Wonderful Warning Pages

Stephen Yagielowicz
One of the most perennial of discussion topics among adult webmasters revolves around the pros and cons of using warning pages; how they impact the flow of traffic to your website, the economic implications of this impact and the various legal "benefits" to be had by their use. Let's take a closer look.

One of the quickest and simplest ways that adult webmasters can harden themselves against being a target for federal prosecution is by employing a warning page on their sites.

All adult websites, especially those that use non-explicitly adult terms in their domain name as well as those that feature hardcore sexually-explicit content, should provide a barrier between the pages a surfer lands on and adult content. It is one thing if you have words like "sex" or "porn" in the domain name and quite another if your domain is "" or something similar — especially if it's a website that a surfer could enter without knowing that adult material lies ahead. In those cases, a warning page should be used to provide this barrier.

Historically, warning pages have been recommended as evidence of "a good-faith effort" to keep minors away from potentially harmful material. While efforts such as COPA seek to mandate the use of warning pages, using them is voluntary now and at present may convey no real legal "protection." But in the real world where the decision of whether site A or B will come under the gun is being made by prosecutors, the presence of a good warning page might make the difference between a pass and going to court.

A warning page, lacking any explicit imagery and providing a suitable legal disclaimer and/or age-verification mechanism, can serve as a virtual "brown paper wrapper" for your website, helping to block access by underage users while cautioning "sensitive" users that potentially objectionable material lies ahead. This helps prevent anyone from accidentally stumbling on adult material, illustrating your good-faith efforts to prevent exposure of your content to an unintended audience.

Warning Page Protection
Beyond that, what your warning page contains can directly influence the degree of legal protection it offers. For example, Larry Walters offers clients a BirthDate Verifier script, while Greg Piccionelli offers a set of terms and conditions that would make it quite challenging for a prosecutor to pursue you.

It's not just the fine print that makes the difference, however. Toss an explicit image or banner on your warning page and all its benefits to you will be lost.

Warning pages get a bad rap because their dubious value as a child protection tool lies in stark contrast to their demonstrable ability to turn away a substantial number of visitors. In other words, nobody wants to suffer a 60-90 percent loss in traffic in exchange for a measure that a 15-year-old will laugh at while clicking the "18+ Only Enter Here" button.

That's right, a "legally effective" warning page can turn away as many as 90 out of every hundred visitors and rarely fewer than 50 out of every hundred. This may not be as bad as it seems, however, because chances are that anyone stopped by a warning page would not likely become a paying customer. If they won't bother to click on the "enter" link, they won't bother to whip out their credit card. Eliminating these visitors at the outset not only saves you the expense of the bandwidth they would have consumed, but it speeds up your website's performance, improving the user experience for your legitimate users. Besides, you can always try to send that exiting traffic to a trade pool or sponsor using a console.

This filtering of traffic offers other, more strategic benefits as well, but I'll leave that up to your imagination rather than give you an inside look at my marketing plan.

There are many good uses for, and benefits to, warning pages, besides their use as a way of "warning" visitors about your adult content.

Greet Visitors
For example, why not use your warning as a greeting? Nothing helps visitors feel more at home than a personalized greeting from a sexy site hostess, and a warning / splash page is the place to do it. Reassure visitors by having your "character" let viewers know that the porn they're seeking is just a quick click away, and use this message to presell the prospect, paving the way to an easier sale. You'll want to use appropriate language and terminology, of course, but the tone of your statement can make a big difference in how well it's taken.

Warning pages make great locations for non-explicit reciprocal link exchanges: Everyone wants to have a "homepage" link trade, but webmasters are typically not very interested in cluttering their pages with traffic-leaking link exchanges. By making multiple copies of your warning page, you can place a reasonable number of links (such as four) on each. Name these multiple pages "home.htm" or "warning.htm," etc. instead of "index-1.htm" or "links.htm" or some such, and you won't be penalized by trade partners thinking that they are on some "inside" page. At the end of the day, this is the very same technique that gallery submitters use: making multiple "sales" pages that feature links to the sites that in turn link to that page.

And speaking of links, warning pages make great places to recognize affiliations, special relationships and achievements. For example, an icon showing support for ASACP, or a button showing that you support RTA or ICRA labeling, or one showing the level of web standards that your site complies with (if indeed it does). As with your traffic trades and reciprocal links, popping a new window with each out-click will eliminate any loss of traffic from displaying these additional links while increasing your website's credibility.

Speaking of ASACP, its Best Practices include displaying a warning page statement that "All models were 18 and over at the time of the creation of such depictions" as well as a statement that the site is for adults only. Disclaimers and age verification mechanisms also are recommended, as is excluding adult images from the warning page and using a label such as its new Restricted To Adults (RTA) initiative.

We've all heard it before: Incorporating abundant search engine-optimized text will help improve your website's organic search rankings. What if you made a few landing pages that targeted specific keywords and phrases?

Use your warning page to collect email addresses so you won't be forgotten when your visitor suddenly loses your site and hasn't joined or bookmarked it. Or hold redirection scripts that will let you target site visitors based on their browser, language or location. Place links on your warning page with your privacy policy statement, terms and conditions, contact page, site map and webmaster program, etc.

Your imagination is the only limit; this is the first page most of your site's visitors will see — so make it a great one!

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