A Belated Valentine For 10 Sites You Could Learn To Love

Work and some recreation kept me from posting this in time for St. Valentine's Day. Hate when life keeps me from the computer. Without further delay, the sites I love and think you will, too:

1. Quantcast.com
Quantcast is a free service established for marketers, agencies and publishers to serve as a basis for media planning. If you're buying online ads, you may already be familiar with its data about media sites.

I love it because of the Web site traffic information that’s available about you and your competitors. But, don’t count on Quantcast (or Compete.com) for precision. If you’re involved in mutual fund or ETF marketing, you know the byzantine collection of Web sites, microsites, Extranets etc. that you’re responsible for, and your colleagues are no different. Quantcast data may over- or under-state competitor traffic.

What should be reliable is the information reported on the Lifestyle Summary tab: a list of sites also visited. Below is data about FranklinTempleton.com.

2. iMediaConnection.com
This is a very commercial site on the subject of interactive marketing, with much of the content authored by vendors. I, for one, think there’s nothing wrong with that. The site publisher does a good job of mixing fresh content and submitted content that’s been in the queue. The offerings may be broader than you need, but there’s a lot to learn from the articles, videos and podcasts.

3. Marketleap.com
Marketleap is not a site you’ll love for its looks. Then again, it’s been out there serving online publishers well before Web 2.0-designed sites were at the wireframe stage. Marketleap is a free, reliable way of keeping an eye on who your competition is for keywords, for tracking the popularity of links and for insights into how well represented your site is in search engines.

4. Delicious.com
Read an article, tag it using your Delicious account and you’ll be able to find it again even if you’re using another computer or browser. In addition to using it as a personal organizer of your notes, you can find content using Delicious’ search of others’ bookmarks and notes.

Frustrated by useless search engine results, many people favor this “social search” because user bookmarks can be a tacit endorsement of valuable content. Delicious offers lots of flexibility in organizing and re-organizing tagged content, sharing what you want and setting controls over what you don’t want to share. Another (relative) oldie, but a goodie.

5. SlideShare.net
Back in the day, I believed that the best content could be found doing filetype (*.ppt and *.pdf) searches on Google. But, that meant unnecessarily opening and closing a lot of university and government agency presentations with misleading slide titles. I’ll still search by file types but not until after I've checked out what's on SlideShare.

Thousands of content creators—many of them prominent names--upload their presentations to share on an array of subjects. Digital and other forms of marketing are especially well represented. You’ll learn something, if only it’s insight into how someone else presents a story. Note that this is a platform you could use for publishing content, too.

6. Twitter.com
OK, I’m the person who years ago sought to build a following among family and friends by creating "amusing" answering machine messages that I published daily. Who thinks that the letters to the editor are the best part of the newspaper (which I now read on the Kindle). And who tracks Google Trends as an RSS feed. I like to keep up.

Twitter isn’t for everyone but as marketers in one of the most commented on industries, Twitter should be for you. At the minimum, go to Twitter Search, search for some terms (your company name, products, portfolio managers) you want to monitor and add the RSS feed for the queries in your feed reader. (See a related post on what people have been saying about financial advisors.)

No doubt your employer’s Compliance department has rules for you to follow regarding posting company-related Twitters, but there is no harm in reading. You can’t be expected to do your job in a vacuum, and Twitter is one free, effective way to stay in touch with what an increasingly influential community is saying. The more you learn about Twitter, the more you'll see that it's much more than a Web site.

I use Twitter mainly to call attention to fresh Web content about two topics: digital marketing and the financial services industry. Naturally, you’re invited to follow me.

7. StumbleUpon.com
I discovered this site a few years ago while in the midst of a challenging Web site launch. It was right around that time when my mind split the Web into two for me—the work Web, which involved a lot of stressful CMS-related testing of the new Web site—and the Web I play on.

Sign up on StumbleUpon.com, select topics that interest you and prepare to browse the Web in the same way that you use a remote control to channel surf television programs. Every time you “stumble,” you’ll be taken to a Web page you probably haven’t seen before but could conceivably lose yourself in.

Your thumbs up or down on the content you see will be an input into the powerful recommendation engine that feeds subsequent content to “like-minded” users. This is very cool stuff and has significant traffic implications for you if your site publishes something that catches a StumbleUpon wave.

You may hear much more about Twitter but a report earlier in the month claimed that StumbleUpon has7 million users—or twice as many as Twitter.

8. ReturnPath.net
Email services providers tend to offer a generous amount of content on their Websites, but ReturnPath’s site is one of the richest. Lots of the typical whitepaper resources but also a good multi-author blog and podcast.

9. Webmaster Radio.FM
Free business-to-business Internet Radio that I recommend for Internet marketing, search engine optimization and advertising content. Some of the hosts take a while to start the show, others seem to be on permanent ego trips but hang in there for unequaled real-time commentary and insights.

Download the desktop application and, if you listen live, you can benefit from participating in the chat rooms. Or subscribe, as I do, to the podcast feeds.

10. Alltop.com
Alltop is a self-described "online magazine rack" that enables our best browsing and content snacking instincts. Above is a screen shot of Personal Finance but Alltop aggregates content on a variety of topics from a vast array of sites.

Enjoy but back to work--would the headlines you're posting on your content compel a browser to click for the rest of the story?

So, those are my random 10. I make a point of not pestering readers for feedback because I realize you're subject to Compliance restraints. On this topic, I'm making an exception and hoping you can find a way to post from a home computer and email account. What sites would you send belated Valentines to?

We could keep this up all the way to Sweetest Day...and maybe a week or two after.