all the links you see in text above, as well as that “reblog” button you see (which you’re supposed to click if you want to reblog this, ensuring I receive proper attribution).

I’m not sure if I missed the link buttons the first time around, or if they only appeared after I saved the post. (The shot below, showing the link buttoms, is something I added to this post myself using Skitch.)

Zemanta's add links

That’s also when I manually added the Zemanta logo to the post, a process that was made a little easier by Zemanta offering it up as a suggested image.

Finally, I also chose some of the suggested links to related content to create the “related articles” block you see below.

Related articles by Zemanta

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]