Ring Around the Rosie...
As the current (re)evolution of The Smut Factory continues humming along, I have decided to resurrect one of its oldest components: The Smut Factory WebRing.
I had originally started this WebRing last spring, as a means of looping traffic between my oldest AVS sites. These were all "standard" CyberAge sites whose main source of traffic was a steady trickle from the AVS' link list. With each site pulling only a handful of uniques per day, it was imperative that I try to retain these surfers as long as possible within my system; maximizing my opportunities to make a sale.
Plug and Play
Using a WebRing to do this made a lot of sense, as I could add or subtract sites easily, other Webmasters could participate and share traffic, and it was a "known" navigational metaphor that many surfer's understood how to use. Automation, ease of maintenance, flexibility, and my overall curiosity about the process made my decision obvious.
While I could have employed my own WebRing script using one of the commercial PHP/mySQL based solutions, I didn't wish to incur the additional server overhead, and wanted to benefit from the traffic coming in from the WebRing services' ring directory. With this in mind, I signed up at the original service site, WebRing.org. Within several minutes, I had my account activated, and my ring in place.
Things went along smoothly, and I soon realized that since my traffic was coming almost entirely from the AVS link list, and as such of extremely high quality, I decided to close the ring to other Webmasters, fearing a dilution of my traffic's quality, even if it cost me in terms of its quantity. Overall, I was quite pleased.
Then things changed. Yahoo! took over the operation of WebRing, and while at first I noticed an increase of traffic as Yahoo! fed the ring, I also noticed additional links on the ring script that over time became more of a traffic bleed than was compensated for by any slight incoming traffic from Yahoo! itself. If I had to guess, this was a result of the directories' making access to all adult materials (such as their infamous "clubs") harder than in the past. So I abandoned the ring, and removed it from my sites.
Back to the Future
A few weeks ago, however, I received an email that Yahoo! was no longer in control of WebRing. Interesting as the look, feel, and function of the system has changed very little, and typing in "WebRing.org" resolves to http://dir.webring.yahoo.com/rw which proudly proclaims itself as Yahoo! WebRing. The "new" system claims it is not a part of Yahoo! and in fact your Yahoo! ID, once required for admittance, will no longer function in this environment, requiring instead a new WebRing ID.
While I can't help but feel that Yahoo! is still pulling the strings behind the scene, and is in fact using this "changeover" as a smokescreen to help further distance themselves from adult materials, I did notice that the ring function was no more akin to its original form, and so decided to reactivate my account, and migrate it over to the "new" system. A long, sleepless night of customization and copy-n-paste monotony later, I was back in business with The Smut Factory WebRing!
You can see that it contains my logo, and ring name, along with text links for "Join Now" (used for other sites wishing to belong to this ring), "Ring Hub" (the main listing page), and "Random" which displays (obviously) a random site from within the ring. Finally, the "Prev" and "Next" buttons allow the surfer to move up and down throughout the list, displaying one site after another until he or she finds exactly what they want. Here's a screenshot of my WebRing Hub page:
It is not only that using a WebRing helps me to retain traffic throughout my own little network (Traffic Looping) but the fact that it is also a great "Filtering" mechanism, as surfer's who use them are often looking for something very specific. This is why you often see niche rings such as "The Leg Lover's WebRing" or "The Tit Lover's WebRing." When it comes to just how much traffic the WebRing is preserving and moving for you, detailed stats reports are a click away:
At this point, I will continue to use my "new" ring for the foreseeable future, and will soon begin to add my "main" sites to it as well, using separate doorway pages for this application. I might also start a new niche-specific ring or two in the future, and add the code to TGP galleries, as a way of filtering and luring that traffic into my network, and as yet untried approach for me.
Altogether, the use of WebRings is a great way to increase, and more importantly retain, your traffic, especially if you run a family of similar sites. Try it yourself and see!