This site is so infrequently updated, I just have to wonder who (if anyone) still subscribes to it via RSS. I was looking back and there is some decent content on here though a fair bit of it is outdated as well. It might be about time to pick up and start over on a real non-WordPress hosted domain with solid tips, news and commentary related to social media, blogging and other related tech topics, but perhaps not just yet.

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No one likes it when people steal an idea and republish it. In the world of blogging, a’via’ link at the bottom of a post has become the norm for crediting sources. However, this phenomena is getting way out of control and many people link to the latest source in a long chain rather than the original. I found out first hand just how bad things had gotten when I started trying to track the actual source of an article today, only to be plunged into a seemingly endless list of links.

spy-pen.jpg

It all started with a blurb on EcoGeek about a 007 Solar Pen Camera spying device. I wanted to submit the link to Digg then noticed their blurb was via TreeHugger, which in turn added two new links: ChinaVision and Dvice. The latter link traced to UberGizmo, which linked to UberReview that in turn linked to 7Gadgets (an appropriate 7th link in the ongoing chain). Most of these sites didn’t link to the ChinaVision (original) site, and only one linked to 7Gadgets where this information apparently first hit the blogosphere.

The fact that this last source didn’t link another source doesn’t even mean, of course, that it is the last source in the chain. Maybe this is just where the chain got broken because one author didn’t cite his source. So where did this come from? Which one should you link to or submit to Digg? Who knows. What does this mean for the blogosphere? Is it natural and healthy sourcing or a sign of things getting out of control?

via allsux

I’ve heard a lot of people complain that social media is corrupt and that social media success is based on knowing the system or having friends with clout. Well, how is that different from regular media? In normal journals, newspapers and magazines not just anyone gets published, right? It is about your credibility and who you know. So why do people complain so much about corruption in social media? Did you really expect it would be fundamentally new and different?

The difference, as I see it, isn’t related to democracy or egalitarianism. Rather, the difference is participation. More and more mainstream media publications are adding blogs and comments, following the lead of social media sites. However, the basic paradigms and earned hierarchy and contact-based success haven’t changed. Is that so wrong? Do you really want to sift through the thousands upon thousands of stories submitted to Digg on a daily basis?

The reality is: any media source needs a way to sort information ahead of time prior to publication. In the case of newspapers, editors and the position held by reporters control what the public ultimately sees. In the case of social media sites, users vote for stories but they also vote for submitters. Either way, there is an element of content as well as an element of author (or submitter) trust.

So what can we take from all of this? Social media isn’t, perhaps, as different from regular media as we might have assumed, expected or hoped. However, it might be a step in a new direction. So instead of complaining about the details, we should, perhaps, all take a step back and think more broadly: are we at least moving in the right direction? Even if this kind of media isn’t fundamentally new, is it at least an improvement?

When people think of submitting links, usually social news, networking and bookmarking websites come to mind. The most popular of these, such as Digg and Reddit, can be hard to succeed on as there is a great deal of competition. However, there are some sites out there that are less well-known but can send a great deal of traffic – thousands of hits or more per accepted submission. I have recently seen thousands of visitors from sites I have manually contacted and that require manual approval for link publishing – very different than typical social media site. For two reasons, however, I am not going to list out the ones I have used in the past to do this:

1) Some of these sites are surprisingly unknown by the blogging and webmaster communities. They would potentially be flooded with semi-relevant spam were word to get out. In many cases, niche communities frequent these sites looking for links related to their interests, and these sites often have just one or two moderators.

2) Your niches probably aren’t my niches. What works for content I create will likely not work for your own. There are thousands of link-oriented sites on the web that can be found via simple Google searches. Also watch for an unsolicited source of incoming traffic – who knows, if you ping them with a similar future post they may be more than happy to link to you again.

One site I write for targets bizarre oddities, though it is often linked to from a site that mostly (strangely enough) links to porn. Why does it work? The demographics clearly overlap. So be sure to look past the overt purpose of the site and see what they are linking too. Whenever you come across a new site that posts frequent or daily link, look at what they link to and see if you have something that fits, either from your site or someone else’s.

I recommend making a list of such sites over time and keeping them in mind whenever you create new content. There are obvious and popular ones like Fark and Thoof to be sure, but there are many smaller ones that still send a ton of traffic to articles that they deem worthy of being linked to. When you find one, be patient and don’t spam – test out a link or two you think might be relevant in order to learn what they like to link to!

That all being said, if you leave a comment and (without linking – just use the site title please) let me know what your website is I would be more than happy to suggest possible sites to ping with links for traffic. I simply don’t want to announce them all here for fear of overloading sites I respect and enjoy with irrelevant links.

Much like front-runner political candidates, mainstream social media sites often get more attention than up-and-coming ones. There are, however, compelling reasons to look at newer beta and/or less well known sites. Some sites provide new services or features, or recombine old ones in unique ways. Others compliment or build on the functions of existing social media or other sites. The following four websites are ones that social media site users and bloggers alike should be aware of, and that already successful social sites should look to for new ideas.

(1) Romlet is a great way to build a reputation online as well as valuable PR and traffic via (free) backlinks. The Romlet widget combines and condenses some of the best aspects of a variety of useful and successful widgets. It also has the potential to develop into new kind of social network. The widget itself is part stats counter, part brag badge and part social bookmarking tool. Similar to the MyBlogLog recent visitors widget, the Romlet widget shows where visitors came from. These sources are displayed as favicon links to the referring source, which also work like AddThis bookmarks. Romlet users can also choose to display the number of visitors from each source, like a FeedBurner stats widget. Users can also visit their custom Romlet homepage to see more information and statistics about their own site or about other Romlet user sites and articles. Click here to see an example of Romlet in action.

Romlet

Romlet is still short on some potential community-building functions, a by-product of how new the site and widget are. Over time more functionality should certainly be added to encourage greater interaction between Romlet users. Social news and bookmarking options could potentially build on the already successful aspects of the widget. As with Peopleized, however, Romlet‘s creators continue to develop new functions based on user feedback.

(2) Peopleized is a relatively new social networking site where people interview one another in order to build up popularity and network with other people in an area of interest. Many of the site’s current users are bloggers, but not all. People can post or quote their interviews or others on their own website or social networking profile. These interviews serve multiple functions: building up PR on an established website, getting exposure to new audiences and developing press release information and skills for future use.

Peoplized

Probably the biggest limitation of Peopleized right now is that the functionality is not completely built out for hosting interviews and other information on remote sites. Most of the action takes place on the site itself, which is a good start (considering the site’s high levels of traffic) but could be expanded upon. Fortunately, the creators of Peopleized are already working on expanding its capabilities on major social networking sites such as Facebook.

(3) Plime is a social news site with a fairly complex and successful system for organizing and presenting content in various categories. First, there are more ‘offbeat’ categories than on most social news sites, including WTF and weird. Each story submitted can be easily tagged with an image, something Digg and Reddit would do well to take notice of. Plime voting also works in a fairly innovative way: votes are automatically given to new stories based on how many users have upmodded the user who submitted that story. Like StumbleUpon, users can also indicate categories of interest. In short, Plime integrates some of the best features from major social news sites.

Plime

The biggest downside right now is that, due to a lack of users, the site seems to recycle a lot of the material presented on said major social sites. The biggest upside for content creators is that the site doesn’t seem to put a lot of weight on where a story is submitted from – favoring content over existing URL popularity, making it a great place to submit stuff (yours or that of someone else) from lesser-known websites.

(4) Shoutwire is another social news site that has been around for some time but is relatively under-appreciated, particularly by people who want to get their content out into the world. The site works a lot like mainstream social media sites, but is perhaps less well organized. To compensate, however, it offers more options for user-submitted content – including forums for discussion and on-site editorials. Also, ShoutWire sends a significant amount of traffic to sites that successfully get voted to the front page. Admittedly, the traffic volume doesn’t compare to sites like Digg, but anywhere from a few thousand to over ten thousand hits from 20 votes is nothing to scoff at.

ShoutWire

Usability and ease of navigation seem to be the major drawbacks of ShoutWire. It is somewhat hard to find anything but the front page and almost-popular or newly-submitted upcoming articles. Something like Digg’s cloud view or more obvious category searches would greatly improve the existing site. That being said, for someone either casually looking for front-page news or hoping to get some traffic to a less-established site: ShoutWire is easy and user-friendly.

These are, of course, just a few examples. What underrepresented or under-appreciated social news, networking or bookmarking sites do you enjoy? Do you use some of these already? What is your take on them?

Single-minded SEO can be an easy and dangerous trap to fall into. Many bloggers fixate on a single strategy when it comes to search engine optimization. Some bloggers frantically scramble for backlinks instead of focusing on good content. Others try to pack every post with keywords, resulting in keyword density at the expense of legibility. The real key to white-hat SEO in blogging is balance. With that in mind, here are seven strategies every blogger should be aware of and use in conjunction with creating good content.

(1) The headline is the most important part of a post. In my experience, the single most important factor in ranking for a keyword or keyword phrase/string is the headline. One good strategy (employed in this very post!) is to ‘introduce’ the headline in order to increase the number targetting words and phrases. The first phrase above (Blogging Search Engine Optimization) is a good string to target. The second string is debatable. What would turn up the right result? ‘SEO Strategies Blogger’ is an unusual search string. It might have been better to go for ‘Blogger SEO Strategies,’ but a compromise was reached for the sake of making more sense to a reader and for this example.

(2) Backlinks should be built up naturally over time. Creating comment spam or buying lots of links really isn’t worth your time, energy or money. Greater rewards come from links you could never buy, from high-profile blogs or websites that are attracted to your content. Moreoever, search engines take notice if a relatively new site suddenly gets powerful backlinks and that site might be penalized for purchasing such links. Don’t expect strong, high-PR backlinks overnight. Be patient, write well, and they will come.

(3) Keyword density is important, but so is long-string keyword or phrase order. It isn’t enough just to target the keywords you want to rank for in every single sentence. In fact, though 3-5% is what most people recommend, that is a tough thing to accomplish. Instead, shoot for longer-string keyword phrases (e.g. ‘longer-string keyword phrases’!). Mixing up the order from phrase to phrase will not only make for a better blog read, it will also increase the likelihood that you will rank for unusual strings of keywords you may not have thought of (did you notice the variety of search string orderings in this paragraph?).

(4) Latent semantic analysis/indexing in a nutshell: write naturally and use relevant terms. Even if you’re not trying to rank for every word or phrase you use, search engines do look to see if you are using phrases that other sites are using when writing about certain topics. For example: this post is about SEO and mentions latent semantic analysis. That lets the search engines ‘know’ that I am aware of an important factor in search engine optimization. Using related phrases can help you rank above even more established and higher-PR sites for similar terms. It is a way of ‘rewarding’ people for writing better content, even if the competition is targetting similar keyword strings.

(5) Search engines look beyond your blog on the web – buzz may be important. Various people have analyzed (for example) Google patents and patent applications, and some experts have concluded that Google looks in emails and forums not only for links to blogs but also mentions of them. Applying latent semantic analysis, it is entirely possible that Google also pays attention to what words are used in conjunction with your blog’s title or url. In short: search engines may even use ‘buzz’ about your site – even if there are no links – to determine what your site ranks for.

(6) Relevant outgoing links are important, just like relevant incoming ones. Search engines look not only at who links to your site, but also who you link to. If you consistently link to sites about something unrelated to what your site is targetting you may, over time, start losing your rank for the keywords you are targetting. Some off-topic linking is fine, but it is best to keep in mind and link to other sites in your field or niche often. This shouldn’t be too hard to manage, as it makes sense to link to relevant sites!

(7) Most importantly: SEO isn’t everything! While all of these strategies are good to keep in mind, focusing too much on SEO will lose you readers (and respect) over time. Diversification is the key. Always be thinking of your multiple target audiences: regular (usually feed) readers, social media visitors, those coming via natural backlinks and search-engine users. So, whenever you write a new post or page, think about SEO but don’t forget to also think about the diverse visitors who come to your site from all over the web and for all kinds of reasons. SEO is important but content (cliche:) is still king.

Some of these may be old (white) hat to many you, but it’s good to practice a bit with every post. The trick is to have SEO be second nature – a natural extension of your writing. Think of the Googlebots as another member of your audience, just like your regular readers and other visitors! Communicating with them well is just another thing to keep thinking about.

WTF

From someone eating only cereal for 30 days to a site featuring tree porn, Romlet users span the spectrum of webmasters and bloggers. With over 1,000,000 Romlets served up on user sites, the time has come to announce the winners of the Romlet Awards! Prior to the Romlet beta release the widget only existed on a few select websites. Since then, Romlet ‘blog-boosting’ widgets have spread throughout the blogosphere like a virus. Bloggers and site owners have been using it to gain popularity via backlinks. Each Romlet user has customized their widget to suit their blog – with everything from elegant to bizarre results. The Romlet Awards are designed to highlight the best widget examples as well as the weirdest uses and strangest users.

The Bikini Zone

Sexiest Widget: How can you go wrong when you put a simple white-on-black widget next to such attractive ladies? This is a bit of a spoof award to be sure, but The Bikini Zone seemed worth an honorable mention!

Cerealize Me

Most Outrageous: Many people blended the design of their Romlet widgets with their site. Other sites, however, such as Cereal Wednesday chose the opposite approach. It is perhaps fitting that the most garishly outstanding yellow Romlet would be found on a site whose author is eating only cereal and milk for 30 days.

Daisy the Curly Cat

Most Pink: Inevitably, someone was going to make a bright pink Romlet. A few sites already have. The Romlet on Daisy the Curly Cat is not only nicely fit to the site’s design and colors, it is extremely extremely pink.

No Direct On

Double-Romlet: With two Romlet widgets to choose from, someone was inevitably bound to use both. NoDirectOn went an extra step and used the maximum widget size for each of their two, then merged the two into one. If that isn’t dedicated fandom what is?

Life of a School Bus Driver

Best Integrated Colors: This Romlet is particularly well-integrated into the color scheme of the site, and put in the same area in relationship to a MyBlogLog widget. It almost seems to be a plugin or built-in site feature on The Life of a School Bus Driver.

Win Extra

Best Integrated Stats: So far the ‘stats’ version of Romlet is somewhat less used than the ‘favicon’ version. However, this site owner and others find the stats-Romlet useful to see not only where visitors are coming from but also how many visitors they are getting. This particular widget fits the colors and overall site theme well.

Shop Like Us

Best Integrated Widgets: The owner of ShopLikeUs managed to get the MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog and Romlet widgets to line up quite nicely and all appear as part of a group. This is one of the tricks to successful widget design: integrating various widgets in a single theme or even area within a theme.

Pure Blogging

Best Integrated Sidebar: Pure Blogging has taken an extra step in cleanly integrating the Romlet widget into their design. The created a sidebar section and unique ‘referrers’ label to call out Romlet as an element of the site.

Webmania

Best Foreign Language: Romlet went international quite rapidly, popping up both in European and South American websites within days, and Asian sites shortly after. Webmania has done a great job of cleanly integrating the widget next to their MyBlogLog equivalent.

WallStreetFighter

Most Scandalous Surroundings: The Romlet on this site has dubious company, from almost-naked women to tree porn. So far WallStreetFighter is the most scandalous and off-beat site using the Romlet widget.

Web Urbanist

Most Prominent Widget: Blogs are often cluttered with widgets all over, but this popular site (which has had over 300,000 widget views!) has its Romlet right in the upper right for all to see. The Web Urbanist widget is also fit well to the sidebar and overall site them.

disassociated.jpg

Best Overall Design: Nothing at Dissassociated seems out of place – least of all the Romlet widget. In fact, the site only has two widgets (Romlet and Flickr) and both are cleanly integrated into the brilliantly simple site layout.

Romlet helps bloggers boast and boost content and brag top referers. More examples of Romlet widgets in action can be found on Romlet’s featured users page. Bloggers and site owners: get your own Romlet widget!