blogs


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?

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!

Disclosure: I have sites hosted on Dreamhost.

Dreamhost had a severe outtage earlier today during peak traffic times, but declared it ‘resolved’ long before all of their sites came online. Comments continued to pour in from disgruntled users well after they made an announcement highlighting (as shown below) that everything was alright. Everything was not alright.

Network Slowness on Dreamhost

Now, I want to like Dreamhost, and most of the time I do. They pride themselves on being friendly and personable, and they are. You get a lot from Dreamhost for under 10 bucks a month. I can even understand the outtage.

That being said, if they are running at “95%” up then I think it’s reasonable to expect that my own sites won’t be 100% down. Also, if the situation is “resolved” then all customers should cease experiencing problems.

Dreamhost is not, as they say, such a nightmare most of the time. However, when nightmarish things happen, I believe their customers have the right to expect them to remain upfront about it. If their systems are mostly operational, then I would rather they spend time fixing the rest rather than updating their message to the equivalent of “mission accomplished.” That is all.

Here are some other bloggers to keep your eye on – a breath of fresh air from the types of things typically covered on this one. Start by checking out Disassociated and WallStreetFighter if you’re sick of reading blogs about search engines, ranking, blogging, and so on. Webomatica has content of all kinds, including posts about blogging but not an overwhelming number of these!

Also see Herebox and Hoodmonkey for all sorts of weird randomness – you really never know what to expect with them. For tips on life I’d recommend LifeLearningToday, and for interesting random stuff check out TheThinkingBlog.

You can’t miss WebUrbanist for amazing images of street art, graffiti and other such things. Also definitely have to check out the incredibly stupid blog: Allsux. If you host your own blog and want to widgetize it, be sure to get a Romlet! If I missed someone I should know about drop me a line and I’ll throw you a shout.

OK OK, so I can’t help myself … I have to send you to a few blogs about blogging too. You absolutely must read and subscribe to Alister Cameron’s blog – he is a great guy with excellent blogging tips, with a mix of post lengths much like Andy Beard (hint: check them both out!). You also have to check out Nate Whitehill – also a savvy blogger with well-organized tips, tricks and advice. Finally, though not just about blogging, check out TheArticleWriter for tips on writing and earning money at it as well. And one final meta-link: this is not a blog at all, but a way to get more exposure for your blog and well worth checking out for any blogger: Peopleized.

I assume everyone is as sick of thinking about the impending Google PageRank update (slated for this month – August 2007!) as I am. If you’re concerned about your PageRank and fretfully trying to predict it, just remember: it isn’t all about incoming links and their PR value. Most people focus on that particular part of a very complex equation. In fact, Google looks at a number of factors that many folks don’t realize in determining PageRank. Here are two that may surprise you:

(1) Relevance of Outgoing Links: Amazing but true, Google looks at not only who links to you but who you link to! If you link to every kind of site under the sun, Google won’t know what to think your site is about (yes, I’m attributing ‘thought’ to the mindless GoogleBots!). Also, if you link to too many low-PR sites Google might not believe you to be an authority in your niche.

(2) Other References to Your Site: buried deep within Google’s patent applications are strong pieces of evidence that suggest Google scrapes even non-indexed sites, follows no-follow links and even checks emails for references to webpages. So, if there is a lot of buzz about your site, you might find that your Google PageRank turns out higher than you thought it would!

With that said, I swear I won’t write another post about PageRank until after the update!

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!

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