You may know SodaHead for the embeddable polling widgets it has offered for years, but the company has been steadily turning itself into a destination site where people can ask questions and discuss issues of the day. The result has been a sharp increase in traffic over the last year, from some 166,000 users in December of 2007 to nearly 2.3 million users in December of last year, according to comScore.

Following a recent redesign, the SodaHead site now asks you to pose any question to the community, answer other people’s questions and comment on the latest news, entertainment and lifestyle stories. Users can still create polls and embeddable poll widgets, but the site is much more focused on discussions. Now, most people are finding the site through word of mouth and through links to SodaHead discussions appearing high in search results. The widgets (as well as search engine marketing) helped lure users to the site and promote brand recognition in the company’s earlier days, cofounder Michael Glazer tells me. He adds that musicians and other entertainers — some of SodaHead’s early users — are still using SodaHead on their MySpace pages and other sites.

Because of the site’s focus on creating conversations, Glazer says, a range of other metrics have also increased. In the last eight months alone, the number of answers to questions has risen from three million to seven million, and the number of comments has risen from four million to 10 million. (See screenshot of its current top questions below).

Where’s the value in a site that has a bunch of random people talking about random topics? Each conversation can be targeted for relevant advertisers. Asoap ad might run next to a question about what kind of soap to use, for example. The company is using ad networks to fill inventory for now, Glazer says, but is also working on its own direct sales effort.

I, perhaps inevitably, asked if Yahoo Answers was the company’s main competitor. But Glazer said it isn’t; that Yahoo Answers isn’t as conversation-focused, and that people are using SodaHead to find interesting conversations rather than larger social networks like Facebook and MySpace.

The Encino, Calif. company received $8.4 million from Mission Ventures in a second round of funding last June. That’s on top of $4.3 million it previously raised from Mohr Davidow Ventures and angel investors.