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In late 2008 I needed to boost my web site traffic. Well, actually, I'd needed to do this for long before that, and tried just about everything a lone casual web author with a two-dollar budget like myself could. Such as many dozens of SEO (search engine optimization) tricks, including many from Google's own recommendations.
Funny thing was, the more of those SEO techniques I used, the lower my traffic went! Damn! And whenever I stopped implementing new tips of this sort for a while, my traffic would show signs of recovery!
This seemed perverse!
So after a while I began to suspect all those SEO advice sites on the web either didn't know what they were talking about-- or worse, were actively trying to screw over other webmasters, in an effort to reduce traffic competition.
And note that the SEO advice from Google seemed just as harmful as anyone else's. GULP!
And it appears I'm not the only one who's experienced this:
"The unproven nonsense spewed by so-called "SEO experts" simply doesn't work."
-- SEO Fiascoes: The Trouble with Search Engine Optimization by John C. Dvorak 02.10.09
Besides the SEO route, I also toyed around with social networking news sites like Digg and Reddit. Unfortunately, while such sites can offer lots more excitement and superficial results than SEO efforts, it turns out they fizzle badly in regards to any of the sort of real returns on investment of your time and effort that you're looking for. Why? Well, first you have to get a post past each network's own 'gangs' which tend to upvote only their own posts, while downvoting everyone else's-- usually regardless of the content involved. Getting past the gangs can't often be accomplished without joining a gang yourself-- which can easily turn into a life-draining and time-consuming exercise, as gang members may mostly be jobless teenagers with negligible social lives who do little else all day but downvote posts, message each other about their downvotes, and guzzle soft drinks. And you may find it tough to fit in with them unless you can match their lifestyle in terms of time wasted. Yuck!
"Aside from a few sites that got there early and established big audiences quickly, success in the blogging world these days is all about getting the Google gods to smile upon you, sucking up to more established bloggers in the hopes you can slice off some of their traffic, and coaxing the 12-year-olds who control Digg and other social media sites to notice you. Often it's about catering to the lowest common denominator. Do that, get your numbers high enough, and you can still survive and even thrive in the blogging world."
-- Dead man blogging Still planning to make millions as a blogger? Don't quit your day job just yet. The era of blogging for bucks may already be over, by Robert X. Cringely; February 11, 2009
-- WTF: this gentleman here joined Reddit today, yet he managed to downvote more than 550 posts (I stopped counting at page 23)
But even if and when you do get a post past the gangs (or get the gangs' support), then get tens of thousands of visits from the network...those visits usually turn out not to be the kind of traffic you're after.
Such visitors usually exit your site again even before the first page has fully loaded-- sort of like they have attention-deficit disorder. Mainly this happens because they largely consist of the same sort of gang members you dealt with earlier (only from rival gangs); and they accidentally clicked your link rather than downvoting it, or else your post title managed to be the one out of maybe every thirty which slightly piqued their curiosity despite their penchant for automatic sight-unseen downvoting.
But none of that really matters. For what few of them actually allow your page to load before they seek more immediate gratification from more downvoting or really sick porn, or some flash animation game somewhere, are not 'normal' web surfers by any means, and so will actually click somewhere on your page at something like a millionth the rate of a 'normal' web surfer.
In other words, they are 'junk' traffic. The kind of visitors you don't want, who not only waste their own time, but everyone else's too.
Oh sure, there does exist some actual normal web surfers in social networking traffic from Digg and Reddit: but they represent almost a negligible fraction of the total-- with the vast majority being the teenage-gang-fizzy-drink-guzzling-automatic-downvoters.
So Digg and Reddit definitely aren't useful places for non-gang members to promote web sites. At least as of early 2009. And even gang members themselves don't make much money with it: they simply regularly rack up 'junk' traffic spike numbers to brag about amongst themselves.
Stumbleupon may be far less widely known than Digg and Reddit, and I suppose considerably smaller numbers-size, too. But never-the-less, Stumbleupon consistently delivers far higher quality traffic than either Digg or Reddit, whenever someone there recommends your site.
I suppose one reason Stumbleupon is better than either Digg or Reddit is it may be especially tough for gangs to successfully organize against others there.
But perhaps the same things which make it difficult for gangs to 'game' Stumbleupon also make it difficult for people like you and me to promote their own content. For if there's a way to do that there, I sure wasn't able to figure it out, when I joined a year or so ago. So forget about becoming a Stumbleupon member in order to boost your own site traffic: that may well be impossible. All you can hope for is that some magical member of Stumbleupon recommends your site on occasion. That's it.