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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.

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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?

There are three great web tools for looking quickly and easily at how well your site is ranking for keywords you are targetting. Of course, there are many such tools, but these three in particular are commonly overlooked and each can help you assess and improve your site in different but valuable ways. Whether you are working on free SEO or paid PPC ads, these are all worth looking at:

(1) Website Grader is a great site that, as a free service, does a few valuable things all at once. First, it checks your site’s general statistics on Google, Technorati, etc… More importantly, however, it shows you how you rank for keywords you are targetting AND compares that to other sites which YOU define as your competition. The tool also looks for gaps in your page structure or other problems with your site that may be hurting your rankings or keeping you from turning up higher on search results. Of course, as the name suggests, it also creates an overall ‘grade’ for your site based on this combination of factors.

(2) Google Site Related Keywords is a great way to see what Google itself thinks of your site. You simply enter your domain name then wait for Google to browse your site and return what the GoogleBots decide are your top keywords of choice. If you aren’t turning up on search results, this can help explain why. This site, for example, returns top keywords like ‘page rank,’ ‘search engine’ and ‘blog’ – a good sign that I have targetted the right keywords and that Google has a good idea of what this site is about! Google thought this site was about funny and weird humor, which is partly true, while it originally thought this site was about fine art, not street art.

(3) Stealing Competitor Keywords is a great way to get ahead of whatever sites you may be competing with and outranking them on search engines by seeing what they use! As the linked article suggests, it might be best to sign up for a 1-day trial (quite inexpensive) and do a lot of searches in that first day.

OK, I’ve added some pretty new bloggers (but with interesting blogs and blog concepts, so check them out!) to the blogroll here so I feel a little compelled to throw out some tips for getting started with blogging. Yes, you can find tips for blogging all over the web but most sites will try to sell you something – and if you haven’t noticed: there are exactly 0 ads on this site. So here goes:

1) Find blogs you like, subscribe to their feeds, fave them on Technorati, and leave comments on them. Make those comments relevant. Feeds and faves will help you easily keep track of new posts on these blogs you like, plus if you feed/fave a blog it helps their rank – so tell them when you’ve done it! Some blogs with ‘do-follow’ will give you a PageRank boost for your troubles, but in other cases it’s just a way to get a feel for the blogosphere and will help you get to know bloggers who you can ask questions of and get tips from.

2) Don’t overload your blog with ads and buttons too early. Put a few things up, the things you really want people to click, and add and subtract as you go. Too much stuff looks spammy and can make it so people won’t click anything. If you watch your Google or MyBlogLog analytics (both of which you should be signed up for by the way,  with an MBL widget on your site too!) you can watch what people click, where it is on your page, and adjust accordingly. Also, think about your goals: you probably aren’t going to make a ton from AdSense right away, so think longer-term and put up buttons like Technorati faves and FeedBurner buttons like you see on this site to build up the readership and popularity you’ll need to earn more in the future.

3) Carefully choose your blog tagline. This has two incredibly important functions: it both tells your readers right away what the page is about and helps Google and other search engines know as well. It is much easier to rank for things in your blog title – so choose those phrases carefully, and change them as the content of your blog changes. For more keyword/SEO tips see recent posts on this blog.

4) Link out to get links in. Linking to relevant blogs and websites will help get their attention. Most veteran bloggers have various ways to see who is linking to and talking about them, and they will perk up and pay attention if someone new comes into that mix. However, don’t expect linkbacks from big-time sites like TechCrunch, of course – look for successful bloggers who still interact with their readers.

5) Get the right bookmarking and stats tools on your site. I recommend checking out the beta test for the Romlet blog widget, which is a brag badge, bookmarking tool and stats counter all rolled into one. If you’re not getting many visitors you can opt out of the public stats portion, but the widget will help you track in real-time where your traffic is coming from. Ther’es nothing worse than getting a big hit from a social news site and finding out about it too late to vote for it or ask your friends and fellow bloggers to! The MyBlogLog Recent Visitors widget is also a must-have – it lets you see who is visiting, then trackback to them and thank them for showing up. Together these two widgets cover a lot of the basics, and are better than cluttering a blog with all sorts of stuff.

That’s it for now – feel free to ask questions or add to this list!

Recently a number of bloggers have been asking us about about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), including bloggers who are successfully using Social Media Optimization (SMO) techniques. This came as something of a surprise, but it seems clear that a lot of bloggers forget to target all audiences possible, which can reduce overall readership potential. We, for example, focus more on SEO than SMO – though a balance is ideal. Further, using SMO techniques targets a relatively limited range of people – with a somewhat limited range of interests. Alternatively, SEO can bring in search traffic from all over the world, and specifically helps bring in people who are interested in the content they searched for that is on your page!

With that in mind, I will be writing a few posts with SEO strategies for bloggers who want to target search traffic. Don’t forget: these don’t have to conflict with SMO, they can be an added bonus! This first set of steps is really easy to follow and a good introduction to SEO for blogs:

(1)  Use the free Overture Keyword Tool to find a search phrase. If your blog is, for example, about ‘race cars’ try putting the words ‘race’ and ‘cars’ in the search box. You’ll notice right away that tons of people search for race cars, of course. Now, getting your site to come up on searches for that phrase is going to be tough (just Google that same set of words to see how many sites you are competing against!).  Pick a few sets of keywords from the results that are a little less high traffic but still have significant search volume and are relevant to your site, like ‘modified race car’ or ‘street race car.’

(2) Use Google and do a search for the phrases you have selected. How relevant are the results? How many results are there? How high are the PageRanks of the top sites (if you have a Google Toolbar installed that shows you automatically? If you find that the top results are highly relevant and detailed, that there are a lot of results or that their PageRanks are all very high, you may want to target a different keyword phrase or string (by inputting your keywrod phrase into Overture and going ‘one level deeper’ to add another keyword to the phrase). If not and you have found something worth targetting, then write a post about 

(3) Your post should contain the keyword phrase or string in the headline (e.g. Cool Modified Race Cars) and should repeat key words or phrases in the body text as often as possible. Also, if possible, encourage people link to that post using the anchor/title text that matches your keywords of choice (e.g. modified race cars).

(4) Check your results for keyword density using a Keyword Density Calculator. Most people suggest shooting for a density of between three and five percent. That can be quite difficult (five percent in this case would mean that your phrase should be 1/20th of the text, which means integrating it into almost every sentence!). Try to mix things up – rearrange the order of the keywords and where they fall in the text. And above all: make sure the content isn’t comprimised while you are going for keyword density!

Once you get the hang of this system it is pretty easy to use. It is also a good way for bloggers who are having writer’s blog to figure out new topics related to their core issues of interest. Best of all, SEO brings in search traffic which can give new life to a blog that has a set readership. Finally, SEO also means that if your SMO strategies every fail you have something to fall back on!

Well, I’m playing with Microsoft Adcenter … and can’t figure out why there is no way to view keyword stats (expected impressions, ctr, etc…) while also being on a page where you can delete current key words. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to toss MSN’s Adwords equivalent in the trash just yet – still have my free signup bonus to burn through – but they had better improve their interface if they want to retain customers.