Hi Robert, thank you very much for your advice! Very helpful indeed.
I've now joined Digg and Stumbleupon, and I've started submitting some stuff there, mostly from the blog.
I dont think Digg will prove to be very useful for my work sites - my first impression is that its users go for the really newsy stuff, the more topical, current and somewhat controversial, the better. The kind of, you know, somewhat dry research we do on the legislative and policy context of a subject as a whole, it doesnt look like that'll fly much there ... So, like, what you're saying about how Digg can basically get you a big, sudden boost of hits if you make the front page and otherwise nothing special, well, the work stuff definitely wont make the front page so that kind of undoes Digg's advantage there.
Not that I wont be trying for a while.
But maybe Stumbleupon has more promise, then ...
For the blog Digg seems to work though, in a hit and miss kind of way -- so far I've submitted 4 items, and 3 went nowhere but my abortion/terrorism post got 74 Diggs, so that was a bit of a flash. Funny to see that you get twice as many Diggs than people actually coming to your site; I guess a lot of people just Digg stories that sound interesting without actually looking at them?
I submitted the same four posts to Stumbleupon, but that's yielded zilch traffic so far, a couple of hits. But I guess that the more items you Stumble or Digg, and the more people eventually may start following you, the more you get a multiplier effect ... (well yes, nimh, that's what the man just said).
Robert Gentel wrote:
So the stories that are popular usually come from sites that are already popular and send their visitors to digg their articles, or from users with a lot of friends who digg each others stories to help them promote.
I guess it would really help, then, (thinking of my work sites now) to add those bars of little icons/links for all the social bookmarking sites at the bottom of the more newsy pages?
Problem is that many of these wonky types, at least here in Europe, dont seem particularly up to date with the new internet tools ... Like, we have a tagcloud on one of our sites, a clunky-looking one for sure (we'll change the format), but still, a tag cloud -- and from the feedback we get it's clear that a minority of users finds it very useful, and the rest just doesnt even know what it is
. I mean, we've had responses from people who thought there was some page error, that some coding or something had accidentally shown up on the page. Reformatting it to make it less clunky and chaotic will help, of course, but you know, if people dont know what a tag cloud is ... somehow I doubt that many of our readers are active social bookmarkers.
Then again, I suppose you only need a small number that are very active and well-established on a social bookmarking site to make an impact...
Robert Gentel wrote:
For your blog, interacting with other blogs is the best thing you can do, as it pings the other bloggers and let's them know about you. As they start linking back the site's authority in search engines will grow and search traffic will come.
I've been dutifully pasting in every blog post I link to into the trackback field... most of those blogs dont seem to feature trackbacks though. Or unreliably - like Ambinder once had the link to our site showing up in his post's trackback field, but other times it never showed up.
It often seems to take a while before the trackback is registered too; I will paste the URL in the trackback field, publish the page - and sometimes the URL immediately appears in the list of trackbacks underneath that field when you next check, and sometimes it just stays inside the field itself till a day or two later. And by that time the post you linked to isnt read much anymore anyway, so even if it would end up featuring the trackback to your post I guess it wouldnt yield much traffic anymore.
I've been trying stuff otherwise though. Like posting a reply to blog posts I linked to, saying that I liked their post and had quoted it in one of my own, and posting a link + summary or excerpt; that got some traffic. What was more effective was when the blogger in question read that and then wrote a new post highlighting mine, but that only happened twice so far. But yeah, when one of the guys from the Monkey Cage did that this one time, basically an off-the-cuff reference, that's yielded more hits to the blog than all the links here on a2k combined.
I guess I now realise a lot better just why blogs keep referring to each other so damn often ... That's always seemed a little incestuous to me, and I often wished they'd just link to newspaper articles or alternatively research or policy papers and the like directly more often. Would help against the perpetuation of echo chambers too. But I guess that apart from all the psychology of the blogosphere elites that all read each other before they'll read anything else, there's also a pretty down-to-earth, practical reason for that then.
As for converting visitors into RSS subscribers, I dont think we're doing that a lot yet... My problem is that my personal friends, they're just not that interested in US politics, they're not gonna read through all of that. I'm the only one who's crazy like that, well, thats why I ended up on A2K