I consulted a few years ago before Yahoo and CNET and my clients were all small businesses, even friends' sites.  No matter the size of the project, you can still try to get some insight into your target audiences and what they need or want.  I mentioned in a previous comment I used Search once to determine sentiment on a site vs. it's competitors by searching for a feature the site and its competitors all had, along with "like", "love", "hate", "wish", etc.  I also took note of who the people were who said those things and where they were talking (forums, twitter, etc).  It's a hacked manual approach and although not nearly as quality as a good market research report, at least I have a llittle bit of insight before going out to make site recommendations based solely on tags & links.  If you're recommending the site build things that people want (and fix or remove things that they dont), you're more likely to gain links and traffic naturally.

Squidoo is a website full of 100% user generated content that allows you to create what’s called a “lense.” A lense is a page about a specific topic that you choose to write about (usually something you’re knowledgeable in). After creating your lense other people can find it by searching for terms and keywords related to your lense. Let me just start off by saying Squidoo is an absolute powerhouse in the search engines. Its very easy to rank Squidoo lenses for competitive terms that would prove to be a challenge for websites with lesser authority. Creating a lense on Squidoo gives you 2 traffic opportunities:
On a dating niche site I took the ‘ego-bait’ post one step further and had sexy girls perform a dance and strip to revel the names of the major bloggers in my niche written on their bodies. As you can imagine it got a lot of attention from the big players in my niche and my audience and is a little more creative for getting links, shares and traffic.
This information hits the mark. “If you want your content to go viral, write content that influencers in your niche will want to share.” I love the information about share triggers too. I’m wondering, though, if you could share your insights on how influencers manage to build such vast followings. At some point, they had to start without the support of other influencers. It would seem that they found a way to take their passion directly to a “ready” world. Excellent insights. Thanks for sharing.

This post and the Skycraper technique changed my mind about how I approach SEO, I’m not a marketing expert and I haven’t ranked sites that monetize really well, I’m just a guy trying to get some projects moving on and I’m not even in the marketing business so I just wanted to say that the way you write makes the information accesible, even if you’re not a native english speaker as myself.
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