Toplists are a proven way to drive traffic to adult web sites, and are an essential ingredient of your traffic plan. For many Webmasters, they are an attractive alternative to a traditional link list, as they reward linked sites by ranking them based on productivity. Here's how to start your own:
What is a Toplist?
A toplist is a links site that ranks member sites by traffic they send in. They are very simple sites that have three common areas: the Index or actual list of sites ordered by hits in, the Webmaster area containing the sign-up page and login page where Webmaster's add their sites, modify settings and view stats, and an "Enter page" optionally used on some toplists as a gateway pages to protect themselves from cheating.
Why You Need a Toplist
Why do you need a TGP? Why do you need a CJ? Why do you need a links page? And why do you need a toplist? The answer is the same for all of these questions. All of these sites rely upon other webmasters to increase the traffic of the site. The idea is simple: if you want to succeed in this industry, you can't do it alone; you need to create a network of sites that utilize other Webmasters' need to exchange links. I don't have to tell you that exchanging links with other sites is the most basic promotion strategy.
Toplists allow you to automate the link exchange process and distribute traffic between participating sites according to the amount of traffic they send in. Besides, like any other link site, toplists don't cost you an arm and a leg in bandwidth.
Like a CJ (Circle-Jerk site), a toplist is a fully autonomous, self-promoting site. Webmaster's (including yourself) send traffic to your toplist. Some of that traffic contains other Webmaster hits, which generate new participating site sign-ups. Those, in turn, generate new traffic, hence more Webmaster sign-ups, and more surfer traffic.
But unlike a CJ site, toplists, in general generate better quality traffic. Any more or less experienced Webmaster will tell you that CJ traffic and TGP traffic is the worst out there, whereas some toplists' visitors are known to convert better than search engine hits.
Where to Start
You will need four things in order to start a toplist: web hosting, a set of CGI scripts, a minimal level of traffic to feed to the toplist, and a few sites to add to your toplist. If you are planning to run a toplist on your own, then you will need a web host that allows you to run your own CGI scripts. There are numerous free and paid-for hosting companies that will fit. Choosing a script is a bit trickier. Free scripts are available, but in the majority, they give you limited features, and the most important feature, advanced cheater protection, is rarely implemented in free scripts.
My advice is to either purchase a quality CGI script, or to go with so-called remotely hosted scripts. A remotely-hosted script is a Web hosting service that gives you hosting and toplist scripts in one easy-to-use bundle, with instant, headache-free setup, and in most cases, better features than a stand-alone script set would.
For instance www.AltList.com (a.k.a. freetop100.com, top100.org) gives you all the features of most CGI scripts, web hosting with 10Mb of space, FTP access, instant account setup, cheater protection, web-based administration interface, fully customizable HTML design, and much more. All you have to do is fill-in a simple form, and you are set within minutes.
Once you have an operational site, you need to start adding your sites to the toplists that can send traffic, plus some other sites relevant to your niche (e.g. some sponsors). Now you have a ready-to-go toplist site. However, before you start promoting it, there are a few things for you to consider…
Building a Successful Toplist
The design of your toplist is your choice, but a few HTML tricks will improve your in-out ratio, making your toplist more attractive to participating webmasters.
You can also install an exit console on your toplists' index and enter pages. The console may open your sponsor link, or a link to another toplist that will send traffic back to you. Some toplists open exits to participating sites, but in my opinion its not a good way to send traffic to your Webmasters, as it decreases the quality of outgoing traffic, and misleads the real numbers of hits "out."
I also recommend that you include this simple bookmarking script on all of your toplists:
Another thing that you may want to think about is how to make your toplist stand out from the crowd. You can do this by choosing a rare niche for your toplist, though these days you will have to be very creative to come up with a new niche, but it will pay off in the long run. Keep your list clean by removing sites that contain multiple popup consoles and sites that are irrelevant to your toplist's niche. Finally, edit misleading titles and also replace broken banners with an alternative banner (e.g. a transparent 1x1 GIF).
Promoting your Toplist
I know, you want to say that a toplist must be promoting itself, but it is a useful thing to give it a push from the start. Some traffic you have to start with is very good, but you need to also target Webmasters directly. You can do this by posting messages about how great your toplist is to different Webmaster message boards, and by adding your toplist to Webmaster resources directories.
If you have many toplists, cross-link the Webmaster areas (e.g. place links like "Also add your sites to these toplists: blah, blah"), and even send newsletters to your Webmasters. With a little luck, you too can have a successful toplist!